Regardless of what Nick Saban says, Alabama has a quarterback controversy with Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Even if things are copacetic across the team, any time you have two great quarterbacks on the same roster, fans and media are going to focus on the situation and it is on the coaches and players to not get distracted.
Many teams have faced similar predicaments to Alabama and have weathered them, often to great success. Here are the five most memorable quarterback “controversies” in college football history.
Tom Brady/Drew Henson – Michigan Wolverines (1998-99)
Brady started the 1998 and '99 seasons, going 20-5 as a starter, but always had the more athletic Henson breathing down his neck. However, Brady was still Brady and kept the starting job despite being switched out for Henson during several series throughout the season. After Brady went to the NFL, Henson got the starting job in 2000 and led Michigan to a share of the Big Ten title before opting to play Major League Baseball.
Todd Helton/Peyton Manning/Brandon Stewart – Tennessee Volunteers (1994)
The Vols made national headlines when they successfully recruited two of the nation’s best quarterbacks in freshmen Manning and Stewart. It was expected that they would have an opportunity to learn under fifth-year senior Jerry Colquitt and junior Helton. Then Colquitt tore ligaments in his knee on the first series of the opener against UCLA and Helton became the starter. Helton then went down with a knee injury in the fourth game against Mississippi State and Manning took over, leading Tennessee to seven wins and a Gator Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. He remained the starter for the remainder of his college and pro careers. Helton, who excelled at baseball, opted to focus his senior year on that sport and went on to have a remarkable 17-year career with the Colorado Rockies. Stewart transferred to Texas A&M and led the Aggies to the Big 12 title in 1998.
Chris Leake/Tim Tebow – Florida Gators (2006)
Tebow was Florida’s Mr. Football and a perfect fit for Urban Meyer’s spread offense. He served as a backup to senior Chris Leake as a true freshman despite calls for him to start because of the Leake’s inconsistent play. Of all the situations on this list, this one was the most harmonious. Leake ran the offense, but Tebow was brought in during crucial situations and defenses were unable to adjust or just completely surprised. The Gators went on to win the national title, throttling Ohio State.
Troy Aikman/Jamelle Holieway – Oklahoma Sooners (1985)
Oklahoma recruited Aikman when it was still running the I-formation offense, but had gone back to wishbone by the time he became the starter in 1985. He was still athletic enough to run it and lead the Sooners to a 3-0 record before breaking his leg in a 27-14 loss to Miami. Holieway, who was tailor-made for the wishbone, took over and became the only true freshman to lead his team to a national championship before Tagovailoa. With Holieway firmly established as the starter, head coach Barry Switzer helped Aikman transfer to UCLA where he flourished in the Bruins’ passing attack. Meanwhile, Holieway went on to have an exceptional career at Oklahoma before suffering a knee injury in 1987.
Tommy Frazier/Brook Berringer – Nebraska Cornhuskers (1994-95)
When phenom Frazier was forced to the sidelines during Nebraska’s perfect season because of blood clots, Berringer took over and led the Huskers to seven straight wins and a national title showdown with Miami in the Orange Bowl. Frazier was healthy by then and he and Berringer split time in the game with Frazier leading a fourth-quarter comeback to secure Tom Osborne’s first national title. Frazier was named the starter for the 1995 season and Nebraska beat all of its opponents by 14 points or more and won a second straight title. Since he was more of a drop-back passer, Berringer was expected to be taken in the 1996 NFL Draft, but he died in a plane crash two days before it. A statue of him and Osborne was erected at Memorial Field in Lincoln in 2006.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.