Column: A look at quarterback battles around Pac-12

2013-04-24T00:00:00Z Column: A look at quarterback battles around Pac-12By BRAD FUQUA, Corvallis Gazette-Times Albany Democrat Herald

Heading into spring practice, Oregon State coach Mike Riley wasn’t saying much about the quarterback competition.

Sure, Sean Mannion was listed first on the spring depth chart but the coach quickly pointed out that no decision had been made and Cody Vaz could be considered the co-No. 1.

“I won’t make a decision until the end of fall camp,” Riley said back when drills were just starting. “I’m just going to let them play and grow. They’ll have even turns unless someone takes the bull by the horns and separates. And that has to be by a significant margin.”

Will one or the other emerge with that “significant margin” in Friday’s scrimmage? Probably not. Like Riley said, it’s an issue that’s going to play out in August.

Although it can be beneficial to make a decision on a clear-cut starter, OSU does find itself in a good situation with two capable signal callers. It came in handy last season, that’s for sure.

The quarterback question is not unique to Corvallis when it comes to other teams around the Pac-12.

Down at Cal, first-year coach Sonny Dykes entered the spring with three QBs setting their sights on the job. Based on the spring game, it appears to be down to two with redshirt freshman Zach Kline and junior Austin Hinder.

Kline, who was ranked as high as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback nationally in the Class of 2012, may have the edge but it’s another battle that should continue through fall camp.

Colorado has the most serious problem at QB. First, returning starter Jordan Webb tore his ACL and will miss the entire season. That left juniors Connor Wood and Nick Hirschman, who were called co-leaders following the spring game.

Then, last week, Hirschman announced that he plans to transfer and first-year coach Mike MacIntyre granted him a release from his scholarship (as long as he doesn’t go to any other Pac-12 school or CU opponents). So, Wood seems to have the job.

Connor Halliday probably has the edge at Washington State, although second-year coach Mike Leach says Austin Apodaca is challenging. In the spring game, Halliday threw for 406 yards and three TDs while Apodaca had 279 yards passing and one TD.

USC had a three-man race going on but it seems to be down to Cody Kessler and Max Wittek. Kessler could be the man for coach Lane Kiffin with 242 yards and three touchdowns in the spring game.

In Seattle, the Huskies return Keith Price but he’s being pushed a bit by Cyler Miles. Washington didn’t reveal much in its spring game with bland play calling in a scrimmage dominated by the defense.

Stanford lost Josh Nunes to an injury and it looks like he won’t be ready when fall practice opens. That leaves Kevin Hogan as the starter and in the spring game, he threw for 170 yards and two TDs.

Other teams are a little more stable, such as junior Kelly Taylor at Arizona State. Last season, Kelly threw for 3,000-plus yards and 29 touchdowns. His numbers may not match that in the upcoming campaign with the loss of some key receivers.

Out in Salt Lake City, the program received a boost with the arrival of Dennis Erickson as the co-offensive coordinator. The former Washington State, OSU and Arizona State coach obviously knows his way around the Pac-12 and he’s getting to know players such as the Utes’ No. 1 QB, Travis Wilson.

Arizona’s No. 1, B.J. Denker, completed 13 of 20 for 246 yards and four TDs in the spring game and coach Rich Rodriguez called his play “pretty sharp.”

UCLA is all set with Brett Hundley back after a great freshman season that included 3,740 passing yards and 29 TDs. He still has some maturing to do in the area of making good on-field decisions.

And finally, Oregon will stage its spring game on Saturday but has no QB controversy — at least as far as the starter is concerned.

Marcus Mariota could be the top quarterback in the conference. The only decision for first-year coach Mark Helfrich will be who backs him up — Jake Rodrigues or Jeff Lockie, both redshirt freshman. Bryan Bennett is no longer with the Ducks after transferring to Southeastern Louisiana.

If I had to rank the Pac-12’s QBs, I’d probably go with UO’s Mariota, ASU’s Kelly and UCLA’s Hundley in the top three spots. After that, it’s close with UW’s Price, Stanford’s Hogan, OSU’s Mannion or Vaz, USC’s Kessler and WSU’s Halliday.

So, who will it be at OSU? Stay tuned.

Brad Fuqua is a sports copy editor and sports writer at the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached via email at brad.fuqua@lee.net.

Copyright 2015 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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