Top 20 QB Changes
July 15, 2014
By Brian Edwards
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The college football season is right around the corner and if you glance at the future odds to win this year’s College Football Playoff, you’ll see that the majority of contenders have one key factor in common, experience at the quarterback position.
A perfect example of this is Florida State, who is the oddsmakers top betting choice. The Seminoles will have Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston under center for another season. Winston also proves the notion that experience doesn’t matter since he was a newbie to the college game last season.
This fall, I’ve highlighted 20 schools that will be facing key quarterback changes and we very well could see one of the fresh faces win a title.
1) Alabama -- Jacob Coker replaces A.J. McCarron. Coker transferred to 'Bama after sitting behind E.J. Manuel and Jameis Winston at FSU. He has great size and moves well in the pocket, but he's only seen playing time in mop-up duty. Coker didn't arrive in Tuscaloosa until May, so he hasn't had much time to create chemistry with his teammates. But Coker doesn't have to be great. He's got an arsenal of weapons and just needs to limit his mistakes.
2) Georgia - Hutson Mason replaces Aaron Murray. Mason made a pair of starts after Murray tore his ACL late last season. The fifth-year senior sparked the Bulldogs to a comeback win at Ga. Tech after they trailed by 13 points at intermission. Mason looked sharp in the spring and has the confidence of Mark Richt and his staff. He'll get lots of help from a pair of elite RBs in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
3) Notre Dame - Everett Golson replaces Tommy Rees. Brian Kelly's team went from the BCS Championship Game to the Pinstripe Bowl in its season without Golson, who was suspended for the 2013 campaign. As a starter in 2012, Golson went 10-1. The Irish will most likely get better QB play this season.
4) Clemson - Cole Stoudt or Deshaun Watson will replace Tajh Boyd. Stoudt, a senior, will probably get pushed by true freshman Watson for the job formerly held by Boyd, who shattered the school's record books with 11,904 career passing yards. OC Chad Morris will find a way to score points, but the Tigers aren't going to average 40-plus points per game like they have the last two years.
5) Arizona - Jesse Scroggins, Jerrard Randall or Connor Brewer will replace BJ Denker. A trio of transfers will compete for the job vacated by Denker, who produced 29 touchdowns last season. Scroggins (USC) appears to be the front-runner following an excellent spring, but he'll get pushed by Randall (juco via LSU) and Brewer (Texas).
6) LSU - Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings will replace Zach Mettenberger. Harris and Jennings are athletic guys in the Jordan Jefferson mold. Both lack experience, though we should note that Jennings threw a game-winning TD pass at crunch time vs. Arkansas last season. Look for Les Miles to return to a heavy dose of the running game combined with tough defense in 2014. Incoming freshman RB Leonard Fournette should make life easier for the QBs.
7) South Carolina - Dylan Thompson replaces Connor Shaw. Shaw never lost a home game and had an incredible 24/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2013. He also ran for countless first downs with his legs. That said, Thompson has been in the fire before, lighting up Clemson for 310 yards and three TD passes without an interception on the road two seasons ago. He also threw the game-winning TD pass to beat Michigan to cap the 2012 campaign. Thompson, a fifth-year senior, finally has the job to himself, but will he be able to perform with the type of consistency that Shaw provided?
8) Texas A&M - Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen will replace Johnny Manziel. Most recruitniks considered Allen the best pro-style passer coming out of high school and the true freshman was in College Station for spring drills. As a true freshman last season, Hill saw limited playing time. Whoever wins the job will get his first career start at South Carolina on Aug. 28.
9) Fresno State - Brandon Connette replaces Derek Carr. Connette is a transfer from Duke who is a much different player than Carr, who had 50 TD passes in 2013 and is the Bulldogs' all-time leading passer. Connette has the size of a fullback and rushed for 14 TDs for the Blue Devils last year. He also had a 13/6 TD-INT ratio.
10) Virginia Tech - Michael Brewer replaces Logan Thomas. Brewer, a transfer from Texas Tech, didn't arrive in Blacksburg until May. Nevertheless, he appears to be the guy ahead of Mark Leal and trio of incoming freshmen. Thomas had an up-and-down career, but his play was inconsistent in 2012 and 2013. The Hokies return nine offensive starters so if they can get adequate QB play, they'll probably be fighting for a spot in the ACC title game with North Carolina.
11) Louisville - Will Gardner replaces Teddy Bridgewater. Gardner has huge shoes to fill, but he'll be learning from a fabulous QB tutor in new head coach Bobby Petrino, who had a 41-9 record in his previous four-year tenure at U of L. Gardner also has an elite WR (DaVante Parker) and a pair of excellent RBs (Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer).
12) Washington - Cyler Miles replaces Keith Price. Miles threw a pair of TD passes in relief of Price at UCLA last season. The following week, he helped the Huskies to a 69-27 win at Oregon St. The third-year sophomore has been reinstated by new coach Chris Petersen after serving a suspension during spring practice. Miles could be poised for a breakout campaign on a team that I feel is a true sleeper in the Pac-12.
13) Missouri - Maty Mauk replaces James Franklin. Mauk shined as a redshirt freshman, going 4-1 in five starts after Franklin got injured in a win at Georgia. He had an 11/2 TD-INT ratio, but his 51.1 completion percentage has to improve. Mauk won't have as many weapons at his disposal with three standout receivers no longer on the roster. But Mauk can make plays with his legs and has a pair of outstanding RBs in Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy.
14) Miami - Kevin Olsen or Ryan Williams will replace Stephen Morris. With Williams dealing with an injury that's expected to keep him out until at least early October, the redshirt freshman Olsen will get the first crack at the job. Olsen, one of the nation's top signal callers in the 2013 class, will have to grow up fast with September road games at Louisville and at Nebraska. The presence of star RB Duke Johnson will help his cause.
15) North Carolina State - Jacoby Brissett replaces Pete Thomas and Brandon Mitchell. As a true freshman at Florida in 2011, Brissett took his first career snaps at top-ranked LSU in Death Valley when John Brantley and Jeff Driskel were injured. The results weren't pretty, but Brissett should have never been in that position. He lost the battle for the starting QB job to Driskel in 2012, and then decided to transfer to Raleigh. After sitting out the 2013 campaign, he appears to be the man for Dave Doeren. Brissett has good size and a big arm, but his accuracy and decision-making were major issues in Gainesville. He's had time to work on those problems, so we'll see where he's at in September.
16) Boston College - Tyler Murphy replaces Chase Rettig. Steve Addazio had a nice debut campaign at Boston College, riding workhorse RB Andre Williams to seven wins and BC's first bowl game since 2010. While on Urban Meyer's staff at Florida, Addazio recruited the northeast and was instrumental in the Gators' signing of Murphy. He never touched the field at UF until Driskel went down in Week 3 last year. Murphy led UF to wins over Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas before suffering a shoulder injury in a loss at LSU. He tried to play through the pain in losses to Missouri, Georgia and Vandy, but then the Gators shut him down for the season. With Driskel back in the mix, Murphy transferred to BC for a chance to start in 2014.
17) Pittsburgh - Chad Voytik replaces Tom Savage. The Panthers got excellent QB play from Savage, who had a 21/9 TD-INT ratio last season. Voytik only saw mop-up duty as a freshman, but he had a stellar prep career that drew interest from schools all across the country. He'll have all of his top rushers back and one of the ACC's best WRs in Tyler Boyd.
18) SMU - Neal Burcham replaces Garrett Gilbert. Burcham started a pair of games late last season after Gilbert was injured. His play was shaky, but he should be improved as a true sophomore. June Jones is never hesitant to play young QBs, so Burcham could get pushed by true frosh Darrell Colbert.
19) Cincinnati - Gunner Kiel replaces Brendon Kay. Kiel was the No. 1 ranked QB in the class of 2012 and was committed to LSU, only to change his mind on Signing Day. He eventually landed at Notre Dame, but things didn't work out in South Bend. Now he's poised to be Cincy's starter, but he could get pushed by Munchie Legaux (if he's healthy) and juco transfer Jarred Evans.
20) Central Florida - Justin Holman replaces Blake Bortles. Holman has huge shoes to fill after Bortles led UCF to a 12-1 season. He completed 9-of-14 throws at garbage time last season. Holman will have the Golden Knight's top three wideouts from 2013 to work with.
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