Pac-12 Football: Biggest Spring Quarterback Battles
Spring practice is coming up (exhale, college football fans) and there will be some interesting position battles going on at each Pac-12 team's practices.
The quarterback position is obviously one of the most important battles and, while not every team is in the midst of a quarterback controversy, some teams feature returning starters at quarterback that may have to battle to keep their jobs as field general.
We've taken the Pac-12 tour and pinpointed which teams have quarterback battles to keep your eyes on.
Matt Barkley has exhausted his eligibility so a new starter will have to be identified. Most fans thought USC had their man in Max Wittek, who is now a redshirt sophomore. Wittek had respectable stats against Notre Dame going 14-of-23 for 186 yards, 1 touchdown, two interceptions and a 53-yard bomb.
But in the 2012 Sun Bowl, Wittek's stock slipped after only completing 14 of 37 passes for 107 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Incoming freshman Max Browne could be a serious challenger for the starting spot. Browne has enrolled early so he has already made it clear he wants to compete for the starting spot. While it's rare for a USC quarterback to start as a true freshman, Matt Barkley did exactly that.
Cody Kessler may be the sleeper of the bunch. Kessler is also be a redshirt sophomore this season and he's been patiently waiting behind Matt Barkley. He doesn't have as much experience as Wittek but he's perfect in his career passing stats: 2-for-2, nine yards.
This competition will probably not be decided until fall practice ends but the competition in the spring should show two leaders emerging.
While nothing is ever a certainty, it's almost a given that Brett Hundley will be the Bruins' starting quarterback this season. Lee certain is who will ultimately serve as backup to Hundley and, unfortunately for the Bruins, the backup has had a very important role over the years due to untimely injuries at the quarterback spot.
Fuller actually made two starts as a flanker last season, so he probably has a good feel for the playbook and the leg up due to his familiarity with the responsibilities of his receivers.
The Utes suffered a blow when Jordan Wynn retired from football due to injury. Travis Wilson, a freshman, stepped in to take over and the results were unsurprisingly mediocre: 1,311 passing yards, 7 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
With Dennis Erickson as the newly-hired co-offensive coordinator, things should get very interesting in the spring camp's quarterback competition.
Incoming freshman Brandon Cox has already enrolled, so we should expect to see some action from him—he's a dual threat quarterback so he may add an exciting element to offense if he sees the field. The Utes' other two incoming quarterbacks are Conner Manning (pro style) and Micah Thomas (dual-threat).
Matt Scott has exhausted his eligibility, so it's game on for the quarterbacks at Arizona.
Former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins has already enrolled, so he'll be in the thick of it, although he reportedly had minor surgery two weeks ago, according to Wildcat Authority's Jason Scheer's twitter account.
Scroggins was the No. 2 quarterback in the class of 2010, so he looks like the leading candidate here, but all these guys should be on equal footing when the spring camp starts.
This could be a wild ride.
Taylor Kelly probably has this position locked up, but the competition for backup should be entertaining. Kelly threw for over 3,000 yards, 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season, finishing with a 159.45 passer rating. I think his spot is safe but, no doubt, Todd Graham will encourage some competition.
Michael Eubank looks like the reserve, but he may push Kelly and Graham through April.
The Buffaloes will probably have the most compelling spring practices of any Pac-12 team because there are so many facets of the game they are looking to improve in. Jordan Webb and Connor Wood both return. Both quarterbacks played last season, with Webb playing in 10 games and Wood playing in nine.
Will there be a quarterback change?
Nobody knows, especially with new head coach Mike MacIntyre at the helm. You have to figure both quarterbacks will be competing for the starting spot and have nowhere to go but up.
It's safe to say there won't be any changes here. Marcus Mariota was the real deal last year and this year he returns with a lot of experience. Mariota was named the Pac-12's Freshman Offensive Player of the Year, so he has plenty of job security.
Yup, nothing new here, folks. Move along.
Since Kevin Hogan took over the Cardinal starting quarterback job at mid-season, everything has come up roses.
Hogan will be the starter but what about Josh Nunes, the quarterback who lost his job to Hogan? Nunes' arm is reportedly in a sling and he will miss spring practice, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
That leaves the reserve competition to be a little more compelling. More from the Chronicle:
While Hogan is firmly entrenched as the No. 1 quarterback, Nunes' absence will open opportunities for backups like sophomore Evan Crower and freshman Dallas Lloyd, who joined the team last fall after a two-year Mormon mission.
"It opens the door for them to show what they can do," Shaw said.
Zach Maynard, as well as most of the Bears' offense is gone. Obviously, new head coach Sonny Dykes will have to select a starting quarterback and this one could get interesting.
4-star quarterback Jared Goff is an incoming freshman but he'll probably need a year before he can really compete for the starting job.
Allan Bridgford, Kyle Boehm, Austin Hinder, Brendan Keeney, Joey Mahalic and Zach Kline are all listed as quarterbacks on Cal's roster. That said, the Bears are not lacking in depth at quarterback.
Sometimes, too many hands in the pot can be chaotic but, if any teams needs to mix things up and find a new leader, it's Cal. Keep your eyes on Bridgford.
Sean Mannion returns and he should be the starter for 2013 although when he went down with injury in early October, Cody Vaz did a remarkable job picking up where Mannion left off.
In fact, this No. 1 spot may not be completely cemented. Head coach Mike Riley has the unenviable task of deciding between two quarterbacks who have both proven to be leaders and winners. Both are deserving of the job, but only one will ultimately emerge as starter.
This may be painful to watch.
Keith Price returns as the Huskies' veteran quarterback, and if he can improve his consistency (19 touchdowns, 13 interceptions), many of the Huskies' offensive woes will become ancient history. The other part of the equation is getting back to a strong running game, but that's for another story.
I don't see any real changes on the depth chart here, but there is a lot of youth behind Price, so we may see a breakout spring from one of the reserves.
Connor Halliday returns and while it's nice to have an experienced quarterback, there's room for improvement from Halliday. In the nine games he played in, he threw for 1,878 yards, 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
That's not typical of a Mike Leach-quarterback but Halliday will have had an entire year under his belt to grasp the nuances of the Air Raid offense.
Halliday will be vastly better this year and while he will be challenged by the reserves (and Leach), I think Leach will want to stick with Halliday to have continuity in the offense.