Get to know new starting QBs after spring practices
It’s understandable why teams often drag out quarterback battles until close to the season. For coaches, the longer battle offers more time and practice reps to use to evaluate their options. It also leaves opponents in the dark, forcing them to develop gameplans to defend against both passers and the different attacks they might run.
This is why so many of the biggest QB competitions have yet to be resolved. We’ll have to wait until fall camp and perhaps until the first few games of the season to learn who’ll be the new starter at Notre Dame, Texas, Alabama, Michigan and many others.
However, sometimes the decision is so clear that there’s no reason to give lip service to “an ongoing battle” when everyone already knows that battle has been won. That’s the case for several Power 5 programs that entered the spring needing to settle on a new signal-caller. Here are the five new starting quarterbacks, listed alphabetically, you’ll need to know for the 2016 season.
Austin Allen, Arkansas
The Razorbacks are keeping it in the family, handing down the job formally occupied by Brandon Allen to his younger brother, Austin. After three years learning under his brother, Austin Allen won the starting spot this spring over redshirt freshmen Ricky Town and Ty Storey.
Allen’s assumption of the starting role was expected, but he made coach Bret Bielema’s decision easier by completing 15 of 18 passes with three touchdowns in a mid-April scrimmage. After closing out the spring with a 13-of-19 performance in the Razorbacks’ Red-White game, Allen will be entrusted with keeping the Hogs on the rise following a 6–1 end to the 2015 season.
He has little in-game experience, attempting just 19 passes over the past two seasons with 35 yards and one touchdown. However, Allen’s pedigree is strong; Brandon Allen finished off his Arkansas career with 3,440 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2015 before becoming a sixth-round selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL draft.
Drew Barker, Kentucky
Barker’s not completely new to the starting quarterback role, having started the final two games of Kentucky’s 2015 season. However, after completing just 6 of 22 passes in the season finale against Louisville, he was benched for former starter Patrick Towles. Even with Towles transferring to Boston College this off-season, Barker had to win his spot back, and he did so by the end of the Wildcats’ spring practices. Now the former four-star recruit enters the ’16 season as the No. 1 QB in new offensive coordinator Eddie Gran’s attack.
Barker’s two starts last year produced mixed reviews. He was solid against Charlotte, throwing for 129 yards on 16-of-29 passing, but struggled mightily against the vastly superior Cardinals defense.
Gran praised Barker’s improved decision-making this spring after the quarterback completed 12 of 18 passes for 156 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in Kentucky’s spring game. Barker will need to continue making strong decisions to get the Wildcats to their first bowl game since 2010.
Darell Garretson, Oregon State
The Beavers’ quarterback situation was thrown into flux this off-season when true freshman Seth Collins, who started the first half of the season, announced his intention to transfer and Nick Mitchell, who started most of the second half of the season, transferred to Dixie State. Collins has since rejoined Oregon State but as a receiver, while Garretson beat out Marcus McMaryion for the starting role by the end of spring.
Garretson brings plenty of experience from his two seasons at Utah State, where he threw for 2,586 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Now he’ll need to bring some explosiveness to an Oregon State passing game sorely in need of it. The Beavers ranked 116th in the country and last in the Pac-12 in 2015 with 5.6 yards per attempt as they won just two games in coach Gary Andersen’s debut campaign. At least Garretson should have experienced players to work with, as Oregon State returns seven starters on offense.
Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
After an up-and-down career at Oklahoma, Knight now takes over Texas A&M’s QB job, a role that has seen its fair share of rises and falls over the past two seasons. Last year the Aggies used Kyle Allen and Kyler Murrary, both former five-star recruits, but saw both passers transfer after the season.
After losing his starting job to Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma, Knight transferred as a graduate student to Texas A&M, making him eligible to play immediately. He beat out Jake Hubenak for the Sooners starting job this spring, capping off his audition with a 25-of-36 performance for 282 yards in the Aggies’ spring game.
Knight once seemed on the road to stardom when he shined in Oklahoma’s upset of Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. He dissected the Crimson Tide secondary for 348 passing yards and four touchdowns. However, Knight followed that up with a pedestrian ’14 season in which he tossed 14 touchdowns but 12 interceptions.
For all the drama Texas A&M has endured at the quarterback position since Johnny Manziel, coach Kevin Sumlin is typically able to get good production. If he and new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone can do so with Knight, the Aggies could build some momentum in 2016. Texas A&M has plenty of talent of offense, including receivers Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones. If the defense can make strides in its second year under coordinator John Chavis, the Aggies could have a resurgent season.
Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
Winning the starting job came easily to Trubisky, who entered the spring as the heavy favorite. The harder part—replacing the production of dual-threat sensation Marquise Williams—lies ahead. Trubisky shared time with Williams for part of 2014, completing 54% of his passes for 459 yards. But Williams developed into a star last season, leading the Tar Heels to an 11–3 campaign with over 3,000 yards passing and nearly 1,000 on the ground. Trubisky saw plenty of action in mop-up duty last year and excelled in it, connecting on 85% of his throws with six touchdowns and no interceptions.
The former four-star recruit entered the spring as the heir apparent to the starting role with coach Larry Fedora making it official at the end of spring practices. Trubisky inherits an attack that led the nation in yards per play (7.28) last season and returns much of the firepower that allowed it to do so. Star running back Elijah Hood (1,463 rushing yards, 17 TDs) is back, as are top receivers Mack Hollins, Ryan Switzer and Bug Howard. With continued improvement from Gene Chizik’s defense, Trubisky could lead the Tar Heels back to the ACC title game.