Quarterback Battles Abound in Spring Practice

Tevin Washington is one of several ACC quarterbacks who will be replaced in 2013.
Georgia Tech is one of several ACC teams with quarterback battles this spring, following Tevin Washington’s graduation.

Florida State – The Seminoles have a busy battle to replace EJ Manuel.  The “veteran” of the group is rising junior Clint Trickett, who has completed 66 of 106 pass attempts during his first two seasons in Tallahassee.  As the most experienced contestant, Trickett took an early lead in the competition, but all signs point to the quarterbacks involved being more difficult to separate with time.

The two quarterbacks pushing Trickett the hardest are rising redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker and redshirt freshman Jameis Winston.  Coker has been limited somewhat by a foot injury, but his arm strength has impressed coaches and reporters during spring practice.  Meanwhile, Winston has developed a cult following for his exploits on the baseball field while battling for the quarterback job.  Winston is currently batting .281 with a .438 slugging percentage for the Seminole baseball team.  On the football field, Winston can make plays with his legs as well as his arms, the latter of which gained YouTube notoriety in January.

Largely forgotten in the quarterback battle is rising redshirt freshman Sean Maguire.  Maguire was New Jersey’s best signal-caller in the 2012 recruiting class and had offers from NC State, Maryland, and Alabama.  He’s unlikely to secure the starting quarterback position, but a strong performance Saturday in Florida State’s spring game could at least remind people he’s part of the show.

Georgia Tech – Vad Lee rushed for nine touchdowns and 544 yards last season as Tevin Washington’s backup in Georgia Tech’s option offense.  Both Lee and redshirt freshman Justin Thomas scored rushing touchdowns in the Yellow Jackets’ scrimmage last Saturday.  Lee scored twice, including one 60-yard rush to paydirt, while Thomas set up a goal-line score with a 40-yard scamper.

Lee is likely the front-runner for the starting job, thanks to his experience under Washington last season.  With that said, if Lee and Washington were able to successfully platoon for the Yellow Jackets last season during their run to the ACC Championship Game, it’s possible that Lee and Thomas could split time under center in 2013.  If both are finding the end zone the way they did last Saturday, why not?

NC State – Manny Stocker and Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas are battling to be Mike Glennon’s successor in Raleigh.  With Glennon and Russell Wilson being the last two Wolfpack quarterbacks, the victor of this battle will have large shoes to fill.  Dave Doeren’s new offense is faster than Tom O’Brien’s system last season, which means both Stocker and Thomas are learning new schemes this year.

Thomas holds the edge thus far, likely thanks to his experience as a starter for 21 games at Colorado State. However, there doesn’t appear to be any rush on Doeren’s behalf to lock in either Thomas or Stocker as the head man before the spring ends, so both quarterbacks should get an opportunity to prove themselves both at NC State’s spring game on April 20 and throughout the summer.  Stocker would likely be the better fit for a read-option offense like the one Doeren employed at Northern Illinois. If Thomas is the better decision-maker, however, Doeren will likely adjust the playbook to fit his skill set as a pocket passer.

Pittsburgh – While four quarterbacks are “in the running” to replace Tino Sunseri, Tom Savage and Chad Voytik are considered the frontrunners for the job. Both Savage and Voytik have stronger arms than Sunseri, which should add some much-needed balance to the Pitt offense by way of the deep pass in 2013.

Savage is the clubhouse leader, thanks to his experience starting at Rutgers where he was a Freshman All-American. Savage has taken most of the first-team snaps, and looks to have a strong finish to a career that has seen him go from New Jersey to Arizona to Pennsylvania.    Redshirt freshman Voytik’s time will come, but barring a stunning performance in Pitt’s spring game that translates into an impossible-to-ignore summer, it will not be this year.

Syracuse – Terrel Hunt took the lion’s share of Syracuse’s scrimmage on Sunday, the first chance for fans to see this year’s Orange in action. However, he threw two interceptions Sunday, and senior Charley Loeb aims to turn his experience into a starting gig.  Experience, of course, is relative: While Loeb has spent the most time on campus, Ryan Nassib’s success has limited Loeb’s production on the field to four completions for 46 yards in his career.

John Kinder is included in the quarterback battle, but he was limited to second-team snaps in the scrimmage. There’s also rising sophomore Ashton Broyld in the mix.  Broyld was recruited as a dual-threat quarterback, but he rushed for 171 yards and caught seven passes for 53 yards as a freshman.  While it doesn’t seem likely that he will be a regular quarterback option for the Orange, especially while being sidelined with a high ankle sprain, he could be the type of player to make occasional appearances under center as part of a read-option package.

Virginia – Head coach Mike London did not name a starter after Virginia’s spring game last weekend, in which the team’s offensive line struggled to protect the backfield.  There were 14 sacks and three safeties in the scrimmage, which is great for fans of defense but less than ideal for examining quarterbacks.

Greyson Lambert had the best spring game, completing 21 of 36 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns.  Of course, Phillip Sims played in 12 games for the Cavaliers last season, passing for 1,263 yards and nine touchdowns, giving him an edge in experience.  Meanwhile, David Watford has been taking most of the first-team snaps in spring practice.

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