Who’s The Starting Quarterback?
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While America continues to be held hostage as Urban Meyer waits to decide on a starting quarterback, and with Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Ole Miss, Oregon and Texas still yet to declare who their respective No. 1 guys will be, several key situations were settled this week – or, at least, there was a little more clarity.
Alabama, Boise State, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas A&M made big, splashy quarterback news this week, and Purdue (the opener is at Marshall on September 6th) and Rutgers (Washington State on the 12th and Penn State on the 19th) made their calls, too.
Meet some of your new starting quarterbacks for 2015.
Alabama: Alec Morris has the lead
Sometimes just being okay is good enough.
With Jake Coker out with a foot injury, junior Alec Morris is apparently stepping up and taking over in the Alabama quarterback race. It’s not a done deal by any means, and Coker is still expected to get a shot once he returns healthy, but for now, the 6-3, 233-pounder has the upper hand.
On a team full of five-star, next-level talents, Morris is the anti-Alabama type of player. He wasn’t a top recruit in any way – he was barely an afterthought on the 2012 recruiting lists. Seen as a decent pro-style passer with good size, maybe he could grow into a system, and maybe he could be a nice backup to count on in a pinch, but no one was, or is, thinking he’s ever going to be the type who could run an NFL attack.
But he might be at the helm of a College Football Playoff team.
Unfortunately, though, he’s currently at the head of the Bama quarterback class mostly because everyone else has sort of stunk and Coker is hurt.
Morris is a true game-managing, system quarterback, and that’s exactly what works for Alabama. With a defense that’s going to finish in the top five, and a running game that’s going to be among the best in the country, it’s up to Morris to not turn the ball over, not screw up, and make a third down throw here and there. He should be able to do that, and at the moment, that could be enough to get the call against Wisconsin to kick things off.
Oklahoma: Baker Mayfield
Don’t get totally comfortable with this – Bob Stoops isn’t afraid to change his mind at any time when it comes to starting quarterbacks.
Trevor Knight was the surprise choice to start the season two years ago over Blake Bell, mainly because OU was fresh off of getting pantsed by Johnny Manziel in the 2013 Cotton Bowl. Knight was the more mobile option with dual-threat skills, but he was never really the right fit, even with a dominant performance in the 2014 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.
With the offense going back to the Air Raid style that worked so well for Sam Bradford and other past Sooner quarterbacks, Mayfield – the Texas Tech transfer who waited his turn for a year – seemed like the right choice. However, don’t be shocked if Knight makes appearances here and there as a curveball option.
But for now, Mayfield has to be fantastic.
A walk-on at Texas Tech, he managed to get the call as a freshman even though he doesn’t really look the part of a big-time bomber. Just 6-1 and around 210 pounds, he came out and ripped it up completing 64-of-90 passes – over 70% – for 880 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two games for the Red Raiders, and went on to lead the team to a 5-0 start before getting hurt. He came back, but he didn’t play in the bowl game, and the rest is now history.
In case you were wondering, Texas Tech visits Oklahoma on October 24th.
South Carolina: Connor Mitch
Even with the logjam of quarterback options to replace Dylan Thompson, Connor Mitch was always the one who had to be beaten out.
Steve Spurrier had four options to choose from with freshmen Lorenzo Nunez and Michael Scarnecchia getting honest shots along with junior Perry Orth, but Mitch apparently stood out just a wee bit more. Getting most of the first team reps, this is hardly a shocker, and now the program might have its main man to build around for the next three seasons.
The 6-3, 220-pound sophomore has a live arm with pro-style skills, and now it’s his time to prove that he can be the best USC quarterback yet in the Ball Coach era. The former four-star prospect has the talent to be just that.
Texas A&M: Kyle Allen
The was a far, far bigger battle than many thought it would be.
Super-recruit Kyler Murray came in and showed why he was considered by many to be the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback prospect with all the tools to be truly special. He might not look like a top-shelf quarterback at just 5-11 and 185 pounds, and he might ultimately be a better baseball player – even though he’s blowing off the MLB draft to be a two-sport Aggie – but he’s blazing fast, has a big-time arm, and showed off enough this offseason to make head coach Kevin Sumlin throw out the idea of playing two quarterbacks.
Allen was an elite of elite quarterback recruit, too.
Last year it was Allen who was the hotshot, nation’s No. 1 recruit type of freshman who lost out on the starting job. Kenny Hill – who has since transferred to TCU – was the main man to start last season, lighting up South Carolina to kick things off. Allen found his groove over the second half of the season, and with 6-3, 205-pound size and NFL pro passing tools, he’s way too promising not to keep developing.
Oh, by the way, last week the Aggies got a commitment for the 2017 class from Tate Martell – considered one of the nation’s best all-around Manziel-like prospects.
Boise State: Ryan Finley
After a great offseason on the field and a tremendous spring game performance, the only question mark about Ryan Finley and the starting quarterback job was if an off-the-field issue – he was charged with underage possession of alcohol – was going keep him from taking over the gig. Head coach Bryan Harsin has already said Finley won’t be suspended, and now everything is open for the sophomore to lead what should be the best Group of Five team in the country.
Finley’s a bit of a rail at 6-4 and 190 pounds, but he’s a sharp midrange passer with decent enough wheels to take off from time to time. While he might not have special skills, Boise State doesn’t necessarily need its quarterback to be Heisman-worthy. The Broncos are hoping Finley can keep the picks down, continue to be accurate like he has been in practices, and keep things moving – the defense will take care of the rest.
Purdue: Austin Appleby
Redshirt freshman David Blough gave it a run, but in the end Appleby was the relatively easy choice. Blough is a 6-1, 202-pound baller out of Texas with good all-around skills – he was a great get for Purdue – but Appleby has been groomed for this moment.
At 6-5 and 239 pounds, Appleby is an imposing passer with a good arm and enough mobility and speed to worry about him taking off. It was his gig over the second half of last year, and he was okay at times completing 53% of his passes for 1,449 yards and ten touchdowns, but he threw 11 picks. With his rushing ability – he scored five times on the ground – and his experience, he came into camp as the heavy favorite after Danny Etling took off to LSU. However, Blough is good enough to step in if there are problems early on.
Rutgers: Hayden Rettig … maybe
It’s still a neck-and-neck battle with Chris Laviano, who was suspended for the first half of the opener against Norfolk State for violating a team curfew. At the very least, Rettig will get the first at-bat in live action, and the numbers should be terrific against the FCSer.
The 6-3, 205-pound Rettig has had an interesting career so far, and he hasn’t even seen the field. The Los Angeles native started out his career at LSU before transferring to Rutgers. The arm is there and the talent is undeniable, but he’ll have to prove he can bring the same level production each and every week. Meanwhile, the 6-3, 210-pound Laviano is the more experienced option, but only by a little bit. The former walk-on started out last season hot before suffering a torn ACL. While he’s smart, and he’s good, Rettig has the far bigger upside.