Don’t be fooled by what the Cornell football depth chart reads at the quarterback position — at least this early in the 2018 season. Senior Dalton Banks may be listed as QB No. 1, but that’s not necessarily how he’ll be used this year.
“I don’t know how we’ll list it on the depth chart,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “It might be or-or-or, it might be all three of them, it might be two of them.”
Archer pointed to a three-headed attack of Banks, sophomore Richie Kenney and junior Mike Catanese — the latter two who have never attempted a pass at the varsity level — to anchor the Cornell offense, at least for now. It’s a decision Archer hopes will maximize the upside of each individual under center.
“You’d be asking one guy to take on all this burden, I said ‘this is ridiculous,’” Archer explained of his reasoning. “I’m going to play as many of them that I think help us win and that keeps them all fresher and keeps them all playing at a higher level.”
Archer wouldn’t name the individual who will lead the offense onto the field for Sept. 13’s season-opener at Delaware. It’ll come down to whatever play is called and whatever gunslinger best suits that role.
“I get it, it’s a big deal to say who’s the starter so the video board can show someone’s face, but if I feel good about it they’ll split reps,” Archer said. “That’s how I want the team to be, multiple guys playing at a starter-type level.”
The decision comes a year removed from a season of mixed results for Banks and two years removed from Banks’ honorable mention all-Ivy selection in 2016. Last season, Banks threw a third of the touchdowns (6) he threw the year prior (18) and saw his throwing yards per game decrease by over 50 (251.4 to 199.4) despite putting together a higher completion percentage (58 percent to 61 percent) and the same number of interceptions (14).
It won’t be the first time Banks sees his share of snaps decrease, however. As the 2017 season progressed and Cornell battled to remain in contention for the Ivy crown, Jake Jatis ’18 earned more playing time primarily on run-oriented plays.
A bit inspired by his own relative success last year from week four onwards, Dartmouth’s two-quarterback play in 2017, Alabama’s in the national title game and Princeton’s two years prior, Archer hopes a fresh approach can keep defenses on their toes.
“I think once a couple of people did it, it was like a golden unwritten rule, you play one quarterback, and if you play two that’s terrible because there’s some controversy,” Archer said. “And now it’s not like that, people are playing two. … If you have two guys that can lead your team, why wouldn’t you use them both? People want to talk about, is it [Alabama’s Tua] Tagovailoa, is it [Jalen] Hurts? Well why can’t they both play and help the team?”
Archer said he came to this decision after a five-person battle for the starting job in the spring, and the trio of Banks, Kenney and Catanese separated themselves from the pack.
“A lot of things we see in Banks we see in Kenney,” Archer said of the Georgia native. “His ability to throw the ball, big, physical, can run when you ask him to, kind of like a young version of Banks.”
Catanese, like Jatis, will take snaps on more run-oriented plays, Archer said. Catanese has made one appearance at the varsity level, taking a rush in last season’s win over Brown.
“He’s a playmaker more instinctively with his feet,” Archer said of Catanese. “You wouldn’t want to put him in and have him throw the ball 70 times a game, but he can throw it. But he’s more if something breaks down and he takes off, look out — there could be a big play.”
Senior Harley Kirsch, Washington state’s Class 3A Player of the Year in 2015, is no longer part of the Cornell program. The lefty underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and decided to step away with a lengthy recovery in the forecast.