Quarterbacks Turning Heads in 2017 College Football Spring Games

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2017

Quarterbacks Turning Heads in 2017 College Football Spring Games

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Spring practice is the perfect time for overreactions in college football, especially at the quarterback position.

    But instead of praising signal-callers because of performances in spring games—perhaps against second-stringerslet's simply appreciate what they've accomplished in March and April.

    Yes, for some quarterbacks, like Nebraska's Tanner Lee and Florida's Feleipe Franks, standout scrimmages provided the public with the evidence it needed to accept their claims for starting jobs. However, they were really the exclamation points on head-turning springs.

    While receiving a spot on the list doesn't mean the quarterback is destined for stardom in 2017 or beyond, that shouldn't diminish the merited attention after a big spring.

Brandon Peters, Michigan

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Michigan has a relatively clear outlook at quarterback with returning starter Wilton Speight. He steadily improved throughout the 2016 season and deserves his place as the No. 1.

    But competition is never a bad thing.

    Brandon Peters, a 4-star recruit who redshirted last year, made an immediate impression with a 55-yard touchdown on his first throw. Peters finished 9-of-17 for 160 yards—and could've had more if not for one downfield drop—and added a 12-yard rushing score.

    "I thought he did extremely well," head coach Jim Harbaugh said, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. "I think this gives him confidence, should anyway, the way he performed, and just really asserted himself as the leader, as the quarterback."

    Peters isn't necessarily close to passing Speight on the depth chart. If Harbaugh's two seasons have one primary lesson, though, it's that the best player will play regardless of his age.

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    One year after Joe Burrow put together a tremendous day as a redshirt freshman in the Ohio State spring game, it was Dwayne Haskins' turn to do the same.

    Haskins ended the scrimmage 26-of-37 with 293 yards and three touchdowns, showing off an outstanding touch on a 22-yard score to Terry McLaurin in the back of the end zone.

    J.T. Barrett will be the Buckeyes' starter in 2017, but he has legitimate competition for the backup job.

    "I know it is very close," head coach Urban Meyer said, per ESPN.com's Austin Ward. "But I'm not prepared to say who is No. 2, who is No. 3, et cetera, yet."

    Burrow and Haskins will battle for that spot while also trying to hold off 2017 5-star Tate Martell.

Rafe Peavey, SMU

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    SMU has a returning starter in Ben Hicks, but he didn't perform well enough in 2016 to eliminate the competition. Rafe Peavey presented a compelling case during the spring game.

    The Arkansas transfer completed 16 of his 18 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns, also throwing the game-winning score—a 58-yarder to Corey Rau—in the closing moments.

    Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News noted SMU head coach Chad Morris said Hicks has the edge heading into the summer but likes the progress of Peavey.

    "I would say [Hicks is the No. 1], yes, especially coming out of spring, knowing all the ball that he played in the fall," Morris said, per Carlton. "I expect it to be a great quarterback challenge and controversy going into our first fall camp scrimmage."

Drayton Arnold, Old Dominion

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    Old Dominion needs to replace David Washington, who threw for 2,836 yards and 31 touchdowns while leading the program to its first 10-win season as a Football Bowl Subdivision team.

    Perhaps the next man up is Drayton Arnold.

    The redshirt freshman played for both sides in the scrimmage, hitting his target 21 times in 28 tries for 245 yards and five scores.

    Arnold is competing with Blake LaRussa, who finished 8-of-9 for 140 yards and one touchdown. In all likelihood, this battle won't be resolved until the latter stages of fall camp.

Tanner Lee, Nebraska

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Coaches are often hesitant to name a No. 1 quarterback when a competition isn't over, but that doesn't apply to Mike Riley and Nebraska in 2017.

    "We met with the QBs and explained the importance of defining a starter at this time," Riley tweeted. "Tanner Lee is our top QB heading into the summer. All of our QBs understand that competition and opportunity is ongoing."

    In the spring game, the Tulane transfer connected on 13 of 19 attempts for 190 yards and a game-best three touchdowns.

    Lee is officially the front-runner to replace Tommy Armstrong Jr., a three-year starter who guided two nine-win teams.

Will Grier, West Virginia

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    Ray Thompson/Associated Press

    Will Grier burst on to the college football scene as a freshman at Florida before a failed drug test resulted in a year-long suspension and, eventually, a transfer to West Virginia.

    As if it were unclear, though, he's given the Mountaineers their replacement for Skyler Howard. Grier finished his unofficial debut with 202 yards on 12-of-18 passing, showing off his velocity and downfield accuracy during two-plus quarters of controlled action.

    "I think he's as good as advertised,"  head coach Dana Holgorsen said, according to John Antonik of the school's official site. "He's proven he's a winning quarterback. He's a coach's kid. He's smart, and it means a lot to him."

Jake Bentley, South Carolina

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    South Carolina's offense went from terrible to respectable when Jake Bentley took over, but he still encountered plenty of freshman moments against Florida and Clemson.

    That shouldn't stop Gamecocks fans from being excited about his potential. And a 301-yard spring game won't hurt, either. Bentley, the program's Offensive Player of the Spring, ended the scrimmage with 19 completions in 31 attempts, tossing a trio of touchdowns. He launched a perfect downfield shot to Brian Edwards for a 68-yard score early in the game.

    "I think we have an opportunity to be a good offensive football team," head coach Will Muschamp said while citing Bentley and his surrounding cast, per Chris Dearing of The State.

Shane Buechele, Texas

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Shane Buechele completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions as a true freshman.

    But don't declare Buechele the starter just yet.

    "No way," first-year head coach Tom Herman said, per Jim Vertuno of the Associated Press. "A healthy fear of losing your job is just that, healthy. Shane knows we have a lot of confidence in him...but to say he's won the job in 12 padded practices when he doesn't even get hit—that would be premature."

    This came after the rising sophomore racked up 369 yards and three scores in a 23-of-39 showing to close the offseason workouts. And Buechele's primary competition, Sam Ehlinger, managed a 10-of-31 mark for 148 yards in his Texas debut.

    Again, spring game stats are not definitive. It's still fair to suggest Buechele is the most prepared to lead the Longhorns.

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

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    Todd J. Van Emst/Associated Press

    Ever since Jarrett Stidham announced his decision to enroll at Auburn, he's been viewed as the program's missing championship piece.

    The Baylor transfer showed the promise Tigers fans wanted to see in the spring game, completing 16 of 20 attempts for 267 yards and scoring a touchdown after picking up a fumble.

    Returning starter Sean White, who was limited in the spring while recovering from surgery, knows he's playing catch-up.

    "He probably has a little bit of an edge, I have to admit, because he's been through spring and scrimmaging and got more reps than me," White said, per Brandon Marcello of 247Sports.

    White won't concede the spot, but Stidham enters the summer as the clear favorite to win the competition following a terrific spring.

Feleipe Franks, Florida

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Quarterback has been a revolving door at Florida since Tim Tebow finished his college career in 2009, but Feleipe Franks has the potential to eliminate any uncertainty for 2017 and beyond.

    The former 4-star recruit wrapped up the spring in respectable fashion, finishing 8-of-14 with 119 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Although the numbers weren't overwhelming, Franks showed immense improvement compared to his ugly 2016 spring.

    Most importantly for Franks, he took advantage of Luke Del Rio's injury-enforced absence and moved to the front of the depth chart.

    "I think he's ahead," head coach Jim McElwain said, per the Orlando Sentinel after the spring game. "There's no doubt about it."

    Franks might not be an instant star should he win the competition, but the redshirt freshman has captured the attention at a program in desperate need of consistency under center.

       


    All recruiting information via Scout. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.