Starting QBs Most Likely to Lose Their Jobs in the 2019 College Football Season

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVMarch 28, 2019

Starting QBs Most Likely to Lose Their Jobs in the 2019 College Football Season

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    The college football landscape has been flooded with playmaking quarterbacks over the last few years. The emergence of stars was at its peak in 2018 as Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence and Ian Book each played masterfully in their first year as a starter.

    But not every program is so lucky to be bringing back an elite signal-caller or introducing a budding star ready to claim the job vacated by their predecessor. The majority of teams will enter 2019 with some level of uncertainty at the quarterback position unless their incumbent can make a dramatic step forward.

    Coaches with shaky starters will need to push their backups into action sooner than later if progression doesn't come quickly. Few teams can be like Washington and replace Jake Browning with a Jacob Eason-type talent.

    New superstars will emerge this season even if we can't confidently say who they'll be. We have identified four incumbent starting quarterbacks who are the most likely to be replaced, though. Some are more popular than others, but each potential replacement has the talent to move up the depth chart.

James Blackman, Florida State Seminoles

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The Starter's Shortcomings

    While the Florida State Seminoles lacked any semblance of a competent offensive line last year, the quarterback play from James Blackman was also inconsistent. He picked apart North Carolina State's defense to the tune of 421 passing yards and four touchdowns, but his other two games led to just 89 yards and one score.

    Blackman is mostly immobile in the pocket and has the tendency to stare down his reads. That doesn't work with a porous line or young receivers. Even with more extensive time in 2017, Blackman's scattershot accuracy led to stalled drives too often.

         

    The Backup's Upside

    His main competition will be walk-on and 3-star prospect Nolan McDonald. His brother, current Seminoles tight end Camren McDonald, called him a "playmaker" due to his ability to throw accurately all over the field or rush for a score.

    Though relying on a walk-on freshman is a daunting decision for head coach Willie Taggart, the Seminoles can't afford to rank 93rd in passer rating this year. If McDonald is as much of a dual-threat as his brother claims, the Seminoles will need to get his explosiveness on the field.

         

    When the Switch Will Happen

    Blackman's 15-game experience will help him separate with the job early on. He's safe enough with the ball that it'll be easy to justify starting him for the first three weeks. Toss-up games against Boise State and Virginia will go a long way in determining how much slack Taggart gives him.

    Dropping both of those games would leave the Seminoles with back-to-back home games against ACC foes Louisville and N.C. State before a bye week and trip to Clemson. This would be the ideal time to break in the freshman if Blackman disappoints.

Feleipe Franks, Florida Gators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The Starter's Shortcomings

    Consistency has been a major issue for quarterback Feleipe Franks throughout his first two seasons with the Florida Gators. Even in Dan Mullen's quarterback-friendly scheme that tries to mitigate his looping motion with quick decisions, Franks completed just 58.4 percent of his passes last year.

    There will come a point when Mullen needs more big-play opportunities from the position. Mentally, Franks is slow to see mismatches and it costs the Gators pre-snap advantages. His lack of reliable ball placement stretches the frustration further because there are positive plays left on the field.

         

    The Backup's Upside

    Former 4-star quarterback Emory Jones looms large in the background for Florida. Despite redshirting last year and seeing minimal playing time, Jones has the physical tools to hit the next level that Franks has thus far lacked in his arsenal. With a big arm and smoother delivery, Jones can rifle passes into tight windows.

    Any stagnation in Franks' development with anticipation reads and leverage drops by defenders could spark a change. Mullen might as well go with the higher upside option if both will struggle to process information since Jones has a higher ceiling after gaining experience.

         

    When the Switch Will Happen

    The Gators' top receivers from 2018 are returning so there's reason to believe this offense can hit the ground running at the start of the season. Three weeks after their initial showdown with Miami, their SEC schedule begins with a road trip to Kentucky. If Franks isn't rolling by the end of that game, Florida should make the change.

    Jones would benefit from a three-game home stretch before hitting the road against LSU and South Carolina. But the Gators' remaining schedule is also helpful with three more home contests and just one road game. Watch for their fourth game, against rival Tennessee, to be the best time for Mullen to unleash his best prospect.

Jawon Pass, Louisville Cardinals

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    The Starter's Shortcomings

    If there were any doubts about how much Lamar Jackson meant to the Louisville Cardinals football program, just look at Bobby Petrino's struggles fielding anything close to a mediocre passing game without him. 2018 starter Jawon Pass managed just the 122nd-ranked offense in terms of passer rating.

    Pass has almost zero natural accuracy and had four more interceptions than touchdowns in his first full season starting. Although head coach Scott Satterfield is known for adjusting his offensive identity to his talent, Pass' deficiencies as a run threat make for a one-dimensional skill set. He had just 93 yards on 76 carries last year.

         

    The Backup's Upside

    2018 split-starter Malik Cunningham told Justin Sayers of the Louisville Courier-Journal that he's excited for the Cardinals' new offense because of how well he'll mesh with its detail-oriented nature. Though he'll battle with Pass and freshman Evan Conley for the job, Cunningham looks closer to a legitimate two-way threat: He averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 497 rushing yards (in addition to 473 passing yards) last season.

    Satterfield could replicate his 2018 Appalachian State run-heavy offense in order to get the most out of Cunningham. Though Cunningham's not a dynamic passer yet, he can force defenses into tough situations as a runner and try to hit big plays over the top with limited attempts.

         

    When the Switch Will Happen

    Cunningham may win the job outright by the season opener, but if he doesn't, he'll have the job by the second half against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish still have a talented defense even after losing Julian Love and Jerry Tillery, and Cunningham is the Cardinals' best bet to create positive plays.

    Their next two games after the Irish are Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky. Those are prime opportunities to develop Cunningham as a passer before the ACC schedule arrives.

Michael Collins, TCU Horned Frogs

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    Ray Thompson/Associated Press

    The Starter's Shortcomings

    Thrown into the starting job after Shawn Robinson went down with a shoulder injury, Michael Collins was unable to be more than a basic game manager for TCU. In eight games he totaled just 1,059 yards and six touchdowns. His unwillingness to test tight windows and inability to hit receivers in stride were significant reasons why the Horned Frogs finished 100th nationally in passer rating.

    Leading TCU to a 2-2 record as a starter and unable to crack 20 points in two of those games, it's clear that Collins is a backup or low-quality spot starter. 2018 would have been a bad year if TCU's defense wasn't so good. He simply doesn't have a good-enough arm and isn't a fast-enough processor on the field to lead a more dynamic unit.

         

    The Backup's Upside

    The name to watch here is former 4-star recruit Justin Rogers. He overcame a drop foot injury that developed during a knee injury, which makes him a bit of scary bet, but he's much more talented than Collins. The 6'4" dual-threat quarterback attempted just one pass last year and missed almost his entire senior season in high school.

    His highlights from The Opening Finals were electric though. He has a live arm that can push the ball into deep passing windows with ease. And he's the type of runner that forces defenses to spy him in zone drops. With him under center, the upside of the offense will grow considerably.

         

    When the Switch Will Happen

    Look for Rogers to get snaps early as the only challenging defense TCU plays in the first half of the year is Iowa State in early October. A standout game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Week 1 could give him the nod as the Horned Frogs travel to Purdue the following week.

    The wild card in this equation is health. Collins should be able to guide the team to bowl contention with his running ability and general knack for protecting the ball. That may be enough if Rogers isn't deemed ready for starting minutes.