One of the biggest questions heading into Memphis’ spring football under new head coach Larry Porter was at quarterback.
The Tigers lost all three of their starting quarterbacks to graduation, and while there were five competent competitors, only one -- Tyler Bass -- had actually taken a collegiate snap.
Many believed the competition would ultimately be between Bass and Miami transfer Cannon Smith, but freshman early enrollee Ryan Williams surged ahead late in the spring and could be the starting quarterback for the season opener in September.
Williams made his best case during Memphis’ spring game this past weekend where he completed 15-of-17 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Williams completed his first 14 attempts.
But Porter remained noncommittal about starting quarterback stating that despite the fact that Williams was named the Offensive MVP of the game, the quarterback question had not yet been answered.
“I thought Ryan stepped in there and had a good day,” Porter said. “Cannon probably didn’t play as well as he is supposed to, but I think if you look at his consistency throughout the spring, you can’t make a judgment at that position based just on one practice.”
Williams, Smith and Bass have been the top competitors for the starting quarterback role, though none of them had a consistent spring. In the Tigers’ scrimmage prior to the spring game, Smith threw three interceptions and the other two both had a pick. Williams was the only quarterback with a touchdown pass.
"At the quarterback position, it's all about decision making," Porter said after that scrimmage. "Today, there were too many bad decisions. These are things that I have seen us execute throughout the week, so I know we can get better in that aspect."
The quarterback competition has become even more important with the loss of several of the team’s running backs including Lance Smith, who suffered a broken leg during spring practices. That’s probably why Porter is inclined to take his time. He’s learning his quarterbacks and they’re learning him and a new offensive system.
It will make for an interesting race in August.
“I think we have created a great foundation,” Porter said. “Offensively, we are starting to settle in. We are not where we need to be simply because we started with five quarterbacks. Just the rhythm and the continuity of the offense, we need to put ourselves in position to be better.”