The first major Saturday of the college football season is just hours from kicking off. And let’s be honest, there’s probably a lot that you missed during fall camp. With so many schools across the country and so many jobs up for grabs, it’d be easy for information to fall through the cracks.
That’s especially true at quarterback, where a number of teams -- including the reigning national champion -- had drama at QB during camps.
So what is the status of every major QB battle heading into Week 1? Here’s what we know about Alabama, Notre Dame, Texas and many other teams across the country.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
For the third consecutive year, Alabama entered camp looking for a new starting quarterback. And for the third time in three years, it came out without a real answer.
After Blake Sims and Jacob Coker battled in 2014 (ultimately won by Sims) and Coker battled Cooper Bateman last year (won by Coker), this year it’s Bateman and redshirt freshman Blake Barnett who will split reps against USC in the Tide’s opener. Not much is known about either guy, although Bateman did play a bit last year (throwing 52 passes and actually starting against Ole Miss).
What’s interesting about this battle is that while Bateman and Barnett came out on top, reports out of camp all fall were that true freshman Jalen Hurts surprised the coaching staff with his strong play.
If both Bateman and Barnett struggle, Nick Saban couldn’t possibly go to a true freshman at any point this season, could he?
Like their cross-state rivals, Auburn went into camp with three guys competing for the job. But unlike ‘Bama, the Tigers came out with a clear winner: Sean White (the non-skateboarding one).
The move isn’t a total surprise, given the way White wrestled the job away from starter Jeremy Johnson last season, throwing for over 1,000 yards in seven games. Johnson and junior college transfer Jonathan Franklin III -- of “Last Chance U” fame -- are both listed at No. 2 on the depth chart.
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
Like at Auburn, a four-man race ultimately concluded with a relatively easy decision: Luke Del Rio would start the Gators’ opener against UMass.
Del Rio has thrown just 18 passes between stops at Alabama and Oregon State in his college career, but he looked sharp in the Gators’ spring game, completing 10 of 11 passes, including two touchdowns.
This one is a little strange, but bear with me here.
Sean Maguire was the team’s starter last year in the transition out of the Jameis Winston era, but he entered fall camp battling Deondre Francois, sophomore J.J. Cosentino and true freshman Malik Henry for the top spot. Macguire won the job and was set to start the Seminoles' opener against Ole Miss, but then got injured. Now Francois is the starter.
In terms of “what we know” about Francois, the answer is “not much.” Francois entered Tallahassee as the nation’s No. 1 rated dual-threat quarterback in the 2015 class, but redshirted last season.
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It was a two-man race all along between fifth-year senior Greyson Lambert (who started 12 games for the ‘Dawgs last year) and five-star super-recruit Jacob Eason. And for most of the offseason it seemed like Eason, a true freshman, would get the nod in Week 1.
But in a surprising move, reports surfaced Thursday that Kirby Smart has instead decided to go with Lambert against the Tar Heels. It’s uncertain whether Eason will see the field at all on Saturday.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY SportsBrett Davis
In what is undoubtedly the most bizarre of all the major quarterback battles (would you expect anything different from Jim Harbaugh?), Harbaugh has admitted that he knows who will start in Week 1, but refuses to announce it publicly.
Wilton Speight (No. 3 in the picture), Shane Morris and Houston transfer John O’Korn (No. 8) are competing for the job. According to Harbaugh, all three know who will start on Saturday. All indications are that it will be Speight who gets the nod.
If it is Speight, well, here’s what we know: He played in five games last season, including mop-up time in a blowout loss to Ohio State. He also bears a striking resemblance to Jay Cutler.
The Irish are the 2016 version of last year’s Ohio State squad: They entered camp with two experienced quarterbacks worthy of getting the opening-week start, and as was the case at Ohio State last year, neither QB really separated himself. Both Malik Zaire (last year’s starter in the season opener) and DeShone Kizer (who replaced Zaire after he was injured) will play in the team’s opener Sunday night at Texas.
The good news for the Irish is that both QBs have experience, and from all reports, both played well enough to earn the job. The bad news is neither was happy with the coaching staff for not choosing a true Week 1 starter.
It also raises an interesting question: Can Brian Kelly handle the impending drama better than Urban Meyer did last year?
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
The post-Christian Hackenberg era is off to a rip-roaring start after sophomore Trace McSorley won the job over Tommy Stevens.
The move is no surprise since McSorely saw spot action in place of the banged-up Hackenberg in last year’s TaxSlayer Bowl, completing 14 of 27 passes for two touchdowns.
Getty ImagesJustin K. Aller
Like Jim Harbaugh, Charlie Strong knows who his starter will be. And like Harbaugh, he refuses to tell anyone headed into the Longhorns’ Week 1 matchup with the Irish. In this case, the combatants couldn’t be any different.
On one side, there is fourth-year senior Tyrone Swoopes, who won and lost the job last year, but emerged from fall camp as a solid option to start after attempting roughly 500 passes in his career. On the other end is true freshman Shane Buechele, who is obviously inexperienced but looked phenomenal after enrolling last December and throwing for 299 yards and two TDs in the team’s spring game.
All signs point toward Buechele earning the job; with some who know him best projecting him to be a star. But in a tough home opener, in a make-or-break year for Strong, will he really hand the reins over to a true freshman?
While this job was a two-man race at the start of fall camp, it didn’t come down to the wire at USC. Instead, fourth-year junior Max Browne was named the starter for the Trojans’ opener against Alabama a few weeks back, and coach Clay Helton hasn’t waffled since then.
On paper, it seems like a smart move for Helton, for at least this week. Browne is a former five-star recruit who was once considered the top quarterback in the high school class of 2013. Most importantly, he has a tiny bit of game experience going into the Trojans’ opener against Alabama at Jerry’s World. Even if it is only 19 career pass attempts.
As for the guy he beat out for the job, Sam Darnold? He hasn’t played a down of college football. Alabama probably isn’t the place you want to break in that guy.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Late last week, coach Paul Chryst announced that Bart Houston won the job, giving the fifth-year senior his first major game experience.
Not much is known about Houston, other than that he completed 27 of 47 passes last season. And that his name definitely makes him sound like the most clichéd, fictional quarterback in the history of television.