Even college football’s best teams aren’t immune from preseason quarterback battles or controversies. In some cases, two throwing arms – or four legs – can lead to great things when all is said and done.
Just as Nick Saban.
This season will be no different. In fact, some perennial powers still sport a question mark when it comes to who will open under center when the season actually begins. Naturally, who starts the season doesn’t always end it. Also, these quarterback battles can linger, especially if the wins don’t pile up on a consistent basis.
With the start of the college football season around the corner, it’s time to look at five of the more intriguing quarterback battles for 2018.
The championship confetti barely landed on the turf in Atlanta before talk of a 2018 quarterback battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa surfaced. It was certainly warranted.
Hurts has been the guy the last two seasons, but Tagovailoa is the reason Alabama won its fourth national title this decade. Reports and rumors continue to pop up about whether or not the loser of this quarterback battle will transfer.
But does Saban really need to name a starter at all?
Hurts and Tagovailoa combined to throw 28 touchdowns to three interceptions last season, and both can be worked into the mix for just about every game if Saban wants to go that route. Is it ideal? Probably not, but it can work – if both participants don’t bruise their egos along the way.
Kelly Bryant is the starter for now, and probably will be when the Tigers open the season against Furman on Sept. 1. But expect super freshman Trevor Lawrence to see action in that contest – and beyond.
Bryant threw for 2,802 yards and completed almost 66 percent of his passes while leading then-reigning national champion Clemson to a spot in the College Football Playoff in 2017. Most would consider that a major success after taking over for Deshaun Watson.
Lawrence is Clemson’s quarterback of the future. He’s the got the look, the arm and the overall skill to thrive at this level and into the next. And he’s yet to take a collegiate snap.
It was reported this month that coach Dabo Swinney would entertain the idea of using two quarterbacks this season. That would be interesting, but like Alabama, Clemson should be able to pull it off.
New Seminoles coach Willie Taggart won’t have an easy choice deciding his starter as the battle between Deondre Francois and James Blackman heats up in fall camp. Francois was a freshman starter in 2016. Blackman was the same when Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury in the ’17 opener versus Alabama.
Francois, who threw for 3,350 yards in 2016 is healthy and ready to regain his starting spot. Blackman. meanwhile, was thrust into the lineup last year and did a serviceable job while throwing for 2,230 yards and 19 touchdowns.
It all may come down to which of the two can grasp Taggart’s up-tempo system the fastest. However, that doesn’t mean the guy who starts against Virginia Tech on Sept. 3 has the job sewn up. This could be the most complex of all this season’s quarterback battles.
Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele essentially shared time last season, which didn’t make life easy for Tom Herman in his first year guiding the Longhorns. He hopes to find some consistency at the position this time.
Ehlinger and Buechele are again the frontrunners for the starting job after they combined for 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season. Neither set themselves apart from the other in spring practice, but that must change during camp.
As it stands, Ehlinger is probably the more talented of the two, but he completed just 57.5 percent of his passes last season. However, don’t sleep on highly touted freshmen Casey Thompson and Cameron Rising, who both could be in the mix to see time – if not start – at some point this season.
Welcome to College Station, Jimbo Fisher.
Your first order of business is to decide on a starting quarterback. That decision alone might be worth the $75 million salary he’s getting. Will it be sophomores Nick Starkel or Kellen Mond? Both saw quality time in 2017, but the quarterback battle remains.
Neither established themselves as the clear-cut choice. Starkel is a pro-style quarterback and was certainly the more accurate of the two (completing 60 percent of his passes to Mond’s 51.5). Mond, though, seems to be the better overall athlete and was the team;s third-leading rusher with 340 yards in 2017.
It will be interesting to see if Fisher is willing to use both early on and have his decision made by the time the Aggies visit Alabama to open SEC play Sept. 22.