Uncertain quarterback situations aplenty in B1G East heading into spring
Yesterday, I wrote about how the B1G West has tons of returning quarterbacks with offseason strides to make.
Well, the B1G East is the inverse of that.
Six B1G East teams have quarterback battles heading into 2016 that should take shape — some more than others — this spring. Ironically enough, the only team that doesn’t is Ohio State, which had arguably the most highly publicized quarterback competition in college football history last year.
But gone are the Connor Cooks, Nate Sudfelds and Christian Hackenbergs. Sure, Maryland and Rutgers technically didn’t lose their starters. But without stars at the position and new coaching staffs coming in, it’s safe to say those jobs are up for grabs, too.
So let’s take a look at each of the uncertain B1G East quarterback situations:
If there’s one thing we know about Kevin Wilson, it’s that he loves having a variety of options at quarterback. Fittingly, he has three guys to choose from that all have different skill sets and situations. Lagow comes in as the likely spring favorite after transferring from Cisco College. Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns already said he thinks the “sky is the limit” for the big-bodied Lagow. But he’ll have plenty of competition for the starting job.
Zander Diamont will miss spring practice with an undisclosed injury, but he’ll be ready to compete come fall. Danny Cameron will also get a crack at it as a redshirt sophomore. The real interesting piece to the equation could be if Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik winds up at Indiana. The graduate transfer reportedly has a visit set up in the near future. In other words, the QB situation is in the very early stages in Bloomington.
There’s good news and bad news for new offensive coordinator Walt Bell. The good news is that he has two fifth-year seniors to work with. The bad news is that they threw a combined 28 (!) interceptions last year. Both will have to learn a new offense and prove to a new coaching staff that they deserve the one-year gig.
D.J. Durkin already talked about the offseason strides Hills made as a leader. That could make him the favorite entering the spring game. Bell figures to run an up-tempo offense like the one that fueled his 14th-ranked offense at Arkansas State. That tends to favor a more experienced quarterback, so it’d be a surprise if Shane Cockerille or redshirt freshman Gage Shaffer leapfrogged the depth chart and won the job. Whoever emerges out of spring will still have an uphill battle ahead.
They’re calling it a three-horse race in Ann Arbor. All of them took equal reps so far, which doesn’t figure to change — at least publicly — throughout the spring. Jim Harbaugh didn’t give any quarterback the edge, and instead called it a “cage match.” It’d be surprising to see Shane Morris all of the sudden emerge as a starter after redshirting last year. Wilton Speight was the true backup to Jake Rudock, and Harbaugh will give him a fair shot to compete for the job, but he doesn’t have the experience that O’Korn has.
With 34 touchdown passes under his belt, O’Korn would be the natural fit to take over for Rudock, a fellow St. Thomas Aquinas product. True freshman Brandon Peters and redshirt freshman Alex Mazzone will get some looks, but expect Harbaugh to be locked in on his top three by the time spring practice wraps up.
A rare quarterback battle is underway in East Lansing. Some would argue that began back when Connor Cook suffered a shoulder injury and the Spartans rolled with both Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry in their victory at Ohio State. There wasn’t much separation then and there isn’t much now. Mark Dantonio already said that he doesn’t plan on naming a starter publicly until September, and possibly not even until the Notre Dame game in Week 3. For all we know, it could still be a two-quarterback system.
O’Connor has the more prototypical skill set that Dantonio has worked with at MSU, but Terry brings mobility at the position that the Spartans haven’t had in recent memory. The No. 1 QB on the depth chart heading into spring ball will be O’Connor, but that hardly means the job is his. Barring injury, don’t expect Dantonio to lean one way or the other in the next five months.
It doesn’t make sense to use one game as a barometer for future success, but Trace McSorley gave the Penn State offense life in the TaxSlayer Bowl in the absence of Hackenberg. That alone could make him the favorite heading into the spring game. With new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, whoever can run the no-huddle spread offense will be the guy. That could be McSorley, or it could be redshirt freshman Tommy Stevens, who has size and mobility. Even talented true freshman Jake Zembiec will get a fair shot.
The Lions are undergoing one of the more significant scheme changes in college football. James Franklin said that will involve putting less pressure on the offensive line and quarterback and instead get the ball to Penn State’s talented group of running backs and receivers in space. In other words, the next QB will be mobile and capable of hitting intermediate routes. Whoever gets the quarterback job figures to have far less pressure — mental and physical — than Hackenberg did. That, above all else, would be a win.
Again, a new offensive coordinator means the slates are wiped clean. Kyle Flood was steadfast in his support of Chris Laviano, but that won’t mean anything with the new coaching staff. What could help Laviano more than anything is his mobility. New offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer is expected to institute power-spread system, similar to what Tom Herman ran at Ohio State. That could favor Laviano over Hayden Rettig, who is more of a pro-style quarterback.
Chris Ash refused to anoint a starter and Mehringer said that he doesn’t have a type at the position. Unlike the old coaching staff, there are no favorites in Piscataway. This could be a true competition that lasts well into fall camp if Ash doesn’t feel like there’s enough separation.