NCAA Football

Pac-12 Quarterbacks Compete for Starting Roles

The Pac-12 has a reputation for producing top-tier quarterbacks, including Heisman winners, All-Americans, first-round (and even No. 1) draft picks, and there are lofty expectations for this year’s group. After the first week of fall practice, here’s a look at the remaining battles for some of the conference’s hottest quarterback openings.

 

Stanford

With Andrew Luck now the face of the Indianapolis Colts franchise, the Cardinal has to find the new face of the Stanford program. Head coach David Shaw says he’ll make a decision within the next two weeks, but he’s not in a huge rush – and he’s not considering using two quarterbacks.

The battle is between both of Luck’s former backups: sophomore Brett Nottingham and junior John Nunes. Nunes played sparingly behind Luck in 2010 but was sidelined with turf toe much of last season and Nottingham took over. He appeared in six games and completed 5-of-8 pass attempts for 78 yards and a touchdown  2011.

Whoever wins out will have a tough job following in Luck’s footsteps, and he’ll have to do it without the benefit of a veteran offensive line. The Cardinal O-line finished in the top ten nationally in sacks allowed in 2011 but is replacing several starters, making the already difficult role of Andrew Luck’s successor even trickier.

 

Oregon

 The 2012 Rose Bowl Champions have a hole to fill at quarterback, after Darron Thomas chose to forego his senior season for a shot in the NFL. (He went undrafted and has yet to sign with a team.)

The job will go to either redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota or sophomore Bryan Bennett, who appeared in eight games last season and threw six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Coach Chip Kelly has said he’s not opposed to using two quarterbacks but that in tight competitions like this, one player usually emerges. So far, it hasn’t happened – but that’s not a bad thing for the Ducks.

Both Mariota and Bennett played at a high level during the spring and have looked good so far in fall camp. Kelly plans to use every bit of the preseason to evaluate his options, so don’t be surprised if the competition continues until late August.

 

 Arizona State

New coach, undetermined quarterback, and questions on defense and special teams – should be an interesting year for the Sun Devils.

The leader in the three-way quarterback battle competition – between sophomores Taylor Kelly and Mike Bercovici and redshirt freshman Michael Eubank – is anyone’s guess.

Head coach Todd Graham acknowledged that it’s a tight battle but has been openly frustrated with the uncertainty at such a pivotal position.

“I don’t like it. I’d like to name one today; I’d like to name one last spring,” he said.

Graham said it would be a two-man race after Saturday’s closed scrimmage.

Bercovici backed up Brock Osweiler in 2011, but he got off to a rocky start with turnovers this fall.

The coaching staff is emphasizing ball security, and Kelly and Eubank have done a better job protecting the football, although Eubank told reporters he threw an interception in the scrimmage.

Kelly got first team reps in more than half the full-squad practices (at least when the media was present), while the other two QBs have only had first team reps once each. Whether that’s an indication of the ultimate direction remains to be seen, but Graham’s not going to wait a second longer than necessary to name his guy, so it’s obviously not a done deal just yet.

 

Colorado

Second-year Colorado coach Jon Embree isn’t going to force a decision on one of the most important positions on the offense. He’s even prepared to continue the quarterback competition into the season and use a two-quarterback system so he doesn’t have to rush.

Connor Wood, a transfer from Texas, was first on the depth chart at the beginning of camp, partly because sophomore Nick Hirschman missed the spring due to foot surgery.

Of the quarterback options, Hirschman has been with the team the longest. He redshirted last year after losing the battle for the starting job to Tyler Hansen.

The favorite to win the job might be Jordan Webb, the newest guy on the roster but also the most experienced. Webb was a 19-game starter at Kansas, but new Jayhawks’ coach Charlie Weis already has Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist penciled in as this year’s guy. Webb graduated from Kansas this spring and transferred to Colorado with the hope of providing stability and experience under center for the Buffs in his final year of eligibility.