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Turnover at quarterback is unavoidable in college football and finding replacements for standout performers can be challenging. You don't know - even with a player's heralded background - how a new starter will perform, especially with the pressure that accompanies occupying the team's most important position.
The predicament also extends to schools that have experienced options, plus competition from veterans or new arrivals.
Several schools hoping to make the College Football Playoff or have rebound seasons have found themselves in this situation. For some - like Alabama (Bryce Young) and Clemson (D.J. Uiagalelei) - the solution was obvious even with the loss of elite starters. Notre Dame finalized its decision this weekend by anointing Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan as starter.
However, prominent teams are still sorting out their decision with fewer than three weeks before the official start of the season.
The chase to succeed Justin Fields was thought to be a three-man race before Quinn Ewers decided to reclassify this month and enroll one year early. Ewers is considered one of the best prospects in the last decade - on par with Trevor Lawrence - but asking him to win the job in four weeks is a tall order.
So what about the other three candidates - C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller, both redshirt freshmen, and true freshman Kyle McCord? Stroud, who has a one-year start on McCord, is seen as the favorite early in training camp, though Buckeyes coach Ryan Day hasn't made a final decision.
Having four quarterbacks - all heralded recruits - with no playing experience means there could be some growing pains for Day as he tries to return to the playoff.
The Aggies appear to have all the pieces to finally break through and win the SEC. But they will need a find a replacement for Kellen Mond, the school's all-time leader in almost every major passing category.
Haynes King and Zach Calzada are fighting to replace him. Calzada has more experience with two years in the system. King won the competition to be the backup to Mond as a true freshman in 2020, though he played only limited snaps and threw just four passes.
Nothing was decided in the spring, pushing the competition to this fall. It's possible both will get opportunities in the opener against Kent State to sort things out. Coach Jimbo Fisher has to get this decision right in order for A&M to stay in the lofty heights it occupied last year.
The Longhorns must replace Sam Ehlinger, who was a four-year starter and leader of the program. His absence will be felt on and off the field.
The situation is difficult to predict as Steve Sarkisian brings in a new offense after being hired to replace Tom Herman. The two contenders, Casey Thompson and Hudson Card, haven't seen meaningful action except for Thompson's impressive performance in the second half of last year's Alamo Bowl. While notable, that was last year with a different coach.
A scrimmage last week left Sarkisian unhappy with both players. Not a good sign with No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas as the first two games. Whoever prevails won't have a lot of time to have growing pains.
The Utes just missed the Top 25 in the preseason USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, likely because of their uncertainty at quarterback. Cameron Rising started the season last year but was injured after throwing just six passes in the opener. Shoulder surgery kept him out for the spring and led Utah to entertain options from the transfer portal.
Enter Charlie Brewer from Baylor. Brewer, who threw for 9,700 yards and 65 touchdowns in four seasons with the Bears, was impressive this spring and could have the inside track given his experience. He has attempted 1,304 passes compared to the six thrown by Rising in his career.
The Broncos are also in transition with Andy Avalos arriving as coach after Bryan Harsin left for Auburn. He has two solid options at quarterback. Hank Bachmeier has been the starter at the beginning of each of the last two seasons, but he also has missed time both years. Last year's positive COVID-19 test opened the door for Jack Sears, who played well in a win against Air Force and then was knocked out early against Brigham Young.
Bachmeier would seem to have the clear edge this fall, especially with an 11-2 record as a starter. But Avalos hasn't yet given him the job, indicating this race is much closer than expected. Sears, who was at Southern California for three seasons, has dealt with a muscle injury in camp and that could ultimately decide the winner.
There might not be a better story this season than the return of McKenzie Milton more than two years after a serious knee injury sidelined him at Central Florida. The then-sophomore managed to finish sixth in the Heisman Trophy race in 2018 after going down in the penultimate game of the regular season. He has recovered, but sought a new destination with Dillon Gabriel entrenched as UCF's starter. A move to the Seminoles made sense given their quarterback issues the past several seasons.
Milton competed with three other quarterbacks this spring and the race is now down to him and Jordan Travis, who started six games last season. Travis has greater mobility, while Milton brings a better passing arm. It's possible both see significant time given their different skill sets that will force defenses to prepare for two options.
A new coach, two new quarterbacks and two holdover options make the Volunteers' competition perhaps the most intriguing race in the country. Brian Maurer and Harrison Bailey have started multiple games. Bailey, who was thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2020, was one of the top quarterbacks of his recruiting class but struggled to distinguish himself, albeit in difficult circumstances.
Jeremy Pruitt brought in Hendon Hooker from Virginia Tech in January to compete for the job. Hooker made 15 starts in the previous two seasons with the Hokies before he decided to leave. Then Pruitt was fired amid an NCAA investigation and Josh Heupel was hired as his replacement. Heupel added Michigan transfer Joe Milton to the mix. Milton started five games for the Wolverines before falling out of favor, which means each candidate in this chaotic situation has starting experience.
Heupel's background on offense is one promising part of the equation. Surely, there will be improvement for the group given how poor it has been in previous seasons.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football quarterback competitions: Seven to watch