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ESPN College

  • Fresh faces provide for intriguing SEC quarterback competitions - SEC Blog
    9:33 AM ET On the surface, it appears that most SEC teams have their starting quarterback positions set. Alabama has Jalen Hurts[1] and South Carolina has Jake Bentley[2]. Sure, Florida and Tennessee are still trying to figure out things under center, but for the most…
    Written on Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:00
  • Yes, Pittsburgh needs a starting QB, but it needs depth, too - ACC Blog
    9:00 AM ET Pittsburgh has a two-fold objective at quarterback this spring: work on identifying a starter while also building depth. In that regard, coach Pat Narduzzi feels his team is in a much better place than at any point since his arrival in late…
    Written on Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:00
  • Is the next Myles Garrett at Kansas? - Big 12 Blog
    9:48 AM ET LAWRENCE, Kan. -- You might never know where the next Jadeveon Clowney or Myles Garrett[1] lurks in college. But let’s say you had a good idea of the right place to look. It wouldn’t be Kansas. David Beaty would like a word,…
    Written on Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:00
  • Former Carson-Newman football coach Ken Sparks dies at 73
    Mar 29, 2017 JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Ken Sparks, a football coach who won 338 games for Division II Carson-Newman to rank fifth on the NCAA's all-time list, has died. He was 73. Carson-Newman athletic department spokesman Adam Cavalier said Sparks' wife, Carol, informed the…
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  • Michigan State staffer Curtis Blackwell gets 1-month contract extension during investigation
    Mar 29, 2017 Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell recently received a one-month contract extension and remains on an indefinite paid suspension while the school investigates several serious allegations regarding his conduct. Blackwell, who leads the football program's recruiting efforts, was suspended on Feb. 9,…
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  • What is Penn State's Trace McSorley working on during spring practice? - Big Ten Blog
    10:00 AM ET College football fans were introduced to Penn State[1] quarterback Trace McSorley's[2] knack for making plays during a thrilling and unexpected performance off the bench in the TaxSlayer Bowl two seasons ago. When McSorley was named as the starting quarterback to replace Christian…
    Written on Wednesday, 29 March 2017 11:00
Dawgs.com Presents ESPN College
Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:00

On the surface, it appears that most SEC teams have their starting quarterback positions set. Alabama has Jalen Hurts[1] and South Carolina has Jake Bentley[2].

Sure, Florida and Tennessee are still trying to figure out things under center, but for the most part, this league should see a renewed sense of confidence in starting quarterbacks this fall.

But there is some intriguing stuff going on with a handful of teams at quarterback. Hurts just took Alabama to the national championship game, but should he be looking over his shoulder at this new hotshot freshman? Does Jacob Eason[3] really have to worry about that other Jake slipping past him on the depth chart in Athens, Georgia?

Honestly, we tend to lean toward no on both of those, but when it comes to the most important position on the field, you can't take anything for granted. And here are seven intriguing quarterback situations facing SEC teams:

Alabama

Yes, this is Hurts' job to lose. He wowed us for most of the 2016 season with 3,734 total yards of offense and 36 touchdowns. However, he was inconsistent on deeper throws, and in the last three games of the season, he threw for 326 total yards and two touchdowns while completing less than 50 percent of his passes.

Enter 2017 No. 1 dual-threat QB Tua Tagovailoa[4]. There are some around Alabama's camp who think he could really push Hurts this spring and beyond. Taking the starting job? Maybe not, but coach Nick Saban and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will make sure he's on Hurts' heels for as long as possible.

Auburn

As colleague Greg Ostendorf wrote earlier this week[5], it's more comical to think that Jarrett Stidham[6] isn't the overwhelming leader on the Plains. The former Baylor backup has the perfect mix of passing and running ability that coach Gus Malzahn thirsts over. Sean White[7], who has started 16 games over the past two seasons, is recovering from a broken arm, and freshmen Woody Barrett[8] and Malik Willis[9] have zero experience.

Stidham is taking the first-team reps, and that shouldn't stop once White is healthy.

Florida

Freshmen Feleipe Franks[10] and Kyle Trask[11] are essentially neck and neck in Gainesville. Franks might have pulled ahead slightly, but this thing is far from over. Both can sling it, but both have had control issues. Franks has been more vocal, but Trask has been smoother on some of the tougher throws at times.

Luke Del Rio[12], who began last season as the starter but went down a few times with injuries, will return to the competition this fall. Freshman Jake Allen[13] also will be added to the mix, but this is a two-headed race right now.

Georgia

No way Jacob Eason could lose his starting spot, right? The kid is a prodigy with All-American dreams. But after starting almost every game last season, he's getting pushed a ton[14] by early enrollee Jake Fromm[15]. It's great for Eason because he needs to be pushed and motivated more. Eason has all the arm talent, but his leadership has to improve and this is the kind of fire he needs lit under him.

But don't think this is just for motivational means. No, coach Kirby Smart loves Fromm and there's a feeling around the league that Fromm is good enough and dedicated enough to take this competition into the season ... and maybe win it.

LSU

This is Danny Etling[16]'s job, but the coaches like early enrollee Lowell Narcisse[17]. He has a cannon for an arm and is way more mobile than Etling. Redshirt sophomore Justin McMillan[18] is in the mix as well, but Narcisse is much closer to challenging Etling.

But that could all change once ESPN 300 member Myles Brennan[19] arrives. Things could get more interesting for Etling this fall.

Tennessee

After what seemed like 35 years, Joshua Dobbs[20] is no longer Tennessee's starting quarterback. And from the looks of things, redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano[21] and junior Quinten Dormady[22] are the leaders of the pack. Sheriron Jones[23] and Will McBride[24] are competing, but the former seem to have separated themselves.

Dormady has played in 10 games for the Vols and has 357 yards with a touchdown. Guarantano has all the hype and fanfare. The former ESPN 300 member can sling it and is pretty mobile. He's the presumed favorite to replace Dobbs.

Texas A&M

It's a three-headed race in College Station. Veteran Jake Hubenak[25], redshirt freshman Nick Starkel[26] and true freshman Kellen Mond[27] are all jockeying to replace Trevor Knight[28]. Hubenak is the most experienced and was up for the job last year, but he's limited compared to the other two. Starkel has the arm talent the coaches like, but he doesn't have a ton of mobility. Mond is the most talented of the bunch.

Mond has the best speed of the three, and coach Kevin Sumlin's offenses have had the most success with a mobile quarterback who can execute the zone-read. On paper, Mond is the best suited to do that.

Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:00

Pittsburgh has a two-fold objective at quarterback this spring: work on identifying a starter while also building depth.

In that regard, coach Pat Narduzzi feels his team is in a much better place than at any point since his arrival in late 2014. During a recent phone conversation, he recalled his first spring practice as Pitt head coach in 2015. The Panthers had only two scholarship quarterbacks: returning starter Chad Voytik[1] and 2014 signee Adam Bertke.

Once Nathan Peterman[2] and Ben DiNucci[3] arrived on campus later that year, the numbers went back up. But they had fluctuated over the last two years, after Voytik and Bertke both transferred. Now this spring, Pitt has four scholarship quarterbacks taking snaps: transfer Max Browne[4], along with DiNucci, Thomas MacVittie[5] and early enrollee Kenny Pickett[6].

It’s one thing to be on scholarship, of course. It’s another to have the experience to be able to play. And that’s what Pittsburgh found out in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to end last season. Peterman took every single meaningful snap in 2016, mostly because Pitt was involved in so many close games.

When he got hurt in the bowl game, DiNucci came in. He threw two interceptions and finished 3-of-9 for 16 yards in the 31-24 loss to Northwestern. Peterman threw every other pass that season.

“We’ve got more quarterbacks that can actually get in a game and maybe do something. Last year, we were just too young,” Narduzzi said. “What happened to us in the bowl game, we didn’t have another guy to put in there once Nathan went down. Our backup comes in and throws two picks, so it’s a problem where you can’t play a backup all year, and he gets thrown in a big bowl game and doesn’t get it done.”

One more plus to the four scholarships sharing the reps during spring practice: they are evenly spaced out, class-wise. Browne is a senior; DiNucci is a redshirt sophomore; MacVittie is a redshirt freshman and Pickett is a true freshman.

That is the type of set-up that is ideal for any position, most especially quarterback. While it is true Pitt has relied heavily on transfers to fill the void over the last several seasons, the hope is that coaching stability will now lead to more recruiting successes and players being developed in the program.

Part of the reason Pitt was so devoid of quarterbacks when Narduzzi arrived was because of the revolving door at quarterback.

Remember, Voytik was recruited by an entirely different coach when he came to Pitt, then played for two others. Peterman was brought on board as a transfer to create competition and depth. He took the starting job from Voytik a few games into 2015, but depth was hampered again when Voytik decided to transfer at the end of that season.

Headed into 2016, there was an abundance of quarterbacks in the meeting room (including transfers Manny Stocker[7] and Bo Schneider[8]). But MacVittie was redshirting and DiNucci was coming off a redshirt season himself. It became clear during practice that Peterman was the only quarterback reliable enough to take snaps in a game, especially considering Pitt played in seven games decided by a score or less. Even before the bowl game, Pitt went after Browne to help solidify the position with a player that had some game and starting experience.

Even if Browne wins the starting job, he will only be at Pitt for a year and the Panthers need to solidify their future at a position that has lacked stability and depth. Peterman and Tom Savage before him ended up being NFL-caliber players. Moving forward, it would be ideal for Pitt not to have to rely so much on the transfer route for the quality it desires at the position.

Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:00

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- You might never know where the next Jadeveon Clowney or Myles Garrett[1] lurks in college.

But let’s say you had a good idea of the right place to look. It wouldn’t be Kansas.

David Beaty would like a word, please, about Dorance Armstrong Jr[2]. The Jayhawks’ rising junior defensive end led the Big 12 in tackles for loss last season, with 20, and registered 10 sacks, the most at Kansas since 2008, despite a knee injury that limited him in September.

“Dorance is a stud. The fact that he didn’t make All-American last year was shocking to me,” said Beaty, the third-year KU coach. “He got robbed. [He] is unbelievable. He’s a freak. He is Myles Garrett, and Myles is a freak. This guy’s a beast.”

Beatty isn’t being hyperbolic. He recruited Garrett, likely the first pick in the upcoming NFL draft, to Texas A&M in 2014. When Garrett played as a true freshman, the Aggies, according to Beaty, studied tape of Clowney, the No. 1 draft pick from a few months prior, in his first season at South Carolina and used it as a model for Garrett’s development.

Clowney and Garrett played limited roles as freshmen pass-rush specialists. Kansas did the same with Armstrong in 2015.

“We don’t get hung up on it,” Beatty said of the comparisons, “but he’s that type of player.”

Yes, KU could have used him more in a winless fall two seasons ago, but the Jayhawks' restraint contributed in a big way to Armstrong’s breakout, All-Big 12 sophomore season, Beaty and KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen believe.

Beaty said he expects Armstrong to land in the first round next year -- if he chooses to leave school early.

Armstrong came to Kansas out of Houston’s North Shore High School at 6-foot-4 and about 215 pounds. He was offered scholarships by the likes of Michigan State, Cal, Houston and Northwestern, but Armstrong visited only Kansas in January 2015 because other trips didn’t fit into his high school basketball schedule.

“I just thought [playing] basketball was the end of the world,” Armstrong said. “That’s why I’m here. I had one weekend around signing day. I came up and fell in love with the place.”

This spring, the Jayhawks are looking to build on a 2016 effort that ranked their defense as perhaps the Big 12’s most improved unit. Armstrong, who gained 10 to 15 pounds in the fall of his freshman year and is now at 250, was key to the improvement.

“Most people can’t understand that it’s hard to eat and gain weight,” Bowen said. “But for kids like him, it’s a different ballgame. It becomes almost a job. He took it very serious.

“Then when he did go in the game, we asked him to do something that he was very good at. He didn’t have to face the defeat. As we did start to use him more, he had developed that mentality that he belonged. He had confidence going into his second year that he could win in pass-rush situations. And he proved it.”

Armstrong passes all of Beaty’s tests.

“It’s really refreshing when you have a player who is that good who’s also squared away,” Beaty said. “He’s never on a list. I’ve never seen his name [for] missing a class. I don’t have to worry about Dorance in that regard. To me, he is the epitome of what we have to do at KU: Bring in guys who have the frame who can get to a certain size, and utilize their speed.”

Bowen said he encourages his defenders to pay notice to their accolades and statistics. It’s a team game, sure, but individual achievements serve to better the Jayhawks.

Armstrong said he views any recognition as a positive factor in helping him reach the NFL. This spring, he’s taking note of his coaches’ advice to lead.

“All my life, leadership has been forced on me,” Armstrong said. “Every coach I’ve been with has wanted me to be a vocal leader. But that was never me. As I grew up, I realized that had to change. Where I am now, I feel like I have to be a leader for this team.”

Surely, he has the appearance of one of the best Power 5 players nationally, who is largely unknown outside of his conference.

“You know,” Beaty said, “that just gives us something else out there to dangle in front of him.”