2013 Spring Preview
Top Ten QB Battles
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Top Spring QB Battles No.
11 to 20
Not only are the Badgers breaking in a new head coach, Gary Andersen, but there are a number of similar contenders vying for the starting nod. A sixth year of eligibility has been granted to Curt Phillips, who overcame three separate ACL tears to guide the Badgers down the stretch last season. Assuming he remains healthy, he'll be hoping to hold off sophomore Joel Stave and senior Danny O'Brien.
O'Brien, the once heralded transfer from Maryland, was a disappointment, getting replaced by Stave, a former walk-on, in 2012. It was only after Stave broke his collarbone that Phillips even got a shot to get back under center. Heck, oft-injured Jon Budmayr and redshirt freshman Bart Houston can't be eliminated at this point, meaning the staff will probably use the spring to separate the Badgers and the summer to determine a starter.
9. West Virginia
Some of the biggest shoes to fill this offseason belong to Geno Smith, who's off to the NFL. The competition to replace him involves a pair of hurlers from the state of Texas, sophomore Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress. Millard has the extra year in the system, but has only attempted 34 passes in garbage time over the last two seasons.
For good reason, Childress has Mountaineers fans excited about the future of the passing game. He's 6-5 and 225 pounds, with the arm strength to keep the program's fastest receivers from breaking stride. Hand-picked by head coach Dana Holgorsen to someday lead this offense, he throws with the accuracy and the RPMs to win the job when the team reconvenes in August.
Last year, Casey Pachall battled personal demons. This season, he's hoping to battle for the job he left behind upon entering a drug and alcohol rehab facility. The senior is back in school, looking to get both his life and his career back on track. If he stays clean and can shake off a little rust in practice, there's little doubt who'll be in the huddle when the Frogs make the short trip to Arlington to face LSU on Aug. 31.
If, however, Pachall stumbles—on or off the field—TCU knows what it has in sophomore Trevone Boykin. Despite being pressed into action, the 6-2, 215-pounder laid a solid foundation by accounting for 2,471 yards and 18 touchdowns. In an ideal world, Pachall picks up where he left off, and Boykin takes the baton for 2014 and 2015.
One of the top priorities for head coach Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney in their Razorbacks' debut will be to mine a replacement for Tyler Wilson. The favorite is sophomore Brandon Allen. He was the backup in 2012, even starting the Alabama game. He's accurate and can make things happen with his feet. However, the new staff might want to take a long look at senior Brandon Mitchell as well.
Mitchell is one of the best all-around athletes on the squad, a 6-4, 230-pound who caught 17 balls for 272 yards after switching to wide receiver a year ago. He's the kind of multi-dimensional threat with whom the new staff might want to tinker during the offseason.
New head coach Butch Jones would love to have had Tyler Bray behind center during the transition year, but probably had a hunch he'd be starting from scratch at the position. It figures to be a two-man competition, unless one of the rookies, Riley Ferguson or Joshua Dobbs, shocks Knoxville in the summer. In one corner is the veteran, junior Justin Worley, who played some a year ago, yet failed to impress in spot duty off the bench.
Although just a redshirt freshman, Nathan Peterman is uniquely positioned to make a run at the opening. His skill set and agility fit what Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian look for at the position. It also helps that while at Cincinnati, Jones offered a scholarship to Peterman, a good omen for the young quarterback.
5. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys got whacked with injuries in 2012, as they attempted to replace Brandon Weeden. The upshot? Three different quarterbacks received significant snaps to provide the program with instant depth entering this fall. Wes Lunt won the job as a ballyhooed true freshman, but head and knee injuries stunted his growth.
In Lunt's place, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf combined for 35 total touchdowns, while throwing only nine interceptions. Walsh is the best athlete of the trio, rushing for 290 yards and seven scores. Chelf finished the season on a tear through the air. If nothing else, last year's backups are going to push Lunt throughout the spring, making sure he has to work harder than ever to recapture the gig he surprisingly nabbed last summer.
First-year head coach Gus Malzahn didn't inherit a lot of ready-made talent at the quarterback position. It's a good thing he's the offensive mastermind who helped transform unknown Chris Todd into an Auburn record-setter back in 2009. The Tigers were dreadful through the air a year ago, producing eight touchdown passes and 15 picks.
Malzahn will attempt to once again catch lightning in a JUCO bottle with the signing of dual-threat Nick Marshall out of Garden City (Kans.) Community College. The one-time Georgia Bulldog is a phenomenal all-around athlete, much the way Cam Newton was on the Plains in 2010. The veterans are Jonathan Wallace, who started the final four games of 2012, and Kiehl Frazier, a Malzahn disciple with the best grasp on the playbook.
3. Florida State
Okay, so maybe EJ Manuel never fully reached expectations in Tallahassee, but Seminoles fans are sure to miss the long-time starter in 2013. In his wake will be the program's first serious quarterback derby in almost a decade. The battle for playing time figures to be a classic study of experience versus upside potential. Junior Clint Trickett enters his fourth year in the program, appearing in 16 games and throwing seven career touchdown passes.
The future at Florida State, though, belongs to sophomore Jacob Coker and redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. The 6-6, 227-pound Coker possesses the necessary physical tools to climb the depth chart. Winston is green, but the mega-recruit from 2012 will get every opportunity in the spring to flatten the learning curve and prove that he's capable of becoming a four-year starter.
Yes, Blake Bell is the heavy favorite to evolve from situational runner to full-time successor to Landry Jones. But he will have to earn it this spring and summer. As the Belldozer, the 6-6, 254-pound battering ram provided a unique option for the Sooners staff. His ability to connect downfield, though, is shrouded in mystery since he's rushed for more career touchdowns (24) than he's attempted passes (20).
Just in case Bell leaves the door open, redshirt freshman Trevor Knight is liable to zip through it with a monster offseason. He regularly turned heads on the scout team as a rookie with his quick release, strong arm and improvisational skills. When Oklahoma needed someone to mimic Collin Klein, Geno Smith and Johnny Manziel in practice, it was Knight who earned the role.
It's a crucial year for Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin, whose choice to be Matt Barkley's heir apparent is one of his more important offseason decisions. Sophomore Max Wittek has a head start on the race, courtesy of starting last year's final two games versus Notre Dame and Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. Although he played like a rookie, the program loves his potential to become the next elite pocket passer at Troy.
Fellow sophomore Cody Kessler could have transferred, opting instead to make a push for this vacancy during the spring and summer. He's the smaller of the two, but gets good zip on his throws, and shows nice footwork in and out of the pocket. Top recruit Max Browne is already enrolled in classes, with an eye on making this a three-man race.
Top Spring QB Battles No.
11 to 20