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Monday, March 28, 2011
Which teams are secure at backup QB?

By Ted Miller

Coaches often joke about how fans love the backup quarterback, particularly when the starter is struggling. The backup functions as an idea of untapped possibility, at least until he's called upon -- for whatever reason -- to tap into that possibility in a real, live game.

But a backup job is not a certainty, particularly this time of year during spring practices. The pecking order behind an entrenched starter is often fluid, as upperclassmen have to fight off the challenge of hot-shot youngsters, whom many fans can still remember fawning over during recruiting coverage.

So here's a quick update on quarterback pecking orders, which aren't terribly certain throughout the Pac-12.

Arizona
Starter
: Nick Foles
Backup: Bryson Beirne, Matt Scott
The skinny: One of the more interesting situations in the conference. Scott is such a good No. 2, the Wildcats want to redshirt him and start him in 2012. But is Beirne going to inspire enough confidence that he can come off the bench for Foles in anything but mop-up duty?

Arizona State
Starter
: Brock Osweiler
Backup: Taylor Kelly, Mike Bercovici
The skinny: At the end of the season, the Sun Devils had three quarterbacks with starting experience: Osweiler, Steven Threet and Samson Szakacsy. Now they have two potential backups to Osweiler with no game experience.

California
Starter
: ?
Candidates: Brock Mansion, Allan Bridgford, Austin Hinder, Zach Maynard, Beau Sweeney.
The skinny: We don't know who the starter is, for one. And, say, Bridgford wins the job. Does Mansion, who has plenty of experience, become the backup by default because of that experience?

Colorado
Starter: ?
Candidates: Tyler Hansen, Brent Burnette, Nick Hirschmann
The skinny: Hansen has looked goood at times as a starter and is the heavy favorite here. Burnette is a junior JC transferand Hirschmann is a redshirt freshman. Hansen is a senior, so climbing the pecking order is critical for each.

Oregon
Starter
: Darron Thomas
Backup: Bryan Bennett
The skinny: A clear pecking order. If you watch Bennett practice, you know why Ducks fans are excited about his prospects.

Oregon State
Starter
: Ryan Katz
Backup: Cody Vaz, Jack Lomax, Sean Mannion
The skinny: The feeling is Mannion will challenge for the backup job this spring. With Katz coming back from a wrist injury, all three will get plenty of opportunities.

Stanford
Starter
: Andrew Luck
Backup: Josh Nunes, Robbie Picazo and Brett Nottingham
The skinny: Nunes is probably the favorite to backup the best QB in college football.

UCLA
Starter
: ?
Candidates: Kevin Prince, Richard Brehaut, Brett Hundley, Nick Crissman
The skinny: Prince won't be able to do much of anything this spring, and Crissman doesn't appear to be in the thick of the battle. So the chief thing to watch is whether the touted true freshman Hundley can outperform Brehaut. If Prince or Brehaut wins the job in the fall -- and Hundley doesn't -- you'd also think one or the other is the backup, with Hundley redshirting. Or maybe not, considering the win-now pressure on coach Rick Neuheisel.

USC
Starter
: Matt Barkley
Backup: Jesse Scroggins, Max Wittek, Cody Kessler
The skinny: Scroggins is the redshirt freshman trying to fight off a pair of true freshmen who enrolled early. Considering this is likely Barkley's last season as a Trojan, winning the backup job is significant.

Utah
Starter
: Jordan Wynn
Backup: Griff Robles, Tyler Shreve
The skinny: Wynn is out this spring after shoulder surgery, so Robles and Shreve are getting plenty of opportunities to show their stuff. Shoulder injuries are tricky, so the backup needs to be game-ready.

Washington
Starter
: ?
Candidates: Keith Price, Nick Montana
The skinny: It seems fairly simple: The loser of the competition will be the backup. But will the winner of the competition be looking over his shoulder?

Washington State
Starter
: Jeff Tuel
Backup: Marshall Lobbestael, David Gilbertson, Connor Halliday
The skinny: Lobbestael is a former starter. He knows the system and has experience. Halliday is widely viewed as the future. If Tuel went down, do you go with experience or potential? So far this spring, Lobbestael looks more ready.