Anyone familiar with my posting history (or who has discussed football with me in person) knows that I was not a big Jay Davis fan in 2005. I always thought that it was ridiculous to expect that a redshirt junior would need time to “grow into” the starting job, and if that was the case, we should simply go with a player who would have more eligibility once things “clicked.” Although I agreed it was unfair to pin the entire blame for last year’s offensive production on Jay, he was one prong (along with Mazzone and the OL) of a three-headed monster that had us all looking forward to when the opponent had possession of the ball.
I don’t think anything I said last year was out of bounds…but I’m starting to get more optimistic about Davis’ chances for a solid bounce-back year. We’ve discussed before how Mazzone’s playcalling played to Davis’ weaknesses, not strengths. But more than that, let’s look at the coaching support overall. Last year’s staff was primarily a recruiting staff. Amato is and has always been a defense-oriented guy, Curt Cignetti was in his first year as QB coach here, and Mazzone was more of a “buddy” type than a serious teacher or mentor. It was telling that when Mazzone’s scattered few defenders tried to justify his retention, they pointed to possible recruiting losses. Of course, a certain segment of our fanbase has always seemed more like “recruiting” fans than football fans, so I’m not that surprised.
Thus, when Davis started to struggle, he didn’t have much of a support network to draw upon. (I’ve also heard whisperings about disagreement between Mazzone and Cignetti about how to handle the QB situation, which couldn’t have helped.) When I analyze Davis’ most pronounced faults, they aren’t physical (except for the inability – based on height and arm strength – to throw that dumb “across the entire field, but only 2 yards downfield” pass that Mazzone loved to call and opposing DLs and DBs sat on all year), but mental. Given that we know Jay is a smart kid, you have to point to confidence as the likely source (or at least a heavy contributing source) to Davis’ poor decisionmaking and slow reads.
Slow reads are, in my opinion, the worst offender, and I noticed that even in his mostly successful (statwise) mop-up duty in relief of Philip Rivers. In 2005, the pattern held true – Davis looked great against woefully overmatched opponents. Against Richmond and ECU, Davis threw 5 TDs against only 1 INT. You can do the math on what he did against more legitimate opponents that could put pressure on him. Davis also looked good in garbage time against 3-man fronts versus Ohio State and Miami. However, those stats are essentially meaningless. To have a successful season, we need David to make quicker reads and be able to succeed in tight, competitive games against top-notch opponents. The OL play will be better this year (how much is still an open question), but Davis will still face a strong pass rush in many games, and he must be able to operate under those circumstances. But have hope – Trestman’s West Coast Offense cannot function without the QB making quick reads. So it must be a problem that Trestman believes he can fix – otherwise, he wouldn’t be our starter, whatever problems/drawbacks Stone and Evans might have.
In summary, Trestman is a noted QB guru and natural mentor – and perhaps this is the missing piece of the puzzle that Jay Davis has always needed. This hypothesis is by no means conclusively proven – but it’s a better source for hope than convoluted, selective, misleading statistical analysis that some rah-rah types (sadly including Chuck Amato recently, but we’ll hope that’s just typical coach spin trying to build up Davis’ confidence) like to put forward. It’s important to note that Davis himself isn’t apparently drinking this Kool Aid – he’s talked about fixing his problems from last year and becoming a better player and leader, and never shied away from taking the heat in 2004 (as any team leader MUST be willing to do – an excuse maker can never be a true leader). We saw Jay Davis play last year, and it wasn’t pretty. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost for 2005. To the contrary, perhaps some cautious optimism is in order.
There’s no question that as the QB situation goes, so goes the Wolfpack overall in 2005 (and perhaps the program overall goes with whatever momentum we get from 2005’s results). Without a doubt, the QB situation lies entirely in the hands of one Jay Davis. We’re rooting for you, Jay.