Though it may be early to talk about quarterback controversies, there are some programs in quite the predicament when it comes to which player will eventually lead their offense. From transfers to incumbents, these five passers will be under a far more intense microscope than their peers as spring practices get underway. They’ll have to set themselves apart if they’re to remain (or become) starters in September.
Luke Del Rio, Florida
Florida’s quarterback situation is far from settled after Will Grier announced his transfer intentions and Treon Harris’ transfer of positions, but Del Rio is considered the front-runner for the Gators’ quarterback job.
After sitting all of the 2015 season, the Alabama and Oregon State transfer is the longest tenured Gator, which puts him under a brighter spotlight. Unfortunately for the redshirt junior, it won’t be because he has tons of game tape go off. He’s appeared in just three games in his career, going 8-of-18 passing for 141 yards.
If he’s going in as the front-runner, he’s going to have to impress early and often to keep that status.
Blake Barnett, Alabama
Another season, another early quarterback battle for coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. While junior Cooper Bateman and sophomore David Cornwell have spent more time practicing in the system, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett isn’t too far off in that category and is the most talented quarterback of the trio.
Last season, Saban took the battle down to the wire, neglecting to name a starter until September. Barnett has the opportunity to solidify his status early, giving the rest of the offense ample time to develop cohesion.
Brandon Harris, LSU
Brandon Harris can be expected to start the season atop the Tigers’ depth chart. That doesn’t mean he can’t end up being supplanted due to a bad camp showing or the emergence of another competitor. Though he started every game for the Tigers, Harris was wildly inconsistent, completing just 53.8 percent of his throws while passing for 2,165 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.
LSU coach Les Miles on TH South Grad Danny Etling: “His competition will definitely elevate the room at the quarterback spot. No question,”
— WTWO NBC2 Sports (@WTWOsports) January 5, 2016
If Les Miles’ projections of Purdue transfer Danny Etling were any indication, Harris will have to set himself apart from the rest of the pack and lead an evolving LSU offense.
Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
Whether Johnson is the frontrunner for Auburn’s quarterback job remains to be seen. After last season’s game of musical chairs under center, it’s nearly impossible to project what coach Gus Malzahn will do. It’ll be up to Johnson this spring to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Improving on his ability to find receivers downfield (6.7 yards per attempt) and his touchdown to interception ratio (10 touchdowns to seven interceptions) will help on that front.
Austin Allen, Arkansas
The younger brother of Brandon Allen may have the pedigree, but he hasn’t been given the keys to the offense yet. That’s because coach Bret Bielema has a growing stable of capable quarterbacks, including freshman Ricky Town. Town, the No. 6 ranked pro-style quarterback in the class of 2015, is nipping at the heels of Allen. He’ll need more than being the only player to have thrown a pass for Bielema in a game to create distance between himself and Arkansas’ newcomers.