Friday, September 16, 2011

Learning curve remains for IU’s Wright-Baker; Come Early to Football Game

So what do you do when you’re Kevin Wilson and you have a young quarterback who is going to make mistakes because EVERYBODY makes mistakes at that position.

Quarterback is probably the most demanding position in all of sports. They have to know all the plays. They have to know, in effect, all the plays for all the players, including all the audibles and checks, where everybody has to be all the time. They have to be able to read defenses that have grown increasingly complex, and tell when a defense is bluffing and when it’s not; whether the man coverage looks stay man or morphs into a zone at the snap of the ball. They have to be able to react when plays break down and large, powerful, swift defensive players converge on them with nasty intentions.

It takes years to master all of this. Consider Peyton Manning, probably as best prepared as any quarterback in history by the time he was a NFL rookie and he still set a league record for most interceptions.

He got better because of experience, because he was given the time and patience and resources to grow into the position.

And so we come to Edward Wright-Baker, a redshirt junior who until this year basically never played. Does he sometimes misread defenses and miss open receivers and throw to the right when he should throw to the left? Of course. Does he sometimes miss blocking adjustments and not realize that an unblocked defensive end is charging toward him with game-deciding speed? Yes, he does. But that’s part of the deal when you're young, and sometimes even when you're not.

Mistakes happen and you have to learn from them. As a coach, you have to understand that young quarterbacks will screw up. So you work and push, encourage and prod, and make sure he understands the importance of film work.

Wilson and quarterbacks coach Rod Smith are doing all of that.

They also understand that tossing backup Dusty Kiel into the mix only complicates things. You do that and you mess with a young quarterback’s confidence. Wright-Baker won the job. If Kiel was better, he’d be playing. If Kiel brought a completely different set of skill sets than Wright-Baker -- like he was an exceptional option quarterback -- to really confuse defenses, he'd be playing.

Now, if Wright-Baker self destructs or the offense grinds to a halt, you’ve got to do something. But the offense picked it up in the second half against Virginia, in large part because Wright-Baker made plays. Yeah, he took a sack and fumbled at the end to set up Virginia’s game-winning field goal, but that’s part of the learning process.

For the season, Wright-Baker is 36-for-62 for 443 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Those aren't Heisman-winning numbers, but they ain't bad.

That they aren't good enough comes with the territory.

“A great deal of responsibility goes with his spot,” Wilson said. “He’s got to learn how to handle that plate. He has to do better. He did some good things, but he also missed some things. He’s got so much room for improvement, as does our whole team.

“The best players and the best teams keep getting better each week. We’re 0-2 and we need to keep getting better. Ed is off to an okay start, but he needs to get to work.”

Wright-Baker understands that. He knows he’s far from a finished product.

“It feels like the game is getting slower,” he said. “I’m going to my second progression. It’s getting kind of easier for me.”

Today against South Carolina State (1-1), which has a good defense, will see how much easier it’s gotten.


IU officials are again urging fans to come early for today’s IU-South Carolina State game at Memorial Stadium. Parking lots open at 8 a.m.

Road construction around Memorial Stadium has led to a series of potential programs. Arriving early and using alternate routes to the stadium should relieve traffic congestion.

Should it the key word, here.

Last Saturday’s crowd of 41,549 was IU’s largest home opener since it hosted Kentucky in 1991.

“Even though we hosted the largest opening game crowd in 20 years, traffic was extremely smooth,” athletic director Fred Glass said. “We encourage fans to continue to arrive early, use alternate routes and avoid traffic jams for the rest of the season.”

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