Monitoring the top Big 12 QB races of spring

Spring practice in the Big 12 is almost half finished. The midpoint arrives this weekend, with only Kansas State yet to start work. The first of the spring games is set for April 1 as Texas Tech wraps drills at 12,000-seat Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. It's sold out, by the way.

While the Red Raiders must replace the top quarterback to depart the Big 12 after 2016, Nic Shimonek has taken control of the offense. Quarterback battles are not nearly as clear at several other schools in the league.

Here's a look at mid-spring QB situations at the three most interesting spots in the Big 12:


Contenders: sophomore Zach Smith, senior Anu Solomon

Developments: The Bears are just getting started, so there's not much data for even the Baylor coaches to assess -- except, of course, for Solomon's three seasons at Arizona and Smith's outstanding bowl performance. Of note, Smith used the winter to cut almost 10 pounds. He was already the more physically gifted of the two quarterbacks. And the first workouts of spring have made it clear that Smith will take the first reps with the top offense.

Outlook: Solomon didn't transfer to Baylor to sit. The Bears' new coaching staff made it clear, too, that he'd get a real shot, and they're not planning to break a promise before coaching a game at the school. Still, Smith has the advantage. His bond with teammates ought to help, especially in a coaching transition, but don't expect a winner in this race until the preseason.


Contenders: sophomore Carter Stanley, junior Peyton Bender

Developments: KU opened practice on March 13 with Stanley, the incumbent, and Bender, the Washington State transfer via junior college, about as even as two competitors can get. There's no leader in this race, coach David Beaty made known before spring opened. He said he was pleased with their work last week, in particular the ability to bounce back from mistakes made as the Jayhawks refine their Air Raid system under new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and quarterbacks coach Garrett Riley.

Outlook: Of the three most contested quarterback battles in the Big 12 this spring, the race at Kansas stands the best chance to end in April. Even at that, the likelihood of naming a starter in spring is not high. Beaty and Meacham would prefer that Stanley or Bender emerge in order to help the Jayhawks better formulate their scheme before fall camp.


Contenders: sophomore Shane Buechele, freshman Sam Ehlinger

Developments: Since the Longhorns opened practice and promptly took a week off for spring break, this has remained the hot topic in Austin. No surprise there, and coach Tom Herman has done little to extinguish speculation about the young quarterbacks as Texas heads toward its first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. Buechele is taking reps with the No. 1 offense, while the true freshman Ehlinger works with the second unit. Meanwhile, sophomore Matthew Merrick is leaving the program, so depth has quickly become an issue.

Outlook: Buechele and Ehlinger will continue to duel through the spring, with no expectation that this race will be settled before August. Buechele's edge involves his experience gained through 12 starts last year. Ehlinger offers better athleticism and likely a solid fit for the Herman offense. No opportunity exists for either quarterback to get complacent in a single practice or session of preparation. And the wild card is a potential graduate transfer after confirmation came Tuesday that Texas is recruiting former LSU starter Brandon Harris.