QB Controversy Part 2: Defending Chris Smelley

This is the second installment in a series on our QB controversy. Stay tuned tomorrow for a discussion of which QB's style would be better against Clemson's defensive strengths and weaknesses. I plan on wrapping this series up over the weekend with my own take on who should start.

Last time, we took a look at what Stephen Garcia brings to the table. This time, we're going to give Chris Smelley's merits a look. As I said last time, the two have similar stats on the season, but each brings different pluses and minuses to the table.

The most common argument in Smelley's favor is that he, unlike Garcia, knows Spurrier's offense. This one, of course, comes from the horse's mouth itself: Spurrier feels limited with Garcia at the helm because the freshman knows a limited number of plays and often has a lot of trouble understanding what Spurrier is telling him to do during games. The fact that Garcia has been under center during a few busted plays over the last few games would seem to confirm this. Smelley, on the other hand, seems very aware of what SOS wants out of him.

There are, of course, counterarguments to Spurrier's statements. A lot of the pro-Garcia crowd say that Smelley's knowledge doesn't make him any better than Garcia because Garcia has such a huge edge on Smelley in natural ability. That's true to a certain degree: Smelley's weak, inaccurate arm has cost us important yardage a few times when the open receivers have been there and Smelley has seen them. In hindsight, the play against Vanderbilt where Smelley overthrew a wide open Jared Cook who had room to run into the endzone may have cost us that game. On the other hand, Smelley's knowledge has paid dividends at times, which brings us to the next point...

When Smelley plays well, he plays very well. Knowledge combined with execution is a powerful thing, and Smelley showed us why against Ole Miss. Here are Smelley's stats during that game:

C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT
C. Smelley 22/32 327 10.2 3 1

I'll take that line any day of week. Hell, Mack Brown would take that line. Smelley's performance against the Rebels, especially considering that this is probably the one game this year that our offense instead of our defense won for us, was clearly the best performance either QB has put up this year.

The counterargument to this point is that Smelley has generally been an inconsistent performer over the past two years. Last year, he was great against Mississippi State and Kentucky but awful against Vandy and Tennessee, the latter performance prompting Spurrier to put Blake Mitchell back in (for the record, I don't think he ever should have pulled Blake in the first place). This year, Smelley played well against Georgia (that loss will forever lie in Mike Davis's hands...or falling outside his hands and onto the grass, as the case may be) and very well against Ole Miss. However, he played like garbage against Kentucky, prompting Spurrier to put Garcia in to save the day. The pro-Garcia crowd will tell you that we shouldn't put the game in Smelley's hand because he might give the game away if he has a bad day. On the other hand, Garcia has been inconsistent as well, usually failing when opposing defenses key into his game and force him to win with his head.

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