Spring Primer: QB Battles

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Miami, Notre Dame and LSU are battles to watch.

Miami, Notre Dame and LSU are battles to watch.

-by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Alabama
Candidates: A.J. McCarron (SO), Phillip Sims (R-FR), Phillip Ely (FR)
 
The Breakdown: The last two national champions had a quarterback entering his first season as the full-time starter. Is it Alabama’s turn in 2011? The Crimson Tide will begin next season atop many preseason polls and there’s no denying the pieces are place to contend. McCarron owns the most experience out of the contending trio, completing 30 of 48 passes for 389 yards and three scores last year. Sims ranked as the No. 2 quarterback coming out of high school by Athlon Sports last season and enrolled early to get a jumpstart on learning the offense.
 
Predicted Winner: McCarron – Alabama has two very talented options, but the edge in experience should give McCarron the nod. With one of the SEC’s best offensive lines and a deep backfield, whichever quarterback wins the job won’t have to carry this team next season.
 
Auburn
Candidates: Barrett Trotter (JR), Kiehl Frazier (FR), Clint Moseley (SO)
 
The Breakdown: The Tigers have significant losses on both sides of the ball, but none more important than quarterback. Cam Newton spent only one season at Auburn, but collected the Heisman and a national title along the way. Coordinator Gus Malzahn always seems to get production from his offense, regardless of who is under center. Trotter is an athletic quarterback, but has thrown only nine passes in his career. Frazier ranked as the No. 50 prospect in the 2011 Athlon Consensus 100 and is a great fit for this offense.
 
Predicted Winner: Trotter – Frazier has significant upside, but Trotter possesses more experience. Although it wouldn’t be a shock to see Frazier win the job, Trotter provides a steady hand for a rebuilding offense for early season tests against Mississippi State and Clemson. Trotter may start the year, but he’s not a safe bet to close out 2011 as the No. 1 quarterback. 
 
California
Candidates: Austin Hinder (R-FR), Brock Mansion (SR), Beau Sweeney (JR), Allan Bridgford (SO), Zach Maynard (JR)
 
The Breakdown: Finding a quarterback has been a battle for California since Aaron Rodgers finished his eligibility in Berkeley. A knee injury forced Kevin Riley out of the lineup for the final four games of last season, giving Brock Mansion an opportunity to gain a leg up on the competition going into spring practice. However, Mansion’s four game trial was underwhelming, throwing only two touchdown tosses to five interceptions and completing under 50 percent of his passes. Considering Mansion failed to impress in his audition, the coaching staff will use spring practice to take a look at Hinder, Bridgford and Maynard. Maynard was Buffalo’s starting quarterback in 2009, throwing for 18 touchdowns and 2,694 yards and transferred to California to play with his half brother Keenan Allen.
 
Predicted Winner: Maynard – Considering Jeff Tedford’s offensive background, the inconsistency of the California offense has been puzzling. Maynard’s experience at Buffalo should give him the edge to win the quarterback battle, but if he falters, expect Hinder or Bridgford to get a look.
 
Kansas State
Candidates: Justin Tuggle (JR), Sammuel Lamur (SR), Daniel Sams (FR), Collin Klein (JR)
 
The Breakdown: Since head coach Bill Snyder returned after a brief retirement, the Wildcats have struggled to find a consistent answer under center. Carson Coffman started 11 games last year, but has finished his eligibility. Collin Klein started two games last year, ending the year with 138 passing yards and 432 on the ground. Klein is an excellent runner and has been rumored to be switching to receiver full-time for 2011. If Klein makes the move to receiver, the Wildcats will have very little experience at quarterback. Sammuel Lamur has appeared in four games, but thrown only three passes. Justin Tuggle started his career at Boston College, but transferred midway through the 2009 season. Tuggle shined at Blinn College last year, throwing for 2,015 yards and 17 touchdowns, along with 733 yards and 12 scores on the ground.
 
Predicted Winner: Tuggle – The Wildcats have four athletic options, but not a lot of experience. With Klein likely headed to receiver, the door is open for Tuggle to seize the job in spring practice. Kansas State will be picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 in 2011, but if a quarterback emerges, the Wildcats could sneak into a bowl game. 
 
Louisville
Candidates: Will Stein (JR), Teddy Bridgewater (FR), Dominique Brown (SO)
 
The Breakdown: Charlie Strong had an impressive debut season at Louisville last year, but it may be difficult to repeat that success in 2011. The Cardinals have several question marks on both sides of the ball, including quarterback. Justin Burke and Adam Froman have finished their eligibility, leaving Stein and Brown as the most experienced quarterbacks on the roster. Stein has two starts in his career and finished 9 of 14 with 72 yards and a score in relief of Burke in the regular season finale against Rutgers last year. Although Stein has the early edge, early enrollee Teddy Bridgewater will push for time. Bridgewater ranked as the No. 96 prospect in the 2011 Athlon Consensus 100, and the Louisville coaching staff will have a hard time keeping him off the field this year. Brown has intriguing athletic ability, but might be better suited for a specialty role on offense.
 
Predicted Winner: Stein – Expect Stein to start the season opener, but Bridgewater will eventually become Louisville’s No. 1 quarterback in 2011. 
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<p> Spring practice is just getting started for most FBS teams. Which quarterback battles are the most intriguing or will have the most impact for 2011?</p>

LSU
Candidates: Jordan Jefferson (SR), Zach Mettenberger (SO), Jarrett Lee (SR)

 
The Breakdown: Quarterback play has been an issue for LSU over the last couple of seasons and may have prevented the Tigers from winning a SEC title. Jordan Jefferson has experienced his share of ups and downs, finishing with 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. Jefferson did play better in LSU’s final three games of last season, but he enters spring practice far from secure as the No. 1 quarterback. Zach Mettenberger was dismissed at Georgia following an off the field incident and spent last season at Butler Community College. Mettenberger started 12 games, passing for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns at Butler last year. The junior college transfer is expected to be given every opportunity to win the job this spring.
 
Predicted Winner: Mettenberger – Although Mettenberger hasn't done much at the SEC level, he wasn't brought in to sit on the bench. Jefferson showed small signs of progress at the end of 2010, but it's not enough to hold onto the job in 2011.

Miami, Fla.
Candidates: Jacory Harris (SR), Stephen Morris (SO), Spencer Whipple (SR)

The Breakdown: The first release of the Miami depth chart from spring practice indicated Whipple was the No. 1 quarterback. However, don’t expect him to be the starter in the season opener against Maryland. Harris has the edge in experience, but has a penchant for throwing interceptions. Over the last two seasons, Harris has tossed 32 passes to the other team, while throwing 38 touchdowns. After Harris suffered a concussion against Virginia, Morris played significant snaps the remainder of the season. Despite being thrown into the fire as a true freshman, Morris held up well, throwing for over 200 yards in four of his six appearances.
 
Predicted Winner: Harris – With a new coaching staff in Coral Gables, Harris has a chance for a fresh start. The senior needs to cut down on his mistakes if he wants to hold onto the job all season. Give the edge to Harris, but if he struggles, expect coach Al Golden to have a quick hook to Morris.
 
Missouri
Candidates: James Franklin (SO), Tyler Gabbert (R-FR), Ashton Glaser (SO), Corbin Berkstresser (FR) 
 
The Breakdown: Replacing Blaine Gabbert won’t be easy, but the Tigers should feel pretty good about where they stand heading into 2011. Missouri also has a solid track record of replacing quarterbacks, with the offense not missing a beat with the departures of Brad Smith and Chase Daniel under coach Gary Pinkel. Franklin was the No. 2 quarterback last year, serving mostly as a change of pace option. The sophomore ran for 116 yards and two scores, while throwing for 106 yards and one score on 14 attempts. Redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert hopes to follow in his brother’s footsteps (Blaine) and will be given every opportunity to push Franklin this spring.
 
Predicted Winner: Franklin – Outside of quarterback, the Tigers have few question marks on offense. The offensive line is solid, the receiving corps returns likely All-Big 12 selections in T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew, while plenty of options are ready at running back. Franklin’s limited experience last season should pay off for the full-time gig in 2011 and considering Missouri’s penchant for developing quarterbacks, he could be a rising star in the Big 12.
 
Notre Dame
Candidates: Dayne Crist (SR), Tommy Rees (SO), Andrew Hendrix (R-FR), Everett Golson (FR)
 
The Breakdown: Last season continued to show why Brian Kelly is one of college football’s top offensive minds. Despite the loss of Dayne Crist to a knee injury in late October, the Irish rallied to win their final four games with Tommy Rees at quarterback. Although Rees was a true freshman and took his share of lumps, he finished with a respectable 12 touchdown tosses and 1,106 passing yards. Crist has dealt with significant knee injuries in back-to-back offseasons, which has to be a concern for the Notre Dame coaching staff. Golson is an intriguing dual-threat option, but may be a year away from contributing.
 
Predicted Winner: Crist – Although the injuries are a concern, Crist was off to a solid start before his injury last year (2,033 yards and 15 touchdowns) and probably has the best grasp on Kelly’s system. Considering Crist’s injury history, the Irish should feel good about having Rees and Hendrix as the No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks.
 
Ole Miss
Candidates: Nathan Stanley (JR), Zack Stoudt (JR), Randall Mackey (JR), Barry Brunetti (SO)
 
The Breakdown: Stanley started the opener last season, before giving way to Jeremiah Masoli. Stanley completed 17 of 32 passes for 261 yards and three scores, but played only in one SEC contest. Stoudt joins Ole Miss from the JUCO ranks, after starting his career at Louisville. Mackey redshirted last season, after transferring to Ole Miss from East Mississippi Community College. Brunetti is the wildcard in this battle, as he hopes to have his waiver to play immediately after transferring from West Virginia approved for this season. Brunetti played in four games with the Mountaineers in 2010, completing 4 of 9 passes for 6 yards and no scores.
 
Predicted Winner: Stanley – Stoudt wasn’t brought in to sit on the bench, but Stanley has the most experience on the FBS level and expects to open spring practice as the starter. Mackey should provide a change of pace option in new coordinator David Lee’s offense, while Brunetti could win the job if his appeal to play in 2011 is approved.
 
Penn State
Candidates: Rob Bolden (SO), Paul Jones (R-FR), Matthew McGloin (JR), Kevin Newsome (JR)
 
The Breakdown: Rob Bolden was thrown into the fire as a true freshman last year and held up reasonably well, starting eight games and threw for 1,360 yards. Bolden was injured against Minnesota, losing to the starting job to former walk-on Matt McGloin, who started four of the final five games. McGloin finished with 14 touchdown tosses and 1,548 yards, but did not play well in the Outback Bowl loss to Florida and struggled against Ohio State. Kevin Newsome and Bolden were the source of transfer rumors throughout the offseason, but both elected to stay and compete against McGloin and redshirt freshman Paul Jones.
 
Predicted Winner: Bolden – This battle will be one of the most intriguing races of spring practice. The Nittany Lions should be in good shape to push Wisconsin for second place in the Leaders division next season. Bolden has all of the skills, but just needs a little more seasoning. Although McGloin appears to be the favorite of the coaching staff, Bolden has too much talent to keep on the sidelines.
 
TCU
Candidates: Matt Brown (R-FR), Casey Pachall (SO)
 
The Breakdown: Replacing Andy Dalton will be no easy task, but TCU always seems to reload under coach Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs have two highly-qualified candidates ready to battle for the starting job. Casey Pachall played in limited action last year, completing 6 of 9 passes for 78 yards and one score. Pachall ranked as one of the top-10 dual-threat quarterbacks coming out of high school, while Brown reportedly turned down offers from Arizona and Nebraska to join the Horned Frogs. 
 
Predicted Winner: Pachall – The experience the sophomore gained last season should be enough to edge Brown for the starting job. The Horned Frogs have key losses on the offensive line, but return a solid stable of running backs and options in the receiving corps. With a new quarterback taking over, expect the rushing attack to get a heavy workload early in 2011.
 
Texas Tech
Candidates: Seth Doege (JR), Michael Brewer (FR), Jacob Karam (SO), Scotty Young (R-FR)
 
The Breakdown: Texas Tech had no trouble finding successful passers under former coach Mike Leach and four candidates are ready to battle for the starting job this year. Seth Doege has the most experience of the quarterbacks on the roster, making one start in 2009 and playing in two games last year as a backup to Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield. Doege entered spring practice as the leader and continues to hold firm on the starting nod. Jacob Karam has closed the gap since spring practice started, but has a ways to catch Doege.
 
Predicted Winner: Doege – With Tommy Tuberville entering his second season as the head coach, expect Texas Tech to lean more on the run in 2011. However, that doesn’t mean Texas Tech will completely change its offensive attack. Expect Doege to win the starting job out of spring practice, but with Karam getting the first call off the bench if needed.
 
UCLA
Candidates: Kevin Prince (JR), Richard Brehaut (JR), Brett Hundley (FR)
 
The Breakdown: Rick Neuheisel is squarely on the hot seat and in order for him to return in 2012, UCLA must find a way to jumpstart a lackluster offense. The Bruins ranked 116th in passing offense last year. Kevin Prince showed some promise in 2009, but missed most of last season with a knee injury. The Bruins desperately need Prince to return 100 percent or hope true freshman Brett Hundley is the real deal. Hundley is a good fit for UCLA’s pistol offense, but has no game experience.
 
Predicted Winner: Prince – The junior has dealt with his share of criticism as the starting quarterback, but if he can stay healthy, represents UCLA’s best option early in the season. The Bruins have a tricky road date at Houston to open the year, followed by a date at Texas in Week 3. Hundley will be given every opportunity to play, but expect Prince to hold him off long enough to take the first snap.
 
Washington
Candidates: Keith Price (SO), Nick Montana (R-FR)
 
The Breakdown: Steve Sarkisian has the Huskies pointed in the right direction, but earning another bowl bid could come down to how quickly they settle the quarterback situation. Price started one game last season, completing 14 of 28 passes for 127 yards and one score against Oregon. Nick Montana is the son of NFL great Joe Montana, and was ranked as the No. 9 quarterback by Athlon Sports in the 2010 recruiting class.
 
Predicted Winner: Price – Montana has more upside and will likely takeover the starting nod at some point next season. However, Price has the edge in experience, which could come in handy with a tough road game at Nebraska awaiting Washington in Week 3 next season.
 
Wisconsin
Candidates: Jon Budmayr (SO), Curt Phillips (JR)
 
The Breakdown: Scott Tolzien wasn’t the flashiest quarterback, but he was a steady leader for the Wisconsin offense. Tolzien passed for 2,459 yards and 16 touchdowns last season and completed 72.9 percent of his throws. The battle to replace Tolzien should be a two-man race between Budmayr and Phillips, with both having limited experience in their career. Phillips missed last season due to a torn ACL, while Budmayr completed 8 of 10 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown.
 
Predicted Winner: Budmayr – With Phillips coming off a torn ACL, Budmayr should have the early edge in this race. The sophomore is regarded as a better pocket passer, while Phillips is more of a dual-threat option. The Badgers have some holes to fill, but should be a preseason top 25 team for 2011.
 
Others to watch
 
Connecticut: Battle to replace Zach Frazer is wide-open, with Michael Box, Johnny McEntee, Mike Nebrich and Scott McCummings battling for the starting spot.
 
Florida: With Charlie Weis taking over the coordinator duties, John Brantley should be a good fit for his pro-style attack.
 
Georgia Tech: Tevin Washington closed out 2010 as the starter, but will have to hold off Synjyn Days in spring practice.
 
Pittsburgh: Tino Sunseri was so-so as the starter last year and with a new coaching staff and offensive system, don’t rule out Anthony Gonzalez, Kolby Gray or Mark Myers from passing him on the depth chart.
 
South Florida: B.J. Daniels seems to have figured out what Skip Holtz is looking for from his quarterbacks and should edge Bobby Eveld this spring.