The quarterbacks listed below, all underclassmen last season. fall into a couple of different categories. A few emerged as starters last season and head into spring practice as a No. 1 for the first time. Some of them had the opportunity to grab the top job in 2011, but failed to do so and continue the battle this spring. In yet a couple more instances, the battle may have been won by default thanks to the chief competitor having transferred since the end of last season. That, of course, does not make this spring any less critical with respect to the QB’s development.
David Ash, Texas
1,079 yards | 4 TD | 8 INT
Ash started six games as a true freshman last season and has leg up on junior-to-be Case McCoy. Ash played the whole Holiday Bowl against Cal and fared pretty well throwing for 142 yards with no picks while catching a touchdown pass on an option. This spring represents a monumental chance for him to prove that he really has moved ahead of McCoy and is ready to take charge heading into fall drills and ultimately the new season. If this proves to be the case, it would put a lot of issues at ease in Austin. If not…..
Blake Bortles, UCF
958 yards | 6 TD | 3 INT
Coach George O’Leary wanted to get the redshirt freshman more playing time as last season evolved, even if it was merely as a change of pace to throw opposing defenses off guard. Four times in the first nine games Bortles had at least 10 pass attempts, so O’Leary succeeded in getting him some valuable experience. While Jeff Godfrey remained the starter, Bortles’ playing time increased late in the season and it was he, not Godfrey, that was under center at critical moments. Bortles was strong the last three games, completing 66.6 percent of his 63 tosses for 506 yards and 5 TDs. It was too much for Godfrey, who left the Knights and therefore the keys for Bortles to pocket. Suddenly, there is a No. 1. In two seasons, Godfrey totaled more than 5,000 yards with 36 touchdowns. Safe to say he left behind some allies and, in that regard, Bortles may have his work cut out for him this spring. But the hometown kid has plenty of support, too.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
2,129 yards | 14 TD | 12 INT
The future came a little earlier than projected at Louisville. An early-season shoulder injury suffered by starter Will Stein opened the door for the Florida high school sensation. Bridgewater experienced his share of growing pains as a true freshman, for sure, but he grew much more comfortable and confident as the season progressed. It showed statistically as, among freshmen that qualified, Bridgewater was the third-highest rated QB. More importantly, he gained priceless experience in leading a very young Cardinals squad to a bowl. He can put his stamp on the team as far as leadership this spring and carry the message right into fall drills. After all, Bridgewater is the face of the Louisville Cardinals.
C.J Brown, Maryland
842 yards | 7 TD | 6 INT | 574 yards/5 TD rushing
First-year coach Randy Edsall gave Brown his first career start against Clemson in Terps’ sixth game. Brown and incumbent Danny O’Brien both started in the season’s second half, but the meter was tilting toward Brown, who was a sophomore. O’Brien has left the program leaving Brown as the undisputed No. 1. This spring will be about the dual-threat QB taking hold of an offense that has endured much transition since the end of last season. Several players have transferred and Mike Locksley has taken over as OC in his second stint with the Terps. Locksley will incorporate his version of a pro-style offense and it’s up to Brown grasp it and take command of the huddle.
Chas Dodd, Rutgers
1,574 yards | 10 TD | 7 INT
Dodd could not secure the job from true freshman Gary Nova last season as the two flip-flipped throughout the schedule. That brings us to this spring, which is most critical for Dodd because, after two seasons with the program, it is likely now or never for him to become the unquestioned leader on offense. Dodd performed well while getting the bulk of the snaps against Iowa State in the Pinstripe Bowl, so he has a little momentum behind him. Now he needs to show new sideline boss and familiar face Kyle Flood that he can take hold of the offense on a week-to-week basis in his junior year. If not, Nova (1,553 and 11/9) will likely find the job his to lose.
Sean Mannion, Oregon State
3,328 yards | 16 TD | 18 INT
Coach Mike Riley wanted to get Sean Mannion some action in last season’s opener so that the redshirt freshman could get his feet wet and a feel for the system before the schedule bore its teeth. While Riley played Mannion in the opener, he didn’t expect it to come while the Beavers were losing to FCS member Sacramento State in a game they would ultimately come up short. Mannion impressed in relief, however, and the job was essentially his – for the rest of the season. With Ryan Katz having transferred to San Diego State, Mannion enters spring drills as the unquestioned No. 1 in Corvallis. His 3,328 yards passing last season were the third-most in Oregon State history and tops among freshmen. Mannion needs to work on his TD/INT ratio (16/18), but he was a young QB who displayed much upside on a very young Beavers team. Consider it invaluable OJT, something Mannion has on his resume this spring, which will be a time for him to assert himself as the offense’s true leader.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State
1,159 yards | 13 TD | 4 INT | 715 yards/7 TD rushing
After Terrelle Pryor announced last summer that he was through at Ohio State, it would be kind to suggest the quarterback situation was unsettled. Interim coach Luke Fickell quickly turned to the exciting Miller, who made significant strides in the passing game and grasping the offense. He can run like the wind and be a game-breaker in so doing, but it was his development as a quarterback in the true sense that has many Buckeyes fans excited heading into the spring. Oh, Miller has new coach Urban Meyer’s – remember Meyer gushing over Miller early last season during a national broadcast -- spread offense with which to elevate his game. Did we say the folks in Columbus are excited?
Clint Moseley, Auburn
800 yards | 5 TD | 3 INT
Moseley lost out to Barrett Trotter in taking over for Cam Newton last pre-season. Moseley, however, would work his way into being the Tigers’ No. 1 signal caller, if only for a few games. He impressed with a 4-TD effort against Ole Miss, but otherwise his performances were of the middling variety. Still, he received valuable time and, with Trotter having left Auburn, Moseley will receive the bulk of the attention this spring. Coach Gene Chizik and new OC Scott Loeffler will give Kiehl Frazier a serious look as well. Frazier, however, ran the wildcat and has little experience with the passing game. Hence, the job is Moseley’s to lose, but he needs this spring to get acquainted with a new OC and elevate his game and confidence level.
Connor Shaw, South Carolina
1,448 yards | 14 TD | 6 INT | 525 rush yards/8 TD
After throwing 11 passes in the first five games, Shaw was pressed into service when starter Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team as a result of on-going substance abuse problems. Shaw actually started the opener against East Carolina, but it was more Steve Spurrier sending Garcia a message that obviously did not get through. Shaw started the final eight games and finished the season as the nation’s 23rd-rated QB. Granted he threw less than 200 passes, but he protected the ball, was a threat running and had additional pressure heaped upon him when running back Marcus Lattimore (knee) was lost at mid-season. All that will make a player grow up in a hurry and Shaw more than passed the test. With Lattimore battling to get back to full health, Shaw enters the spring as the Gamecocks’ offensive leader. He will be a junior with two years under Steve Spurrier, so the ol’ ball coach is going to want to see his QB put his stamp on the team. Now.