Potential 1st-Year Starting QBs to Watch for in 2014 Spring Football
Position battles are all the rage during spring practice, and no position is watched more closely than the quarterback.
Thanks to the emergence of seven-on-seven tournaments, more quarterbacks are ready to play sooner than ever before. Couple that with early enrollment, and quarterback competitions can start right away.
All that means, though, is up-and-coming passers have to rise to the occasion. Which potential starting quarterbacks should fans be looking at this spring?
Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen
Matt Joeckel was Texas A&M's No. 2 quarterback in 2013. That said, he's not guaranteed to succeed Johnny Manziel. Jameill Showers, after all, was presumed to be the Aggies' starting quarterback in 2012 before Manziel, then an unknown redshirt freshman, won the job.
There's a ton of hype around another young player: early enrollee Kyle Allen, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2014 class.
Adding to that hype was Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin, who tweeted earlier this month that Allen was throwing the ball well and "fitting in" during spring practice.
Who will take the field first for A&M next season remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: Allen is going to push Joeckel. This should be one of the more fascinating offseason quarterback battles anywhere in the country.
Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr.
The Taylor Martinez era at Nebraska is finally over after 10 long years.*
Up next for the Cornhuskers is quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., although his place on this list merits some explanation.
Should he win the job, Armstrong would technically be a first-year starter. However, he already has seven starts under his belt thanks to a lingering foot injury that cost Martinez most of the 2013 season.
Armstrong's biggest competition will likely come from redshirt freshman Johnny Stanton. Still, it feels like Armstrong has the edge in the race. Given his athleticism, he can pick up where Martinez left off in terms of running the offense.
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
No quarterback battle in the ACC will be watched as closely as Clemson's.
The successor to Tajh Boyd will likely come down to three players: senior Cole Stoudt, sophomore Chad Kelly and early enrollee Deshaun Watson.
Since Stoudt has the most playing experience, he can truly separate himself from the competition. However, a lot of excitement surrounds Watson, a 4-star prospect who chose the Tigers over offers from Alabama, Auburn and Florida State, among many others.
The top dual-threat quarterback for the 2014 class, he would give the Clemson offense an extra dimension that the other competitors can't.
Clemson coaches could decide to redshirt Watson as Stoudt finishes out his final year, but not before the freshman is given a chance to win the starting job.
Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
J.W. Walsh leads an inexperienced quarterback group at Oklahoma State. After being benched in favor of Clint Chelf last season, however, he may not be assured the starting job.
Walsh's biggest competition will come from early enrollee Mason Rudolph.
A 4-star member of the 2014 recruiting class, he will participate in spring practice with the Pokes. Head coach Mike Gundy has set the precedent for playing a true freshman quarterback. In 2012, he named Wes Lunt, another early enrollee, the starter over Chelf and Walsh.
“The truth is, if you have a freshman come in and is the better player, you probably play him,” Gundy told ESPN's Jake Trotter.
Yes, Walsh should be considered the early favorite to win the starting job for next season, but keep an eye on Rudolph. This competition could go all the way to Week 1.
Missouri QB Maty Mauk
Now that James Franklin has moved on, Missouri's quarterback competition is up for grabs.
The early favorite to win the job is redshirt sophomore Maty Mauk, who played well in a limited role in Mizzou's Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State. He also saw playing time while Franklin was sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Head coach Gary Pinkel won't officially commit to Mauk, however.
"Certainly, Maty played very, very well for a young player," Pinkel said in January, via Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star. "There’s going to be competition there. He’s not an established starter, so he’ll be competing like everybody else."
For what it's worth, Pinkel was slow to name Franklin the starter last offseason, even though it was clear he would be. Mauk will likely be named the starter, but there may be some waiting involved.
Arizona QB Connor Brewer
Now-departed senior quarterback B.J. Denker took just about every snap for Arizona last season. That means the Wildcats have an open competition to succeed him.
One of the names to watch is Texas transfer and Arizona native Connor Brewer. The redshirt sophomore didn't see a snap with the Longhorns and is looking for a chance to start at a Division I school.
The Wildcats have plenty of depth at quarterback. Brewer will have to compete against USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, among others.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.