by Dave Miller
March 26, 02012
Spring practices are being held across the country with players looking to impress coaching staffs and climb up the depth charts.
Let’s take a look at 10 of the most intriguing quarterback battles that will play out during spring drills — many of which will likely last into fall camp.
The five best battles
Notre Dame: Can top Class of 2012 signal-caller Gunner Kiel get the starting nod in the season opener against Navy in Ireland? Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly has scaled back the offense this spring in an effort to get all of the QBs on an even playing field, which may not bode well for incumbent Tommy Rees. The winner of this derby will be the one who Kelly feels will make the least amount of mistakes. The offensive staff is obviously enamored by Andrew Hendrix, based on the fact that his reps increased significantly down the stretch in 2011. He is a better runner and has a stronger arm than Rees. Everett Golson possesses the most athleticism of all the combatants and has a year under his belt of absorbing the offense as a redshirt. Whoever wins the job will have to succeed without projected NFL first-round receiver Michael Floyd.
ICONJacoby Brissett is battling Jeff Driskel for the starting gig in Gainesville.
Florida: The Gators have struggled offensively the last couple of seasons for a few reasons. But none have been bigger than the play from the quarterback position. With John Brantley gone, sophomore signal-callers Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett are battling to win the right to operate new coordinator Brent Pease’s offense. Both saw action last year but struggled, and it didn’t help that the team’s offensive line had issues. The talent and athletic ability are obvious when watching Driskel and Brissett drop back, but are there enough playmakers ready to emerge to help them along the way?
Auburn: The Tigers have new coordinators on both sides of the ball, with former Temple OC Scot Loeffler taking over the offense and former Atlanta Falcons DC Brian VanGorder looking to straighten out the defense. Loeffler has bigger shoes to fill, as he assumes the role vacated by Gus Malzahn. While sophomore Kiehl Frazier is the dual-threat that fit better in Malzahn’s spread, Clint Moseley is a better fit for a pro-style attack and has more experience. But Loeffler will use a multiple-look attack, so whoever has a better grasp of the offense will win the job. And he’ll be asked to improve on a unit that ranked 100th in total offense last fall. Early-enrollee Zeke Pike will also try to impress Loeffler this spring.
Oklahoma State: Offensive coordinator Todd Monken has to not only replace projected stud first-round receiver Justin Blackmon, but he’ll also have to find a new starting quarterback with Brandon Weeden moving onto the NFL as well. Clint Chelf has the experience to win the job, having thrown 69 career passes as Weeden’s backup. But head coach Mike Gundy maintains that the competition is wide open. Dual-threat J.W. Walsh had been tabbed as the future at the position because he was highly recruited. He has a strong arm in addition to being a good runner. Wes Lunt, meanwhile, is the other highly regarded young signal-caller, as he’s a 6-5 early enrollee who can really sling it. But can he master this offense and be ready to start as a true freshman?
Oregon: Darron Thomas shockingly left Eugene a year early and will try to make a roster at the next level. So last year’s backup, Bryan Bennett, will try to hold off Marcus Mariota for the right to run Chip Kelly’s up-tempo, high-octane offense. Bennett is highly regarded by the coaching staff and filled in admirably last season for Thomas when he was hurt — so much so that a lot of Duck fans wanted to see Bennett remain the starter after he had a 6 to 0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But the 6-4 Mariota is a skilled runner just like Bennett, and both signal-callers may be more accurate passers than Thomas as well. But both will need to prove to the offensive staff that they can make sound decisions, especially in the zone-read game. Mariota is the better passer of the two, and the Ducks do want to throw the ball a little more. However, it still comes down to that dominant rushing attack, led by Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas.
CONTINUE TO PAGE 2 FOR MORE QB BATTLES PLAYING OUT THIS SPRING