College Football 2022 Fall Camp Storylines to Keep an Eye On
Shake off those offseason cobwebs, my friends, because the 2022 college football season will be here in a matter of weeks.
First up, however, is fall camp.
The much-anticipated return to the practice fields annually brings a handful of important storylines. As always, there are QB battles, but the intrigue extends to many other positions, and preseason title favorites always generate the most attention.
While the list is subjective, this is simply a small selection of key topics around the Football Bowl Subdivision.
QBs, QBs, QBs
Quarterback is the most important position, after all.
All around the FBS, programs will be using August to make final decisions on their Week 1 signal-callers. The most notable, of course, involve teams we expect to see in the top 25—and especially top 10—of preseason polls.
Texas A&M has the largest unknown with Haynes King, Max Johnson and possibly Conner Weigman all competing under center. Michigan returns Cade McNamara, but J.J. McCarthy saw regular playing time as a freshman. The same goes for Notre Dame's Tyler Buchner, who's trying to top Drew Pyne—just as Clemson incumbent D.J. Uiagalelei works to hold off Cade Klubnik.
Auburn, Cincinnati, Iowa, LSU, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Oregon, Pitt and Texas are among the other programs that have QB situations worth monitoring.
More Depth Chart Questions
When it comes to top-ranked teams, most spots on the depth chart are generally set as fall camp begins. However, a handful of positions aren't yet decided.
In particular, all of Alabama, Clemson, Miami, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas A&M and Wisconsin are settling on an early rotation of receivers. USC and Oklahoma need to upgrade the offensive line, and a-new-look Michigan State group is unsettled after a spring riddled with injuries.
Georgia is breaking in a fresh defensive line, and Ole Miss has a reshaped linebacker corps. Notre Dame may shuffle the secondary, while Baylor and Oklahoma State are undoubtedly retooling the unit.
And that's all in addition to the quarterback battles we mentioned in the previous section.
Don't expect a resolution for every position—performance and injury will change depth charts midseason anyway—but most starters will be determined in fall camp, for sure.
Do they matter? Not really.
In the days of the Bowl Championship Series, the Harris Poll and Coaches Poll had a substantial impact on the rankings. Today, though, the College Football Playoff selection committee has complete control.
The short version: neither the AP Top 25—which is historically considered the poll of record—nor the Coaches Poll have a direct influence on the outcome of the season.
But they certainly are fun!
USA Today will release the Coaches Poll on or around Aug. 8, and the AP Top 25 will follow on Aug. 15.
Stress Mounting for Marquee Openers
Although the season officially begins on Aug. 27, the slate of matchups for Week 0 is awfully tame. The most impactful game is the Big Ten clash between Nebraska and Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland.
The real fireworks begin on Sep. 3.
Oregon takes on reigning champ Georgia in a (not exactly) neutral-site clash in Atlanta, and Florida State has a similar pseudo-neutral date with LSU in New Orleans. Notre Dame and Ohio State—a pair of expected top-10 teams—will square off in Columbus, and Florida hosts Pac-12 front-runner Utah.
Until the College Football Playoff inevitably expands, the margin for error remains incredibly thin. No two-loss squad has made the final cut through eight editions of the CFP.
Yes, upsets happen. But the tone coming from, say, Baylor in the Bears' preparation for lower-division Albany won't be as anxious as that of Florida, Ohio State or Oregon.
Debuts for Top Transfers
Don't mistake the previous section for a lack of enthusiasm. No matter the competition, the season opener is full of excitement.
Fall camp is the final preparation time for players like Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel (from UCF), South Carolina's Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) and Washington State's Cameron Ward (Incarnate Word).
The list, as you probably can imagine, is quite extensive.
Caleb Williams (Oklahoma) and Jordan Addison (Pitt) joined USC, along with plenty of other new Trojans. Jahmyr Gibbs (Georgia Tech), Eli Ricks (LSU) and Jermaine Burton (Georgia) are readying for their Alabama debuts. High-profile quarterbacks Jaxson Dart (USC) and Quinn Ewers (Ohio State) are aiming to win competitions at Ole Miss and Texas, respectively, and lead their offenses onto the field in Week 1.
Outside of positional battles, the play of transfers and freshmen—more on them shortly—will attract the most headlines.
Ah, yes, our favorite pastime.
The moment a prospect offers a commitment, fans of that program begin dreaming of immediate stardom. National Signing Day refuels that fantastical frenzy, and the buzzy reports in spring practice and fall camp yet again stir up our imaginations.
The reality is that an overwhelming majority of true freshmen will be role players, special-teamers or sideline observers.
Adjusting to the speed of the college game is really difficult. It's not a popular thing to remember, but that process—especially on the mental side, given the complexities of each team's systems and terminology—can take several years to learn and gain the trust of a coaching staff.
We'll be hearing about potential Day 1 contributors. The trick is figuring out whether that's a starting job, a rotational role or a spot covering kicks on special teams.