NCAA Football: Quarterback Competitions

As we get ready for the 2018 college football season, it’s worth taking a look at how your team’s depth chart will shake up. Graduation and the NFL draft surely has left many new holes in programs across the country, and with this year’s batch of freshman and transfers beginning to set foot on campus, we may well be gearing up for a new look from many of the country’s top teams. The summer in particular is the time for quarterback controversies. Right about now, QBs across the country are embroiled in heated competitions for the right to start come September. For the most part, coaches have yet to announce starters, but for now we can speculate as to who might be winning the most important of these battles .


Tua Tagovailoa VS Jalen Hurts

After leading the Crimson Tide to back to back national championship games, Jalen Hurts now finds his career in the balance as Tua Tagovailoa looks all but certain to begin the year as the starter. Tagovailoa is believed to be the favorite for the job after a heroic performance in the national championship in which  he brought the tide back from the brink of defeat. However, Alabama fans have been clamoring for Tua since last year’s spring game. In the little playing time Tagovailoa has garnered he’s proven to be the far superior passer. What’s more, he has also shown himself to be just as capable of a runner as Jalen Hurts if not better. Tagovailoa may be the most talented quarterback the Tide have had in all of Nick Saban’s tenure, and as such will open the season as one one of the betting favorites for the Heisman. Nevertheless, its difficult not to feel bad for Hurts who’s amassed an impressive 24-2 record as a starter and is now being pushed out. If this quarterback competition is as cut and dry as everyone seems to think it is, a transfer will likely be on the horizon for Hurts.


Kelly Bryant VS Trevor Lawrence

Clemson fans might have been worried last year about who would fill the void after DeShaun Watson’s departure. But Kelly Bryant’s explosion onto the scene last season surely put those worries to rest. However, this year the Tigers face an entirely different problem as they boast an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position. As we mentioned, Kelly Bryant had a brilliant debut season season for the tigers, leading them to the number one overall seed in the College Football Playoffs. It’s hard to imagine his job being in jeopardy after such a promising year. Yet with Trevor Lawrence stepping on campus, Dabo Swinney is going to have to think long and hard about who he wants under center. Lawrence is talk of the town for college football fans in South Carolina. The freshman was the number one overall recruit in this year’s class and enters college as one of the most highly regarded quarterback recruits in recent memory. A stellar performance in Clemson’s spring game in which his incredible arm talent was on full display did nothing to quell rumors that Lawrence might challenge Bryant for the job come September. This competition has already forced out two quarterbacks as Zerrick Cooper and former five star recruit, Hunter Johnson, have already announced their decisions to transfer. Kelly Bryant will almost certainly begin the year as the starter given that he’s obviously more experienced and has earned the opportunity. Nevertheless, he may have a short leash. The more talented Lawrence is nipping at his heels, and I would not be surprised if this quarterback controversy bleeds into the regular season.


Jake Fromm VS Justin Fields

Like the Tigers, the Bulldogs are facing a decision between a quarterback who led them to the CFP, and one of the nation’s top recruits. Justin Fields’ arrival on campus has put Jake Fromm’s seemingly untouchable status as starter in question. Depending on which outlet you look at, Fields is considered either the number one or number two overall recruit in this class (second only to Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence). Like Trevor Lawrence, Fields is one of the more highly touted quarterback prospects in recent memory. But is he talented enough to supplant Jake Fromm as a true freshman? An impressive performance in Georgia’s spring game surely begs the question. Moreover, will the added dimension of Field’s running ability be too much of an asset for Coach Kirby Smart to overlook? The consensus seems to be that Fromm will get the nod to start the season, as he should. After the all, he did almost lead the Dawgs to a national championship as a true freshman. But it was Fromm himself, who stepped in for an injured Jacob Eason last year and ultimately held onto the starting role. Thus, its not out of the realm of imagination to wonder if we might see Justin Fields pull off a similar coup. This competition has already caused former five star recruit and Bulldogs starter Jacob Eason to head for the hills as he recently announced a transfer to Washington. The clamor we’re hearing from fans and those surrounding the program about Justin Fields sounds not to dissimilar from that which we were hearing about Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama last year. Again I would fully expect this debate to rage on into the regular season, particularly if Fromm struggles at all to recapture his form from 2017.

Ohio State

Dwayne Haskins VS Tate Martell

Ohio State will finally be forced to move on from JT Barrett as the Big Ten career touchdown pass record holder graduated this Spring. His departure opens up a spot at quarterback for which there will now be a two horse race following news of Joe Burrow’s decision to transfer to LSU. Dwayne Haskins has so far emerged as the likely favorite to take over the role, while Tate Martell is also in the conversation.  Haskins is a big strong arm who will likely offer a significant improvement over JT Barrett as a pocket passer. Whereas Tate Martell’s main attribute is a scrambling and improvisation ability reminiscent of Johnny Manziel. At this point a significant edge has to go Dwayne Haskins due to both his ability as a pocket passer and his experience at the college level. Haskins acquitted himself well in relief of JT Barrett, and put together a strong enough performance at Michigan last year that left many wondering whether Haskins should take over the starting role the following week. Martell still has a ways to go as a passer but will likely see game action in some sets and in relief. I’d imagine he’ll be deployed much in the same way that Penn State utilizes backup quarterback Tommy Stevens in the running game. As so it happens, Haskins has also recently been named starter heading into preseason camp.


Kyler Murray VS Austin Kendall

Baker Mayfield’s departure for the NFL leaves an glaring vacancy in the Sooners’ offense. Whoever does win the starting quarterback job will be faced with the unenviable task of trying duplicate the type of insane production that won Mayfield the Heisman, and lead Oklahoma to two CFP appearances in the last three years. As of now, Kyler Murray looks to be the heir apparent. The Texas A&M transfer was a former five star recruit coming out of high school and brings a dual threat ability to the table that should prove lethal in the Big 12. He also performed very capably in relief of Mayfield at times last year. His competition comes in the form of former four star recruit Austin Kendall. Kendall backed up Mayfield competently in 2016 while Murray was sitting out in accordance with transfer rules. However, he did nothing to inspire confidence in this year’s spring game. With the way things are looking, the job appears to be Murray’s to lose. Many are projecting his athletic skillset to translate incredibly to the offense heavy Big 12. As such, he’ll begin the year as a sneaky Heisman candidate, and hope to carry the torch for Baker Mayfield. The only problem is he was just drafted ninth overall in this year’s MLB Draft. Although Coach Lincoln Riley recently stated he expected Murray to be with the football team, its hard to imagine Murray leaving a signing bonus in excess of four million dollars on the table. With a number of programs facing quarterback changes in the conference, Oklahoma will likely again open as Big 12 favorites if Murray plays.

Florida State 

Deandre Francois VS James Blackman

The Seminoles will look to bounce back in 2018 after an injury to star quarterback Deandre Francois derailed what could’ve been a promising season. With true freshman James Blackman at the helm, Florida State, who began the season ranked number three, stumbled their way to a 7-6 record and their first unranked finish in coach Jimbo Fisher’s tenure. But what if I told you this quarterback competition between the former ACC rookie of the year and a former 3 star recruit isn’t exactly a forgone conclusion. In addition to rehabbing from his knee injury, Francois has had his fair share of off the field struggles during this offseason. Investigations for allegations of both domestic violence and drug charges both eventually found the quarterback innocent, but raised the question of whether distractions off the field might present an issue for the program in the future. Additionally, the new coach in charge, Willie Taggart, isn’t simply going to award Francois the job by default; quite the contrary in fact. Despite the fact that James Blackman didn’t lead the Seminoles to any glory last season, those surrounding the program look favorably upon what he was able to do as a true freshman stepping in in relief to lead one of the more complex offenses in the country. Coach Taggart has spoke specifically of his intention to simplify Florida State’s playbook, and that begs the question of whether or not he might feel Blackman better fits his system. If Jimbo Fisher was still in town we could safely assumes that the job would be Francois’s, but this competition will now likely be settled in the fall. Nevertheless, the smart money still have to be on Deandre Fracnois. As a redshirt freshmen, he quarterbacked Florida State to a 10-3 record and an Orange Bowl victory over Michigan, amassing 3,350 yards and 19 touchdowns along the way. One would think Coach Taggart would want to see what he’s got with a talent like that; but if Francois shows any rust in coming back from his injury a controversy may start brewing in Tallahassee.

Notre Dame

Brandon Wimbush VS Ian Book

Brian Kelly and the Irish face a quarterback competition that has bled over from last season. Wimbush is the incumbent but held on to his job more so because of his running ability than his passing ability.  He struggled mightily when put under pressure, and will look to improve vastly in the pocket. Last season’s high stakes meeting with Miami exposed that weakness opened up this quarterback debate in the first place. The question will be whether he can find away to stand up to pressure from athletic pass rushers, and pass with efficiency when not afforded time by Notre Dame’s vaunted offensive line. Junior Ian Book will be looking to challenge for the position. Book is also a dual threat quarterback and got reps last year in relief of Wimbush. Although he handled himself relatively well in the little game action that he saw, I wouldn’t expect him to overtake Wimbush before week one. Wimbush played with the ones during the spring game and Brian Kelly has said publicly that he is still on top of the pecking order. It would seem a brash decision to replace a quarterback who lead the Irish to a 10-3 record and was responsible for 30 touchdowns along the way. However, should he struggle, Coach Kelly certainly won’t be hesitant to pull Wimbush as he did at times last season.


JT Daniel VS Matt Fink VS Jack Sears

USC is another school on this list experiencing major roster turnover due to the NFL Draft. After a rough patch in years past following NCAA sanctions, USC returned to national prominence on the back of star quarterback Sam Darnold. Naturally with him departing for the NFL, Trojan fans will no doubt be nervous about how life without Sam Darnold might turn out. USC boast no shortage of former top recruits who will vie for the position, but as of right now this quarterback position looks relatively wide open. However, the name generating the most buzz in Southern California is that of JT Daniel. Daniel, originally a 2019 five star recruit, reclassified after completing his high school coursework early and will now be eligible to play this coming year. Daniel is one of the more impressive quarterback recruits in the last few years and many are projecting him to win the starting job outright as a true freshman. Yet we’re ignoring the fact that he has yet to even set foot on campus. He will however be a key figure in this quarterback competition come preseason once he starts practicing with the team. Another combatant in this qb battle will be Sam Darnold’s understudy Matt Fink. Fink is former four star recruit who play competently last year is relief of Darnold and looked like the incumbent before Daniel reclassified. He certainly has still has great a shot to win the starting job, but he now have to earn it. And Daniel won’t be his only competition. Jack Sears is another former highly regarded recruit who will hope see snaps this year, should he overcome reported turnover issues. Whoever Coach Clay Helton does choose come gameday, they will certainlt have big shoes to fill. Nevertheless all three of his options seem to possess to the pedigree to have USC competing for the PAC 12 title, and at the very least win the South.


Myles Brennan VS Joe Burrow VS Justin McMillan

LSU has long been one of the most feared titans of the SEC. But for all of their talent at virtually every other position on the field, the Tigers always seemed to have trouble finding a quarterback to match. Not since the days of Zach Mettenberger has LSU had anyone under center who inspired confidence. With a number of key components on offense departing to the NFL, fans in death valley will surely be wondering who’ll take over at QB now that Danny Etling’s career at LSU is over. At season’s end, Myles Brennan looked the favorite after performing capably as Etling’s backup. However, junior, Justin McMillan looked far superior in this year’s spring game, opening the door for a quarterback competition in Baton Rouge. As if the decision wasn’t hard enough, LSU pulled off a major coup this spring securing the transfer of former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow who will also be immediately eligible and certainly in contention for the job. The buzz about Burrow’s time in Columbus is all positive as the quarterback actually began last year as JT Barrett’s backup before an injury saw him lose the job to Dwayne Haskins (who looks to be the 2018 starting QB for Ohio State). Right now it looks as if Coach Orgeron will give each quarterback every opportunity to win the job. Nevertheless, if i were a betting man my money might be on Burrow who is both highly touted and the most experienced of the group. After all I’d reckon LSU likely didn’t court him only to have him sit on the sidelines.


Sam Ehlinger VS Shane Buechele

Tom Herman’s first season in charge at Texas didn’t exactly restore Texas to glory like Longhorn fans might have hoped. However, there is reason for optimism in Austin. Big 12 rivals Oklahoma, TCU, and Oklahoma State all lost starting quarterbacks to the NFL this past year; meanwhile Texas returns two legitimate starters at the position. Shane Buechele began 2017 as the signal caller for the Horns after bursting onto the scene a year prior as a freshman. Unfortunately, his sophomore year proved tumultuous in comparison. Injuries forced Buechele to the sidelines numerous times early in the season, making way for the emergence of true freshman Sam Ehlinger. The former four-star recruit made a rather a seemless transition to collegiate level, and showed remarkable potential as dual threat quarterback. But for all of his efforts, the Longhorns still came up just short in matchups against the likes of Okalhoma, TCU, and USC. Nevertheless, the 2017 campaign is one to build upon for Texas. With an excess of riches at the sport’s most important position, coach Herman now faces a tough decision. In Buechele, Texas have a more seasoned and poised pocket passer. Whereas Ehlinger’s grit, mobility, and Improvisation skills would give Texas a playmaker at the quarterback position for years to come. If the season began tomorrow, the nod would assumingly go to Ehlinger who kept hold of the job after stepping in for his teammate. However, I wouldn’t be surpised to see them both featured at points throughout the season. If not Buechele will almost certainly look to transfer and will have no shortage of suitors.


Shawn Robinson VS Michael Collins VS Justin Rogers Vs Grayson Muehlstein

The Kenny Hill era is over in Fort Worth and that means there will be a new signal caller for the Horned Frogs in 2018. TCU is a team with Big 12 championship aspirations and beyond especially given how well they performed last year, at one point ascending to  number four in the AP Poll. If the Horned Frogs want to keep last year’s momentum going, Coach Gary Patterson had better make the right decision on a new quarterback. The presumptive starer  at this point is Shawn Robinson. Robinson is a former four star recruit whose game is based heavily on athleticism and running ability. The sophomore made cameo appearances last year while Kenny Hill dealt with injuries, notching a win over Texas Tech. While Robinson dazzled on the ground, he left a lot to be desired as a passer completing only 6 of 17 passes for 85 yards. Nevertheless, he looks to be firmly engrained as the starter for now and as such the competition will be more for the backup role. UPenn transfer Michael Collins, senior Grayson Muehlstein, and four star recruit Justin Rogers will all vie for the QB2 spot. For now I would give Collins the edge followed by Muehlstein. But only because the prized freshmen recruit is currently nursing an injury. Should Shawn Robinson not improve as a passer we could be seeing anyone of these names get some playing time. However, In all likelihood Robinson will cement himself as starter. That means a new look offfense in Forth Worth; one that will be predicated on the Sophmore’s scrambling ability.

Texas A&M

Nick Starkel VS Kellen Mond

If Kevin Sumlin were still in control at college station Nick Starkel would almost unquestionably be the Aggies 2018 starter. However, with new coach Jimbo Fisher now in charge, many question whether he might favor Starkel over mond in the same way. Starkel certainly has the edge in terms of both experience and production. Yet Mond might present more upside as a former 4 star recruit and dual threat (3rd ranked in the 2017 QB class). Lest we forget Mond also won his fair share of games in the middle of last season after Starkel went down injured against UCLA. Assumedly both quarterbacks will get a fair shake. Fisher has shown an ability to work with both pro style and dual threat quarterbacks throughout his tenure at Florida State. Nevertheless, I’d also presume Fisher would give Starkel the respect of at the very least beginning the year as a starter. After all the redshirt freshman threw for over 1700 yards after missing the better part of 7 games. Nevertheless, it’s tough to keep a talent like Mond on the bench and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him usurp Starkel (whether it be this year or next). It is interesting to note Jimbo Fisher stated the two quarterbacks were on even footing heading into the preseason, meaning this job will be earned not given.

Oklahoma State

Taylor Cornelius VS Spencer Saunders VS Keondre Wudtee VS Dru Brown

Oklahoma State will have to move on from the Mason Rudolph this year after the quarterback was drafted by the Steelers. Fortunately, coach Mike Gundy has a plethora of quarterbacks to choose from for a replacement. Foremost in the hunt for the starting job at this point is likely Taylor Cornelius. The senior wasn’t even a scholarship athlete for most his tenure in Stillwater, but now looks likely to take over for one of the most successful quarterbacks in the program’s history. Cornelius served as Mason Rudolph’s backup but saw only very limited action. Descriptions of Cornelius’s game paint him as someone who plays very under control, but may lack any sort of flair for the dramatic. Coach Gundy recently assured the media that Cornelius would be the guy heading into preseason camp, after a spring where he distanced himself from Keondre Wudtee. However, it important to point out that other competitors Spencer Saunders and Dru Brown were not yet on campus throughout the entirety of spring practice. Saunders comes to Oklahoma State with a lot of hype considering he was the top rated high school quarterback in all of Texas this past year and an electrifying dual threat. Some even expect him to challenge for the starting job right out of the gate. Meanwhile, Dru Brown is also new to town after transferring from Hawaii. It is tough to overlook the success he had as a Rainbow warrior, throwing for 5,273 yards, 37 touchdowns, and only 15 interceptions in two seasons as a starter. It certainly is not out of the realm of possibility that either of these two newcomers could make a push for the job throughout the preseason. But for now Cornelius is the guy.


Feleipe Franks VS Emory Jones VS Kyle Trask

Feleipe Franks’s first season under center wasn’t exactly a dream season. In fact his lackluster performance is one of the main reasons Jim McElwain was sacked midseason. Nevertheless, with a quarterback whisperer inbound could a career resurgence be on the horizon? Frank is a big strong armed strong armed redshirt sophomore who enter college a highly regarded four star recruit. He seems to possess more than enough of the “raw materials” for Dan Mullen to mold into a starter. The coach has a storied history of developing quarterbacks having worked with Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, and Nick Fitzgerald among others. If anyone can get Franks on track it is Dan Mullens. Moreover, Florida’s recent history of problems under center is likely the reason the school’s brass pursued Mullen. If Franks isn’t the man for the job, Mullen could look to developed highly rated freshman Emory Jones. Jones has ties to the coach and was is the only quarterback on the roster who was recruited by him. Some think he might have even had the advantage heading into the preseason if it weren’t for the scandal he and a number of gators players were recently implicated in. Whether or not Jones will even be available this season is now legitimate question. The only other real option is Kyle Trask who was a 3 star recruit coming out of college. For now consensus seems to be that Franks has the edge.


Keller Chryst VS Jarrett Guarantano

Jarrett Guarantano finished out last season under center for the Vols after Quinten Dormandy was relegated to the bench. Guarantano was the number one ranked dual threat quarterback in the 2016 class. While he flashed glimmers of the ability he showed in high school, he did not any means secure hold of the job going. Especially considering that Stanford transfer Keller Chryst is on his way to Knoxville. This time last year Chryst was starting quarterback for the Cardinal before being supplanted midway through the season by blossoming star KJ Costello. Despite losing his job, Chrsyt actually performed rather well last season leading Stanford to a 5-2 record as a starter. Yet despite performing competently he never quite wowed anyone either, only twice passing for over 200 yards in 2 seasons. Therefore I wouldn’t say this quarterback competition is cut and dry in either direction. Guarantano brings grit and dual threat ability, while Chryst brings far more experience and is far less turnover prone. Currently, the edge will likely go to Chryst. The Volunteers have a new coach at the helm in Jeremy Pruitt and thus will likely feature a new quarterback. Pruitt did not recruit Guarantano, and seeing as he saw fit to recruit Chryst from Stanford, he was obviously unhappy with the strength of the quarterback position when he stepped on campus. Logically it would follow that Pruitt enlisted the senior to start not ride the bench. Whoever takes over under center will have the difficult task of righting the ship at Tennessee. But the victor will have a very talented target to work with in Marquez Callaway (and Brandon Johnson).


Devon Modster VS Wilton Speight VS Austin Burton VS Dorian Thompson-Robinson VS Matt Lynch

Chip Kelly will bring his electrifying offense back to college football and back to the Pac 12 this year. Certainly this offense will be exciting to watch; but the question is who’ll be leading it. With Josh Rosen off to the NFL, the Bruins will feature a new face under center. Coach Kelly will no shortage of options to consider as a replacement. The leading candidate seems to be last year’s backup Devon Modster. Modster showed a lot of promise in relief of Josh Rosen in 2017, throwing for 674 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions while seeing action in only four games. Modster has a well-rounded skillset and seems a fit for Kelly’s fast-paced offense. However, he will face stiff competition from the other four quarterbacks contending on the roster. Wilton Speight is no doubt the biggest name of the bunch. The former Michigan man spent a year as starter for the Wolverines, before missing the bulk of last season due to injury. His time in Ann Arbor might be described as controlled and competent yet unspectacular. The transfer of Shea Patterson effectively sent Speight out the door, and he will certainly not be walking in to the starting job at UCLA. Speight will have to watch his back particularly once highly touted recruit Dorian Thompson-Robinson steps on campus, The four star recruit was the number 2 dual threat quarterback in the class behind only Justin Fields, and may be the most talented quarterback on the roster right out of the gate. Should he win the starting job he’d be the second consecutive UCLA quarterback to win the starting job as a true freshman. Bringing up the rear, are Matt Lynch and Austin Burton. Both have displayed starting potential throughout the spring. Nevertheless, there are simply more talented, more established, and more athletic options on the roster.


Kansas State

Skylar Thompson VS Alex Delton

When firmly engrained starter Jesse Ertz went down with an injury last year, the search for Kansas State’s next quarterback began. Alex Delton stepped up in relief and actually performed admirably, but more so as a runner than a passer. Particularly in the Oklahoma game, Delton ran for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, he passed for under 200 yards in every appearance as a starter. Toward the end of the season, Coach Bill Snyder began giving Skylar Thompson a look. As a freshman he displayed far greater potential as a passer than Delton, even notching an improbable win over Oklahoma State. Moreover, Thompson is also a dual threat, running for almost 100 yards in the very same game. Going forward Thompson will likely be the starter. Yet Delton will still definitely feature in certain sets likely both as a quarterback and a runner. Here we have more of quarterback coalition than competition.

Other Notable Programs Facing QB Competitions:

Purdue, Nebraska, Washington State, Memphis, Texas Tech, Maryland, Kentucky, Houston, USF, FAU




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