Starting QBs Most Likely to Lose Their Jobs in the 2018 College Football Season

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2018

Starting QBs Most Likely to Lose Their Jobs in the 2018 College Football Season

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    There are a lot of excellent young quarterbacks taking college football by storm, and several guys really need to ramp up their play to not get overtaken by a teammate.

    A couple of solid stars had better elevate their play, too, because elite talent can't be denied. The two participants from the 2018 national championship game (Alabama and Georgia) seem set at signal-caller with Jalen Hurts and Jake Fromm.

    But those guys can't take a deep breath and tread water, not with Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Fields behind them.

    It's like that seemingly everywhere. If teams aren't mired in quarterback derbies, they've got shaky starters being pushed by other players. Few teams are fortunate enough to have a stalwart under center like Penn State's Trace McSorley or West Virginia's Will Grier.

    The 2018 season feels like one for a changing of the guard in college football. Who will the new superstars under center be? Will they emerge this year, or will they have to wait? Some of the selections on this list won't be popular, but teams with a glut of talent have to make hard decisions.

    Let's take a look at some quarterbacks who could lose their job this season.

Ross Bowers, California Bears

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    The starter's shortcomings 

    In California coach Justin Wilcox's first season in Berkeley, the Bears took a slight offensive dip from the Sonny Dykes era, but they still put some numbers.

    Quarterback Ross Bowers threw for 3,039 yards, but he also tossed 12 interceptions and completed just 59 percent of his passes. He got more consistent as the year progressed, Wilcox told SFGate.com's Rusty Simmons, but he was still shaky and inconsistent.

           

    The backup's upside 

    South Carolina transfer Brandon McIlwain once looked like the future for the Gamecocks, but that was before Jake Bentley came in and took over. The former transferred to Cal, and he was impressive throughout practices a season ago, according to Simmons.

    This year, it's a full-fledged battle with Bowers for the job. The dual-threat quarterback could give the Bears another dimension with his wheels, and he also has a dynamite arm, too. Bowers isn't nearly as dynamic, and this is an ideal opportunity for McIlwain. His skill set looks great for this offense.

           

    When the switch will happen 

    Bowers has the advantage of having played all of last season, and that isn't something to be taken lightly. He's also experienced some success.

    With tough tests against North Carolina and BYU looming to start the season, Bowers needs to light it up for the Bears. If he doesn't, Game 3 against Idaho State seems an ideal time to give McIlwain a long look with a tough slate of Oregon, Arizona and UCLA following.

    He will prove what he's got on the field, and this will be McIlwain's team after that game.

Kelly Bryant, Clemson Tigers

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    The starter's shortcomings

    Clemson has it all—an elite defense, two great running backs, tons of talent at wide receiver and a stable full of potential pro prospects on the offensive line.

    All the Tigers need is a starting quarterback who can advance the ball downfield in a hurry. That's something that looks like Trevor Lawrence and Hunter Johnson can do better than Kelly Bryant.

    The rising junior is a threat to run the ball, but he has limitations throwing the vertical routes, as he proved against Alabama last year. Coach Dabo Swinney loves him, but you have to wonder how long he can go when he has elite throwers behind Bryant.

           

    The backup's upside

    Lawrence was the nation's top-ranked player coming out of high school, according to 247Sports, and though he's wiry, he has a 6'6" frame and a live arm to go along with the acumen of a veteran. Some of the throws he makes are NFL-caliber.

    Johnson was the No. 2 pro-style passer in the 2017 class, too. So, that's two dynamic arms who can consistently get the ball to Hunter Renfrow, Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers. Bryant hasn't proved he can. Nobody has recruited quarterbacks better than Swinney, and these two can't stay handcuffed for long.

           

    When the switch will happen

    If Johnson emerges, he could beat out Bryant before the season even begins. But the guess here is Bryant will begin the year as the starter, and once those same limitations prove to still be around, Swinney will make the switch.

    Lawrence could stand to add several more pounds before the 208-pounder gets thrown out there, but he's going to be too good to keep on the sideline.

    Clemson won't really be tested until Oct. 20 against North Carolina State, but once the defenses start getting better, the Tigers will look to Lawrence or Johnson to stretch defenses.

Jake Fromm, Georgia Bulldogs

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    The starter's shortcomings 

    It's hard to find a lot wrong with Jake Fromm, who led Georgia to the national championship game as a true freshman, usurping Jacob Eason and getting better as the season progressed.

    As brilliant as he was in games against Auburn in the SEC Championship Game and Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff, he struggled in the first game against AU and in the national championship game against Alabama. That's no shame for a first-year player, and Fromm has the confidence.

    But is he talented enough to hold off an elite talent in Justin Fields?

           

    The backup's upside 

    Fields is all upside. As a matter of fact, how do you even quantify a 6'3", 225-pound signal-caller with a terrific arm and sub-4.5 speed? He's a transcendent prospect who doesn't come around often.

    Many pundits compare him to former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Others even said Fields could become the next Cam Newton. All three of those players are from North Georgia, and they have similar attributes.

    "This is the best high school quarterback I've ever covered and that's not a statement I've ever made before," Barton Simmons, 247Sports' director of scouting, told CBSSports.com's Adam Silverstein. "I think he's a transcendent talent with a national championship up his sleeve."

    That's high praise for somebody who's been covering recruiting as long as Simmons.

           

    When the switch will happen

    This is the riskiest pick of the whole bunch, but Georgia isn't going to have 31 seniors to help along Fromm like the Dawgs did a year ago. With so much youth and talent, they may need somebody who can win games multiple ways under center.

    That would be Fields.

    Coach Kirby Smart will roll with Fromm to start the season, but if things get shaky for UGA, the Bulldogs may try Fields. It won't happen until late in the season, though, if it happens at all.

Tyler Huntley, Utah Utes

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    The starter's shortcomings 

    Tyler Huntley is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback whom coach Kyle Whittingham isn't used to deploying for the Runnin' Utes. But he also had bouts of inconsistency a season ago.

    In a 30-10 loss to Arizona State, he tossed four interceptions, and in a 33-25 loss to Washington State, he had three more. There were brilliant moments, too, but Huntley has to take care of the ball better this season or there is going to be a ready youngster behind him.

            

    The backup's upside 

    Incoming freshman Jack Tuttle was one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in the nation, and he's the kind of prospect who doesn't normally head to Utah to play.

    He's got the kind of arm talent to step right into Whittingham's offense and run the show. At 6'3", 200 pounds, he's a prototypical passer, and the San Diego product was committed to Whittingham for a long time and is a mid-term enrollee. Going through the spring will help.

    He's got all the physical tools.

    Wrote Salt Lake Tribune's Christopher Kamrani: "It's easy to say the kid looks the part."

            

    When the switch will happen 

    Huntley will have every opportunity to win the job due to his experience, and it isn't like he's sputtered along for the Utes. He has the ability to be one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 when he's on his game.

    But Huntley has struggled with consistency throughout his career, and there's no reason to believe that will stop. Whittingham likely will want Huntley's experience in the season's third game against Washington. But by the stretch of Utah and Arizona on Oct. 6-12, Tuttle may get a long look.

    There will be some rough patches, but Tuttle has the chops to battle through them and be the guy.

Jalen Hurts, Alabama Crimson Tide

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    The starter's shortcomings 

    When Alabama wins at the rate it does, it's easy to gloss over some of the downfalls of a quarterback. Traditionally, Nick Saban's defense and running game can carry the Crimson Tide through struggles under center.

    Though Jalen Hurts proved multiple times he's dependable, he tends to falter in some of the biggest games. The inability to consistently throw the ball 15-plus yards downfield in last year's Iron Bowl and national championship games were red-flag repeats.

    That's why Saban went with Tua Tagovailoa in the second half of the title game, and the freshman responded.

            

    The backup's upside 

    The ball leaves Tagovailoa's left hand effortlessly. He's big, and when he takes off running, he glides. He's an elite-looking player who looks like he should be the leader of an elite team.

    There's nothing clunky about the way he handles himself, even if he is still rough around the edges.

    Last year's title game was a glimpse of things to come. Tagovailoa looks like he could be one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, and he plays with a swagger and a youthful competitiveness, too.

          

    When the switch will happen 

    Yes, this is a full-fledged battle already, but when Hurts has started every game since the second of his career, he should be considered the starter until he isn't.

    Tagovailoa's broken finger this spring helps Hurts' efforts to win the job. But the bottom line is Tagovailoa is a next-level talent who has all the skills to help UA be dominant. It would be a surprise if Hurts trotted out with the first team in Alabama's season opener against Louisville.

    Even if he does, this will be Tagovailoa's team early in 2018. He won't look back.

Malik Rosier, Miami Hurricanes

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    The starter's shortcomings 

    It's easy to point out all the flaws from the end of Malik Rosier's redshirt freshman season, when he struggled to complete passes and became turnover-prone.

    But it's also easy to forget it was his first year playing college football.

    Rosier is big and talented, but he has to polish some of the flaws in his game such as ball protection and accuracy. He completed 54 percent of his passes a year ago, but when the Hurricanes faltered late, it was chiefly because of Rosier's 44.9 percent completion percentage in the final three games.

            

    The backup's upside 

    There is a ton of upside in both redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry and true freshman Jarren Williams. That's why this is one of the most intriguing quarterback battles in the nation. 

    Perry looks like an all-world player in the making. He's 6'4", 195 pounds and boasts blazing speed. He's nowhere near an unfinished product, but he's got an elite arm and has been accurate in drills, too.

    "Everyone knows he has a cannon for an arm; he's an accurate guy," Rosier told the Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter. "But just to see his mind open up and start to understand concepts, it's going to help him in the spring and the fall.”

    Williams possibly is the future, but it would be a surprise if he beat out Rosier or Perry.

            

    When the switch will happen 

    After winning 10 games a season ago, it would be a surprise if anybody but Rosier started the season, but he hasn't ever been an accurate passer dating back to his high school days.

    There's no way coach Mark Richt allows the 'Canes to go deep into the season again without a backup option who has enjoyed important reps. If Perry continues to develop, he'll get some early-season action.

    The season opener against LSU is an intriguing game for Rosier because of the Tigers secondary. If he sputters right away, Perry will get some snaps in that game. By the Florida State game in early October, he'll at least have a start and may be the man.

Gio Rescigno, Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    The starter's shortcomings 

    The Scarlet Knights ranked 125th out of 130 FCS teams in total offense a season ago, so just because Giovanni Rescigno started the last half of the season doesn't mean he's got a lock on the job.

    Rutgers won three games as head coach Chris Ash's seat got a little cooler late in the year, but Rescigno was a game manager at best. He wound up completing 47 percent of his passes for 517 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in nine games.

    If he embraces new offensive coordinator John McNulty's system, he could hang on. But this is his fifth system in as many years, and Rescigno has no dynamic skills. He's a safety net.

            

    The backup's upside 

    When 6'5", 215-pound Artur Sitkowski shocked everybody and decided to stay home, flipping from Miami to Rutgers, he gave Ash and the Scarlet Knights hope.

    The pro-style signal-caller looks like a college quarterback already, standing tall in the pocket and able to make all the throws. Though he played his final season at IMG Academy in Florida, he'll head back to his home state for college ball. That's huge news for a program that needed a jolt.

    "I knew in my heart that this was the right place, it's home," the Old Bridge resident told NJ.com's Todderick Hunt. "I believe in coach Ash and coach (Jerry) Kill and what they're doing with the university and the football program. I'm just happy to contribute, come in and work hard every day and try to be the best teammate I can be."

    Though Kill recently retired as offensive coordinator, Sitkowski stuck around. He'll have every opportunity to play.

            

    When the switch will happen 

    Ash will play the best quarterback, and that's going to be Sitkowski eventually. He's still learning the position, and he split time at IMG after growing up in Poland. He's not a finished product.

    So, this may be Rescigno's team to start the year, but sometime toward the middle to late part of the season, Sitkowski will get a long look, especially if Rutgers looks like it's going to be building for the future yet again.

            

    Unless otherwise noted, stats are courtesy of Sports Reference and CFBStats.com, and recruiting data is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

    Brad Shepard covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @Brad_Shepard.