Four QB's to battle this spring

Arizona used three different quarterbacks last season, and all three will have an opportunity to battle for the job, along with a redshirt freshman. It will likely be the most heated battle in the spring and unlike last season, a winner should be named for the fall.

As of now it's a four-man race, as Mike Stoops and the staff have not tipped their hand. Many have speculated, but until the team actually takes the practice field, nothing has been decided.

"All four quarterbacks can do something different," Stoops indicated.

Kris Heavner was the starter down the stretch and was actually a freshman All-American. Heavner is physically gifted. He's big, strong and has a cannon arm. Few players will out work Heavner in the weight room, but it isn't is ability that people question.

Last season Heavner threw a lot of interceptions, 15 to be exact. The problem was that although a true freshman, Heavner never seemed to get any better and avoiding the turnover. It remains to be seen if a full year in the program, including spring ball, will have a positive effect on the young passer. The stability of the new coaching staff can only help and Mike Canales has been great at developing passers.

Nic Costa was the starter coming out of fall drills, although he never had sole possession of the job. Costa may be the best athlete on the team, but it remains to be seen if his best position is quarterback. There has been talk of him moving positions, despite his insistence that he wants to remain a quarterback.

Costa lacks height, but he has sprinter's speed and a great arm. He's a threat to break off a big run at anytime and could be a Michael Vick type if the offense was designed that way. Last year he was handcuffed by John Mackovic's very structured offense. Even when the team went to the spread, the offense never really suited his skills. If he does indeed prove to be the best guy for the job, it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff will try and utilize his skills.

Ryan O'Hara went from a co-starter, to a wide receiver in the matter of two months. He's back at quarterback and now has the task of trying to live up to the hype that followed him out of high school.

O'Hara has a lot of intriguing attributes. He's the tallest passer at 6-6, but he's very mobile as well. He has terrific quickness for a player his size, and is dangerous outside the pocket. His arm isn't as strong as Costa or Heavner's and he also lacks the overall strength that those two passers possess. Quite frankly, he still needs to add a good 10-15 pounds of muscle.

Despite some negatives, there are a lot of people who really like his upside. He's got a great rapport with his teammates and has been praised for his knowledge of the game. There has been talk that the staff really wants to see what he can do.

The wildcard in the whole situation is Richard Kovalcheck. Kovalcheck redshirtted last season, despite being one of the highest rated recruits the Wildcats have ever attracted.

Kovalcheck was not as physically mature as Heavner coming in, but he comes from a pro style background and has been praised for his grasp of the game. He doesn't have the strongest arm, but he throws a nice, accurate ball. It will be very interesting to see how he looks with a full year in the program and some time spent in the UA conditioning program.

Arizona did not sign a quarterback in his class, so the four players competing in spring are the four players who will hold down the job in the fall. Determining the starter will be the challenge for Stoops and his staff.

STARTERS RETURNING: Nic Costa (3 games), Kris Heavner (8 games)

A LOT TO PROVE: Ryan O'Hara started last year as a co-starter and finished as a wide receiver. He is often the odd man out when people around town discuss the quarterback situation.

BIG MYSTERY: Richard Kovalcheck. No one has seen just what the highly rated recruit can do. Now he has a chance to show why Tennessee wanted him.


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