Position Battles Heading Into Spring: Quarterback

Icon SMI - Tyler Wilson

Quarterback is the position every young football player grows up wanting to play (except the very obese linemen!), and is most times the catalyst for a team’s season, whether it be stellar or sub-par. If you have a good quarterback, you give yourself a chance to win each and every time out. You can find guys to catch the football.

The following teams all have quarterback vacancies and position battles heading into spring:

Auburn

Auburn is certainly in between quarterbacks right now. Last season’s starter, Barrett Trotter, left Auburn altogether for next year. He was benched midway through the season for backup Clint Moseley. Moseley completed 66 passes out of 108 for 800 yards and five touchdowns. The running quarterback a year ago Kiehl Frazier, did just that: he mostly ran the wildcat, and the coaching staff absolutely limited his throwing throughout the year, evidenced by his meager 12 passing attempts. Also, freshman early enrollee Zeke Pike could push for playing time. Bottom line: this position is open for the Tigers. New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has run both the spread and the traditional pro-set offense, and he will have to choose the best one moving forward. I personally think Frazier gets the start game one because he has all the tools to be a playmaker, if that is the direction Loeffler and Gene Chizik decide to go.

Florida

John Brantley is gone, and that is a sigh of relief from most of the Gator crowd. Now, sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will fight for the starting job. This position will be won in spring this season, more than likely. Brissett was Charlie Weis’ guy, but now that Weis is gone, it’s a brand new playing field for Driskel. Driskel was the No. 1 overall rated quarterback recruit coming out of high school two years ago. Brissett threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns, while Driskel was injured early in the year and didn’t play the remainder of the season. He only completed 16 passes. This will be a battle, starting right now heading into spring. New offensive coordinator Brent Peas will choose the best quarterback for this offense, and it will be full steam ahead for Florida.

Kentucky

Kentucky seems to be between a rock and a hard place in their current quarterback situation. Both Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton played last season for the Cats. However, neither one could really get the offense moving in any sort of fashion. Maxwell Smith, the pro-style quarterback, threw for 819 yards and four touchdowns, while completing 54.9 percent of his passes. Morgan Newton, who is more of a dual-threat quarterback, started the year in 2011, but did not finish it because of injury. Newton was really never healthy and could not get anything going his way at quarterback. He ended up throwing 793 yards and eight touchdowns on the year. Both guys return for 2012, and both will be battling it out this spring. Behind Newton and Smith, Jacob Russell will get a look.

LSU

Is there really a position battle here for LSU with JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger primed to take over the position? I thought, and I was in the minority last year, that Mettenberger would have an opportunity to start over both Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson. That did not happen, obviously. Even though Mett will likely win the job, he will have competition at the position from a couple talented underclassmen in Stephen Rivers and Jerrard Randall. Both of whom were highly touted coming out of high school, with Rivers being more a pro-style quarterback and Randall being more of a dual-threat like Jefferson. However, Mett has the advantage of playing a full year at JUCO, and I fully expect him to get the opening day nod. But when there is competition at the position, it makes everyone better.

Mississippi State

Senior quarterback and starter for most of the season Chris Relf has now graduated. Backup and part-time player Tyler Russell will take over the reigns for the Bulldogs. However, he will certainly face a competition, because no one is just going to lay down at the position and give it to Russell. Dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott will also push for playing time in Dan Mullen’s system. State is pretty much in the same situation as they were in last year – a pro-style quarterback in Russell countered by a dual-threat in Prescott. Mullen has options, and both quarterbacks will likely play in 2012. Prescott will gain valuable time and experience in spring football for the Bulldogs.

Ole Miss

This is a very interesting quarterback situation at Ole Miss. The Rebels have four quarterbacks on campus who could start for them, and the competition will be fierce in the spring. Randall Mackey, Zach Stoudt and Barry Brunetti all return for the Rebs, but JUCO transfer Bo Wallace could be the favorite. His numbers last season were eye-popping, and he could be the very guy for Hugh Freeze’s system, because he already knows the offense because of his 2010 stint with Arkansas State. Wallace has great size at 6’5”, and he has a very strong arm. Last year, Mackey threw for 1,112 yards and seven touchdowns; Stoudt threw for 559 with two touchdowns and Brunetti threw for 144 yards. This position is absolutely wide open for spring football, and I am very interested to see how Wallace competes in the SEC next season.

Texas A&M

The Aggies just said goodbye to their starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill graduated and will play his next football in the NFL. New coach Kevin Sumlin will have his work cut out for him trying to find a quarterback to run his offense. Last year’s backup, Jameill Showers, is the favorite headed into spring to win the position; however, the Aggies have four other quarterbacks on the roster who will not simply lay down for him. Aaron Eike, Matt Joeckel, Johnny Manziel and Patrick O’Quinn will all battle Showers for the starting job. In addition to those five quarterbacks, incoming freshman Matt Davis will push for playing time because he has a ton of talent at the position. However, this spring, competition will be wide open for the current quarterbacks on the roster.

The Known Commodities:

AJ McCarron, Alabama
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Aaron Murray, Georgia
James Franklin, Missouri
Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt

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