Illinois needs Nathan Scheelhaase to bounce back in 2013.
Most college football fans associate the word “hot seat” with coaching changes. While that term mostly applies to the men on the sideline, it can also factor into the discussion of quarterbacks. Every coach preaches competition under center in the spring, but the reality is only a handful of quarterback battles are really open.
Quarterback play isn’t solely to blame for the struggles of some teams last season, but there’s no question it can play a significant role in why a team fails to meet preseason expectations.
With spring drills underway, now is the time for struggling quarterbacks to either reclaim their starting job or open the year on the hot seat. Here are 10 quarterbacks that need a big preseason after failing to meet expectations last year.
10 Quarterbacks on the Hot Seat for 2013
David Ash, Texas
With 18 starters returning, everything is in place for Texas to win the Big 12 title in 2013. Of course, there’s one glaring question mark that could decide whether or not the Longhorns improve on last season’s nine wins: Quarterback play. Since Colt McCoy left Austin, Texas has struggled to find a quarterback. Ash has shown flashes of potential, including back-to-back 300-yard performances in September against Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. However, he didn’t play well against TCU (104 passing yards) and started slow in the bowl game but finished with 241 yards and two passing scores. Major Applewhite will call the plays this year for Texas, and if he can get Ash on track, the Longhorns should easily surpass last year’s nine victories.
James Franklin, Missouri
Much like some of the other quarterbacks on this list, Franklin’s 2012 season isn’t entirely to blame for Missouri’s struggles. Transitioning to the SEC was the toughest challenge for the Tigers, but the offensive line never found any consistency, and Franklin was never 100 percent after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. After recording 3,846 yards of total offense and 36 touchdowns in 2011, Franklin managed just 1,562 passing yards and 10 passing scores in 2012. The Tigers should be better in their second tour through the SEC, but Franklin’s health and the return of running back Henry Josey should help this offense find a much-needed spark. The Missouri coaching staff planned on getting an extended look at redshirt freshman Maty Mauk this spring, but Franklin shouldn’t have any trouble holding onto the starting nod. Missouri probably won’t ask the senior to run as much as he did in 2011, but his dual-threat ability should be featured more in 2013.
Connor Halliday, Washington State
Mike Leach’s first season in Pullman brought high expectations, but the Cougars were one of the nation’s biggest disappointments. Leach’s high-powered passing attack never got on track, and Washington State won just three games and averaged a paltry 20.4 points a game. Quarterback play was a huge issue for the Cougars last season, as Jeff Tuel and Halliday shared time under center. Tuel expired his eligibility, leaving Halliday as Washington State’s No. 1 passer for spring practice. The Washington native finished 2012 with 1,878 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he also threw 13 picks. Halliday isn’t guaranteed the starting job, as redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca and true freshman Tyler Bruggman will have an opportunity to push for time this preseason. Halliday showed some flashes of promise last year, including four performances of at least 300 passing yards. If the Cougars want to contend for a bowl game, Halliday needs to take command of the offense and show he’s the No. 1 quarterback this spring.
Jake Heaps, Kansas
Heaps ranked as the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the 2010 recruiting class and started 10 games as a true freshman at BYU, throwing for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns. Despite his experience as a freshman, Heaps failed to build on his performance in 2011 and was benched after a slow start. The Washington native transferred to Kansas after the 2011 season and has two years of eligibility remaining. Heaps is clearly the most talented quarterback on the Jayhawks’ roster, but his performance at BYU certainly wasn’t up to his recruiting hype. Kansas has a good stable of running backs, but the offensive line and receiving corps is still a work in progress. After spending last year on the sidelines, is Heaps ready to take the next step in his development?
Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State
The first year in the post-Kirk Cousins era did not go well for Michigan State. The Spartans needed a win in their regular season finale against Minnesota just to get bowl eligible and finished 108th nationally in scoring offense. Maxwell completed only 52.6 percent of his throws, while passing for 2,606 yards and 13 touchdowns. Despite his struggles, Maxwell remained the starter for the full season but lost playing time in the bowl game to Connor Cook. Coach Mark Dantonio and co-coordinators Dave Warner and Jim Bollman are giving Maxwell the first chance to win the starting quarterback job this spring. The senior won’t have All-Big Ten running back Le’Veon Bell to lean on in 2013, but the receiving corps and offensive line should be solid. If Maxwell struggles early in the year, Dantonio shouldn’t hesitate to give Cook a chance to spark the offense.
Zach Mettenberger, LSU
As expected with any first-year starter, Mettenberger experienced his share of ups and downs. The Georgia native finished 2012 with 2,609 passing yards and 12 touchdowns and threw for 298 yards in the 21-17 loss to Alabama. While Mettenberger’s performance against Alabama was one of his best of last season, he also threw for only 97 yards against Texas A&M and struggled in a 12-10 victory against Auburn. With another spring practice under his belt, along with the arrival of former NFL coordinator Cam Cameron, the pressure is on Mettenberger to take the next step in his development. LSU has one of the SEC’s best rushing attacks, and the receiving corps is among the best in the conference. The Tigers suffered some significant losses on defense, which makes improvement on the passing attack a priority if they want to contend in the SEC West.
Gary Nova, Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights were on the doorstep of an outright conference title last season but losses at Pittsburgh and against Louisville prevented a berth in a BCS bowl. With a defense that ranked fourth nationally in fewest points allowed per game, the Scarlet Knights didn’t need their offense to average 40 points a contest. However, Rutgers never seemed to show improvement on offense last year, as it didn’t score more than 17 points in each of its final four games. Nova had a few solid performances (397 yards against Arkansas, 232 yards and four touchdowns against Temple), but he did not play well against Pittsburgh or in the bowl against Virginia Tech. With running back Jawan Jamison moving onto the NFL, the Scarlet Knights need Nova to carry more of the offensive workload in 2013. Rutgers will have a new coordinator (Ron Prince), but wholesale changes aren’t expected. If Nova can regain his early 2012 form – 17 touchdowns, three interceptions in six games – Rutgers should push for a finish in the top three of the Big East.
Keith Price, Washington
With an offensive line that struggled to provide consistent protection, it’s unfair to blame Price for all of Washington’s offensive struggles last year. After averaging 33.4 points a game in 2011, the Huskies posted only 24 points per contest in 2012. Price simply wasn’t the same player that was touted as a darkhorse Heisman candidate in the preseason, as he threw for 2,728 yards and 19 touchdowns. With the line expected to be better in 2013, and the return of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Kasen Williams, Price should be in for a bounce-back campaign. However, if the line struggles, once again, Washington’s offense could finish near the bottom of the Pac-12 in scoring and total yards for the second year in a row.
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
Make no mistake: 2012 was simply a disaster for Illinois. The Fighting Illini went backwards in Tim Beckman’s first season, with the offense hitting rock bottom by averaging just 16.7 points a game. It’s unfair to blame Scheelhaase for everything that went wrong last year, especially since Illinois had very little production from the running backs or any protection from the offensive line. Entering his senior year, Scheelhaase has thrown for 5,296 yards and 34 touchdowns and has rushed for 1,795 yards and 15 scores. New coordinator Bill Cubit should improve Illinois’ offense, but the surrounding cast has to step up and help Scheelhaase more than it did in 2012.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
2013 certainly didn’t go according to plan for Virginia Tech. The Hokies had ACC title aspirations but needed victories over Boston College and Virginia in late November just to get bowl eligible. Thomas was a second-team All-ACC selection in his first year as a starter, so expectations were high going into 2013. Instead of taking a step forward in his development, the Virginia native regressed. Thomas watched his completion percentage dip from 59.8 percent in 2011 to 51.3 percent in 2012. His interceptions also increased from 10 in 2011 to 16 in 2012. After Virginia Tech’s offensive struggles last year, coach Frank Beamer decided to shake up the offensive staff, hiring Scot Loeffler as the new coordinator. Loeffler’s stint at Auburn did not go well, and he’s stepping into a situation where Virginia Tech has a questionable offensive line and lacks proven playmakers at receiver and no No. 1 running back. Thomas recorded more yards of total offense in 2012 than he did in 2011, but the Hokies need their senior signal-caller to play more mistake-free ball in 2013.
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