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Top 20 QB position battles


Administrator Emeritus
5 Teams that we'll see on the field this year.

From CollegeFootballNews.com

By Richard Cirminiello **

To the fans, spring football is the perfect antidote for the slowest months of the sports calendar, a welcomed bridge from one season to the next.* To the coaches, it represents 15 opportunities to re-evaluate returning players and begin formulating a rough draft of the two-deep depth chart.* And for the players, March and April are the first chances of the new season to wow the coaching staff and solidify a starting role.

From Pullman to Pittsburgh, spring camps are all about competition.* It doesn’t matter if you’re a quarterback, a fullback or a nickel back, the chances are good you’re either battling to keep a job or win a job.* And it’s that kind of contentious atmosphere, which makes this time of year so surprisingly entertaining.

Position battles will soon be flaring up in every corner of the map and every unit of a roster, but none will garner more attention than at quarterback.* There’s something about two or three kids going toe-to-toe for the right to lead a program, which stirs so much debate and more chatter than an auction.* Next to these tilts, everyone else is forced to settle for a spot on the undercard.

Twenty universities, in particular, will be home to deliciously intriguing quarterback bouts, whose outcomes will have impacts that are felt well beyond the confines of each individual program.* Some terrific signal-callers have left the college game in the past three months. Get ready to be introduced to a collection of fresh faces eager to take their place.

1. Miami
Brock Berlin
Kyle Wright
Derrick Crudup

If you thought last year’s battle between Berlin and Crudup was fun, just wait until Wright joins the mix in a few weeks.* Berlin is blessed with great physical tools, but you wouldn’t know it from watching last year’s game films.* With an opportunity for stardom on a platter, he routinely imploded in 2003, briefly getting benched for a game in favor of Crudup.* He’s too good to count out, but boy, some of those bad reads from last fall have etched a lasting memory.* Fair or not, ‘Cane fans have anointed Wright the savior.* He’s big and bright, and with a full spring already under his belt, more confident than ever about his chance to unseat Berlin.* For good reason, Wright was widely recognized as the country’s top high school quarterback in 2002.* A quarterback with Crudup’s experience is a blessing, but in this field, he looks strictly like a backup.****************

2. LSU
Marcus Randall
JaMarcus Russell
Matt Flynn

LSU wasn’t supposed to be in this space until 2005.* Matt Mauck’s surprising decision to test the NFL waters leaves Nick Saban with a fifth-year senior and two untested, but very promising prospects.* The coach won’t ask his quarterback to carry the Tigers this year.* Consistency, leadership and mistake-free football will suffice on this talent-laden roster.* Advantage Randall.* Russell and Flynn were two of the key members of last year’s No. 1 recruiting class.* Russell, in particular, has a scary upside.* At 6-6, he runs a 4.7 in the 40 and throws with nice touch and accuracy.* Randall’s probably the man for now, but with these two redshirts, his hold on the top spot could be a tenuous one.***

3. Ohio State
Justin Zwick
Troy Smith

Now that Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen have graduated, the table is set for Zwick to begin showing why his arrival in Columbus was preceded by so much hoopla.* Yes, Smith is a rising talent, who’ll present a challenge in spring, but this is Zwick’s job to lose, and it may take a collapse from the sophomore for that to happen.* Jim Tressel has labeled this a wide-open competition, but his enthusiasm and praise for Zwick suggest otherwise.* The coach gushes about his young quarterback’s vision and field presence, and was convinced last October that he was ready for Big Ten play.* Potential can be a tricky thing, but Zwick possesses enough of it to make a run at becoming one of the best Buckeye quarterbacks in school history.*****

4. Tennessee
C.J. Leak
Rick Clausen

This confrontation is rife with interesting storylines.* First there’s Leak, a former can’t-miss prospect, who’s trying to salvage something out of that once promising career in his sixth and final season.* Then there’s Clausen, LSU transfer and little brother of the four-year starter Tennessee is frantically trying to replace.* Great subplots.* So-so quarterbacks.* Former quarterback James Banks, last year’s top receiver, will likely to stay on the receiving end of passes, leaving gifted rookies Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer to challenge for playing time in their freshman seasons.* It’s not as if that precedent hasn’t already been set in Knoxville.

5. Nebraska
Joe Dailey
Jordan Adams

The Bill Callahan regime is underway in Lincoln, and one of his first orders of business is to find a reliable quarterback to run the West Coast offense.* No doubt the coach will be looking to put an immediate thumbprint on the program, so Dailey’s inside track to the starting spot will be littered with obstacles from this year’s recruiting class.* Callahan signed three signal callers in February, all of whom can stretch a defense.* Freshmen Beau Davis and Joe Ganz will join the fray in August, but it’s Adams who has the coach gushing today.* Despite being a backup at Grossmont (Calif.) College last year, Callahan feels he got a steal in a quarterback who would have attracted far more attention had he remained in school another season.* In Adams’ only start of 2003, he hit on 30-of-42 passes for 531 yards and four touchdowns.***

6. Virginia
Marques Hagans
Anthony Martinez
Chris Olsen
Kevin McCabe

Matt Schaub is gone, but the cupboard is far from empty in Charlottesville.* When the cream of the quartet makes himself known later this year, Al Groh expects to have a quality replacement under center.* From now until then, a very interesting battle will brew.* This time last year, Hagans was a wide receiver, yet whenever his number’s called, he seems to make plays.* Martinez was expected to inherit the job, but did nothing to solidify that notion when he spelled an injured Schaub last September.* Olsen and McCabe were two of the nation’s more heralded prep recruits in 2002 and 2003, respectively.* Olsen worked his way to No. 2 on the Notre Dame depth chart last April before he and brother Greg curiously opted to transfer.* The spirit of this competition alone should bring out the best in each of the contenders.

7. Penn State
Zack Mills
Michael Robinson

The seemingly never-ending saga involving Mills and Robinson won’t be ending any time soon.* Joe Paterno reopened the competition last November when he stated his two quarterbacks would have to battle things out during the spring.* For Mills, it’s the kind of sobering news that often accompanies a steady regression.* For Robinson, whose size and athleticism has made him the target of nearly every Lion position coach, it’s a much-anticipated opportunity.* Both quarterbacks were woefully ineffective last year, and it’ll be job No. 1 of new offensive coordinator Galen Hall to reverse that this fall.

8. Virginia Tech
Bryan Randall
Marcus Vick

The much-anticipated Randall-Vick sequel may never materialize.* These days, Vick is more concerned with his legal battles than his spot on the Hokie depth chart.* He was arrested last month and charged with serving alcohol to three underage girls and having sex with a 15-year old.* His fate—on and off the field—has yet to be determined.* Last spring’s tussle brought out the finest in both quarterbacks before Frank Beamer eventually gave the nod to his veteran.* Randall was steady, but unspectacular as the starter down the stretch, fueling speculation Vick would push even harder this year.* However, that decision may be out of Beamer’s hands this time around.*****

9. Michigan
Matt Gutierrez
Clayton Richard

In a Ken Dorsey-esque sort of way, John Navarre probably won’t be fully appreciated by Michigan fans until his successor takes the reigns.* Gutierrez is the heavy favorite to be that player, courtesy of his additional year in the program and valuable stint as Navarre’s backup in 2003.* He’s your prototypical big, strong Michigan quarterback, who can also make plays with his legs when necessary.* With more experience, he looks like he’ll be a good one.* Richard and recent signee Chad Henne were prep studs, a sign the Wolverines could be in great shape at quarterback until 2008.*****

10. Washington
Casey Paus
Isaiah Stanback
Carl Bonnell

Seniority and three years in the program give Paus a slim advantage, yet that hardly means he’s a lock to remain the top Dawg.* Stanback and Bonnell may be short on experience, but both are long on talent and potential.* And more important,* both are far better suited to run the offense head coach Keith Gilbertson is hoping to install in 2004.* The Huskies are expected to utilize the option and more moving pockets, which are designed for the mobile underclassmen and incoming freshman Matt Tuiasosopo.* Bonnell originally signed a letter-of-intent in 2002 with in-state rival Washington State before transferring to the Huskies.

11. Texas Tech
Robert Johnson
Sonny Cumbie
Phillip Daugherty

Everyone is handing the starting job to Johnson, easily the nation’s most sought after quarterback from the junior-college ranks.* Everyone except Cumbie, Daugherty and head coach Mike Leach.* Johnson’s a unique talent, who’s won 36 of his last 38 starts, but he still has to prove he can digest Tech’s complex system and compete at the Big XII level.* Like B.J. Symons last season, career-backup Cumbie enters his senior season with one final shot to build a legacy.* The similarities end there.* Blue-chipper Daugherty may be the best of the lot, but is probably a year or so away from being ready to take over.* Leach hates quarterback controversies, so don’t expect one on his watch.* He’s determined to find one triggerman and ride him until December.

12. Iowa
Drew Tate
Jason Manson
Cy Phillips
Eric McCollum

Hawkeye’s run of three straight seasons with a senior at the controls is about to come to an end.* Four underclassmen with no starts and a single touchdown pass between them are set to vie for the right to become Kirk Ferentz’s seventh starting quarterback in six seasons.* As it stands now, Tate and Manson have the upper hand over Phillips and McCollum.* The favorites share similar body types and styles, relying on sound decisions, steady play and the ability to break containment when necessary.* As a true freshman, Tate rose to No. 2 on the depth chart last season.****

13. Kansas State
Dylan Meier
Allen Webb

Not since the pre-Michael Bishop days have the ‘Cats entered a new season with such uncertainty under center.* In Ell Roberson’s wake is a pair of untested quarterbacks with nary a touchdown pass between them.* Meier ended last season No. 2 on the depth chart, so he’ll begin spring as the favorite by default.* Webb, who sat out last season after transferring from Indiana, was arrested in January for his involvement in a fight last June.* The competition is wide open, meaning talented newcomers Allan Evridge and Nick Patton could dodge a redshirt year if either proves in August he can contribute immediately.

14. North Carolina State
Jay Davis
Chris Moore
Marcus Stone

It’s the dawn of a new era in Raleigh as four-year starter Philip Rivers prepares for life in the NFL.* Davis will enjoy an early edge, by virtue of his role as Rivers’ caddy the past two seasons.* He knows the system well and has been groomed for this moment, but lacks the raw talent of the two underclassmen, both of whom have big arms to match their considerable upsides.* Pack fans can’t wait to feast their eyes on Stone, a former Parade All-American and one the top quarterbacks from the Class of 2003.

15. Boston College
Quinton Porter
Paul Peterson

Tom O’Brien boasts two senior quarterbacks with starting experience, a luxury for any head coach.* Porter started the first ten games of 2003, but gave way to Peterson for the final three after injuring his throwing hand.** Peterson provided the Eagles with a spark and a San Francisco Bowl victory, and voila, a quarterback controversy was born.* Each player offers something a little different, with Porter possessing the stronger arm and Peterson the better all-around athleticism.* Both will likely get snaps this fall.

16. Ole Miss
Michael Spurlock
Robert Lane

It may be impossible to fill Eli Manning’s clown-sized shoes, however, that shouldn’t suggest the Rebs are destitute at the quarterback position.* Spurlock has waited three years for this opportunity and it’s his job to lose.* He’s a dynamic athlete, who can test a defense with his quick feet or strong arm.* Think Charlie Ward sans the experience or NBA ball-handling skills.* Lane was a huge get for David Cutcliffe in 2003.* He’s the future at quarterback for Ole Miss, but whether that future begins in 2004 or 2006 remains to be seen.******

17. Washington State
Josh Swogger
Chris Hurd
Alex Brink

Bledsoe.* Leaf.* Gesser.* Over the past decade, the Cougars were at their best when they rode the capable right arm of their quarterback.* Last year, it was Matt Kegel, who stepped up in his only season as a starter to throw for 21 touchdowns and almost 3,000 yards.* Swogger matured as Kegel’s backup in 2003, and believes he’s ready to accept the torch.* Because of his size and arm strength, he’s being compared to Leaf in the Palouse.* Hurd looked very good in winter fitness and agility drills, despite sitting out last season with a knee injury.********

18. Maryland
Joel Statham
Sam Hollenbach
Ryan Mitch
Jordan Steffy

A quartet of kids trying to replace reliable two-year starter, Scott McBrien, and not a single start or touchdown pass between them.* In fact, only Statham has ever attempted a pass at the collegiate level, giving him a slight advantage.* The wild card is Steffy, a dual threat and the jewel of this year’s recruiting class.* Considering the inexperience and mediocrity of his competition, it’s no wonder Ralph Friedgen expects his true freshman to challenge for the top spot in 2004.*

19. Boise State
Mike Sanford
Jared Zabransky

To the victor of this battle goes a sweet opportunity to run one of the most prolific offenses in the country.* Sanford is the veteran, a career backup with a strong grasp of the complex system, but very little practical experience.* Zabransky is widely considered the heir apparent to Ryan Dinwiddie.* He’s an outstanding runner, who still needs to prove he can be the catalyst of the vaunted Bronco passing attack.* If Zabransky gets tabbed, the coaching staff will tweak the playbook to make the most of his athleticism.

20. Wisconsin
John Stocco
Matt Schabert

Schabert’s name will forever be remembered in Wisconsin football lore.* It was his 79-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter that broke Ohio State’s 19-game winning streak last October.* However, that alone won’t earn him a starting assignment.* In fact, Schabert followed that moment in relief of Jim Sorgi with poor efforts against Northwestern and Iowa later in the season, and Stocco nudged into the backup role for the Music City Bowl.* As good as the Badger running game is expected to be this fall, it may not matter much who’s taking snaps in September.
Maisel's Mailbag

RE: Swogger
No idea, but I think the guy is pretty good... just my 1 cent.

RE: Maisel's Stupid Mailbag http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/columns/story?columnist=maisel_ivan&id=1760822

I know that I swore off ESPN, but once I was out... They sucked me right back in. Yesterday or today or whatever day this is I read Maisel's mailbag and I was a little disturbed (after I thought about it for while) at how presumptive we, as fans, can be. Here is an excerpt from one of the many, no doubt, rants Maisel received with regard to OSU football:

I must say that I am quite surprised that you have decided to turn your back on the Buckeyes. Careful. . . no scratch that, ANY investigation into the roster of Ohio State will lead you to better understanding. We are loaded at every defensive position. We are loaded at wide receiver, and frankly, despite the "leadership" of Craig Krenzel, he was not the mistake-free force last year that he was in 2002. Justin Zwick, aided by solid competition for the starting spot, will be a much better quarterback. One example of an inexperienced, yet excellent QB you may wish to look at is Matt Leinart. . .

For all I know, this person posts on here who said this but my issue is I don't think we can make qualified comparisons of Zwick to Leinart until after young Mr Z has shown some gametime moxie in a difficult situation like the way Leinart opened up his season last season against Auburn. A game I remember pretty well, all considered (my Saturday consumption-itis).

With that said, this has basically been my exorcism (one hopes and prays to the... Buckeye Gods) of an inevitable curse that may be getting blindly bandied about Buckeye Land as though it were already set in stone that Zwick = Leinart. To this is I say "Shoosh". If it is true, let us keep it a secret until showtime. Maisel and everyone else can suck it until then. If we deserve top honors on the ranking list we can ill-afford to lose games and must not under any circumstances lose to Tsun. It's a simple formula, really.

Hoping people just want to rank OSU high this preseason is not going to happen just because the sports illiterates who write the rubbish on ESPN and Sportsline like to cause the school who probably has more fans than just about everyone to get venemous so that they will get more eyeballs on their stupid sites that we are inevitably drawn to like drunks to cigarettes. Bastards.

Examples are endless.. ie DODD (aka Dilweed or Dilhole Dweeb) not ranking The 'SHOE in the top 25 of stadia. He even said later that it was a "dog legged" compliment that OSU fans just didn't ever "get". These a-holes don't know that they're taking their lives in their own hands when they mess with OSU football. If we see them we'll flip over a car over and catch it on fire even after a victory over some good team because "we jus' crazed mild mannered midwesterners" but no... they don't understand this is our reason for living. (At least top 5 or 10 reason.)

Back to whatever point I started out with: Let's not get the cart ahead of the horse. Let's not make like the frog said to the rabbit and jump ahead.
Upvote 0
The quarterback battle should be interesting this spring but I think Zwick has a big lead on the position. Though, I don't Tressel will even announce after spring practices. Duane Long said Zwick was on fire during Fiesta Bowl practices and didn't Tressel hint last season that McMullen and Zwick were even? I also believe Zwick fits the mold of a Tressel quarterback. Zwick will have a stronger arm, be a more accurate passer, and a better touch than Krenzel. Zwick's speed will be fine in this offense. Give me an accurate passer like Zwick over somebody like Kordell Stewart.
Upvote 0