College football’s 10 hottest quarterback battles heading into 2022

Quarterback battles come in all sizes these days.

With the transfer portal and the increasing turns on the coaching carousel, those battles can pop anywhere during spring practice. The Sporting News looked at 10 of the most intriguing quarterback battles in the country, and a few interesting trends emerged.

Four of those schools have made the College Football Playoff within the past three seasons, including Michigan in 2021.

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Four of those 10 schools have first-year coaches, including LSU’s Brian Kelly and his replacement at Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman.

Six of those schools have an incoming transfer in the mix, and three of those transfers took the majority of the snaps at their schools last season.

TSN breaks down the 10 most interesting quarterbacks battles to watch over the next month:

Auburn: TJ Finley vs. Zach Calzada

QB Battle: The Tigers are entering the final week of spring practice, and the pressure is on second-year coach Bryan Harsin given another bizarre offseason on The Plains. This battle really hasn’t taken shape, though. Finley is getting the first-team reps in practice, and Calzada still is recovering from a lingering shoulder injury. Oregon transfer Robby Ashford and freshman Holden Gariner also have taken snaps.

Stat that matters: Auburn quarterbacks combined for 17 TDs and four steals last season. Which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes?

Who wins? Offensive coordinator Eric Keisau, who was promoted from receivers coach, has the most familiarity with Finley. That is who wins the job.

Clemson: DJ Uigalelei vs. Cole Klubnik

QB Battle: Uiagalelei struggled last season, and he reportedly has lost weight and came into the spring in better shape. The Tigers do have a new offensive coordinator in Brandon Streeter, and Uiagalelei does have the advantage of being in a system for a year. Klubnik is a five-star prospect from Westlake High School (Austin, Texas), and his recruiting ranking is between Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence.

Stat that matters: Uiagalelei averaged 6.0 yards per attempt last season. Lawrence had a career yards per attempt of 8.9 at Clemson.

Who wins? Uigalelei will start, but Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is looking for the big plays. Klubnik has a chance to play early and keep that competition going into the season. Ask Cole Stoudt and Kelly Bryant how that goes.

Florida: Emory Jones, Anthony Richardson and Jack Miller

QB Battle: It’s a new regime at Florida with first-year coach Billy Napier. Jones played in all 13 games for Florida last season, but he struggled with interceptions. Richardson, at 6-4, 236-pounder, will be a redshirt sophomore. Miller’s transfer from Ohio State was a little surprising given the state of the room.

Stat that matters: Richardson had 64 pass attempts and 51 rushes last season. The Gators averaged 8.0 yards on those 115 plays.

Who wins? That upside is too much to pass up. Richardson wins, and Jones already entered the transfer portal once. Will he do it again?

LSU: Jayden Daniels vs. Myles Brennan

QB Battle: First-year coach Brian Kelly convinced Brennan to stay at LSU and return to the program for a sixth season. Brennan missed all of 2021 because of injury. The competition heated up when Daniels, who started the last three seasons at Arizona State, transferred to LSU. Garrett Nussmeier and Walker Howard are also in the mix.

Stat that matters: Joe Burrow hit 76.3 percent of his passes through the national title run in 2019. LSU quarterbacks combined to hit 58.7 percent in 2020 and 59.1 percent in 2021.

Who wins? It’s an intriguing competition between Daniels and Brennan. And going by Kelly’s track record, if one doesn’t stand out, then there will be a rotation. Daniels is still the best bet to start.

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Michigan: Cade McNamara vs. JJ McCarthy

QB Battle: Michigan played its spring game on Saturday, and this will resume in the fall. McCarthy, who generated buzz as a freshman with his live arm, was limited throughout most of the spring with a shoulder injury. McNamara, the returning starter, has maintained his role as the starter to this point. Michigan has new co-offensive coordinators in Sherrone Moore and Matt Weiss.

Stat that matters: McCarthy accounted for 58.2 yards of offense per game on just 86 plays between passes and runs. How much will that increase in 2022?

Who wins? McCarthy should be good to go for fall camp, but another time-share in the vein of Tom Brady-Drew Henson appears like it’s going to happen. McNamara led the Wolverines to the playoff last season. Can you really bench him now?

Notre Dame: Tyler Buchner vs. Drew Pyne

QB Battle: Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne both saw time last year behind Jack Coan. Buchner finished 21 of 35 passing for 298 yards, three TDs and three INTs. Pyne finished 15 of 30 for 224 yards and two TDs. Buchner adds a threat in the running game with 336 yards and three TDs. First-year coach Marcus Freeman retained offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, so the familiarity factor is there. Freeman has said “taking care of the football” will be a leading factor in this battle.

Stat that matters: Notre Dame quarterbacks have completed 64.2 percent of their passes with Rees as the OC the past two seasons. The quarterback who can hit — or exceed — that number will take the most snaps.

Who wins? We still think it’s Buchner because of the added threat in the running game, but Pyne absolutely can push this battle all the way through fall camp.

North Carolina: Jacolby Criswell vs. Drake Maye

QB Battle: Sam Howell enjoyed a record-setting career with the Tar Heels, and now there’s a battle between Criswell, who saw time in three games, and Maye, who completed seven of 10 passes in two games. Criswell has an extra year of experience, but Maye is the most highly touted recruit.

Stat that matters: Criswell and Maye combined for 13 carries for 130 yards last season. That will add a new element to North Carolina’s high-scoring offense.

Who wins? Tar Heels coach Mack Brown likely will stick with one of these two options. It’s going to be tight, but we’ll give the slight edge to Maye, the in-state product with an upside similar to Howell.

Oregon: Ty Thompson, Bo Nix and Jay Butterfield

QB Battle: Thompson has been taking the first-team reps at Oregon in spring practice under first-year coach Dan Lanning and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham. Nix was a three-year starter at Auburn. Butterfield is a four-star recruit with three pass attempts.

Stat that matters: Thompson had a 46.7 completion percentage in 15 pass attempts. Nix is ​​59.4 percent for his career and finally cleared 60 percent last season.

Who wins? Nix will close the gap in fall camp and make his case for the starting job, but it’s far from a guarantee.

Texas: Quinn Ewers vs. HudsonCard

QB Battle: Card has played in 10 games the past two seasons for the Longhorns, and he made two starts in 2021. Ewers is a five-star redshirt freshman who spent last season with Ohio State in order to cash in on NIL deals. Card reportedly has looked better in spring practicebut the hype around Ewers is going to continue.

Stat that matters: Card had a 138.6 rating last season. He is a productive quarterback who had just one interception on 83 pass attempts.

Who wins? Second-year coach Steve Sarkisian is going to have a tough choice. This battle likely will come down to the last week, but we still think Ewers will eventually take over the starting job.

Texas A&M: Haynes King, Max Johnson and Conner Wiegman

QB Battle: It’s a three-way competition, but it likely will come down to two by fall camp. Haynes King was the starter last season before a season-ending injury in the second game. Max Johnson, a LSU transfer, has a 35:7 TD:INT ratio for his career. Wiegman is a five-star freshman from Bridgeland High School (Cypress, Texas) who should have more time to develop with the veteran quarterbacks ahead of him.

Stat that matters: Texas A&M’s leading passer has averaged 20 TDs and eight interceptions the past four seasons under Jimbo Fisher. The Aggies need more production from the position to take the next step as a program.

Who wins? King has the most experience, but he needs to prove it in the passing game. A time-share between King and Johnson early in the season is possible.

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