NCF Nation: Backup QB rankings 052709
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A team is often only as good as its backup quarterback, a fact that held true throughout the Big Ten in 2008.
Pat Devlin scored arguably the biggest touchdown of Penn State's season at Ohio State as the Nittany Lions rallied for a 13-6 win. Mike Kafka's record-setting rushing performance against Minnesota helped Northwestern to a huge win after injuries had hit several important positions. Several Big Ten squads also had backups emerge into starters, such as Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.
Several Big Ten backups haven't played a down in a college game, so it's tough to pass judgment on them. But here's my stab at ranking the league's backup signal callers coming out of spring ball.
1. Michigan State -- The competition for the starting job between Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol remains too close to call, and that's not a bad thing. Both players performed very well during spring ball and particularly during the spring game. Whoever doesn't win the top job provides head coach Mark Dantonio with a solid No. 2 option. Cousins already held the role last fall and performed well.
2. Minnesota -- Head coach Tim Brewster reiterated throughout the spring that Adam Weber is his starter, but he also acknowledged that talented freshman MarQueis Gray will get on the field a lot this fall. Gray lived up to the hype in spring ball, and the Gophers likely will use a special package of plays to feature him in games. Should Weber go down, Minnesota should be fine with Gray.
3. Illinois -- The Illini boast the Big Ten's most experienced signal caller in Juice Williams, and they also have the league's most seasoned backup in Eddie McGee. McGee appeared in 12 games in 2007 and came up big against Missouri, Wisconsin and Penn State. The coaches have even used McGee on a series or two when Williams gets into trouble. Redshirt freshman Jacob Charest provides another solid option.
4. Ohio State -- Overall depth at quarterback is the only reason the Buckeyes aren't higher on the list. The coaches have confidence that Joe Bauserman can step in if Terrelle Pryor goes down with an injury. Bauserman boasts a strong arm and good knowledge of the scheme. It remains to be seen what Ohio State gets out of third-stringer Kenny Guiton, a late signee in February.
5. Wisconsin -- The starting job is not set in stone, though senior Dustin Sherer remains the frontrunner heading into the summer. Curt Phillips' push toward the end of spring should ease offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's concerns about the position. Phillips brings speed and athleticism to the backfield, and junior Scott Tolzien is a smart player who has been in the system for some time.
6. Michigan -- True freshman Tate Forcier emerged from a solid spring as the frontrunner at quarterback, though he'll still be pushed by Nick Sheridan and Denard Robinson in August. Sheridan has been in the fire and showed some good signs during spring ball before breaking his leg. But he might not be as strong of a fit as Robinson, who boasts track-star speed and, like Forcier, provides the improvisation skills needed to run this offense.
7. Northwestern -- Pat Fitzgerald and his staff are fully prepared to play a second quarterback at times this season. The nature of Northwestern's spread offense elevates the injury risk for quarterbacks, and Dan Persa likely will see the field, much like Kafka did in 2008. Persa's size (6-1, 200) is a bit of a concern, though he brings above-average mobility to the pocket. Incoming freshman Evan Watkins likely will redshirt this fall, but he's considered the team's quarterback of the future.
8. Purdue -- The Boilers would have been much better off with Justin Siller still in the fold, but the coaches liked what they saw from redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush this spring. Career backup Joey Elliott will get the first shot under center this fall, but TerBush is a big kid (6-5, 222) who can step in if things go south. The problem here is depth, as Purdue can't play Robert Marve until 2010.
9. Penn State -- Devlin's decision to transfer really stings Penn State, which can't afford to lose Daryll Clark and keep its Big Ten title hopes afloat. True freshman Kevin Newsome did some nice things this spring, but he's got a long way to go before leading the Spread HD offense in a Big Ten game. Matt McGloin provides the Nittany Lions with another option under center, but Penn State should take every precaution to keep Clark healthy.
10. Indiana -- The coaches' decision to move Kellen Lewis to wide receiver not only reaffirmed their faith in starter Ben Chappell, but also the men behind him. Teddy Schell came to Indiana as a decorated high school quarterback in Illinois and should finally get a chance to showcase himself. But Schell is unproven on the college level, and the same goes for promising redshirt freshman Adam Follett.
11. Iowa -- Nothing against James Vandenberg or John Wienke, but the college canvas is pretty blank on both redshirt freshmen right now. Despite all the Jake Christensen hatred, many level-headed Hawkeyes fans wouldn't mind having him around this season to back up Ricky Stanzi. An injury to Stanzi could derail Iowa's Big Ten title hopes, particularly with four very difficult conference road games (Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State).
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
They are just a twisted knee or rung bell away from running your team's offense, so backup quarterback is not a position to just shrug about.
Ask Oregon fans. Before Saturday, they had a backup quarterback with significant experience who'd led a 2007 Sun Bowl victory and looked great in the spring game. Now Justin Roper is headed elsewhere, opting to transfer instead of backing up Jeremiah Masoli, and suddenly Masoli's physical running style feels a lot riskier.
Of course, ranking backups is tough. Does experience matter most? Because a few backups have lots of experience -- the bad kind.
Obviously from our list, we decided that experience is critical. My guess is some of you will howl about that.
So who will be holding their breath every time their quarterback dashes from the pocket? Here's a look.
1. Oregon State: Sean Canfield or Lyle Moevao? Lyle Moevao or Sean Canfield? It doesn't matter because the Beavers not only have two quarterbacks with significant starting experience, they have two quarterbacks who are good.
2. Stanford: It appears that the Cardinal will go with redshirt freshman Andrew Luck as the starter, which means 19-game starter Tavita Pritchard is a quality backup.
3. Oregon: Despite Roper's defection, the Ducks aren't in too much trouble here, particularly if Nate Costa -- the projected 2008 starter -- comes back healthy in the fall. Sophomore Darron Thomas is the quarterback of the future and looked good in the limited action he saw last year, including an inspired effort against Boise State.
4. USC: True freshman Matt Barkley is officially the backup, but I'm not so sure that Mitch Mustain wouldn't be the guy if Aaron Corp went down with an injury at Ohio State. Mustain saw a lot of action as a true freshman at Arkansas. And if it is Barkley, he's a big-time talent with a lot of poise.
5. California: We're not supposed to know who the backup is as the competition between Kevin Riley and Brock Mansion is officially ongoing. The fact Jeff Tedford won't say that Riley is his starter probably speaks to Tedford's belief that Brock Mansion is a pretty good talent.
6. UCLA: Much like USC, UCLA is listing a true freshman (Richard Brehaut) as Kevin Prince's backup. And, much like I wrote about USC, my guess is that Kevin Craft would be the guy if Prince went down. Craft set a school record with 20 interceptions last year, but he also led the Bruins to comeback wins over Tennessee and Stanford. That counts for something.
7. Washington State: Assuming that Marshall Lobbestael comes back healthy and wins the starting job, as expected, that makes senior Kevin Lopina, who started eight games in 2008, the backup. The experience is nice, but Lopina threw 11 interceptions and zero touchdown passes, which is not so nice. He did have one shining moment: His 48-yard pass to Jared Karstetter in final minute of the Apple Cup led to game-tying field goal, and the Cougars went on to win in overtime.
8. Washington: Sophomore Ronnie Fouch looked overmatched when he was forced into action last year when Jake Locker went down. He completed only 45 percent of his passes with 13 interceptions and four touchdowns, and ended up the Pac-10's lowest-rated quarterback. He, however, looked better this spring.
9. Arizona: Matt Scott owns a slight lead over Nick Foles heading into the summer. While neither has started a game, both have at least seen the field. Scott accounted for three touchdowns in 2008, while Foles threw eight passes for Michigan State in 2007. Not sure Arizona coaches would trade either for the more experienced backups we've listed ahead of the Wildcats here.
10. Arizona State: Sophomore Samson Szakacsy is a good athlete, and Sun Devils insiders are excited about true freshman Brock Osweiler, but neither has played a down of college football. Szakacsy was No. 2 coming out of spring. Osweiler could challenge him in the fall, but the guess here is he'll redshirt. Of course, one or the other also could push senior Danny Sullivan for the starting job, too.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
One of the major themes this fall in the ACC will be keeping starting quarterbacks healthy because of the lack of experience behind them. Virginia Tech, which saw both Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor get hurt against Florida State last year, knows this scenario all-too well. How will the Hokies fare this season if Taylor's ankle fails him again? Based in large part by experience and some on recruiting hype, here's a look at who's got the best backup situations in the ACC -- and who doesn't.
1. Virginia -- Say what you will about the Cavaliers' chances this fall, but no team has more experience at quarterback right now. Jameel Sewell, Marc Verica and Vic Hall have all started a game. That, in itself, is progress from last season. And they all have different strengths. Sewell is an elusive runner, Verica is more of a drop-back passer, and Hall, well, he was a cornerback with tremendous athletic ability.
2. Georgia Tech -- If need be, the Yellow Jackets can also go three deep, as starter Josh Nesbitt has experience behind him in Jaybo Shaw and a talented newcomer in redshirt freshman Tevin Washington. Shaw quarterbacked the Yellow Jackets almost exclusively in two games last season -- a 38-7 win over Mississippi State and a 27-0 victory over Duke. When Nesbitt hurt his hamstring eight snaps into the Mississippi State game, Shaw took over and promptly threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. By the final buzzer, Georgia Tech had accumulated 500 yards of total offense.
3. NC State -- The Wolfpack finally have a prized recruit to fall back on should Russell Wilson need some help. Mike Glennon, who is perfectly suited for Tom O'Brien's Matt Ryan-esque style, made significant progress this spring and could see some playing time even if Wilson is 100 percent. Glennon was rated the No. 3 quarterback in his class and No. 32 player overall in the ESPN 150.
4. Duke -- Sean Renfree earned himself some playing time behind Thaddeus Lewis this fall and will use this season to ease into the role of next year's starting quarterback. Renfree had originally committed to Georgia Tech, but was also recruited by Tennessee when David Cutcliffe was there. He's the real deal.
5. Florida State -- The Seminoles probably would have been moved up a notch or two on this list had E.J. Manuel actually made it through more than one spring practice without hurting himself. But FSU offensive coordinator/head coach in waiting Jimbo Fisher has high hopes for his first hand-picked quarterback.
6. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels have the Paulus who actually IS a quarterback, and he's even got some experience at it. The problem is, Mike Paulus was 4-for-13 for 33 yards with two interceptions in four games last year. Paulus entered the Virginia Tech game when T.J. Yates was injured and was 3-for-8 for 23 yards and two picks. There's a reason Cam Sexton took over last year, but Sexton has since transferred.
7. Clemson -- If by chance Kyle Parker wins the starting job, then Willy Korn will be like 1a. Korn played two games as a true freshman in 2007 then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. He played in six games last year, including a start against Georgia Tech in Dabo Swinney's first game as a head coach. His career efficiency rating is 132.9 and he has completed 69.4 percent of his passes. Those are starter stats, but Parker had an impressive spring.
8. Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons at least have depth. They had a competition between Ryan McManus, Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones this spring, and McManus came out on top heading into summer camp. McManus is a former walk-on who has seen most of his playing time as a holder and on special teams, Stachitas is dealing with a shoulder injury, and Jones finished his first spring working exclusively at quarterback.
9. Miami -- At least Randy Shannon made a decision and decided Taylor Cook earned the No. 2 spot at the end of the spring, but it's not a done deal. Cannon Smith will continue to push Cook this summer, but neither one of them have taken a collegiate snap yet. Cook, though, was a very highly touted recruit, ranked the No. 9 quarterback in his class and No. 108 in the ESPN 150.
10. Virginia Tech -- Joseph Ju-Ju Clayton won the backup job over Marcus Davis, but he's still a redshirt freshman who hasn't been tested when the lights come on. Clayton was projected by some to be a better defensive back in college. He wasn't as highly touted a recruit as Manuel, Cook, Glennon or Renfree, but the Hokies are known for finding talent and making the most of somewhat unheralded recruits.
11. Maryland -- The Terps' depth took a hit when Josh Portis decided to transfer, but sophomore Jamarr Robinson had an impressive spring. He completed 15 of 19 passes, including his final 12 attempts, for 253 yards and four touchdowns.
12. Boston College -- The Eagles don't know who their starting quarterback is, let alone their No. 2. Dominique Davis struggled in the ACC championship game and the bowl game -- both losses -- but he has the most experience among Justin Tuggle and Codi Boek.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Most coaches hope they never have to turn to their backup quarterback. But it's still a good insurance policy as any team gets ready for a season to have a trusted replacement who can bail out an injured or struggling starter.
Coaches in the Big 12 are no different. Here's a look at the top backup quarterbacks in the league. During my analysis, I placed particular importance on proven ability to play rather than future promise. And I also did not factor in highly regarded incoming freshmen players who will join their teams at schools like Texas and Kansas State later this summer.
Here's my ranking of the backup quarterbacks in the Big 12 in order.
1. Colorado: The conference's most fluid starting quarterback situation results in the Buffaloes having the top backup. With Cody Hawkins appearing to be nosing ahead at the end of spring practice, Tyler Hansen earns the nod because of his recent experience as a winning quarterback in the Big 12 -- even considering he is recovering from a broken thumb suffered in Colorado's spring game.
2. Baylor: Experience helps Blake Szymanski in case the Bears would ever need to replace Robert Griffin. Szymanski has made 13 career starts and has thrown for 3,561 yards and 26 career touchdown passes.
3. Kansas: Mark Mangino says he wants to keep the move of Kerry Meier to wide receiver permanent. If so, he would need to turn the backup quarterback job over to Kale Pick at some point this season. But it still has to be relatively reassuring for Mangino to know he can always turn to Meier, who made eight career starts and has completed 28 of his last 32 passes over the past two seasons.
4. Iowa State: Obviously, it was against the Iowa State offense. But redshirt freshman Jerome Tiller looks like he's ready to challenge Austen Arnaud for the starting position this summer after blistering the Cyclones' defense for 210 yards and adding a 65-yard TD run in the ISU spring game. That outing should enable new ISU coach Paul Rhoads to have some confidence if he has to turn to Tiller.
5. Oklahoma: With Sam Bradford likely to play most of the season, Bob Stoops probably won't turn to his backups that much. Redshirt freshman Landry Jones showed flashes in the Sooners' spring game, completing 5 of 12 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown during limited playing time. Drew Allen, who left high school a semester early to join the Sooners, looked painfully raw in his limited work.
6. Nebraska: For all of the pre-spring excitement about a battle for the quarterback job, Zac Lee easily won the starting spot. The Cornhuskers have several capable backups, with the best showing of the spring coming from converted linebacker LaTravis Washington. Kody Spano should be good to go by fall practice after he recovers from knee surgery. And Cody Green is the most heralded quarterback prospect in the Nebraska program, although he struggled with injuries and fell behind early after graduating from high school early to join the program this spring.
7. Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy hoped that former minor-league baseball player Brandon Weeden would distance himself from Alex Cate and earn the backup role behind Zac Robinson. Weeden struggled late in spring practice and couldn't widen the gap, leaving the backup battle continuing into the summer.
8. Missouri: After Blaine Gabbert claimed the starting job early in spring practice, as expected, scrappy walk-on Jimmy Costello had his moments, too. But Costello's performance leveled off late in spring practice and Blaine Dalton was pushing to unseat him as the backup before he was arrested and suspended from the team. Both Dalton and Ashton Glazer had typical freshman moments of great plays and shaky ones on a consistent basis.
9. Texas Tech: Taylor Potts was picked as the starter from the opening day of spring practice, but former walk-on Steven Sheffield appeared to have claimed the No. 2 job over Stefan Loucks and Seth Doege. All are relatively inexperienced in operating Mike Leach's offense.
10. Texas: Sherrod Harris struggled operating the Texas offense in the spring game. Some of his struggles might have been understandable considering he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee only three weeks after spring practice finished. When Garrett Gilbert arrives this summer, it will push the Longhorns up several places on the list. But until then, they rank among the bottom Big 12 teams on the list.
11. Texas A&M: Expected competition in spring ball never materialized as wide receiver Ryan Tannehill was recuperating from a torn labrum. Instead, Tommy Dorman got most of the snaps behind Jerrod Johnson as the only other scholarship quarterback on the team. Dorman struggled with his consistency.
12. Kansas State: Carson Coffman appears to have claimed the starting job for the Wildcats -- at least until Grant Gregory and Daniel Thomas arrive to challenge him later this summer. His backups who played in the spring game struggled through a miserable effort against the Wildcats' defense, which is saying something. Collin Klein, Joseph Kassanavoid, Trey Scott and Milton McPeak combined to complete only 9 of 26 passes in the spring game with two interceptions and five sacks. Look for the Wildcats' quarterback depth to improve with the arrival of Gregory and Thomas.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Looking at a team's depth is pointless unless you examine the backup quarterback situation. How do the SEC teams stack up if their starting quarterback were to go down? Here's a look:
1. Florida -- John Brantley, a third-year sophomore, was the star of the spring for the Gators. He's a better pure passer than Tim Tebow, and Urban Meyer says the strong-armed Brantley earned the opportunity to play some in the first half of games next season.
2. Kentucky -- The Wildcats have made the decision to go with Mike Hartline as the starting quarterback and use Randall Cobb at receiver and in specialty roles at quarterback. But the versatile Cobb has proven that he can also get it done as an every-down quarterback. Sophomore Will Fidler played well in the spring game, while incoming freshmen Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski were both highly rated.
3. Vanderbilt -- For the second straight year, Vanderbilt's starting quarterback battle will carry over into the preseason. Coach Bobby Johnson says he's confident the Commodores can win with either sophomore Larry Smith or senior Mackenzi Adams. Smith is the better passer, but Adams has been clutch in relief each of the last two years.
4. LSU -- What the Tigers have going for them is a number of different options. Sophomore Jordan Jefferson is the likely starter and can both run and pass. True freshman Russell Shepard went through spring practice and is a threat no matter where he lines up. Sophomore Jarrett Lee struggled mightily last season, but he has extensive starting experience.
5. Arkansas -- Bobby Petrino is excited about what the Hogs' offense will look like with Ryan Mallett running the show. But redshirt freshman Tyler Wilson was good enough this spring that Mallett didn't run away and leave him. The challenge for Wilson is learning how to play under center after playing in the shotgun in high school.
6. Georgia -- The Bulldogs also have a number of different ways they could go if something should happen to fifth-year senior Joe Cox. The only problem is that nobody has played. Sophomore Logan Gray is a multi-dimensional athlete, while true freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger both went through spring practice and displayed their potential.
7. Alabama -- Even though Greg McElroy established himself as the starter in the spring, redshirt freshman Star Jackson has the kind of run/pass tools that make him a commodity. He's also had spring practice to better familiarize himself with the offense. Incoming true freshman A.J. McCarron is a big-time talent.
8. Tennessee -- The good news for the Vols is that both Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens have started multiple games and faced SEC defenses. The bad news is that neither one of them has been very effective. They combined for eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions last season.
9. Auburn -- Quarterback, period, is a sore spot for the Tigers. Kodi Burns, Neil Caudle and Chris Todd all played last season, but the results on offense speak for themselves. There's also some help on the way. True freshman Tyrik Rollison was one of the top dual-threat prospects in the country.
10. Ole Miss -- Redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley came on during spring practice and appears to be the Rebels' future at quarterback when Jevan Snead decides he's ready for the NFL. Stanley's athletic with a big arm. Senior Billy Tapp also offers some insurance because of his experience.
11. Mississippi State -- It's Tyson Lee's job for now, but incoming freshman Tyler Russell will get a crash course in Dan Mullen's offense when he arrives. Sophomore Chris Relf ended the spring as the backup. No matter how it shakes out, the Bulldogs are going to be lean on experience at the quarterback position.
12. South Carolina -- Stephen Garcia is anything but a sure thing, although he played with more maturity in the spring. The Gamecocks don't have anybody behind him who's ever played. Right now, the No. 2 guy would be redshirt freshman Reid McCollum, who was A.J. Green's quarterback in high school.
When the assignment came down to rank the backup quarterbacks in each league, I had an obvious concern. We're not even entirely sure who the starting quarterback will be for five Big East teams come Labor Day weekend.
In order to do this, I'm going to assume the players currently leading the competition for each team will in fact be the starter, and the rankings will reflect the other quarterbacks in the mix. As Cincinnati showed last year, having capable backups can come in quite handy.
2. Pittsburgh: Surprised? Don't be. Pat Bostick was maybe the most improved offensive player the Panthers had this spring, and he's won at West Virginia and at Notre Dame his last two starts. Tino Sunseri is coming on as well. There would be little dropoff if one of these two had to replace Bill Stull. The problem is that none of the three have separated themselves as a big-time starting quarterback.
3. South Florida: It's not fair that the teams with the most settled starting quarterbacks also have two of the top three backup situations. But the way B.J. Daniels and Evan Landi played this spring gave Jim Leavitt confidence in the unlikely event that Matt Grothe actually misses some time.
4. Rutgers: Assuming Dom Natale holds onto the starting job, the Scarlet Knights would have a senior (Jabu Lovelace), a stud true freshman (Tom Savage) and a talented if raw redshirt freshman (D.C. Jefferson) behind him.
5. West Virginia: Coley White made strides this spring, and hotshot recruit Eugene Smith arrives this summer. But the Mountaineers are ranked this low for now because neither has ever played a down in college.
7. Syracuse: The Orange currently have last year's starter, Cam Dantley, backing up Ryan Nassib. And then there's the enigma that is Greg Paulus.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
8:21 1st Qtr 25 Texas 0 9 Baylor 3 8:00 PM ET 20 Duke 1 Florida State 8:17 PM ET 2 Ohio State 10 Michigan State 4:00 PM ET 5 Missouri 3 Auburn 7:45 PM ET 7 Stanford 11 Arizona State 10:00 PM ET Utah State 23 Fresno State Final 17 Oklahoma 33 6 Oklahoma State 24 Final 16 UCF 17 Southern Methodist 13