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What we know: Cardale Jones had a good spring and it’s his starting quarterback job for the taking.
What we’re not quite sure of: Cardale’s 19-of-42, 304-yard, two touchdown, two pick performance in front of close to 100,000 fans at the spring game. It’s a spring football game so it’s really not that big a deal, but he wasn’t razor-sharp.
What we know: Jones has one of the best arms in college football since JaMarcus Russell. He was allowed to turn it loose in the spring game with a few terrific deep balls.
What we’re not quite sure of: Will he ever get the time to throw a 75-yard pass?
What we know: Jones was the starting quarterback for a national champion.
What we’re not quite sure of: Whether or not the Buckeyes would’ve won it all with J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller under center. The loss of Barrett against Michigan seemed to be a key rallying point for the team, but …
What we know: Ohio State took things up ten notches with Jones at quarterback.
What we’re not quite sure of: Whether or not that was because Jones was the starting quarterback and if that, along with a good spring, is enough to end the debate.
What we know: Ohio State would probably be everyone’s preseason No. 1 team if you were the starting quarterback.
What we’re not quite sure of: Whether or not you really might have to step in and start if something happens to Jones because ...
What we know: Jones is healthy.
What we’re not quite sure of: If Barrett or Miller will be full-throttle, 100% again by the start of the season, even if their respective injuries heal as well as expected.
What we know: Jones didn’t turn pro early. If he had, he almost certainly would’ve been no worse than the third quarterback taken in this year’s draft and he might have been a top ten overall pick on tools and upside alone.
What we’re not quite sure of: Jones might be the No. 1 overall pick with another year of seasoning, while Barrett could turn into a fringe NFL quarterback prospect and Miller isn’t a pro QB.
What we know: Urban Meyer’s track record of coaching starting college quarterbacks is as impressive as any resume in the history of college football.
What we’re not quite sure of: What he needs to see out of Miller or Barrett.
What we know: Jones is going to have to really screw up this summer to not be the far-and-away No. 1 option.
The pecking order as of the immediate moment: 1) Cardale Jones, 2a) J.T. Barrett, 2b) Braxton Miller
If you thought the spring game was going to shed some light on the starting quarterback situation, you’ll have to wait until fall. However, on the plus side, the Irish are in great shape no matter what.
Lost in the fog of a rough second half of the year was how Everett Golson would’ve been on top of everyone’s midseason Heisman list had the offense not been flagged late in the loss to Florida State - he proved at times this spring he can still be a magical playmaker at times. He had a strong enough offseason to get the job back he lost before the Music City Bowl, but he completed just 7-of-15 passes in the spring game for 83 yards to go along with a rushing score.
Meanwhile, Malik Zaire – the star of last year’s spring game – looked a lot like a starting quarterback hitting 8-of-14 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns including a gorgeous 68-yard play to Will Fuller.
The one interception thrown by Golson – always alarming since turnovers were such a problem late last year – didn’t matter, but he wasn’t as consistent as he should’ve been considering his experience and time logged into the system.
This is a loaded Irish team with depth, experience, and lots and lots of talent, so it’ll all come down who makes the fewest mistakes. That means …
The pecking order as of the immediate moment: 1) Malik Zaire, 2) Everett Golson
The quarterbacks and the offense didn’t look as smooth as Nick Saban’s salmon mousse sport coat, but they weren’t as bad as the head coach made them out to be in his post-session analysis.
This is a very talented, very inexperienced team, and for that reason alone the starting quarterback job might go to Jake Coker by default.
The former Florida State transfer seemed like a mortal lock to take the job last year after Blake Sims was a disaster in the spring game, but everything started to change in fall camp and the Tide came within a game of playing for the national title. Coker might not be a special passer, but this year he’s good enough to help get the young team through the rough patches.
At least, in theory, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
Coker completed 14-of-28 passes for 183 yards and a score, but the focus is more on the one pick-six thrown – and a few misfires – than on the good things he did. Meanwhile, big junior Alec Morris completed 7-of-11 throws for 60 yards getting plenty of work with the No. 1 team. Even with the reps Morris received, David Cornwell is the No. 2 guy in the pecking order despite mainly facing the starting defense and completing 12-of-24 passes for 110 yards and a score with two picks.
The Crimson Tide offense, overall, needs tons of work, but wide receiver isn’t going to be a problem. ArDarius Stewart showed glimpses of his upside catching eight passes for 118 yards and two scores – including a nice 40-yarder from Coker – and Robert Foster caught six passes for 125 yards.
The line needs to be stronger after allowing eight sacks – touches for sacks – in the spring game, while the running backs will have to carry the offense for a little while. But first, the quarterbacks have to prove they’re ready to
The pecking order as of the immediate moment: 1) Jake Coker, 2) David Cornwell, 3) Alec Morris
The quarterback situation is no more settled than it was when last season ended, but the overall play appeared to be stronger throughout the spring and into the final scrimmage.
The battle between Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings is so tight that every single throw is being scrutinized and every aspect magnified, but there’s no difference between the two at the moment with each of them showing more consistency than last year and each having a few terrific moments.
Harris hit all seven of his throws for 141 yards and two touchdowns for the stronger White team, but connected on just 4-of-10 passes for 37 yards and a score when on the blown-away Purple squad. On the other side, Jennings hit 5-of-6 throws for 27 yards for the Purple team, but came up with an 8-of-14 day for 215 yards and two touchdowns for the White.
They’re dead even.
While it’s going to take an entire fall camp to figure this out – and even that might not be enough – spring ball proved that the winner will have one of the nation’s most dangerous receiving corps to throw to.
Travin Dural caught four passes for 127 yards and two scores, including a nice 41-yard play from Harris, and Malachi Dupre made four grabs for 112 yards and two touchdowns – one from each quarterback. They’re just the stars – the receivers are very deep and very strong.
Harris was the better of the two last year, but Jennings got more work. Flip a coin, but by a paper-thin margin …
The pecking order as of the immediate moment: 1) Brandon Harris, 2) Anthony Jennings
The offensive line matters just as much as the quarterback fight coming out of spring football and going into the fall. The front five should be better than it was last season when it was depleted by injuries, but it wasn’t a positive that it allowed seven sacks in all and didn’t do much for the ground game.
The quarterback play, though, was under the biggest microscope as Tyronne Swoopes completed 17-of-31 passes for 158 yards with a rushing score, and Jerrod Heard completed 20-of-29 throws for 177 yards with a pick as he closed the gap even more.
Head coach Charlie Strong appears to be far more interested in going with the experience of Swoopes, even if he’s a bit erratic at times, but Heard has at the very least made the backup situation more of a plus.
Swoopes is the leader after going through the battles of last year during trying times, but he needs the running game to be even stronger, despite the loss of leading rusher Malcolm Brown, and the receivers have to be steadier and more explosive.
And the line has to give him time to work.
The pecking order as of the immediate moment: 1) Tyrone Swoopes, 2) Jerrod Heard
The main focus coming out of the spring game was the offense as a whole that struggled a bit – at least by Auburn’s standards – to score big, but Jeremy Johnson looked just good enough to keep progressing.
Nick Marshall was a great all-around playmaker and a nice passer with elite talent at wide receiver in Sammie Coates and D’haquille Williams to throw to, and now Jeremy Johnson gets his shot to work with Williams.
Everyone has to get on the same page with Johnson missing on a few chances on the way to a 14-of-22, 252-yard day, but he came up with a few nice deep plays finding Williams for a 36-yard touchdown and Myron Burton for a 43-yarder. He still needs to be more consistent, and he’s nowhere near the runner Marshall was, but at 6-5 and 229 pounds with a big arm and excellent mobility, the expectations are through the roof.
Johnson is going to be the main man – even if it’s not official yet – but Sean White is providing a push. The 6-2, 200-pound redshirt freshman can run a little bit, but his game is all about pinpoint accuracy completing 15-of-19 passes for 109 yards. While he didn’t try to make many big plays, he has the arm to stretch the field.
He just doesn’t have quite enough to shove Johnson aside quite yet.
The pecking order as of the immediate moment: 1) Jeremy Johnson, 2) Sean White, 3) Tyler Queen
Spring Football Games: The QB Situations
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