After Southern coach Stump Mitchell settled on a starting quarterback, he brought candidates Dray Joseph and J.P. Douglas in for a meeting. There, Mitchell pulled out a piece of paper that listed the facts.
Joseph had won the quarterback battle. The numbers said so.
“I gave them a sheet that showed exactly what both of those guys did,” Mitchell said. “There’s no sense in me having closed-door meetings. We’re all family. We should be able to talk. We should be able to discuss. I didn’t want one guy to think I was telling him something and another guy something different.”
Mitchell told them both that this season will be a very different scene from the last one. Joseph will be the man in charge, Douglas will be his backup, and the only way they’ll switch roles is if Joseph gets injured.
Of course, many factors went into the choice between the two, who split time in 2011 and finished with similar statistics, although Joseph’s were slightly better across the board. But the main one Mitchell pointed to was protecting the ball.
During all passing drills in fall practices, Mitchell said Joseph threw just two interceptions, while Douglas was picked off eight times.
Heading into a season in search of more efficiency and fewer mistakes, that statistic made the choice pretty straightforward.
Struggles with interceptions were what cost Joseph playing time last season, but the time-share operation was also because of a recruiting promise. When Mitchell recruited Douglas, he told him he’d have a chance to play in every game as a freshman. He played in 10, completing 50.3 percent of his passes for 1,282 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Joseph connected on 53.3 percent for 1,544 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and the team is expecting more from the junior after a strong spring and fall, where he came out with more confidence and took on an increased leadership role.
“He has more poise and is a more confident quarterback,” receiver Charles Hawkins said. “He’s going to take control of the offense and lead the team.”
Mitchell said Douglas is “heartbroken” after being relegated to backup, and he didn’t expect any other reaction from the competitive sophomore. But the fact of the matter is that unless something goes terribly wrong for Joseph, Douglas won’t see the field.
“None. There is absolutely no situation (where Douglas would play) other than if Dray gets hurt,” Mitchell said. “I told (Douglas that he would play last season), and I told Dray that, just like I told them we would only have one quarterback this year, unless we have injuries.”