Football, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Why all the secrecy around football depth charts?

Make no mistake, Neal Brown and James Franklin are football coaches. Based on their actions this week, however, you might be tricked into thinking they’re international spies.

Neither Brown nor Franklin are releasing a depth chart or announcing a starting quarterback before West Virginia and Penn State play Saturday in State College (7:30 p.m., NBC).

Brown declined to name a starting quarterback between Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol last week and Franklin followed suit on Tuesday, refusing to officially announce sophomore Drew Allar as the Nittany Lions’ starter. 

“I’m not making any announcements at this time, but he’s had a really good camp,” Franklin said.

College football coaches are cagey by nature, but refusing to name a quarterback or even release a depth chart at all borders on ridiculous. Especially given the fact that Brown and Franklin have essentially guessed each other’s decisions.

Franklin said Tuesday that he anticipates Greene will start for WVU and Brown talked Monday about facing Allar. 

It’s not hard to guess that Greene will be the Mountaineers’ starter given he took the job at the end of last season and his progression in the program. It’s even easier to project Allar, a five-star recruit last year who played in 10 games as a freshman and attempted 60 passes.

“He played a lot of fourth quarters last year and they let him play, it wasn’t like he was just handing it off,” Brown said of Allar. “He’s super talented. He’s a big kid and more athletic than people give him credit for. He’s good at scrambling and making plays downfield. He’s got a huge arm; he can make all the throws.”

So if your opponent can, more or less, guess your decisions, what is the point in hiding them? 

How much of a competitive advantage would WVU actually gain if Marchiol started instead of the expected Greene? How much of an advantage would Franklin gain by playing Beau Pribula over Allar?

My guess is very, very little, but college football coaches do not see it that way.

“We’ve got a pretty good idea of who we’re starting pretty much everywhere,” Franklin said.
“Most of the depth chart and the roster is set, but I think more times than not, we try not to put that information out there because I don’t see the value in it.”

Brown has an even weaker conviction about keeping secrets, saying he basically only does it because everyone else does.

“Until everybody does it, we’re putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage,” Brown said.

Hiding your depth chart makes even less sense to me. Does Penn State care who WVU’s backup offensive linemen are? Are they scheming around who the backup safeties are?

The answer is obviously no, but as long as one coach can keep his depth chart hidden, they pretty much all will.

“I think it needs to be across the board and what we should do is we should mandate depth charts and we should mandate injury reports. I would be in favor of that if they asked me,” Brown said Monday. “Until everybody does it, it’s not fair and balanced, but I really think that’s the way it should be done.”

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