Rich Brooks finally bowed to the inevitable, as most of us thought he would. Brooks announced today that Mike Hartline would be replaced at starting quarterback by Randall Cobb in a move that surprised no one who saw the fiasco at Florida.
When asked to justify his decision (as if that is really necessary), Brooks gave a typical, Rich Brooks answer consisting of exactly one word, "Production." No explanation needed, right Rich? Dang skippy. Brooks says Hartline will play, but the conventional wisdom is that the snaps will essentially be flip-flopped from recent weeks with Cobb getting the lion's share.
Hartline is said to be disappointed, but quite frankly, I am clueless as to why he would be. I am not bashing Mike, far from it, but here at A Sea of Blue, we do try to hue close to reality. The reality is, Hartline is not able to move the football with any semblance of consistency. He is not awful, the offense just isn't productive with him at the helm. Where the blame lies for that is irrelevant -- the reason for the change is, to use a Latin phrase, ad oculous -- it is obvious to anyone who saw the game Saturday who was more productive at the position.
I'm sure this is a move that Rich Brooks makes reluctantly. I know he wanted to stick with Hartline, and the biggest reason is simply his offensive philosophy, which is a pro-style offense. Randall Cobb is most assuredly not a pro-style player, and although Brooks & Co. know how to use a dual-threat quarterback, it goes a bit against their grain and offensive philosophy to do so. Brooks prefers his football like I prefer my whiskey -- straight up with no BS to mess with the flavor.
With Cobb, you need to run essentially a spread option (with modifications) to get the most out of him, and Brooks is not a fan of that offense. It is, however, exactly what you see most often with Cobb under center. When you see Cobb putting the ball in the running back's hands and then pulling it back, that is a simple read option where the QB is looking at either the backside DE or linebacker. Cobb can hand it off or pull it back depending on what his key does. Hartline never runs that play, and Cobb runs it all the time in several variations. Brooks does not love this offense, but he knows that with an athlete like Cobb, it can be deadly.
This style will also force the defense to play honest and not stack the box like they have done against UK all year. If we run it often enough, somebody is gong to break a long run or get isolated on a linebacker underneath for big yardage. We'll just have to see how innovative Phillips and Brooks decide to be now that they have committed to Cobb for the nonce.
So there we go. One big decision made, and Brooks has intimated that there will be others. Discuss.