10 Teams That Will Have Most Difficult Time Replacing Their Starting QB in 2014
Starting over isn't always easy...or fun.
Replacing a veteran starting quarterback, especially one who has carved out a place in program history, only makes that process harder.
From Johnny Manziel to Keith Price, there are quarterbacks who will be sorely missed across college football. So, congratulations to the following 10 teams that have to replace the most important piece to their offense. No one envies you.
Which teams will have the hardest time replacing their starting quarterbacks? The answers, as always, are in the following slides.
Some teams have to replace quarterbacks who took a majority of the snaps from the previous season. But how many have to replace a quarterback who basically took every snap?
B.J. Denker was a workhorse for the Wildcats, throwing for more than 2,500 yards and finishing second on the team in rushing (949 yards).
Arizona has depth at quarterback but practically no experience. Two transfers, Connor Brewer (formerly of Texas) and Jesse Scroggins (formerly of USC), will likely garner the most attention, but the job is up for grabs. Head coach Rich Rodriguez told the Arizona Star that no one has separated from the pack yet: "I thought there would be more separation by now, but there really hasn’t been. One through five is pretty bunched up right now. If they’re all getting better and getting to the point where we can win with them, that’s a great problem."
Rodriguez is an excellent offensive coach. We'll see this season if he can plug-and-play a quarterback with results.
For all the flak the American Athletic Association takes as a conference, it was home to two of the top quarterbacks in this year's NFL draft class.
Teddy Bridgewater was one, and UCF's Blake Bortles was the other. And Bortles is going to be hard to replace.
Similar to Bridgewater and Louisville, Bortles took nearly all the snaps for the Knights last season. Justin Holman got limited experience as a freshman, and according to Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel, he appears to be the early front-runner to succeed Bortles.
"The frustration as a coach is you want them to progress immediately, because each day that goes by, you come closer to when it's going to count for real," UCF offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe told the Sentinel. "You want it to come right now, but realistically it's not going to happen. You have to put yourself back where they are."
Head coach George O'Leary hasn't announced a starting quarterback yet, which means the competition could go into preseason camp.
Somewhat lost in the Big Three quarterbacks in this year's draft—Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel—is former Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.
He threw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns for the Bulldogs last season. Simply put, it's tough to plug the next guy in and achieve similar results.
It would appear that Carr's backup Brian Burrell is the leading candidate to start in 2014. However, the coaching staff hasn't ruled out the possibility of Myles Carr or Zack Greenlee grabbing the job.
"The quarterback in this offense doesn't need to make the plays, but he does have to get the ball to our playmakers," head coach Tim DeRuyter told Marek Warszawski of The Fresno Bee. "Brian's been more consistent in getting us in the right play, making the check when he's supposed to and avoiding the bad decisions that lead to turnovers."
Fresno State hopes it can plug in another quarterback without a major drop-off in production. However, starting over at quarterback doesn't come without some anxiety.
You don't just replace Teddy Bridgewater.
You don't replace his ball placement, decision-making, leadership or any of the other qualities that made him one of the best quarterbacks in the country last year.
(On a related, note Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer wonders why Bridgewater is the new favorite target for NFL scouts.)
The only other quarterback on roster with game experience is redshirt sophomore Will Gardner. Perhaps he can make a seamless transition for the Cardinals, but he has a lot of obstacles to overcome. Louisville has a new (old) head coach in Bobby Petrino and a new playbook to install.
"[He's a] really good fit," Petrino told ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson. "He has presence in the pocket, good size and a quick release and he’s still a great athlete. That’s the one thing I didn’t realize when I first got here is how athletic he is."
Petrino is known as a skilled offensive mind who has coached some great quarterbacks in his career, but a learning curve could mean Louisville takes a step back offensively in 2014.
Few quarterbacks took as big of a leap as a starter from Year 1 to Year 2 as LSU's Zach Mettenberger.
But with him gone, the Tigers are looking to go with youth at quarterback. Sophomore Anthony Jennings wasn't asked to do a lot in the Outback Bowl win over Iowa and apparently didn't blow folks away in the Tigers' spring game.
As B/R colleague Barrett Sallee writes, that opened the door for freshman early enrollee Brandon Harris: "The 6'2", 184-pounder from Bossier City, La. was tremendous in LSU's spring game on Saturday, completing 11-of-28 passes for 195 yards, tossed three touchdowns, rushed for 77 yards and added a rushing touchdown."
Harris may be impressing early, but stepping in as the Day 1 starter as a freshman quarterback is no easy task. And, in fairness, the competition isn't over.
Either way, with running back Leonard Fournette joining the program later this summer, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will look to employ a run-first offense. In other words, LSU may utilize Harris' legs to open up things for his arm if it decides to go that route.
Technically, Oklahoma State isn't starting over at quarterback—at least not yet.
Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy won't comment on a starter until the season opener against Florida State, but if Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman is right, that job will go to J.W. Walsh:
Walsh is being rotated like a No. 1 quarterback, getting more snaps than freshman Mason Rudolph, who frankly could use more work if he’s actually in a QB derby.
Walsh is being promoted like a No. 1 quarterback, with OSU running a taped interview with Walsh over the public address system during the Blitz.
Walsh is playing like a No. 1 quarterback, with his performance clearly ahead of Rudolph.
Walsh started a handful of games in 2012 and '13. However, he was benched during the middle of last season in favor of Clint Chelf. With him gone, the competition should be between Walsh and Rudolph, an early enrollee.
Walsh's development will be one of the key storylines this offseason, even though no one will know what it means for him as a starter until August. There's no doubt Walsh is a gifted runner, but he regressed throwing the ball last year.
Garrett Gilbert was a one-man show in his final season at SMU. If you needed any more proof that college football makes no sense, that was it.
Up until his season-ending knee injury in November, he led the country in total offense (379.5 yards per game).
Replacing him is going to be harder than most realize. The only other quarterback on roster with significant playing experience is sophomore Neal Burcham, who largely struggled in the final three games of the season.
Like other coaches on this list, SMU's June Jones can coach up a quarterback—which is evident by Gilbert hitting his stride late in his career. That said, replacing him should, believe it or not, be one of the coach's toughest tasks in recent years.
TCU is in an odd position on this list.
On one hand, Trevone Boykin started more games in the past two seasons than Casey Pachall. On the other hand, Pachall was the better true passer. Had he been able to play consistently without injuries or personal issues, there's no doubt he would have been the go-to guy. In 2011, he was among the most efficient quarterbacks in the country.
Heading into the 2014 season, Pachall has graduated, and Boykin remains the No. 1 quarterback for the Frogs, even though he's better suited for wide receiver. TCU has a pair of incoming freshmen—Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein—arriving later this summer. Additionally, the team is breaking in a new offense with co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham.
With all the new components, there are bound to be growing pains. Not having Pachall will be a big issue for TCU, even though he wasn't a major part of the offense for the past two seasons.
Let's preface with this: Texas A&M may be fine at quarterback. Whether head coach Kevin Sumlin goes with veteran Matt Joeckel, freshman early enrollee Kyle Allen or even currently suspended sophomore Kenny Hill, the team has good options.
That said, there is no replacing Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Zero. None. Nada.
He was a special player who got more ridiculous with his improvisation every game. Unless Allen, Hill or Joeckel can do what Manziel did—and that's not to say they have to in order to be successful—it's difficult to replace Johnny Football.
That leads to another point that could be an underlying storyline for the Aggies: How much pressure will be on the starter? It can be tough to be the guy after the guy because expectations are so high and bordering on unrealistic.
That can be a tough environment for anyone.
Keith Price is a quarterback whose time at Washington is perhaps best viewed with hindsight. He holds several single-season and career passing and touchdown records. Additionally, he never quite had the protection he needed from his offensive line.
In short, Washington is going to miss him more than some may realize.
Cyler Miles is the obvious choice to replace Price, and he may very well get the nod this fall. However, he is serving an indefinite suspension by first-year coach Chris Petersen following an alleged assault incident earlier this year. Miles isn't facing charges, but Petersen hasn't determined when the redshirt sophomore will be back, per Adam Jude of The Seattle Times.
The relative uncertainty surrounding the quarterback spot puts the Huskies in a tougher spot than usual. Miles may still be the guy, but everything is up in the air right now.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless cited otherwise.
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