The college football offseason leaves plenty of time for fans to dream and hope for a better season than the one before. A key piece to a good season is the quarterback. The Big 12 always has talent at the position and plenty of interesting storylines. Here’s a look at each team’s starting quarterback situation heading into March.
Baylor: Who fits the new system best?
Baylor will have a new face under center after three-year starter Charlie Brewer left for Utah as a graduate transfer. Junior Gerry Bohanan, sophomore Jacob Zeno, redshirt freshman Blake Shapen and freshman Kyron Drones will battle for the starting job while learning a new offense under offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes. Most likely, Bohanan or Zeno will win the job since they have game experience. Bohanan has played in 15 games, posting 194 passing yards (18-of-38) and running for 296 yards and three scores on 48 attempts. Zeno has taken snaps in four games and thrown for 241 yards (14-of-26), a touchdown and interception. Bohanan seems more mature, but Zeno has shown more arm strength and accuracy in limited snaps. The quarterback who can master the offense while showing a desire and drive to get better will probably win the job.
Iowa State: Rewriting the Record Books with Purdy
Senior Brock Purdy has already found a place in the Iowa State record books. He owns or shares 25 school records, including a program-best 23 wins at quarterback, and guided the Cyclones to a historic 2020 season with a Big 12 title game appearance and the program’s first Fiesta Bowl win. Purdy threw for 2,750 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions and ranked second in the Big 12 in completion percentage (66.6%). Despite this success, Purdy still had a few head-scratching performances. He threw for just 145 yards in the season-opening loss to Louisiana, tossed the ball in the air while being sacked against TCU, and had three interceptions in the Big 12 title game loss to Oklahoma. If Purdy can eliminate the inconsistencies during the offseason, more wins and record-breaking performances will follow.
Kansas: Uncertainty reigns in Lawrence
A winless 2020 season did little to solve the quarterback concerns for Kansas. Freshman Jalon Daniels and junior Miles Kendrick split quarterback duties over nine games. Daniels completed a team-high 76 passes (on 152 attempts) and 718 total yards for one touchdown and four interceptions. He recorded six starts but was replaced by Kendrick in season-finale against TCU. Kendrick appeared in six games with two starts and posted 647 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions on 73-of-120 passing. Needless to say, Daniels and Miles struggled as the offense sputtered around them. The starting job will be up for grabs under new coordinator Mike DeBord. A pair of three-star recruits, Ben Easters and Conrad Hawley, enrolled at Kansas this spring and will also be in the mix. The Jayhawks have options, but none seem like the immediate answer. It could be another long season on offense for Kansas in 2021.
Kansas State: Thompson’s back and ready to go
Skylar Thompson is the overwhelming favorite to regain the starting job after deciding to return for a senior season. Backup Will Howard gained some experience in nine games last season and was serviceable, throwing for 1,178 yards, eight touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Still, it’s hard to pass on a quarterback who has 30 career starts and ranks in the top 10 in 15 quarterback categories at Kansas State. Thompson has also recorded back-to-back wins over Oklahoma and understands how to handle the spotlight. As long as Thompson has fully recovered, the offense will fall under his direction. But keep an eye on true freshman Jake Rubley, who comes in with high expectations and while he isn’t likely to start, he is the guy to watch in 2022 and beyond.
Oklahoma: Rocking and Rolling with Rattler
Oklahoma’s quarterback situation is simple – keep Spencer Rattler healthy. As a redshirt freshman, Rattler led Big 12 quarterbacks with 3,031 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, a 67.5 completion percentage and a 172.6 efficiency rating. He earned national freshman of the year honors, FWAA Freshman All-America status, and was a Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist. Rattler handled adversity well after losing back-to-back games against Kansas State and Iowa State. Even a slow start against Texas couldn’t phase him. Rattler took the time to learn from mistakes and utilize the talent around him. With a proper offseason and more time to develop, Rattler and the Oklahoma offense will turn into a nightmare for defensive coordinators.
Oklahoma State: Sanders’ job to lose
Spencer Sanders should keep the starting job, but an underwhelming 2020 season could create a quarterback competition. Sanders suffered an ankle injury in the opener against Tulsa and missed two games. When he returned, the passing game was inconsistent. Sanders put up 400 yards and four touchdowns against Texas, followed by 108 passing yards at Kansas State. The passing issues remained a theme against Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and TCU. Sanders finished with 2,007 yards passing for 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games and his rushing output dropped from 57 yards per game in 2019 to 26.9. Backup Shane Illingworth, a pro-style quarterback, showed promise in four games, completing 41-of-70 passes for 554 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Illingworth lacks Sanders’ experience, but might fit better with coach Mike Gundy’s system. Sanders will need a strong spring camp to keep Illingworth on the sidelines.
TCU: Duggan needs to show arm strength, accuracy
Max Duggan came to TCU in 2018 as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback (per 247Sports) recruit in the nation. At least part of that dual-threat ability has proven dangerous early in Duggan’s career. He led the Horned Frogs’ rushing attack in 2020 with 526 yards and 10 total touchdowns in 10 games. When Duggan went to the air, only 60.8% of passes found the target for 1,795 yards, 10 touchdowns, and four interceptions. An injured offensive line and young receiving group contributed to the passing problems. TCU also relied heavily on short passes or long throws with little emphasis on the intermediate game. Duggan needs a proper offseason to build relationships with receivers, gain confidence in the pocket, and finally show off his arm strength and accuracy. Otherwise, the Horned Frogs’ depth at quarterback, now with four options, might get tested.
Texas: Life after Sam Ehlinger
Texas enters 2021 without the same starting quarterback for the first time since 2017. With Sam Ehlinger gone to the NFL, redshirt junior Casey Thompson and sophomore Hudson Card will battle for the starting job. Thompson has played in seven games as a Longhorn, throwing for 309 yards and six touchdowns on 20-of-29 passing. The majority of the reps came in the 2020 Valero Alamo Bowl in place of an injured Ehlinger. Thompson threw four touchdowns on just 8-of-10 passing attempts. Card, a former four-star recruit, has appeared in two games and completed 1-of-3 passes for five yards. Both quarterbacks face a learning curve under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, but Thompson’s experience should win the job. Sarkisian has successfully replaced multi-year starting quarterbacks before and will have no problem finding Ehlinger’s replacement.
Texas Tech: Time to build for the future?
Texas Tech’s quarterback situation took a hit when Alan Bowman entered the transfer portal. Bowman had a promising start at Texas Tech, but an injury in 2019 derailed his progress. He never quite regained pre-injury form, but always gave Texas Tech a chance to win games. Now, the options are Oregon transfer Tyler Shough, incoming freshman Behren Morton and senior Henry Colombi. Morton, an Eastland High product, threw for 3,593 yards, 37 touchdowns and six interceptions and ran for 897 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior. Colombi, a Utah State transfer, played in six games with four starts and threw for 177.5 yards per game. This uninspiring play by Colombi and Morton’s youth means Shough is the heavy favorite to at least start the season under center in 2021.
West Virginia: Doege leads the pack, for now
Senior Jarret Doege has the clear experience advantage over the other quarterbacks at West Virginia. Backup Austin Kendall left the program, leaving sophomore Matt Cavallaro, redshirt freshman Garrett Greene and freshman Will Crowder as the other options at quarterback. Doege has been solid in 13 career starts for the Mountaineers. In 2020, he threw for 258.7 yards per game along with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. Ball security and minimal mistakes kept the Mountaineers in games, but a 132.2 efficiency rating and zero wins against top teams in the conference leave room for improvement. Doege should easily beat out Cavallaro, Greene and Crowder for the No. 1 spot, but the underclassmen could push for snaps as the season progresses, especially Greene, who is quickly building up hype in Morgantown.
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