College football: Rundown on resolved quarterback competitions
Not every top college football team came into 2016 fall camp with a solidified answer at quarterback, but a week away from the first full slate of games, most of these position battles have now been resolved.
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Here’s a rundown on some of the more high-profile quarterback battles and how they’ve played out:
Experience reigned supreme over youth in the battle for the Spartans starting job as fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor earned the nod over junior Damion Terry.
Entrenched behind ex-Spartan Conor Cook for three years, O’Connor saw action in 14 games in his college career including six last year. He started in place of an injured Cook against then-No. 2 Ohio State last year and handed the Buckeyes their first loss in 24 games while going 7-of-12 for 89 yards and a touchdown.
O’Connor’s first opportunity to solidify his starting role will be against Furman in Michigan State’s opener on Sept. 2. The following week he will lead the Spartans against No. 10 Notre Dame in South Bend.
Redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio will get his first opportunity to start with his third program in the Gators.
Del Rio originally walked on for Alabama in 2013 before transferring to Oregon State in 2014 where he played in three games off the bench and attempted 18 passes. But after a Beavers coaching change, he once again transferred and sat out the 2015 season per transfer rules.
Now Del Rio will attempt to lead a revamped Florida offense after edging out Purdue transfer Austin Appleby for the role.
The No. 25 Gators take on UMass at home in their season opener.
USC went with its backup of two years in Max Browne over redshirt freshman Sam Darnold to end its quarterback battle, as announced Aug. 20.
Browne, a redshirt junior, backed up departed quarterback Cody Kessler and has completed 11-of-19 throws in nine appearances (zero starts).
USC coach Clay Helton noted that Browne’s greater experience with the offense played a major factor in the decision.
Helton had high praise for Darnold, however, and said, while there’s no plan for a quarterback rotation, the Trojans will try to use the redshirt freshman in “special situations” to take advantage of his athleticism.
Following in the footsteps of the winningest quarterback in program history in Kevin Hogan, senior Ryan Burns will get his first shot at starting for the Cardinal.
The senior has only one career passing attempt, which came in 2014. He was locked in a battle with junior and incumbent backup Keller Chryst, who will also receive early playing time according to coach David Shaw.
Burns will start Stanford’s season opener against Kansas State but Shaw said Chryst will get some looks as well as they continue to battle for snaps.
It’s unclear what the split in playing time will be between Burns and Chryst in Week 1, but their performances will likely decide who gets the bulk in Week 2 against Pac-12 rival USC.
Speaking of multiple quarterbacks getting an opportunity to prove something in Week 1, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly announced last week that both Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer will get meaningful looks against Texas.
Unlike the other teams on this list, both Zaire and Kizer have past success to look on and the Fighting Irish are confident in both of them to lead the offense.
Zaire shined in two games as Notre Dame’s starter last year before going down with a season-ending ankle injury. Kizer then took over for an injury-riddled team and played admirably.
Zaire finished with 428 passing yards and four touchdowns in two games – including a three-touchdown performance against the Longhorns – while Kizer added 2,884 yards and 21 passing touchdowns.
It will be interesting to see how long Notre Dame will use this two-quarterback system and how effective it will be.
The Seminoles’ quarterback battle ended early on Aug. 14 when coach Jimbo Fisher revealed that redshirt senior Sean Maguire suffered a foot injury that would keep him out for at least the start of the season.
Maguire entered the competition with six starts and 21 appearances under his belt, seemingly giving him the advantage in his final year of eligibility.
Now redshirt freshman Deondre Francois takes the reins as the undisputed starter entering the season. Francois is a good mobile quarterback who, if he can prevent turning over the ball, can make a nice offensive pair with running back Dalvin Cook.
It’s possible Maguire can return to the field in the first few weeks of Florida State’s schedule. By then, the Seminoles will have a better idea of how Francois fits in as a starter.
The latest quarterback situation to be resolved was in State College where Nittany Lions coach James Franklin announced Wednesday night that Trace McSorley has won the job over Tommy Stevens.
Once again, it was experience that led the way as McSorley, a redshirt sophomore, was Christian Hackenberg’s backup last season and appeared in seven games.
When Hackenberg left with an early injury in last year’s TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia, it was McSorley who came off the bench to go 14-of-27 for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead a late comeback attempt that fell short 24-17.
Stevens enters 2016 as a true sophomore and carries similar dual-threat abilities as McSorley.
Some major battles that are still undecided
Alabama – redshirt junior Cooper Bateman vs. redshirt freshman Blake Barnett vs. freshman Jalen Hurts
Michigan – senior John O’Korn (Houston transfer) vs. junior Wilton Speight
Georgia – senior Greyson Lambert vs. junior Brice Ramsey vs. freshman Jacob Eason
Texas - senior Tyrone Swoopes vs. freshman Shane Buechele