10 Most Intriguing Quarterback Battles of 2013

David LutherFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

10 Most Intriguing Quarterback Battles of 2013

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    With every new college football season there are plenty of new quarterback battles waiting to be hashed out through spring and fall practices—and maybe into the start of the new season. The upcoming 2013 season won't be any different, especially with so many big-name quarterbacks leaving top programs around the nation.

    Big-time QBs like Matt Barkley, Geno Smith and Collin Klein all need to be replaced on the roster. Can the underclassmen step up to make a name for themselves, or will that always-reliable backup finally get his shot at glory in his own right?

    While there will be plenty of quarterbacks vying for that coveted top spot on the depth chart, we've selected 10 of the most intriguing quarterback battles to watch this spring and fall as teams prepare for the 2013 season.

Kansas State

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    It's hard to replace a quarterback like Collin Klein, but if there's one coach in the nation capable of doing so, it has to be Bill Snyder.

    For 2013, Snyder will have three quarterbacks vying for the position with sophomore Daniel Sams having the inside track. Sams will be joined in the position showdown by Jake Waters and Sam Johnson, both juniors.

    Sams is the only of the three to have actually attempted a pass while Johnson appeared in one game last season (no pass attempts, two rushes, six yards).

    Obviously a guy like Klein gobbles up most of the attention, but these three youngsters are about to be thrown into the fire. Who will emerge burnt and who will come out forged?

West Virginia

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    With the loss of Geno Smith, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen is going to need to find a way to replace 4,365 yards of total offense, not to mention 44 total touchdowns.

    Right now, it appears the heir apparent to Smith is redshirt freshman Ford Childress. A 3-star recruit out of Texas from the class of 2012, Childress was unheralded out of high school, but could be a great grab for Holgorsen. But he's not the only quarterback on the roster, and there's no guarantees he can maintain the top spot on the depth chart all the way through fall camp.

    WVU runs a high-flying offense that fits in nicely in the Big 12. It's a lot for a freshman—even one who has been on campus for a year—to handle. While he may be the front-runner, expect a good deal of competition from others this spring and extending into the fall for Childress.

Tennessee

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    The entire Tennessee program is intriguing, really. How can a program that was so good for so long all of the sudden be so bad?

    Quarterback Tyler Bray had another season of eligibility remaining at Tennessee, but instead opted to declare his intention to enter the NFL a year early. Can you blame him? The Volunteers haven't seen turmoil like this probably in their entire history, and Butch Jones will be the latest head coach to take a crack at returning the program to glory.

    Jones will have to start almost from scratch, though. Bray's early departure leaves a huge void. Junior Justin Worley is the only quarterback with any experience, such as it is. Worley has seen action over the previous two seasons and is a combined 63-of-110 for 738 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions.

    And most of those numbers came from 2011.

    The only other options are junior Patrick Ashford and sophomores Nathan Peterman and Joe Stocstill—none of whom have any game experience.

    Expect Worley to get the early nod, but the race for the top spot is, or at least should be, wide open at Tennessee this spring.

Florida State

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    E.J. Manuel has thrown his last pass for the Seminoles, and Jimbo Fisher is going to be spending a good amount of his spring and fall focusing on the next quarterback at Florida State, whoever that turns out to be.

    Junior Clint Trickett was Manuel's primary backup last season, completing 64.7 percent of his 34 passing attempts in very limited action. While Trickett certainly is a front-runner for the position, he by no means has things sewn up.

    Sophomore Jacob Coker saw a few snaps last season, throwing five attempts, but completing three of them for 45 yards, including one touchdown. While there's not a lot to go off of there, Trickett isn't exactly oozing experience himself (Trickett also saw action in 2011, where he was 44-of-72 for 675 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions).

    We also can't ignore redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. This 5-star prospect was the top quarterback (and No. 10 overall) recruit in the class of 2012, and depending on his spring and fall outings, Fisher could be tempted to put the fate of the defending ACC champions in the hands of an impressive youngster.

Michigan

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    With Denard Robinson's career in Ann Arbor in the rear-view mirror, the Wolverines can finally get down to the business of finding a true quarterback for the quarterback position. Robinson was a stellar athlete to be sure, but he was unquestionably a mediocre quarterback.

    With Brady Hoke relentlessly pounding the recruiting trail, it's likely only a matter of time before the next Tom Brady makes his way to Ann Arbor, trying to restore Michigan's glory years as “Quarterback U.” But in the meantime, Hoke will need to make a decision between the two top candidates for the job in 2013: senior Devin Gardner and sophomore Russell Bellomy.

    Both Gardner and Bellomy saw action in 2012, with Gardner having the better of things on the field statistically. It's likely Gardner's position to lose at this point, but the young Bellomy was one of Hoke's first signees back in January 2011, and his more traditional, cerebral approach to the position is more in line with Hoke's football philosophy. Gardner, on the other hand, while a terrific athlete, was recruited by Rich Rodriguez, who was desperately if inexplicably trying to transform Michigan in to a Big East-style offense.

    Bellomy certainly has the look of a future Michigan signal-caller. If Gardner falters at any point, Hoke may just be willing to give Bellomy an early start to that future.

Wisconsin

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    There's been one overriding quarterback story at Wisconsin so far this offseason. Senior quarterback Curt Phillips, thrice sidelined with a torn ACL, has been given a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Another extra year could be just what the Badgers need to finally do something the previous three Wisconsin teams have been incapable of: traveling to Pasadena and actually winning a game.

    While Phillips' sixth year at Wisconsin is certainly noteworthy, particularly because of how well he played toward the end of the 2012 season, he's not yet been anointed the second coming of Russell Wilson quite yet by new head coach Gary Andersen. Russell will have to stave off Joel Stave, a sophomore looking to make his own mark in Madison.

    We also can't forget senior Danny O'Brien. This former ACC Freshman of the Year who transferred to Wisconsin from Maryland hasn't gone away, and his one last shot at fulfilling his potential is 2013.

Michigan State

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    Michigan State was the proverbial Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team in 2012. The Spartans finished the bowl season as the No. 4 defense in the FBS (274.4 yards given up per game). The MSU offense, on the other hand, was 97th in the nation (359.3 yards per game). MSU was also a top 10 team in scoring defense, but 110th in scoring offense.

    With departing junior Le'Veon Bell having led the Big Ten in rushing average (137.9) in 2012, it's not the Spartans' run game that was at fault, either. Clearly something needs to be done about the quarterback problem in East Lansing.

    Andrew Maxwell returns for his senior season at MSU, but his status as starter is probably the most precarious of any major program in the nation. Maxwell was yanked several times last season, including late in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU—a game that Michigan State won in the waning moments thanks in part to the play of then-freshman Connor Cook.

    Cook actually led MSU in passing with 47 yards and a touchdown on 4-of-11 passing. Maxwell was 6-of-15 for 28 yards (Le'Veon Bell had 29 passing yards on one attempt).

    That's just 75 yards passing from the two quarterbacks on 26 attempts.

    Michigan State will live and die by its quarterback again in 2013, and both Maxwell and Cook will need to step things up this spring to hold off redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor, a 3-star 2012 recruit from Ohio.

Southern California

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    There's trouble brewing in Trojan country, and Lane Kiffin is right in the middle of it. It's probably safe to assume that Kiffin is firmly on the “hot seat” this season, and if things aren't better than 2012's 7-6 finishing—a lot better—than Kiffin will probably be searching for a new job come December.

    It's not just his record, either. Kiffin has mismanaged the Trojans' program almost since day one. Bad play-calling combined with repeated missteps off the field have led to the most dissatisfaction amongst the USC fanbase since the whole Reggie Bush saga hit the proverbial fan.

    But Kiffin has a golden opportunity to make up for all of those sins in one fell swoop. If he can pick the right quarterback to start 2013, USC could be set up for a fair amount of success next season. He'll have plenty to pick from, too.

    Not only will we see a heated battle between sophomores Max Wittek and Cody Kessler, but true freshman Max Browne—a 5-star recruit and the nation's No.1-rated quarterback according to Rivals.com—will also be doing all he can to make an impression on his new coaching staff.

    We saw our first glimpse of Wittek versus Kessler in the run up to the 2012 Sun Bowl, and you can expect that battle to only heat up this spring. Throw Browne on top and we have a good old-fashioned three-way battle brewing at USC.

Oregon State

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    Oregon State's 2013 quarterback situation is shaping up to be much the same as it was in 2012. Mike Riley will essentially have two starting quarterbacks returning next season, junior Sean Mannion and senior Cody Vaz. Both had successes in 2012, and both had some areas that could stand some improvement.

    Statistically, Mannion was the more accurate passer. He completed 64.5 percent of his 310 pass attempts, but he also threw a whopping 13 interceptions (compared to just 15 touchdowns). Vaz, on the other hand, completed 58.9 percent of his 185 attempts, but had just three picks to 11 scores.

    Both players finished the season with negative rushing yardage.

    Expect Vaz and Mannion to be locked in tight battle all through spring practices. Either would make a good quarterback for 2013, but if the Beavers want to improve on last season's 9-4 mark and go from good to great, one of these two upperclassmen is going to have to step up and take control of his offense.

Oklahoma

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    Oklahoma may have the most intriguing of all quarterback duels. On one hand, Blake Bell seems to have the support of many, if not most Sooners fans. He's big, he's strong and he's a reliable short-yardage guy when carrying the ball.

    But on those rare occasions when Bell puts the ball in the air, it's a completely different story. In 2012, Bell was just 9-of-16 for 107 yards, or a scant 6.7 yards per attempt.

    The other option for Oklahoma in 2013 looks to be senior Drew Allen. The trouble there is the fact that Allen didn't see any action for the Sooners last season. So what does Bob Stoops do? Can he run an offense that relies an Bell's 3.1 yards per rush attempt and 6.7 yards per pass attempt? Or does he opt for Allen's untried abilities?

    Either way, it sounds like OU is going to have some trouble keeping pace with the rest of the Big 12 on offense in 2013.