The scene at Memorial Stadium following the Kansas Jayhawks' stunning Sept. 11 upset of then–#15 Georgia Tech was, understandably, a little nuts.
With a euphoric and more than a little inebriated student section packed in around him, Head Coach Turner Gill leaned in to hear a reporter's question about the performance of redshirt freshman Jordan Webb.
After the months of uncertainty that surrounded the battle to become Todd Reesing's successor, Gill's response was refreshingly candid and clear-cut:
"He's our quarterback."
In that game and the weeks that have followed, the 6-foot, 210-pound gunslinger from the tiny town of Union, Mo. (Population 7,757) has proven himself worthy of the title of QB1 – particularly in the minds of his coaches.
In his collegiate debut as a starter versus the Yellow Jackets, Webb completed 18-of-29 passes for 179 yards, three touchdowns and a single improbable interception, after a pass bounced off sophomore wide receiver Bradley McDougald's hands and into the waiting arms of a Georgia Tech defender.
The following week the Jayhawks traveled to Hattiesburg, Miss. for their first road game of the season, and in many ways the host Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles represented an even greater challenge than had the defending ACC champions.
On a humid Friday night, in front of a hostile crowd and a national television audience, Webb was continually harassed by the surprisingly athletic Southern Miss defense. And while the stat line might not show it (16-of-26 for 138 yards and a touchdown), Gill and the coaching staff saw him take another step forward in a losing effort.
"I thought it was maybe somewhat inconsistent," he explained of Webb's performance the following Monday. "But I really came away (thinking of) it even better, just because I liked the way he competed. I liked the way he kept his poise through the majority of the game."
Intangibles have always been among the items listed in the "plus" category with Webb. Small of stature and not exceptionally fleet of foot, he was blessed with a strong throwing arm and an almost indefinable sense of swagger and confidence.
Though sophomore Kale Pick – the starting quarterback coming out of training camp – hadn't performed particularly badly in the season-opening loss to North Dakota State, the offense had faltered and failed to execute. But with Webb, the atmosphere around the unit just felt different.
Perhaps motivated by the loss, he put together the most complete performance of his young career Saturday, in a blowout 42-16 victory over New Mexico State. With the running game firing on all cylinders – Kansas rushers combined for 237 yards on the night – Webb complemented the ground attack by completing 17-of-27 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions for the second straight game.
With the offensive line affording him plenty of time to throw – Webb was not sacked once – he took multiple shots downfield and also tacked on 34 rushing yards of his own.
Little by little, the Kansas coaches are opening up the playbook to their young quarterback, but they're wary of giving him too much, too fast.
"We just want to talk with him, and then we as a staff, to see what he's able to handle," Gill said. "Not only him, but also the rest of the guys, the 10 guys he's playing with."
The reasoning behind that decision is simple, he explained. A wide-array of packages and plays will be useless if the players are thinking instead of reacting and executing.
When players start thinking, they start playing slow – and Gill wants his athletes working at maximum speed.
"But we're off to a good start," said offensive coordinator Chuck Long, of Webb's progression. "You look at his (completion) percentage (61.3-percent on the season), he's got a nice percentage going right now for a freshman. His touchdown to interception ratio is really good (5-to-1). He's taking great care of the football."
For his part, Webb says he feels completely at home under center – though to hear him tell it, he never felt truly ill at ease.
Which isn't to say he can't continue to improve, he quickly added. It just makes the leaning process easier when he knows his coaches and teammates have confidence in him to get the job done.
"I just think every little aspect of things, I'm getting better at," Webb said. "Whether it's my feet or my reads, I think with time it's just going to keep getting quicker and quicker."