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Focus on Quarterbacks
Editor's Note: Don't miss out on Christian Alexander's college football winners this season. Click to win!

We started off our in-depth examination of returning starters in college football by breaking down the teams with the most and least returning starters on the defensive side of the ball. Last week, we moved on to take a look at the offense from this perspective.


The logic behind the importance I place on returning starters in the beginning of the season as a sharp handicapping angle is fairly straightforward: The team with a greater number of returning starters  should have an advantage in the early part of the season over its opponent, who have more players still learning to deal with the pressure, expectations, and performance that comes with being a starter in Division 1-A (or FBS) college football.


As the final – and most important - piece of the puzzle, we now take a look at the quarterback position. By my estimation, there are 12 teams in college football dealing with a fairly significant change at this all important position. I’ll take a look at the QB position at each of these 12 teams while classifying the level of impact as low, medium, or high.


Teams dealing with significant change at the Quarterback position in 2011


Impact: LOW


Arkansas: Ryan Mallet is out, Tyler Wilson is in

Everyone knows what a talent Ryan Mallett – now with the Patriots – is but if the limited action Tyler Wilson saw last year is a true indication, this offense might not slow down at all. Wilson carved up Auburn to the tune of 332 yards and 4 touchdowns after Mallett was injured  and gets NFL-caliber WR’s Joe Adams and Gregg Childs back. It does hurt that Wilson won’t have RB Knile Davis (ankle, out for season) but Ronnie Wingo and Dennis Johnson should prove capable.


Florida State:
Christian Ponder is out, EJ Manuel is in

In last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, FSU QB Christian Ponder was injured and Noles fans got a glimpse of the future as EJ Manuel stepped in. The redshirt junior coolly went 11-for-15 against South Carolina in a game FSU would eventually win, leading many to predict a bright future for the Newport News, VA product. Ponder was great but FSU should see little drop off this year on offense.


Iowa: Ricky Stanzi is out, James Vandenberg is in

If the name James Vandenberg sounds familiar to you then it should. In 2009,Vandenberg was forced to fill in for an injured Ricky Stanzi and start at Ohio State as a freshman with the Big Ten title on the line. He nearly led the Hawkeyes to a monster upset before Iowa lost in OT (27-24). Stanzi played pretty healthy in 2010 so Vandenberg only threw eight passes last year.  With Stanzi gone, the position is all Vandenberg’s and he has the potential to be one of the Big Ten’s best passers this year. Iowa should see little, if any drop off in production from the QB position.


Missouri : Blaine Gabbert is out, James Franklin is in

Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, and Blaine Gabbert. Talk about tough shoes to fill. Word out of Columbia is that new Mizzou QB James Franklin is the best runner since Smith. Franklin, who beat out Gabbert’s younger brother Tyler for the starting gig, will have a number of options to throw to and hand off to with all skill position players returning.



Impact: MEDIUM


Idaho: Nathan Enderle is out, Brian Reader is in

Nathan Enderle was the engine that drove the Vandals in 2010 but now it’s Brian Reader’s turn. The good news for Idaho fans is that Reader has gained some solid experience over the past couple of seasons, seeing action in 16 contests, including a pair of starts. In 2009, his six touchdowns were balanced by six interceptions – never a good ratio. That metric improved in 2010 when he threw five touchdowns against just one pick. Idaho should be in good hands this season.


TCU: Andy Dalton is out, Casey Pachall is in

Pachall banged up his throwing shoulder over the past week but Coach Gary Patterson says his new starter should be good to go for the season opener Sept. 2 at Baylor. The sophomore has big shoes to fill as he looks to replace four-year starter Andy Dalton. Dalton was an outstanding leader for the Horned Frogs offense and while Pachall has looked good in practice, he has a long ways to go before he can command the TCU huddle the way his predecessor did.


Virginia Tech: Tyrod Taylor is out, Logan Thomas is in

Tyrod Taylor didn’t get near the pub of Michael Vick but he will surely be remembered as one of the best signal callers to ever suit up for the Hokies. Now it is time for Logan Thomas, 6-foot-6, 256-pound specimen to take over. With that size, he won’t have the escapability of Taylor but all reports indicate he is a bruising runner with a great arm. Virginia Tech is a sleeper to make a run at the national championship and so you can expect solid QB play in Blacksburg.


Washington:  Jake Locker is out, Keith Price is in

From Warren Moon in the 70's to Jake Locker last year, you could make a strong argument that Washington has produced as many talented QB’s over the last 40 years as anyone.  Will new quarterback Keith Price be another in that long line of Husky greats? It’s certainly too early to answer that question but Price’s first year as a starter will be eased by having RB Chris Polk behind him.  Another huge bonus is the arrival of one of coach Steve Sarkisian’s biggest recruiting jewels: 6-7, 250-pound tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Sarkisian loves to utilize the tight end in his offensive schemes and everyone knows that position can serve as a security blanket for QB’s learning on the job. Look for Price to find Seferian-Jenkins early and often.


Impact: HIGH


Alabama: Greg McElroy is out, AJ McCarron/Phillip Sims are in

McElroy was never considered a star but he was very steady and made few mistakes. Now Alabama enters 2011 not knowing who exactly will try to fill that all important role. AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims have been close enough in practice that both will likely play in the season open cupcake against Kent State. The performance in that game should give some direction as to who has the upper hand for playing time the remainder of the year. Either way, it will be a drop off in production for the Tide at QB.


Auburn: Cam Newton is out, Barrett Trotter is in

Trotter held the clipboard for Newton while the Tigers rode their QB to a national championship. Considering Newton made just about every significant play for Auburn in 2010 it goes without saying that Trotter hasn’t gained too much experience.  The junior completed 6 of 9 passes for 64 yards in mop up time last season. The good news is Trotter will have stud RB Michael Dyer to hand off to. The bad news is just about everyone else is gone. The Auburn offense will see a huge downshift in 2011.



Nevada: Colin Kaepernick is out, Tyler Lantrip is in

Nevada’s offense has been just about unstoppable the past couple of years under Kaepernick. The Wolfpack was 4th in the nation in total offense with 519.8 ypg and 8th in scoring averaging just over 41 points a game. But this year the Pistol offense only returns four starters so Lantrip will have to make do with less talent around him. The senior is 6-4 and 220 pounds with a nice arm and while athletic, he certainly can’t scramble like Kaepernick and that’s what made this offense so dangerous. Look for a noticeable drop in production.


North Carolina: TJ Yates is out, Bryn Renner is in

Bryn Renner certainly has it in his genes. His Dad played college football at Virginia Tech and went on to play for the Green Bay Packers. Bryn was a highly recruited high school prospect and is now set to be the starter for UNC. The Tar Heels got a very productive season out of Yates in 2010 and the jury is still very much out on whether Renner can produce those stats. Throw in the coaching change just weeks before the season and this smells like a work in proress in 2010.


Bonus: Heisman Trophy odds & prediction (Odds provided by


The facts:  Since 2000, 82% (9 of 11) of all Heisman winners have been quarterbacks. Furthermore, the average final ranking of the team which the Heisman winner played for was #4. With those two metrics in mind, I’m thinking a QB for a highly ranked team looks pretty good to me. Here are the top choices according to the odds makers.


Stanford QB Andrew Luck (+300): Luck might be the best QB in the nation but I don’t see the Cardinal being good enough as a team for him to win the award.  PASS


Oklahoma QB Landry Jones (+500): The Sooners could very well play for the National Championship and if they do, Jones will get a ton of credit, including serious consideration for the Heisman. PLAY


Oregon RB LaMichael James (+600): James is the most exciting player in college football but for him to win the Heisman, Oregon would have to go undefeated and play for the National Championship and I don’t see that happening. PASS


Alabama RB Trent Richardson (+1000): With Mark Ingram gone to the NFL, Richardson now has the backfield all to himself. However, Bama figures to struggle on offense and so while the team should again be great, I doubt this talented RB puts up the numbers to win the award. PASS


Boise State QB Kellen Moore (+1500): Moore is a QB who will pile up the stats and plays for a team which will be highly ranked. Sounds good right? Yes, but the thinking here is the fact that Boise plays in a weak conference – now in the MWC – makes Moore’s chances slim. However, I feel that Boise has made enough noise against big programs to overcome that stigma. If Moore can put up huge numbers against Georgia in the opener and then the Broncos can go undefeated, this could be a nice dark horse ticket. PLAY


Close, not considered:


Michigan QB Denard Robinson (+500): Won’t sneak up on nearly that many defenses this season and the team won’t be competitive enough for him to be a serious contender.


South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore (+600):  South Carolina should finish high in the polls but Lattimore won’t get ahead of James and Richardson for Heisman consideration.

Edwards: Friday's Tip Sheet
Bookmaker: Friday's Best Bets Fading Alabama
ASA: Big Ten Report - Week 13
Williams: Pac-12 Report - Week 13
Williams: Big 12 Report - Week 13
Williams: ACC Report - Week 13
Lawrence: Inside the Stats - Week 13
Marshall: Tech Trends - Week 13
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