Four quarterback jobs in the Big 12 appeared open for competition as camps opened early this month. And as the final days before Kickoff Week tick away, four jobs remain unsettled.
In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we discuss what will happen, next week and beyond:
Jake Trotter: It’s interesting that Ryan Willis hasn’t run away with this job yet considering he’s the incumbent starter. Then again, Willis still has much to prove after quarterbacking a team that didn’t win a game last year. My guess is that he’ll be the guy again. But keep an eye on Carter Stanley. His dual-threat skill set is something David Beaty could be enticed to utilize, should Willis fall out of favor.
Max Olson: Beaty likes to preach that his kids must compete every single day. With that mentality in mind, I wonder if, no matter who starts in the opener, this job opens up a couple times over the course of the season. I’m sure the Jayhawks would like to lock in on one guy, but I have a hunch that Montell Cozart and Stanley will each get a shot to make a difference during this long season.
Mitch Sherman: I think Stanley is the wild card in this mix after redshirting a year ago out of Vero Beach, Florida. Perhaps if he had not impressed coaches this month, the job would have already gone to Willis. And likely it will to start the opener against FCS doormat Rhode Island. But I’m in agreement that after KU clears the hurdle quickly of earning Beaty’s first win, anything goes at QB. Stanley will get his chance, too, in September.
Kansas State Wildcats
Sherman: Sometimes, different coaches do the same thing for different reasons. Much like at Kansas, I believe Bill Snyder knows his plans for the opener. And much like at Texas (see below), he was no interest in tipping his hand against a strong Week 1 foe. Jesse Ertz won this job last year. He’s going to get it again. There’s simply no reason, though, to alert Stanford that it doesn’t need to think much about freshman Alex Delton and senior Joe Hubener.
Olson: Personally, I can’t wait to see what Ertz can do. You can’t help but hope he makes the most of his opportunity after watching his 2015 season end before it even really began. He’ll hold on to the job this year and show some real promise, but I do wonder if we’ll see Delton make some key cameos late in the season.
Trotter: This job seems to be Ertz’s. Though I’m intrigued by the potential of Delton, I think Ertz will hold onto it for the entire season. Voted captain despite having never played more than a few career snaps, Ertz’s leadership in the locker room is evident. He can be a deceivingly effective runner. And if he can limit turnovers that plagued K-State last year while moving the ball accurately around the field, the Wildcats could prove to be one of the most improved offenses in the league.
TCU Horned Frogs
Olson: Everyone figured Kenny Hill was a lock to start in 2016 ever since his transfer became official, so props to Foster Sawyer for really making this a battle. I think Hill will take this job and put together a really impressive season. And I think Sawyer will be ready if he ends up having to start a game or two over the course of the year.
Trotter: I’m a tad surprised Hill hasn’t won the starting job yet. But I think it’s almost a formality, even though Sawyer has competed hard and better than I would’ve predicted for the job. Outside of the league’s top 10 players on our top 25 preseason list, Hill has the best chance of anyone in my opinion to finish atop the player rankings. I don’t think he’ll quite have that kind of year. But the talent and the potential is there for Hill to give the Horned Frogs another dynamic playmaker behind center.
Sherman: You nailed it, Jake, in your assessment of Hill’s upside. Sure, some disappointment exists that the locally grown former prep legend did not seize the job more quickly. But Hill possesses the talent to run the Horned Frogs’ offense much like Trevone Boykin did over the past four seasons. TCU has become a trendy pick to win the Big 12. And while its defense appears improved, it needs a dynamic quarterback to complete the puzzle. That QB is Hill.
Trotter: This might be the most puzzling quarterback battle in the Big 12. The prevailing thought going into August was that Shane Buechele would eventually be named the starter. That no longer seems to be the lock it was a month ago. I still think Buechele works his way into the starting lineup, probably sooner rather than later. But veteran Tyrone Swoopes still seems to have a chance to open as the starter against Notre Dame, which underscores why Texas’ quarterback problem still has a ways to go before being resolved.
Sherman: Strong has said repeatedly that both quarterbacks will play against the Fighting Irish. So if Texas enters the fourth quarter in a close game, the real winner of the preseason competition will get his chance in the final 15 minutes; that's more important than who starts the game. This a massive stage for a true freshman, even for a guy like Buechele who appears born for the moment, so it makes sense for Texas to break the ice with a veteran in command.
Olson: Strong is fully aware his fan base wants to see someone new at QB. And yet, I still have a feeling Swoopes takes the first snap against Notre Dame as Buechele gets eased in over the first couple games. If there are fears the freshman’s size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) makes him vulnerable, I think those will be put to rest early on. He’ll end up being the guy and Swoopes will be a problem in the “18 Wheeler” once again.