The man who coached Jordan Webb the past two seasons at Kansas says he has the talent and tenacity to become a standout college quarterback in the second half of his career.
Former Kansas offensive coordinator Chuck Long said Webb, who transferred to the University of Colorado this month after graduating from KU, has learned a lot of tough lessons over the past two seasons as a redshirt freshman and sophomore. He said CU coaches are getting a mature player who has been through the fire.
"He basically has one year of starting under his belt, and I think right now he's a young man who will begin to come in to his own in the next couple years," Long said. "He's poised and ready to take it to the next step. That was kind of the path we had him on. I know he's in good hands with the coaching staff there. I think you will see Jordan blossom."
Long left Kansas after last season when head coach Turner Gill was fired after going 5-19 in two seasons at the helm of a program that played in a BCS bowl game in the 2007 season. Webb played in many of those games over the two years under Gill and Long and brings much more experience to the table than any of the young quarterbacks on the CU roster, even though it's losing experience.
Webb will be able to compete for the starting job when fall camp opens Aug. 7 because he earned his degree at KU, making him eligible under NCAA rules without having to sit out a year. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
Webb said he had to pass 28 credit hours between January and the end of June to graduate and give himself a chance to play for the Buffs. It doesn't surprise Long that Webb found a way to make it happen.
"He will make the position very competitive," Long said.
Long said when Webb first joined the Kansas program out of high school in St. Louis, it took him awhile to learn to become a student of the game and to take all of his coaching to heart. Long said Webb made drastic improvements in those areas over the past two years.
Webb completed 179 of 281 passes for 1,884 yards and 13 touchdowns with 12 interceptions last year. He has thrown 20 touchdowns and 20 interceptions to this point in his career, a fact that raised some skeptical eyebrows from CU fans who questioned why coach Jon Embree wanted add Webb to the roster.
Long said Webb's high interception numbers at KU are the result of multiple factors. He said Webb never learned to throw the ball away in high school and it took him awhile to get used to the idea that it's OK to do so at the college level. He said Webb's competitive spirit sometimes led him to make poor decisions trying to make plays with his team often trailing by large deficits. And Long said mistakes by teammates and good plays by defenders also contributed to Webb's interception totals.
"He had to learn to play smarter," Long said. "Quarterbacking is situational football and he had to understand what the situation is. Sometimes these young quarterbacks don't learn to throw the ball away. He's growing, but I think his best is still ahead of him.
"He's a fighter and tough guy, but it's learning to play smart at that position."
Webb has been staying at a Boulder hotel this month as he settles in at CU and starts to learn the offense and get to know teammates. He is participating in player organized throwing sessions and 7-on-7. He said one of the big early adjustments has been getting used to Nike balls after spending three years in Kansas throwing Wilson balls.
Webb said some of his interceptions at Kansas were fluky, but he acknowledges he has to do a better job of taking care of the ball if he hopes to earn the starting job with the Buffs. One of the primary reasons CU coaches chose Tyler Hansen as their starter last season was because he didn't throw interceptions during scrimmages in spring and fall camp.
"That's the number one job of the quarterback," Webb said. "If you're not able to take care of the ball, you're probably not going to be playing too long. If you look back on the (2011) stats, I don't think I threw my first interception until the fourth game. It's hard to say that's the number one thing I'm working on because I'm working on everything, but decision making is obviously up there."
Webb played in a spread offense at Kansas and was asked to run the ball at times. He said the CU pro style offense is very different from a formation and terminology standpoint, but there are concepts and routes within the scheme that are essentially the same.
He said his biggest challenge between now and the time camp opens and the competition starts is learning the offense. He doesn't want coaches to have to dumb down the offense when he's taking repetitions. Webb said Colorado coaches have asked him to take a leadership role and be assertive.
So, considering Webb has played in 21 college games with more than a dozen starts and only one other CU quarterback has college experience (sophomore Nick Hirschman), shouldn't he be the starter?
"I would like to think that would be the case, but nothing has been guaranteed to me," Webb said. "What it's going to come down to is that fall camp and having a grasp of the offense, taking control in the huddle and really asserting myself as a leader."
Long isn't making any predictions because he doesn't know a lot about the other quarterbacks on Colorado's roster, but he does believe that Webb's experience and the fact that the other Buffs are still wet behind the ears favors Webb.
"He's very tough," Long said. "He's one of the tougher guys that I've coached. He's got very good mechanics and he's got a very strong arm. He has some athleticism to him. He can run the ball as well. I think his best trait is he's an excellent competitor."