State, Seminoles, Cavs share QB questions
Posted June 5, 2013
With last week’s announcement that Phillip Sims has been dismissed from Virginia’s football team, the Cavaliers joined North Carolina State University and Florida State University (among others) in the ACC’s unofficial "X-Factor Division" for the 2013 season.
Those three schools, along with league newcomers Pittsburgh and Syracuse and soon-to-exit Maryland, will begin preseason practice with little idea of what to expect from their quarterbacks.
Football satellite Notre Dame is in much the same predicament, having lost starter Everett Golson to academic ineligibility, but the Irish will not have even an indirect impact on the ACC this season. Their only appearance on an ACC schedule is at Pitt on Nov. 9.
But the Wolfpack, Seminoles and Cavaliers will begin preseason camp drills with intriguing quarterback situations. Each has a different dynamic. Here’s the framework:
The cast includes transfers Pete Thomas (Colorado State) and Brandon Mitchell (Arkansas) plus sophomore Manny Stocker, who was recruited by Tom O’Brien’s staff before he was relieved of his post and replaced by Dave Doeren.
Out of spring work, Stocker (sophomore) and Thomas (redshirt junior) were listed in a dead heat on the depth chart, although the 6-4, 240-pound Mitchell likely rates as the best athlete among the three.
But given the fact that Mitchell, a graduate student, missed spring ball and has only one season of eligibility left, the odds favor Stocker and/or Thomas starting against Louisiana Tech in the Aug. 31 (12:30 p.m.) opener.
The big-picture quarterback mystery will not end on opening day, regardless of which player starts.
With a third transfer, Jacoby Brissett (Florida) joining the mix for 2014, Doeren and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada will have to keep one eye on the present and one on the future during this transition season for staff and players.
The 6-4, 230-pound Brissett, like Stocker, will have two years of eligibility remaining when he arrives in Raleigh.
With so many options and apparent talent available, it’s logical to assume Doeren and Canada eventually will identify at least one top-tier performer. But the way that process plays out will be among the interesting storylines of the ACC season.
EJ Manuel’s departure to the NFL after a four-year career obviously didn’t catch Jimbo Fisher by surprise, but Clint Trickett’s transfer to West Virginia only a few days after the end of spring practice did.
Trickett, a redshirt junior, completed 22 of 31 passes for 259 yards in the April 13 spring game before telling Fisher of his decision to transfer.
Jameis Winston, Jacob Coker and long shot Sean Maguire got in their share of spring reps, and Winston may have taken the lead in spring.
But with a potentially thorny opener, at Pitt on Sept. 2 in an ESPN national telecast, Trickett’s decision could have an early, pivotal impact.
Winston, a redshirt sophomore, may be the best overall athlete in school and likely will get the call, even though Coker played in four games last season.
But the loss of Manuel and Trickett, coupled with early games at Boston College and Clemson, should preclude the Seminoles from getting much voting support as the preseason Atlantic Division favorite.
It’ll be Clemson No. 1, FSU No. 2 and a possible five-way tie for third.
If Mike London gets fired at season’s end, which is entirely possible, it’ll be due in large part to his inability to find, develop and keep quarterbacks.
Sims, who began his college career at Alabama, was ruled ineligible after Michael Rocco left the Cavaliers to transfer to Richmond. In doing so, Rocco followed the same path as quarterback Michael Strauss, who left the Cavs after the 2011 season.
Back in Charlottesville, London and new quarterbacks coach Steve Fairchild are left to sort through a short list of options.
There are three quarterbacks currently on the roster: sophomore David Watford and redshirt freshmen Grey Lambert and Matt Johns.
Only Watford, out of the celebrated Hampton, Va. High fold, has college experience, but redshirted last season after playing in 10 games as a sub in 2011. Lambert, from Jessup, Ga., was a top 10 rated quarterback in high school and was easily the star of the spring game.
Fairchild, once a head coach at Colorado State but a San Diego Chargers assistant for the past four seasons, will use a pocket strategy, which should suit the 6-5, 215-pound Lambert.
But if it is Lambert, he’ll need to get up to speed immediately. London’s fourth team will open against Brigham Young (Aug. 31), followed by Oregon (Sept. 7). The games are in Charlottesville and Oregon has a new head coach, former offensive chief Mark Helfrich, but the foes are likely to be preseason top 25 picks.