COLUMBIA — With the simple switch of a jersey color, Ashton Glaser is a new man.
Everyday at preseason camp, Glaser and the other four quarterbacks wear green jerseys that denote to their teammates that they should not be hit under any circumstances. However, in preseason scrimmages the quarterbacks switch to orange jerseys, and their teammates can hit them at will.
For some quarterbacks, the difference in play while wearing the green jersey is barely noticeable. For Glaser, it’s a whole new game. He’s steady in green, but he’s a force to be reckoned with in orange.
Glaser, a redshirt freshman who is listed at 6 feet, 205 pounds, stands out for both his physical qualities and for his style of play. Shorter and stockier, he does not have the prototypical quarterback body, and he’s been incredibly physical on the field in preseason scrimmages. As one of four quarterbacks competing to claw his way up the depth chart for the Tigers, he knows that he has something to prove. Although head coach Gary Pinkel said that freshman James Franklin has the No. 2 spot at this point, the quarterback depth chart is still fluid, and Glaser knows that he must prove himself everyday.
“James is doing a really good job so there’s a battle right now for three,” Pinkel said.
Throughout preseason, Glaser, who currently is the No. 4 quarterback, has been steady. In the first scrimmage, he went 17-for-21 for 168 yards, though he did throw one interception. He stood out even more at the second scrimmage, where he went 9-for-9 for 98 yards. He threw one touchdown pass and rushed for a second touchdown.
“He’s been having a great fall camp, and that carried over to the scrimmage,” first-string quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. “He did an awesome job of doing whatever he could for his team, and that carried over into scoring some points.”
Even more noticeable than his perfect passing record was Glaser’s fearlessness on the field. Instead of sliding, he ran directly into the defenders trying to tackle him. The idea of taking a hit for the team seemed not to phase him.
“I’ve typically never really been the kind of guy that slides,” Glaser said. “I like to be more physical, and I like to show that I’ll do anything to get that extra inch.”
Offensive coordinator Dave Yost has noticed Glaser's dedication and resiliency.
“You know, he’s out there trying to show us that he’s tough,” Yost said. “And one way guys show us they’re tough is that they’re physical.”
Glaser uses his solid frame to make up for his lack of height when he faces a defender.
“My weight kind of makes up for my shortness, I guess,” he said. “I mean, mentally it’s not that intimidating for me.”
Yost agreed that Glaser’s frame, which stands in stark contrast to Gabbert’s taller, leaner physique, makes him less worried about injury. Still he’s not always cheering for the quarterback to take the hit.
“Sure, sometimes I think he should slide,” Yost said. “If he’s about to run full into a big safety out there, I’m going to say you need to get out of the way, not run right into him.”
Besides Glaser’s physical style of play and more compact form, one less noticeable trait stands out: his hands are smaller than those of the average quarterback. For Glaser, though, it has never been an obstacle.
“They’re big enough,” he said, with an emphasis on enough, flexing his fingers as if proving their capabilities.
Just a few throws are enough to prove that small hands are no obstacle for the young quarterback. Yost said that hand size often has little to do with the caliber of a quarterback’s play, and he’s more concerned with Glaser’s experience and consistency.
“I’ve never worried about his hands,” Yost said. “He’s been playing for so many years, he’s played in all kinds of conditions and situations. Those are the things that count, not the physical things as much sometimes. Chase Daniel had some of the smallest hands... Brad Smith had the biggest. Two of the best quarterbacks we’ve had here, but they were really different. Both great quarterbacks, though.”
At this point in preseason, Glaser and the other backup quarterbacks are doing whatever it takes to standout. Pinkel has been hesitant to discuss changes in the quarterback depth chart, probably because many of the backups have been playing so well. Glaser knows that one great performance is not enough to push him up to third string, so he’s trying to maintain a steady record of quality performances.
“I have to come out and play better everyday,” he said. “If I maintain where I’m at, one of those guys is going to come out and do better. I’ve got to keep getting better.”
He’s banking on his work ethic, focus and, of course, his orange jersey.