University of Akron sophomore quarterback Kyle Pohl is judged three seconds at a time by coaches, teammates and fans who watch him play.
To the line of scrimmage. Under center. Call for the ball. Three seconds to decide what to do with it in coach Terry Bowden’s spread offense.
Cumulatively those seconds — which add up to a complete game — tell the tale of how he’s done on any given Saturday afternoon. Lately, that hasn’t been great. Pohl has completed 75-of-149 passes for 51 percent in his past four games, a stretch when the Zips have gone 1-3.
“Kyle did some good things and he made some mistakes,” Bowden said in his weekly news conference. “He continues to step forward and get better and better. Like I say, he’s a sophomore who is still learning on the job.”
For now it looks as if Pohl’s and the program’s futures are inextricably intertwined. Bowden loves the fact that Pohl is graced with a cannon for an arm and has said so on more than one occasion.
Observers only have to look to his ability to throw deep with little effort in games against Michigan and Bowling Green earlier this year, both very close losses.
But the ability to flick a ball with ease is somewhat mitigated by on-field play. The reality is that no quarterback is ever going to be perfect. Some passes will look downright ugly, including those that are intercepted, and some bad decisions will play in fans’ heads like a bad ending to a movie.
Pohl had all of that in recent weeks.
The passing percentage tells the story of inaccuracy, as do the interceptions. But those stats don’t tell the story of the drops and the pressures that cause the bad throws. In other words, Bowden couldn’t have said it better. His quarterback is training on the job.
Dalton Williams, the former Zips quarterback who came in and posted several records last season and who now assists offensive coordinator A.J. Milwee, understands the process Pohl is enduring.
“You go out there and you prepare all week and you prepare hard. The coaches put together a great game plan for you to execute on game day,” he said. “You just try to relax and keep it simple, deal with all of the emotions of the game and let your body react to what you’ve trained your body for all week and what you’re seeing on the field.”
When it works, things click. When they don’t, you get the mistakes a first-year starter would make.
“He’s won one more game than Dalton did as a starter, but he’s had his ups and downs week in and week out,” Milwee said.
Pohl is aware of where his problems lie. When asked what he needs to work on, the issues roll off his tongue quickly — pre-snap decisions, reading defenses better and breaking down film. Quarterback is a position that relies heavily on a player’s instinct, and a steep learning curve exists as well.
“Yes, I’m a work in progress,” Pohl said. “A lot of things don’t come instinctively to me that I’ve noticed, so I’m really learning every week what can help me.”
To his credit, an observable fact comes to light any time Pohl plays. He doesn’t allow mistakes to spook him. If he or a teammate commits one, he goes right back at the opposition. For a quarterback, that attribute is a key to success.
“That’s just part of the position, part of the sport. It’s part of everything,” he said. “You have to keep your composure no matter what. You can’t get too high on yourself when things are going good. You can’t get too low when things are going bad. You have to find that happy medium to keep yourself motivated and really do the best that you can.”
Milwee sees that in him but offers another perspective.
“I need him to be a little more energetic at times. I get on him a lot about bringing a little more energy,” he said.
With Kent State invading InfoCision Stadium this weekend, that infusion of energy would be welcome as would the consistency Pohl said is needed. The most important aspect might be just letting it all hang out.
“Every Saturday I need to play more confident,” he said. “I’ve been holding back and trying not to make the big mistake and it’s hurting our team, so I need to be confident and be crisp in my reads and my decisions.”
No one is talking up this Saturday’s 56th meeting between the two programs.
The reality, however, with enough good three-second moments, Pohl and his teammates can continue to send the Zips’ football program on the right trajectory. It’s a mission that binds them.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.