Proper foresight is worth its weight in gold. I'm certain that Justin Fuente would tell you that he had a feeling about Paxton Lynch back in 2013. Memphis fans at that time? Not so much. However, allowing Paxton Lynch the 2013 season to grow has paid dividends for the Tigers, and there is no reason to expect set back in 2015.
In 2013, Justin Fuente named Paxton Lynch starter under center for the season opener at home against Duke. Lynch was awarded the spot over hard -working Jacob Karam, which proved to cause some divide in the fan base throughout the year. Calls to "#freepianoman" would be conjured up by local sports talk host, Chris Vernon. Add to the mix rumors of unrest in the locker room, and fans quickly began to doubt Lynch. To be fair, Karam played well in 2012 and could have been a nice piece in 2013, but Fuente was clearly preparing his young quarterback for the future.
Coach Fuente's gamble proved key in Lynch's developmen. Let's not pretend this was the first time Justin Fuente worked magic with an unheralded quarterback. Look at Andy Dalton's progression. Much like Lynch, Dalton started for Fuente (then at TCU) as a two-star freshman. The numbers in comparison from Dalton and Lynch's freshman and, to a degree their sophomore, seasons are staggering.
|2007 Andy Dalton||222||371||59.8||2459||10||11||118.5|
|2013 Paxton Lynch||203||349||58.2||2056||9||10||110.4|
|2008 Andy Dalton||182||307||59.3||2242||11||5||129.2|
|2014 Paxton Lynch||259||413||62.7||3031||22||9||137.6|
Unlike Dalton, Lynch avoided a bit of stagnation during his sophomore campaign. During his junior season, Dalton played much better. He ended up throwing for 23 TD's and had a QBR of 151.8. Lynch, however, showed similar improvement from year one to year two. For that reason, he has had his name attached to all sorts of pre-season watch lists.
Memphis fans, I understanding questioning Fuente in 2013. A bowl game is always important. But the development of Lynch has proven to be worth every loss. Paxton has improved each season and looked great this past spring in the 2015 Blue-Grey game.
Paxton Lynch is easily on his way to becoming Memphis football's most storied quarterback. Given Justin Fuente's track record of developing quarterbacks, this should come as no surprise. The times are exciting surrounding the Tigers, and fans should expect to see a season of greatness on the offensive side of the ball, specifically from under center.
* I would be remiss to not link to where Jacob Karam (listed earlier in the article) was dubbed "piano man" by Chris Vernon. If nothing else, please read this article by Gregg Doyel on Karam.