10 Struggling College QBs Who Could Lose Their Jobs To Young Phenoms
The only player on the team more popular than the backup quarterback is the guy backing up the backup quarterback. Man, that guy is great.
Such is life for college quarterbacks with any but the most firm grip on the starting job. One bad game, some poor reads, a few too many picks, and suddenly Joe Sophomore is the next Joe Montana.
Despite their seniority on the team, most of these 10 struggling quarterbacks have to perform above and beyond expectations in camp just to guarantee they start on opening day.
Good luck, and may the best backup win.
UNC's TJ Yates
When ESPN's Heather Dinich is already writing articles titled "Don't Give Up On Yates...Yet", it's about time you hang it up, son.
Yates struggled with inconsistency throughout last season, excelling in the Tar Heels' upset over Virginia Tech, but throwing dreadfully in the losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia. He racked up all of 64 yards and a pick in the loss to Florida State.
That inconsistency is symptomatic of a severe lack of confidence, one that Dinich believed would be tempered by time and by developing a rapport with UNC's young receivers (particularly breakout WR Greg Little).
With the Tar Heels eying a conference championship (and, in my opinion, in position to take a run at the national title as well), time might not be on his side. A championship team can have few liabilities, least of all from your quarterback.
If Yates struggles in the Tar Heels' crucial opening game against LSU, he could be riding the bench as early as week two, in favor of either Bradon Hanson, a sophomore, or Bryn Renner, UNC's "it" QB of the future.
Renner is was a top five pro-style prospect and a cerebral talent who redshirted last year. He brings the added element of speed and athleticism to the QB position...well, let's give the kid time before we start praising his replacement, hmm?
LSU's Jordan Jefferson
Speaking of LSU, QB Jordan Jefferson could be facing some job security issues if the Tigers' offense fails to gel quickly next year.
Jefferson wasn't the problem in the Capital One Bowl against Penn State—his receivers were. And I bore witness to Jefferson's finest game, the Chick-Fil-A beatdown of Georgia Tech, and left believing LSU would have a breakout year.
But something just isn't clicking in the Tigers' offense, and there's too much talent behind Jefferson—redshirt freshman Chris Barrett, and now four-star pocket slinger Zach Lee—for the third-year QB to have much breathing room.
As LSU's offensive coordinator, Gary Crowton, enters his third year, its time for Jefferson and company to put up. If they can't, it could be time to take the Tigers' offense in a different direction, coaches and all.
Cal's Kevin Riley
Cal fans have had it up to here with Kevin Riley.
Since coughing up the Bears' best shot at a comeback against Oregon State in 2007, Riley's career has been a never-ending battle against anxiety, incompetence and skilled Pac-10 defensive backs, in no particular order.
He's been started and benched so many times, you'd think he just owned spring practice.
But this year, Cal has raised its expectations and preemptively lost its patience, with RIley. Coach Tedford must understand that if Riley is anointed the starter, the senior has very little margin for error.
That's perhaps why Tedford declared the QB position up for grabs. And this time, the Bears hopefully have enough talent in junior Brock Mansion or redshirt sophomore Beau Sweeney (or redshirt freshman Allan Bridgford, or true freshman Austin Hinder) to find Riley's replacement before he throws game-changing picks in the back of the endzone against USC.
Being the senior of the group just won't be enough when you're Kevin Riley. Meritocracy rules the day.
Tennessee's Nick Stephens
After the nauseating euphoria has passed, after the total guessing game of having Jonathon Crompton as quarterback has ended for the Vols last year, his equally underwhelming backup, Nick Stephens, is living the uncertain life as Crompton's heir apparent.
After Kiffingate and its many indiscretions, Vols fans enter the 2010 season looking to purge the past more than ever. Meanwhile Stephens, who gasped his way through an underwhelming season in Phil Fulmer's final year, is practically the past's poster child.
The Volunteers are almost certainly pinning their hopes on having one of the many young QBs in this most recent class overtake Stephens in camp.
If he does manage to survive, Stephens will be on an extremely short leash. The first 13/27, no touchdown, one interception game, and he's gonezo.
Odds-on favorites for his replacement are Tyler Bray, an underrated true freshman who enrolled early after wavering slightly during Kiffingate; and JUCO transfer Matt Simms, who is the son of Phil and the brother of former Texas QB Chris.
Bray is razor-thin but has huge upside, while Simms brings a good release and a host of intangibles (and has hopefully tempered his legendary love of the Herb).
Both players have already enrolled and will participate in spring practice. Their development will be the most watched thing in Knoxville since the most recent episode of the Grand Ole Opry.
Colorado's Cody Hawkins
God save Dan Hawkins if he throws his son, senior Cody Hawkins, out there as Colorado's starter at QB again.
Hawkins' nepotistic experiment was such an obvious failure to every Buffs fan that the oddball coach seemed to be the last to realize it.
He also seemed to have no clue that Hawkins' backup, Tyler Hansen, was a far more prototypical specimen at quarterback, since Hansen was actually tall and strong and could throw accurately and with power.
I may be seeing smoke where there's no fire—Hansen performed well enough in Colorado's losing effort last year that I think even Hawkins could see through the fog of his own incompetence.
But I don't put anything past him. When his "10 wins and no excuses" promise was getting flushed down the toilet last year, what did Hawkins do? He got a new haircut.
He's crazy, people, and crazy people keep doing things that don't work.
Minnesota's Adam Weber
Adam Weber has been the cause and solution of all of Minnesota's problems the past few years.
He's Minnesota's most accomplished player in many statistical categories, but the Gophers haven't won a signature game during his career. He's struggled with inconsistency and predictability, but threw for five touchdowns and 416 yards against Michigan State, with his star receiver out for the year, just as calls for his head got loudest.
You explain that statline, because I'm sure TIm Brewster is tried of trying.
He's probably also tired of losing, and not impressed with the contract extension he received (without a raise) from the Gophers' athletic department. And that drive to win might mean Weber will be out of time before conference play.
If Weber comes out and messes the bed against USC in week two, I wouldn't be surprised to see backup QB and more highly-touted talent MarQuise Gray take over.
Gophers fans have been eying MarQuise longingly since the dual-threat QB was the star of Brewster's first recruiting class (though they had to wait a year for him to qualify academically).
So despite the Gophers bringing in an avowed pro-style offensive coordinator, I think the pressure to succeed will be too great to put all the eggs in Weber's basket if Minnesota looks like the same old, same old prior to conference play.
Texas Tech's Taylor Potts & Steven Sheffield
What's that saying...if you have two quarterbacks, you have none?
You could say something similar of Texas Tech's two quarterbacks, Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield, both of whom enter their senior seasons without a firm grasp on the starting job, facing the complications of a new and possibly unfamiliar system.
Taylor Potts struggled with his consistency since absorbing a gharish hit from Texas' Sergio Kindle in the Raiders' close loss last year. Sheffield failed to impress as his backup, and Mike Leach's temperamental pop psychology probably didn't help both quarterbacks' evident confidence problem.
Count me among the people who think Tommy Tuberville and company will say to hell with both and start over midseason. Tech's above-average true freshman, QB commit Scotty Young, could be the beneficiary of a vacant depth chart if Potts and Sheffield can't lock it down.
This is, of course, rooted in my suspicion that Tuberville won't be presiding over the Airraid for too long. Despite his assurances to the contrary, Tuberville fired most of Tech's Airraid-friendly assistants, and his new offensive coordinator isn't an Airraid disciple as much as he is a guy who likes to score a heckuva lot of points by any means necessary.
Young could be Tuberville's link to a more balanced future.
Boston College's Dave Shinskie
There are interceptions, and there are game-killing, gut-punching, buzz-ruining, soul-crushing interceptions.
Dave Shinskie threw a few of both last year for Boston College. The Eagles put up some of the most anemic efforts imaginable on offense last year—I think they had less yards against Virginia Tech than they have players on their roster.
Shinskie, a 26-year old freshman, showed that age is just a number, and Boston College fans have to hope that's true of one of their true freshman next year.
Chase Retting was one of the most impressive athletes—not just quarterbacks, athletes—in either All-American game this year. He looked poised, complete, and incapable of forehead-slapping errors. In other words, start him on day one.
I kid—I don't know if Rettig, or any true freshman, is the answer (although Rettig is enrolling early, always a good sign). But one of the other kids on the roster—Mike Marscovetra—deserves as much of a chance, and can't do much worse.
With MLB Luke Kuechly anchoring the defense and LB Mark Herzlich returning, the Boston College defense will hold up its end of the bargain. Whoever is QBing that offense should do the same.
Louisville's, Well, Everybody
It's impossible to predict what will emerge from the other side of the digestive tract the Louisville program has been lately. But its safe to say that with all difficult meals, it won't be pretty.
Whether it's Justin Burke, Adam Froman, Will Stein or Steve Kragthorpe in a wig and an ill-fitting uniform back to sabotage the program even more, you're going to get a confused, overwhelmed kid who had no idea what he was getting into when he signed with the Cardinals.
That's why I strongly advise new coach Charlie Strong to integrate ATH/QB Dominique Brown in some 2006-era Tebow-esque draw/pass formations. Brown is too raw to be a consistent passer, but his athleticism and breakaway speed will spice things up for the Cardinals' moribund offense.
Breaking with the past isn't called breaking for nothing—sometimes you've got to hurt some feelings, and some bones. That's the price of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.
Michigan State's Kirk Cousins
As good as Kirk Cousins was playing in any given game, Mark Dantonio still thought it necessary to sub Keith Nichol in and shake things up a bit.
All it really did was shake Cousins' hold on the starting job. And with a little help from game-sealing interceptions against Notre Dame and Texas Tech and a pitiful effort against Penn State, that job security still remains uncertain.
Aside from the interceptions and the spotty play, Cousins faces some unfriendly depth on the Spartans' roster. There's the more athletic Nichol, the calmer and more poised Andrew Maxwell, and the larger, more it-friendly slinger in true freshman Joe Boisture (an early enrollee).
If Coach Dantonio thinks playing musical chairs with the starting spot is a legit way to get the most out of his quarterbacks...well, you know my sympathies. He can be my guest.