College Football's 6 Most Important Remaining Quarterback Battles
There's nothing quite like waiting until the last minute, but there are still a handful of important quarterback battles that have yet to be officially decided.
With Week 1 of the 2014 college football season just days away, some of these quarterback announcements could come down to hours, if not minutes, before opening kickoff. Of course, all should be decided before then, but why tip your hand?
It's also possible that some of these quarterback battles bleed into the season. Which power-five quarterback battles remain? The answers are in the following slides.
No. 6 Oklahoma State
The Skinny: Oklahoma State comes in at No. 6 because, depending on whom you ask, the quarterback battle has already been figured out and head coach Mike Gundy just hasn't said anything.
Berry Tramel and John Helsley from The Oklahoman are two, likely among many, who believe the job is J.W. Walsh's to lose. Gundy won't officially say if Walsh, a redshirt junior, is the starter, but he did about the next-closest thing.
"J.W. is getting most of the reps with the ones (first team), then the other guys are splitting," Gundy said, via Tramel.
Here's where the wrench gets thrown in, though. Earlier in August, Gundy said fellow quarterback Daxx Garman was preparing to take "10-to-12 snaps" in the season opener against Florida State (h/t Kyle Fredrickson, The Oklahoman).
J.W. Walsh: He started five games last year and played in eight. He regressed statistically as a passer from 2012, throwing for 1,333 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. But he's the clear favorite.
Daxx Garman: The junior originally started his college career at Arizona but has been a backup at Oklahoma State with no game action. He was recently put on scholarship.
Maxon Rudolph: The early-enrollee freshman was a 4-star recruit according to 247Sports composite rankings. He has great size at 6'4" and 217 pounds and could be a star down the road. For now, he seems entrenched in the backup competition.
The Prediction: Walsh. The bigger question is whether he keeps his job.
No. 5 North Carolina
The Skinny: Quarterback was a position of stability for North Carolina thanks to Bryn Renner. But after Renner's career in Chapel Hill ended with a season-ending shoulder injury, head coach Larry Fedora started Marquise Williams for the final month of the year.
Despite technically being a returning starter, Williams has yet to be officially named the No. 1 guy. That won't change publicly before North Carolina's season opener. The Tar Heels have two viable options at quarterback, which is a luxury many teams wish they had.
Marquise Williams: In relief, Williams threw for nearly 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns a year ago. He represented UNC at ACC Media Day, but that may not mean he's the starter.
“I don’t take anything of it, saying I’m the starter,” Williams said, courtesy of Andrew Carter of The News & Observer.
The Prediction: Williams wins it. It's close, but he has the experience and leadership qualities that the coaching staff likes.
No. 4 TCU
The Skinny: TCU has several options at quarterback but no clear answers. The latest depth chart, courtesy of Ryan Gerbosi of The Dallas Morning News, lists three options: Trevone Boykin, Matt Joeckel and Zach Allen.
Boykin has been the de facto starter for a majority of the past two seasons because of various issues with Casey Pachall, but is he the permanent solution? There are also two freshmen joining the team this year: Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein.
Trevone Boykin: He's the incumbent, having thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns in his career. But with a new pair of co-offensive coordinators, he's learning a new system. Head coach Gary Patterson has always been high on Boykin, but he could be better suited to play elsewhere in this offense.
Matt Joeckel: A former Texas A&M quarterback who backed up Johnny Manziel, Joeckel could be seen as a front-runner because 1) he is immediately eligible and 2) he is more familiar with TCU's new version of the Air Raid offense.
Zach Allen: Allen is a redshirt freshman and would be the biggest surprise if he earns the starting job in Week 1.
The Prediction: Boykin gets the nod, but only at first. The good news is that the Frogs open the season against Samford and won't play again until Sept. 13 (Minnesota). Here's guessing that, before it's all said and done, Joeckel is the starting quarterback and Boykin is playing another position.
No. 3 Arizona
The Skinny: Arizona has had a go-to guy at quarterback in the first two seasons under head coach Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats could have another go-to quarterback this season, but no one will know who it is until Week 1.
Among the quarterback battles on this list, the one at Arizona is by far the most open. As Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star opined, the Wildcats are the "Island of Misfit Transfers."
Anu Solomon: If there's a front-runner, it's probably Solomon. The redshirt freshman has been taking a majority of the first-team reps in practice, according to Berk.
Jesse Scroggins: The USC transfer appeared to be in the lead to take the starting job in the spring but has since lost ground in the quarterback battle. Per Berk, Scroggins was involved in a car accident over the summer that resulted in a concussion. That would obviously slow his development.
Jerrard Randall: Randall is a Louisiana State transfer who has yet to see the field for the Wildcats. He has the athleticism necessary to thrive in Rodriguez's zone-read scheme, but he hasn't been able to translate it into results during practice.
Connor Brewer: Yet another transfer (from Texas), it would appear as though Brewer has been buried in the depth chart.
The Prediction: You have to hand it to Rodriguez. He has kept a tight lid on this. If recent reports are any indication, Solomon will get the start in Week 1. But don't count out Scroggins entirely.
No. 2 LSU
The Skinny: The Zach Mettenberger era is over, and LSU is starting (mostly) anew at quarterback. Anthony Jennings started one game last season, the Tigers' Outback Bowl win over Iowa, after Mettenberger tore his ACL, but he is in a stiff competition with freshman Brandon Harris.
As Trey Labat of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes, Harris beefed up the competition during LSU's spring game:
Harris ignited a full-on quarterback battle after outperforming Jennings in the Spring Game, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another in a game that flashed his elite athleticism. Ever since, fans have clamored to see Harris take the field, with the intrigue of his unknown potential trumping what fans have already seen from Jennings.
Brandon Harris: The freshman early enrollee began the year as a backup quarterback but has quickly emerged as a serious contender. Head coach Les Miles has publicly praised Harris during preseason camp, so there's no doubting he's in the mix.
Anthony Jennings: If there's one thing Jennings has, it's experience, albeit very little. Jennings played in nine games in 2013 but completed fewer than 50 percent of his 29 pass attempts.
The Prediction: Harris, by a, um, hair. Wisconsin isn't exactly the first team you want a first-year starting quarterback to face, but Harris could be the future of the team.
No. 1 Alabama
The Skinny: Who else were you expecting?
When you consider the program at hand, no quarterback battle is getting more spotlight than Alabama's—and rightly so. The heated competition has been between veteran Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jake Coker. With a season-opening game against West Virginia coming up in less than a week, there hasn't been much separation between the two.
Blake Sims: A redshirt senior, Sims is the veteran guy in the locker room. According to head coach Nick Saban, Sims has improved dramatically since his shaky showing in the Tide's spring game. "[He's] really improved as a passer and because he's improved as a passer, I think he's more confident," Saban said Marq Burnett of the Ledger-Enquirer.
Jake Coker: There's not much shame in losing a quarterback battle when the guy who won is Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Coker has been the assumed front-runner to win the job since he transferred this spring from Florida State, but the longer the competition goes on, the less likely that seems.
The Prediction: There doesn't appear to be a clear-cut favorite, and it's possible both take snaps in Week 1 against West Virginia. Who knows? Maybe the competition continues a couple of games into the year. It's a compelling storyline for a preseason top-five team with national-championship aspirations.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com.
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