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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

August 16, 2012 at 8:46 PM

Sorting out the Pac-12’s QB battles . . .

The Pacific-12 has long been known as a league of great quarterbacks, and in Matt Barkley of USC, has one of the Heisman Trophy’s front-running candidates before anybody kicks it off.

But there were perhaps a half-dozen open competitions for starting jobs when fall camp began. A couple of those have been decided, at least temporarily, while a handful remain unresolved (or at least unannounced).

The rundown:

Arizona StateTaylor Kelly, a 6-1, 203-pound third-year sophomore from Eagle, Idaho, appears to have taken the lead over Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank. It’s something of a surprise, and Todd Graham, the first-year coach, explained why to reporters the other day: “Taylor’s the guy who has managed the ball the best. And I’ll be real honest with you. Coming in (through the spring), he wasn’t.” Still, it sounds like the 6-5, 242-pound Eubank intrigues the ASU staff for his running ability, particularly around the goal line. A Saturday scrimmage should crystallize matters.

Colorado — The Buffs have turned to 6-1 Jordan Webb, a graduate of Kansas who transferred and became immediately eligible, per NCAA rule. “Jordan just made plays,” offensive coordinator Rip Scherer told the Denver Post. “His accuracy was much better.” Webb arrived only in July, but the field was wide open, as Nick Hirschman sat out spring with a broken foot and Texas transfer Connor Wood was unimpressive. Webb was 4-15 as a starter at KU with 20 TDs and 20 interceptions.

Oregon — Who knows what the Ducks may be plotting? They scrimmaged Tuesday, and not only kept media out, they didn’t release statistics from the session. If there’s any substance from the backup work Bryan Bennett (6-1, 204, third-year sophomore) did last year, he ought to win the job; he was 25 of 46 passing for six TDs and no interceptions and ran for 8.7 yards a carry. But Marcus Mariota, a 6-4 redshirt freshman from Honolulu, seemed to make it interesting with a big spring game. Mariota, incidentally, is from St. Louis High, the school that produced Washington State’s last Rose Bowl quarterback, Jason Gesser.
Stanford — Coach David Shaw said last week that a decision might be forthcoming this week on which of the 6-4 candidates gets the job — Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes. Neither has appreciable experience, and whoever wins the job follows Andrew Luck, which is a little like being the coach after John Wooden.
UCLA — Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley (6-4, 223) was named the starter last week by first-year coach Jim Mora. It will be interesting to see how that plays with the two veterans who were also battling for the job, Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut.
Utah — It might be a stretch to call this a competition, but that seems to be how coach Kyle Whittingham is characterizing it. Jordan Wynn, coming off another shoulder surgery after he was injured in the Washington game in 2011, is the presumptive starter, but the Utes are clearly taken by 6-6 true freshman (he had spring ball) Travis Wilson, and have indicated he could see time around the goal line, at least, for his running ability.
Finally, at Washington State, Mike Leach hasn’t officially named a starter, and there are precincts that believe Connor Halliday is still in the mix to unseat Jeff Tuel. Frankly, I’d be shocked if that happened. Tuel had an entire spring practice while Halliday sat out, and he’s been the leader of the team for a couple of years. (And when’s the last time a team took a guy to Pac-12 media day and he didn’t start?) Leach is nothing if not unconventional and you can’t rule anything out, but it would be a real surprise if it isn’t Tuel.



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