Offseason College Football QB Battles and Starter Predictions
As we navigate the awful dead period of college football between Signing Day and spring practice, only one thing truly makes sense to the obsessive college football mind...speculating wildly about who'll be starting at QB seven months from now! I'm serious. Really, I am. It may be time to finally go outside (after the speculation).
Darron Thomas, the most successful QB in school history, surprisingly declared for the NFL Draft, but Chip Kelly, if nothing else, has turned Oregon’s QB position into a plug ‘n play success story, with Dennis Dixon, Jeremiah Masoli and Thomas each quickly picking up the Duck spread in efficient, wildly successful fashion.
Competing this spring and fall will be Bryan Bennett (RS So.) and Marcus Mariota (RS Fr.), with a leg up to Bennett, who, while raw, has a quicker release and brings a higher top-end speed to the position than Thomas did. Mariota, while less experienced than Bennett, brings similar athleticism and speed to the race.
It’s not just that All-American and probable No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck has now moved on, but whoever takes over the QB job on the farm is the most important cog for a Stanford program trying to transition from a successful era to a multiple-generation success story.
With a strong line, an experienced backfield, and big targets to throw to, whoever takes over for the Cardinal has not just a significant responsibility to succeed, but a responsibility to succeed quickly.
Though 2011’s backups to Luck didn’t see any sort of significant time on the field, expect Brett Nottingham (RS So.) and Josh Nunes (RS Jr.) to receive the majority of the looks, with both possessing similar time in the Harbaugh/Shaw system and the necessary physical tools to succeed in Palo Alto.
This one might be particularly difficult, as Kellen Moore has started for the Broncos since what I’m assuming is the late '90s.
Now minus the Broncos’ last two coordinators, in addition to Moore, Chris Petersen has a couple of experienced (practice, camps and mop-up) options in Joe Southwick (RS Jr.) and Grant Hedrick (RS So.) and a dark horse in early-enrolling true freshman Nick Patti, who received national attention after participating in the finals of the Nike Elite 11 QB camp this past summer.
Given Petersen’s willingness to throw young QBs to the fire, expect Patti to compete early and perhaps even start in 2013 if he redshirts this fall. At the moment, though, Southwick’s experience and command of the Bronco offense should earn him the nod.
Now that the ageless Brandon Weeden and top target Justin Blackmon have left the friendly confines of Stillwater, a new arm will be needed to lead the next generation of Oklahoma State’s prolific air-raid attack.
The two names that are standing out going into spring are Clint Chelf (RS Jr.), 2011’s No. 2, and J.W. Walsh, a touted redshirt freshman.
Chelf has obviously seen the most field time, but his experience with the Holgorsen/Monken playbook will be tested by the raw talent and dual-threat abilities of the young Walsh. This may be the race in which potential could beat out experience.
This one’s a little harder than the others because nobody’s actually leaving or graduating from the QB depth chart.
On one hand, the mobile David Ash (So.) provides OC Bryan Harsin more of an opportunity to get creative with the QB position and his play-calling. We were all privy to Ash’s yearlong ability to read a defense… and then make a bad decision.
On the other side of things, Case McCoy (Jr.) showed flashes of an ability to make quicker decisions and fit passes into tighter windows than Ash. In regards to McCoy, though, he also showed an ability to fit passes into tight windows…directly to members of opposing secondaries.
A possible third option could be true freshman Connor Brewer, another Elite 11 alumnus, but ultimately the starting job will be earned based on trust and the lesser of the relevant evils.
Following a year in which LSU, 2011’s most dominant regular season team, relied on the QB position less than pretty much any other recent No. 1 team, the Tigers move forward to try and improve at the position responsible for their postseason goose egg.
It’s fairly clear that Les Miles is looking for a QB who can combine the efficiency of Jarrett Lee’s first half of the season with Jordan Jefferson’s athletic and leadership abilities.
This magical hybrid, or as it’s come to be known everywhere else, an “above-average quarterback,” could potentially be found in Georgia transfer Zach Mettenberger (Jr.), a taller, more pro-style option, Stephen Rivers (brother of Philip, RS Fr.) an even taller pro-style option, or Jerrard Randall (RS Fr.) a one-time Oregon commitment, who represents the most athletic of the options as a dual-threat prospect.
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