Matt Hinton

Spring practice stock characters: Your dual-quarterback update

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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News abounds today on those most prominent of the spring stock players: The Dueling Quarterbacks.

Southern Cal. The duel hardly seems relevant in this case, since USC quarterbacks under Pete Carroll are all the same guy: The body belongs to the university, and they just change the head. So go down the line -- Matt Barkley is Aaron Corp is Mitch Mustain is Mark Sanchez is John David Booty is Matt Leinart is Carson Palmer. Add Matt Cassell if you want. Doesn't matter. Every one of those guys, including current combatants Barkley, Corp and Mustain, is a tall, five-star pocket slinger within two inches or 20 pounds of all the others. New quarterbacks coach and playcaller Jeremy Bates says there's no timetable for naming a starter; Bruce Feldman suggested Corp is a slight favorite Wednesday, but then, it's harder to sell a Q&A with the probable backup.

Cliché Watch: This job is wiiiiiiiide open -- even for that one guy who wasn't the most sought-after prospect in the country, because he's a person, too:

Bates: Anything is possible. All four quarterbacks are going to get the same shot. No one is ahead, and no one is below. They’re all even going into it. I don’t know them on the field and won’t until spring practice.

Michigan State. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg provides the classic "dueling QBs" breakdown, identifying Kirk Cousins as the "strong-armed, drop-back passer" and Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol "a constant threat to run" in the mold of ex-Spartan Drew Stanton, one of the greatest starting quarterbacks in history to lead his team to three consecutive losing seasons.

Cliché Watch: It's not a "competition":

Although Cousins and Nichol have spent the last few months practically joined at the hip -- in meetings, in the weight room, splitting reps in 7-on-7 workouts -- they don't see each other as the enemy. "To have a mindset where I'm competing against somebody is wrong," Cousins said. "It's not the mindset I want to approach it with. I'm competing against my own potential and my own ability."

Arizona. Another classic runner-passer narrative is brewing between Matt Scott and Nick Foles -- "Scott, the backup a year ago, is a scrambler. Foles, who sat out last year after transferring from Michigan State, is more of a pure passer." -- who are distinguishable only for their size: Scott is on the skinny side, at 6'3" 205, where Foles is a 6'5" 240-pound defensive end who can throw a little. You don't have to watch either of them play (and no one outside of the 'Zona scout team has) to pick the "scrambler" out of that duo.

Cliché Watch: Screw recruiting rankings -- these guys have all the tools:

"They are enormously talented," Stoops said. "It is just understanding what we do and understanding what defenses do and being able to go out there and execute with the pressure."

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Air Force. Returning starter Tim Jefferson is sitting out the majority of spring drills to get his grades in order, opening the door for top running back Asher Clark to take some snaps in the Falcons' option game. Clark is a former high school quarterback who competed at quarterback last spring and had "excellent field vision" as a high school QB, according to Falcon boss Tim Calhoun. But this is an offense that went more than a month after Jefferson took over the job last year without attempting more than eight passes in a game: The quarterback is already a running back, so he might as well just be a running back.

Cliché Watch: The kid has made some mistakes, but he's maturing:

"It was my decision to sit out most of the practices because I felt like my academics still weren't where they needed to be," Jefferson said. "It was gut-check time and I needed to figure out how much football really meant to me. If football really meant as much as I thought it would, I will get back on track with my academics and make sure I'm nowhere close to being ineligible. It was actually my decision to not practice because he wanted me to practice a little bit, but I decided that I needed to have my priorities in line and academics always comes first."

Texas A&M. Aggie fans clamored for a year-and-a-half for heir apparent Jerrod Johnson to replace Stephen McGee as No. 1, and when the towering blue chip finally cracked the lineup ... eh. It was alright. But nothing spectacular: Following Johnson's late season meltdown, in fact, Mike Sherman will make good on a promise he made last year to Ryan Tannehill that he'd get another shot at quarterback after being moved to receiver -- even though Tannehill proceeded to lead the team and set school freshman records in catches and yards. If A&M is willing to sacrifice its best receiver to keep Johnson off the field, chalk up his four-interception debacle in the Aggies' lopsided loss at Baylor as the beginning of the would-be star's demise. We wouldn't even be having this discussion if not for that afternoon.

Cliché Watch: This is not a joke:

"I would say, as I told him last summer, he'll play more quarterback than receiver," Sherman said this winter.
[...]<br>
"Coach Sherman told me that I will have a shot at the starting job at QB in the spring," a resolute Tannehill said late in the season.<p>

You know who the opening-day starters are going to be in each of these cases -- Mustain, Cousins, Jefferson and Johnson thanks to seniority, Scott by virtue of being the better-hyped of Arizona's pair and having four years ahead of him -- but there's nothing wrong with a little drama.

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