Fall Football Preview: College Football Rookie Quarterbacks
by Justin Johnson - 7/22/2009
Each year in college football there is a guaranteed turnover at all positions. With graduations and players leaving early, lineups are almost always in flux.
The 2009 season is set to open and at least 39 of the 120 Division I teams are slated to start the year with a new signal callers under center. There is still a possibility that that number will creep up into the mid-forties with fall camps set to open and many situations unsettled.
Before you place your future wagers for season win totals here are a few key quarterback switches that you should consider.
USC: Aaron Corp (6-4, 205, Soph.). (o/u 10, +105/-145, BetUS)
Quarterback at USC is probably the glamour position in all of college football, and this season it may also be the biggest key to a team's success. Corp, only a sophomore, will be handed the reigns to an offense that is generally one of the most efficient in the country. The good news for Corp is that he has a veteran offensive line to play behind as all five starters return and the first two backups have starting experience as well. The bad news is that the trio of highly-touted running backs (Joe McKnight, C.J. Gable, Stefon Johnson) have yet to produce to the level of hype they entered Troy with.
Value: Under. The offense looks like it can once again be efficient, but relying on a young quarterback to make plays is risky. Also, looking across the line the Trojans must replace most of the front seven, including three NFL linebackers. The schedule is none too kind to a team who will go on the road to Ohio State, Notre Dame, California, Oregon and Arizona State. Getting to an 11-win regular season is not impossible for the Trojans, but two losses is not a far-fetched possibility.
Alabama: Greg McElroy (6-3, 218, Junior). (o/u 9, 140/-180, BetUS)
The Crimson Tide made a major move back to prominence last season and look to continue the improvement in the third season under Nick Saban. Greg McElroy looks to be the leading candidate (holding off Star Jackson) to start the season under center. While replacing John Parker Wilson may not sound very hard to do it must be noted that Wilson did lead the Tide to a No. 2 ranking late last season. The offensive line is being rebuilt as well and that is the real concern, not the quarterback position.
Value: Over: McElroy will be asked to simply duplicate John Parker Wilson's game management and rely on the defense to keep the Tide in games. If he can play within himself 10 wins should be easy to get to for Alabama. The Tide return six of their front seven to a defense that was No. 2 in the nation in rush defense (74.1 ypg) and was third in total defense (263.5 ypg). McElroy has a bigger arm than Wilson and should be able to stretch the field with All-World WR Julio Jones. Pencil in wins over FIU, North Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Chatanooga, which means the Tide need to go 2-2 against Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, LSU, and Auburn to hit the 10-win mark.
WVU: Jarrett Brown (6-4, 221, Senior). (o/u 8, 120/-120, BetUS)
The Mountaineers will be breaking in a new quarterback for the first time in four years as they say goodbye to the NCAA's only four-time bowl winning quarterback Pat White. Enter Jarrett Brown, who has served as Whites backup for the last four years. Reports from spring practice indicated that Brown looked comfortable running the offense and showed good composure and leadership. However, the offensive line did not look good, and will need to improve dramatically for the 'Eers to get back to the top of the Big East.
Value: Over. West Virginia welcomes back explosive running back Noel Devine as well as six starters on the nations No.11 ranked defense, so the load should be light on Jarrett Brown. Brown has experience starting as he is 2-0 as a starter as well as numerous injury replacement time while Pat White was nicked up, so he will not be easily rattled in hostile environments. The Mountaineers are very good at home and can get all seven wins at Milan Pusker Field. They will need to win two road games of these four, Auburn, South Florida, Cincinnati, and Rutgers. While none of those four are guaranteed wins, splitting them is a very real possibility.
Michigan State: Kirk Cousins (6-3, 202, Soph.). (o/u 8, +135/-175, BetUS)
Michigan State has been to consecutive bowls for the first time in more than 10 years (1995-97) under Mark Dantonio. For the Spartans to make a run to three consecutive bowls the offense will need to come together quickly. Making the situation cloudier is that leaving spring practice no definitive decision has been made to replace Brian Hoyer. Sophomore Kirk Cousins has a slight lead entering fall camp but a serious push by Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol could still unseat Cousins.
Value: Under. Not only are the Spartans replacing their quarterback but also workhorse tailback Javon Ringer, and they will be rebuilding the right side of the offensive line. The back seven of the defense looks solid, but MSU was unable to create pressure last year without blitzing and that could be of more concern with a struggling offense. Cousins, who is more mobile than Hoyer, has some ability to make plays but he will need to play within himself and let the defense create opportunity. The scheduling is not kind to Michigan State this season as the only win they can pencil in prior to the season is the opener against Montana State. Six wins and a bowl would be acceptable in East Lansing, but a step back from last years 9-4 season is expected.
Arizona: Matt Scott (6-3, 190, Soph.) (o/u 6, -135/-105, BetUS)
The Wildcats finally took the step forward and made a bowl last season. This year if they repeat that feat would be a surprise to many. Replacing Willie Tuitama after three and a half years of starting will be a tough undertaking. Making it more difficult for Arizona is that they have yet to name a starter entering fall practice. Sophomores Matt Scott and Michigan State transfer Nick Foles will continue to battle it out in the fall. Scott left spring practice with the slight lead but the position is unsettled.
Value: Under. Replacing Tuitama and his leadership would be one thing, but Arizona is also replacing All-Conference WR Mike Thomas as well as second round NFL Draft pick OT Eben Britton. Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes like to spread the ball from his days as a Mike Leach disciple, but he will be basically starting from ground zero with Arizona. A major step back could come to Tucson this year and a four win season would not be out of the question with the improved Pac-10 and the dramatic step back in Arizona.
Many other teams in the "Big Six" conference will be starting new signal callers this year and their performances will be a major factor in their teams' success or failure. Be on the lookout for these names:
Danny Sullivan, Arizona State
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
Joe Cox, Georgia
Justin Burke, Louisville
Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
Zac Lee, Nebraska
Joey Elliot, Purdue
Dominic Natale, Rutgers
Taylor Potts, Texas Tech
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