Five true freshmen QBs to watch
1. Oklahoma State — Wes Lunt, 6-4, 211 pounds, from Rochester, Ill.
Lunt is expected to start at quarterback from day one, which would mark the first time in school history that a true freshman starts a season-opener. Lunt, who beat out redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and junior Clint Chelf in the spring, will be the first true freshman starter for Oklahoma State since Tone Jones in 1993.
“We had to make a decision based on what we thought was best for our offense to score points and then give us the best chance to win football games,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said in a statement.
“All three players had good springs, but at some point the decision is made on the field. There’s always a comment about who coaches are going to name as the starter at any position, but the coaches usually don’t make that decision — the decision is made by the players. Wes performed better than the other two quarterbacks in the spring.”
Lunt won two state championships in Rochester, Ill., and threw for 3,650 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions despite missing time early in the season with an injury. Oklahoma State opens its season against Savannah State on Sept. 1.
2. Notre Dame — Gunner Kiel, 6-3, 215, from Columbus, Ind.
Kiel, who originally committed to LSU, is still contending for playing time for when the Fighting Irish play Navy in the season opener Sept. 1 in Dublin, Ireland. Kiel, the nephew of former Notre Dame quarterback Blair Kiel, got a jump on learning coach Brian Kelly’s offense by enrolling last January, going through spring practice and getting into the weight room.
Kiel didn’t exactly make a move up the depth chart in the spring and he’s still running behind junior Andrew Hendrix and sophomore Everett Golson, but he’ll be No. 3 at worst for the opener because Tommy Rees is serving a one-game suspension because of offseason legal troubles.
The nation’s top quarterback recruit still has a way to go, but he has been receiving mostly good reviews in camp and could be an option for the Irish at some point this season.
“Gunner has all of the intangibles that you are looking for,” Kelly told reporters recently.
3. Boise State — Nick Patti, 5-10, 185, from Orlando, Fla.
Patti remains in contention for a starting assignment with three other quarterbacks — junior Joe Southwick, sophomore Grant Hedrick and redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea. Patti enrolled last January and competed in spring drills, when he looked impressive.
He has grasped the Boise State offense in a brief amount of time and has shown keen athleticism at the position. Although Southwick is the presumed leader, coach Chris Petersen remains undecided — at least publicly — about who will replace Kellen Moore as the Broncos’ starter at Michigan State in the season-opener Aug. 31.
“(Patti) might be the most impressive guy in the quarterback race right now just from being around such a short time and just throwing as much as we did (at him),” Petersen told reporters heading into the fall camp.
4. Southern Miss — Anthony Alford, 6-1, 210, from Petal, Miss.
Alford signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, who drafted him in the third round as an outfielder, on the contingency that he be allowed to play college football for the Golden Eagles. With the season-opener looming at Nebraska on Sept. 1, it appears that Alford is right in the mix to earn the starting quarterback assignment.
Alford, who accounted for more than 3,700 total yards and 44 touchdowns as senior last year at Petal High School, is competing for the starting role against junior Chris Campbell and redshirt freshman Ricky Lloyd. Campbell has yet to play in a game; he redshirted as a freshman, stayed on the sidelines as a redshirt freshman and suffered an injured shoulder before the start of last season. He has missed drills in fall camp with a bruised shoulder.
Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson is impressed by Alford’s athleticism, but he is cautious about putting too much expectations on the true freshman and Lloyd.
“Ricky and Anthony are working hard,” Johnson told the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. “Overall, sometimes we don’t have a chance to evaluate because of busted assignments or they can’t get the ball out of their hands. We don’t have any consistency right now, but they’re also freshmen who have never taken a snap in a college football game and it’s obvious.”
5. Texas A&M — Matt Davis, 6-2, 206, from Houston
Davis has been involved in a four-player battle for the starting quarterback spot, although Texas A&M coaches announced this week that redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel is No. 1. Nevertheless, A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has stated that Davis is a better athlete than the other three challengers — redshirt sophomore Jameill Showers, sophomore Matt Joeckel and Manziel. “(Davis’) strong suit is if it’s not there, he’s going to take off and try to make something happen,” Sumlin told reporters.