Biggest quarterback competitions in the FCS

CRAIG HALEY (STATS FCS Senior Editor=)
The Associated Press

(STATS) - The number of FCS college football teams that have quarterback competitions this offseason isn't any different that a typical year, but some of the ones that do stand out.

They include the biggest programs in the subdivision and the one with the longest conference winning streak.

Following are the seven biggest quarterback competitions heading toward preseason camps in August:

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James Madison

Former Pitt signal caller Ben DiNucci was named to the All-CAA third team in his first season with the Dukes, but he had some ups and down and threw five interceptions in their playoff loss to Colgate, so it's reason for an open competition. Plus, there's a new sheriff in town with coach Curt Cignetti. Fellow senior Cole Johnson, last year's backup, poses the biggest challenge and redshirt sophomore Gage Maloney has been touted, but DiNucci is still the favorite to lead the national title contender.

Montana State

With 2016/17 starter Chris Murray not returning due to academic issues, it will be interesting to see if coach Jeff Choate keeps junior Troy Anderson in the QB mix. Anderson made the Big Sky first team while leading the Bobcats to the playoffs last season, but it was announced previously he would shift back to linebacker, where he played as a freshman. He rushed for 1,412 yards, but passed for only 1,195 yards last season, so the thought is to make either 6-foot-5 Tucker Rovig and 6-6 Casey Bauman, who have stronger arms, the new starter. Rovig could settle in as a wide receiver.

North Dakota State

As the FCS dynasty replaces Easton Stick, who set the subdivision record for quarterback wins (49), there are two good choices in redshirt freshman Trey Lance and Iowa State transfer Zeb Noland. The dual-threat Lance was groomed last season to possibly be Stick's successor, but Noland is experienced, having started five games for the Cyclones over two seasons, including a 360-yard, two-touchdown performance against Oklahoma. Sophomore Holden Hotchkiss transferred out of the program this offseason.

Northern Iowa

As the Panthers replace two-year starter Eli Dunne, they basically have a four-man race. Redshirt freshman Will McElvain, who is explosive with a big arm, may be the leader heading into camp, while Jacob Keller, a reliable game manager without the big-time arm, is the most experienced signal caller in the program at two career games. There also are two true freshmen, lefty Nate Martens and Justin Fomby.

Samford

Coach Chris Hatcher is replacing 2018 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award winner Devlin Hodges, who set the subdivision's all-time record for passing yards. South Florida dual-threat transfer Chris Oladokun, who started three of the Bulls' final four games last season, is presumed to be favorite, but the competition with Liam Welch is continuing in fall camp. Welch was Hodges' backup the last couple seasons.

San Diego

Four-year starter Anthony Lawrence was ridiculously good in his career, losing only one Pioneer Football League game while setting ever major quarterback record at San Diego. The favorite to replace Lawrence is senior Reid Sinnett, the backup the last three seasons. Also in the competition are juniors Mason Randall and Alex Farina. The latter was particularly sharp in spring practice. He has been the Toreros' deep snapper the past two seasons.

South Dakota State

Former Iowa Western/Arizona State quarterback Kurt Walding departed the program after spring practice, leaving redshirt freshman J'Bore Gibbs with the inside track to replacing 3½-year starter Taryn Christion. Gibbs has good size and athleticism. Junior Kanin Nelson has been in the program longer and was the backup last season, while redshirt freshman Matt Connors reportedly impressed during the spring.

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