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Spring Football 2018: Big-Time Quarterback Battles

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Spring is finally here throughout the United States, and in the college football world that means one thing: spring football. For some, spring football may seem unimportant or unnecessary, but for die-hard fans it gives us our first indication on what a team might look like, and just as importantly, it gives us our first look at a number of quarterback competitions. The interesting thing about this spring isn't just the vast number of quarterback competitions set to take place, but the fact there are so many at such big-name schools with Playoff aspirations. Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, LSU and Florida State along with plenty of others are still figuring out who there signal-caller will be this coming fall. Things will change when fall camp rolls around, but as of right now, we have a good indication on who is leading these battles and which players need to step it up down the road.

Alabama
Competing: Jalen Hurts (Jr.), Tua Tagovailoa (Soph.)
Only at a place like Alabama can a guy go to two National Championship Games and have a 24-2 record as a starter and be seriously fighting for his job. Yet, that is life in Tuscaloosca, and junior Jalen Hurts needs a superb fall camp to fend off rising sophomore Tua Tagovailoa. Tua saw most his action in garbage time throughout much of 2017 before coming in for the benched Hurts in the 2018 National Championship and guiding the Tide to a thrilling comeback victory. People have been wowed not only be Tagovailoa's ability to run, but his pinpoint accuracy on his throws. This touchdown pass by the true sophomore shows just how wonderful and magical he can be. Alabama's passing attack has been very limited by Hurts over the past two seasons, and it isn't crazy to think Nick Saban might be looking for something a bit different at the sport's most important position. With that being said, we didn't get to see Tagovailoa in the spring game, as he was hurt with an ankle injury. Hurts looked like typical Hurts; he made smart decisions, ran the ball effectively and threw the ball on short and intermediate routes very well. You just get the feeling it is Tua time at Alabama, and time to unleash his full potential. If that is the case, it's hard to imagine Hurts, who would be a huge name on the transfer market, sticking around a whole lot longer.
Favorite: Tagovailoa

Ohio State
Competing: Dwayne Haskins Jr. (RSoph.), Tate Martell (RFr.)
The Ohio State quarterback competition took an interesting turn this week when veteran Joe Burrow announced his decision to transfer. Burrow saw some action in mop-up duties over the past couple seasons, and knows the system very well. However, Dwayne Haskins Jr., a highly touted 6'3" gunslinger out of New Jersey has long been considered the heir to J.T. Barrett and many believe Burrow was pushed out. Haskins has drawn comparisons to Deshaun Watson with his mobility and arm strength, and we got to see some of him late in the season in '17. In order to lock down the job, he will still have to fend off redshirt frosh Tate Martell, another guy that arrived in Columbus with plenty of fanfare. Martell was once committed to Texas A&M and was graciously dubbed "the next Johnny Manziel" before de-committing and ending up at Ohio State. Martell was an elite high school QB at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, but seems extremely raw at the collegiate level. He flashed great running abilities in the spring game, but still lacks proven passing abilities. He might be able to push Haskins, but with Burrow gone, I think it is clear who will be the leader of this team come this fall. After years and years of the Barrett era, it is a new day in Columbus.
Favorite: Haskins

Clemson
Competing: Kelly Bryant (Sr.), Hunter Johnson (Soph.), Trevor Lawrence (Fr.)
Despite losing legendary QB Deshaun Watson a season ago, Clemson got quality production from the position in 2017, as Kelly Bryant proved to be more than serviceable. Yet, Bryant finds himself in a similar position to Hurts: having to fend off a young superstar. Trevor Lawrence is considered the No. 1 player in the country by Rivals and 247 Sports and the next big thing at the position. He showed fans exactly what potential he has in the spring game, going 11/16 with 122 yards and a touchdown. On the other hand, Bryant was incredibly underwhelming, as he went just 8/15 and missed a bunch of open receivers. Fans are clamoring for Lawrence to be the next starter for the Tigers, but I wouldn't assume it is his job just yet. Bryant has a serious advantage in experience, already playing in plenty of big games for Clemson. He also opens things up more in this offense as a runner, as his speed and explosiveness are top-notch. Yet, you just get the feeling that this is going to be a situation similar to the Clemson quarterback situation in 2014: veteran Cole Stoudt began the year as the starter but Deshaun Watson was too good for head coach Dabo Swinney to keep off the field. I expect Bryant to begin the year, but don't expect us to be able to ignore Lawrence's big-time talent for much longer.
Favorite: Bryant

LSU
Competing: Justin McMillan (RJr.), Myles Brennan (Soph.), Lowell Narcisse (RFr.)
For years, LSU's aerial attack has lagged behind, and it has really stopped them from realizing their impressive talent level. With Danny Etling now off to the NFL, the Tigers are hosting a three-person competition to see if they can finally get out of their offensive rut. Sophomore Myles Brennan was given first team snaps during the spring, and appears to be the tentative frontrunner. We saw a little bit of him a season ago and he showed flashes of potential, finishing with 160 yards and one touchdown in total. At 6'4", with a huge arm, there is serious potential there but Brennan still needs plenty of work. Redshirt junior Justin McMillan is going to be the favorite to push Brennan for the starting job. McMillan has seem minimal action running the ball at the NCAA level and has attempted just one single pass. Yet, the veteran could be very effective in a Wildcat look offensively, and I think we will see him in some capacity no matter what. Then there is Lowell Narcisse, who took a redshirt year in 2017 as he recovered from a torn ACL his senior season of high school. Narcisse reportedly performed very well over the spring and has impressed coaches with his athleticism and feel for the game. I would not be amazed if Narcisse, who is superb when fully healthy, pushes Brennan for the starting job. New offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger has hinted at a possible two-quarterback system and that seems like the most likely route in Baton Rouge.
Favorite: Brennan

Michigan
Competing: Shea Patterson (Jr.), Brandon Peters (RSoph.), Dylan McCaffrey (RFr.)
The Wolverines quarterback job was a serious issue in 2017, as they got very little production from the position and the offense was incredibly one-dimensional. Wilton Speight was the starter in 2016 before a back injury ended his '17 season very early. He would be in serious consideration to return as starter this season, but decided to transfer elsewhere for his final collegiate season. That should open the door for returnees Dylan McCaffrey and Brandon Peters, along with the big name, Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. Patterson is a former five-star recruit who has shown real flashes of stardom, but transitioning to the Big Ten will be interesting, as will playing in an offense run by Jim Harbaugh, who is well-known for being so unorthodox. With his impressive talent, he has to be considered the frontrunner as of right now, but don't rule out either Peters or McCaffrey. We saw a little bit of Peters a year ago before a concussion ended his season and he showed the ability to move the ball down the field and run the offense. Meanwhile, McCaffrey drew raving reviews from Michigan coaches during his redshirt campaign and has the bloodline (younger brother of Christian) to be a star. There is some real pressure on Michigan this season and this will be an intriguing competition. Patterson will be the favorite but a strong fall camp could push the either two to the forefront.
Favorite: Patterson

Other Competitions to Watch
Florida State: Deondre Francois, James Blackman, Bailey Hockman
Oklahoma State: Dru Brown, Taylor Cornelius
Tennessee: Jarrett Guarantano, Keller Chryst, Will McBride
Texas: Shane Buechele, Sam Ehlinger
Texas A&M: Kellen Mond, Nick Starkel, James Foster

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