Pac-12 Football: Breaking Down Every Team’s QB Situation Heading into 2014
Pac-12 Conference QBs
When it comes to quarterback competitions, college coaches have different philosophies for handling them. Some coaches wait until the first week of the season to announce the starter. Other coaches want to announce the starter as soon as possible so that everyone can look up to that person as the leader of the team. Former USC Trojans coach Pete Carroll held this philosophy. He specifically believed in anointing the starter following spring practice so that his teammates would know who would be running the offense. Of course, this assumes that one player steps up and wins the job decisively, but sometimes this does not occur. Sometimes it really is a close competition that comes down to the wire. Last but not least, of course, some coaches just want to keep everything a secret in order to make their opponents' game planning more difficult.
With that said, fans and reporters can easily gauge how a quarterback competition is going based off of spring practice. Following the 2012 spring practice game, Marcus Mariota was clearly ahead of Bryan Bennett based off of their performances during the game. Although Oregon Ducks coach at the time Chip Kelly told reporters not to make anything out of the game, the buzz all summer long heading into the season was all about Mariota.
This spring, it appears that only four teams will have a legitimate competition at quarterback. The Arizona Wildcats and Washington Huskies will be looking to replace multiyear starters who have graduated. The Utah Utes have a competition on their hands with their incumbent facing serious injury issues. Finally, at USC, the incumbent Cody Kessler could face a challenge from redshirt freshman Max Browne. Of course, you never know with college football as it's unpredictable, and there is always a chance that an incumbent can get unseated by a younger player at the other schools.
Arizona has the most wide open quarterback competition with as many as four players having a shot at replacing the now-graduated B.J. Denker. Three players are transfers from Division I programs in Jesse Scroggins from USC, Connor Brewer from the Texas Longhorns and Jerrard Randall from the LSU Tigers. The fourth player is redshirt freshman Anu Solomon who was one of the highest rated players in the 2013 recruiting class. With so many players, it will be difficult to get a clear picture of the situation following spring ball. Coach Rich Rodriguez certainly has some tough decisions to make regarding his quarterback depth chart.
Senior Taylor Kelly will be going into his third season as the starter for the Arizona State Sun Devils, and junior backup Mike Bercovici might be the best backup in the conference. A third quarterback Michael Eubank transferred out of ASU. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if a third quarterback emerges this spring.
Sophomore Jared Goff will probably not be unseated, especially since Zach Kline has decided to transfer. Goff, like the rest of the California Golden Bears team, was very inconsistent last year but flashed big-play potential here and there. With all of the talent he has surrounding him at the wide receiver position, he should only be able to get better this spring. Senior Austin Hinder will probably be the backup.
Sophomore Sefo Liufau will return as the starter. He took a lot of hits last year but flashed potential both as a player and leader. Junior college transfer Jordan Gehrke will be the backup. After these two, however, is a giant abyss. Six other quarterbacks have left the Colorado Buffaloes since the end of the season. Walk-on Trent Sessions is currently on the roster. He wasn't even on the scout team last year but worked as a member of the equipment staff.
Oregon will feel very good about third-year starter Mariota who was a Heisman Trophy candidate last season and a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft had he chosen to leave school early. The competition for the backup spot will be interesting as that player will have the leg up in replacing Mariota after he likely chooses to leave school early for the NFL in 2015. Sophomores Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues will compete with Rodrigues looking like the more physically talented of the two.
Like their rival Oregon, the Oregon State Beavers are glad that their starter Sean Mannion also passed up on leaving for the NFL Draft. The team will focus on replacing the production of receiver Brandin Cooks. The battle for the backup job will be between sophomore Brent VanderVeen and redshirt freshman Kyle Kempt. Incoming Alabama Crimson Tide transfer Luke Del Rio will be on the team in 2015.
Two-year Stanford Cardinal starter Kevin Hogan will likely not be challenged even though he was inconsistent in 2013. Incumbent backup junior Evan Crower and talented redshirt freshman Ryan Burns will compete to be the backup. Freshman Keller Chryst from Palo Alto will also attend spring practices.
Third year starter Brett Hundley will be one of the best quarterbacks in the country this season. As a dual threat, Hundley will be looking to work on his chemistry with his receivers this spring. After T.J. Millweard transferred to the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2013 preseason, the UCLA Bruins have a void behind Hundley. 2013 backup Jerry Neuheisel and redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard will compete to be the backup with Woulard being the favorite. Of course, the Bruins are still in the running for star recruit Josh Rosen.
Kessler will be the returning starter in the Pac-12 facing the highest likelihood of being replaced despite playing well during the second half of the 2013 season. Even with the transfer of Max Wittek, Browne is a high-quality option at quarterback for USC. Of course with new coach Steve Sarkisian, anything can happen.
The news on the possible career-ending injury to Travis Wilson will not come for a few weeks. If he is cleared, Wilson will likely be the starter for Utah. If not, then a spring competition among Austin Schulz, Conner Manning and Brandon Cox will commence. A dual-threat QB in Donovan Isom will arrive at Utah in the fall.
After starting for three years, Keith Price is now gone, but sophomore Cyler Miles is set to take over for Washington. In limited action as the backup last season, Miles put up good numbers. Of course, this all depends on whether Miles can stay away from off-the-field issues that have been in the news recently. If Miles is suspended, then Jeff Lindquist or Troy Williams become favorites for the job.
Senior Connor Halliday will be entering his third year as the starter and leader of Washington State Cougars coach Mike Leach's vaunted passing game. He should once again put up big numbers will the talented receivers that he has. 2013 backup Austin Apodaca transferred, so Tyler Bruggman looks to be the favorite for backup this year. Peyton Bender will be the third QB.