The start of spring practice for all 125 FBS college football teams is officially right around the corner. Army kicked off its spring practice on Feb. 12, while Tulane begins one day later on Feb. 13. Texas is the first BCS team to open spring practice, starting on Feb. 21 and Pac-12 rivals California and Stanford both start on Feb. 25.
With spring practice in the air, it’s time to turn the page from signing day to the action on the field. Quarterback battles will be heating up over the next few weeks, and several new faces could emerge as a star in 2013. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel wasn’t guaranteed to start after the conclusion of spring practice last year, yet won the Heisman Trophy and led the Aggies to an 11-2 record. Oregon's Marcus Mariota was locked into a tight battle with Bryan Bennett for the No. 1 spot last spring and was named as the Pac-12's Freshman of the Year for 2012. Considering Manziel and Mariota were both question marks after spring practice and ranked among the best quarterbacks in the nation, there will be other names that go from unknown to all-conference recognition in 2013.
Although these five players might not be household names in February, it could be a different story by the end of the 2013 season.
5 College Football Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013
Blake Bell, Oklahoma
While it’s unfair to compare Bell to Tim Tebow, he is following a similar career path to the former Heisman Trophy winner. Tebow was used mostly as a running threat during his first year, which is the same role Bell has fulfilled for Oklahoma in the last two years. After spending the last two seasons as a change of pace player, Bell will make the transition to starting quarterback this spring. The junior has recorded 372 rushing yards and 24 scores on 104 career carries but has only thrown 20 passes. Bell isn’t guaranteed the starting job, as Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight will get a chance to push him for the No. 1 spot in the spring. If Bell shows he can move the offense through the air, his dual-threat ability would provide a different dimension for Oklahoma’s offense, which ranked fifth in the Big 12 last season with an average of 38.2 points a game.
Michael Brewer, Texas Tech
With Kliff Kingsbury returning to Lubbock, the Red Raiders will be one of college football’s most intriguing teams in 2013. The former Texas Tech quarterback coordinated one of the nation’s top offenses in 2012 at Texas A&M and helped to engineer a similar attack at Houston with record-setting quarterback Case Keenum. With Seth Doege expiring his eligibility, Brewer is expected to become Texas Tech’s next prolific quarterback. As a backup to Doege in 2012, he threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns on 48 attempts. And the sophomore has been well-versed in spread offenses, playing under Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris when he was the head coach at Lake Travis (Texas) High School. Even though the Red Raiders lose Doege and receiver Darrin Moore, Brewer’s emergence and Kingsbury’s offense should keep Texas Tech in the hunt to match last season’s win total (eight).
Devin Gardner, Michigan
Gardner is a familiar name to most in the Big Ten, but he is poised to be a household name by the end of 2013. In three seasons in Ann Arbor, Gardner has thrown for 1,480 yards and 13 touchdowns, while also rushing for 175 yards and catching 17 passes for 268 yards. With Denard Robinson entrenched as the starter going into 2012, the Detroit native was slated to play receiver. However, Gardner shifted back to quarterback once Robinson suffered an elbow injury and started four out of the final five games under center. The junior had a strong showing in the last weeks of the season, throwing for 314 yards and recording six overall touchdowns in a 42-17 win over Iowa. Gardner completed 18 of 36 throws for 214 yards and three scores against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl and never threw more than one interception during his five-game stint at quarterback. Michigan will miss Robinson’s playmaking ability, but Gardner is plenty capable of leading the Wolverines to a Legends Division title. With left tackle Taylor Lewan returning to Ann Arbor, along with the arrival of touted true freshman running back Derrick Green, there figures to be plenty of help for Gardner in his first full season as the starter.
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Considering he started the last five games of 2012, Hogan is far from an unknown commodity. However, Hogan’s performance in limited action was promising and the rising sophomore will be a key cog in Stanford’s run at another Pac-12 title in 2013. The Virginia native’s first start came against Oregon State, in which he threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns, while also adding 49 yards on the ground. Hogan wouldn’t top 254 passing yards the rest of the way, but he didn’t toss an interception over his final three games and averaged 4.8 yards per carry on 55 attempts. With tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo departing for the NFL, Stanford needs to find more playmakers for Hogan in the passing game. However, with one of the Pac-12’s top offensive lines returning, along with Tyler Gaffney and Barry Sanders at running back, Hogan should be surrounded by plenty of help. The Cardinal needs to throw the ball better to reach the national title, which should be easy for Hogan to do with a full spring practice to work as the starter.
Bryce Petty, Baylor
Despite a new quarterback taking over in Waco, the Bears should still have one of the best offenses in the Big 12. With the emergence of running back Lache Seastrunk and receiver Tevin Reese, as well as the play of All-American guard Cyril Richardson, Petty will have a chance to ease his way into the starting lineup. The 6-foot-3 junior has played sparingly through his first two years on campus but was regarded as a top-100 recruit in Texas coming out of high school. Petty played in six games and completed 7 of 10 throws for 97 yards and one touchdown in 2012. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he had a chance to work under Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence over the past three seasons on campus. Petty isn’t guaranteed the job, especially with the arrival of true freshman Chris Johnson this spring. However, considering his experience in the system for the past three years, it will be difficult to keep him out of the starting lineup. And considering the success of the last two Baylor quarterbacks, look for Petty to have a big season – if he’s the starter – in 2013.
Others to Watch:
Terrance Broadway, Louisiana-Lafayette
Started the final nine games of 2012 and averaged 278.2 total yards per game.
Ford Childress, West Virginia
Childress will have to beat out Paul Millard, but the 6-foot-5 Texan could be Dana Holgorsen’s next standout quarterback.
Jake Heaps, Kansas
Threw for 3,768 yards in two years at BYU but was benched after a disappointing start to sophomore year.
Vad Lee, Georgia Tech
North Carolina native is a perfect fit for Paul Johnson’s option attack.
Philip Nelson, Minnesota
Threw for 873 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 and will benefit by working as the No. 1 quarterback during spring practice.
Daniel Sams, Kansas State
Showcased big-play potential on the ground last year (235 yards) but an unproven commodity through the air (55 yards).
Jameis Winston, Florida State
If Winston wins the starting nod, he should be one of college football’s top breakout passers for 2013.
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