Coaches often joke about how fans love the backup quarterback, particularly when the starter is struggling. The backup functions as an idea of untapped possibility, at least until he's called upon -- for whatever reason -- to tap into that possibility in a real, live game.
But a backup job is not a certainty, particularly this time of year during spring practices. The pecking order behind an entrenched starter is often fluid, as upperclassmen have to fight off the challenge of hot-shot youngsters, whom many fans can still remember fawning over during recruiting coverage.
So here's a quick update on quarterback pecking orders, which aren't terribly certain throughout the Pac-12.
Starter: Nick Foles
The skinny: One of the more interesting situations in the conference. Scott is such a good No. 2, the Wildcats want to redshirt him and start him in 2012. But is Beirne going to inspire enough confidence that he can come off the bench for Foles in anything but mop-up duty?
Starter: Brock Osweiler
Backup: Taylor Kelly, Mike Bercovici
The skinny: At the end of the season, the Sun Devils had three quarterbacks with starting experience: Osweiler, Steven Threet and Samson Szakacsy. Now they have two potential backups to Osweiler with no game experience.
The skinny: We don't know who the starter is, for one. And, say, Bridgford wins the job. Does Mansion, who has plenty of experience, become the backup by default because of that experience?
Candidates: Tyler Hansen, Brent Burnette, Nick Hirschmann
The skinny: Hansen has looked goood at times as a starter and is the heavy favorite here. Burnette is a junior JC transferand Hirschmann is a redshirt freshman. Hansen is a senior, so climbing the pecking order is critical for each.
Starter: Darron Thomas
Backup: Bryan Bennett
The skinny: A clear pecking order. If you watch Bennett practice, you know why Ducks fans are excited about his prospects.
Starter: Ryan Katz
The skinny: The feeling is Mannion will challenge for the backup job this spring. With Katz coming back from a wrist injury, all three will get plenty of opportunities.
Starter: Andrew Luck
The skinny: Nunes is probably the favorite to backup the best QB in college football.
The skinny: Prince won't be able to do much of anything this spring, and Crissman doesn't appear to be in the thick of the battle. So the chief thing to watch is whether the touted true freshman Hundley can outperform Brehaut. If Prince or Brehaut wins the job in the fall -- and Hundley doesn't -- you'd also think one or the other is the backup, with Hundley redshirting. Or maybe not, considering the win-now pressure on coach Rick Neuheisel.
Starter: Matt Barkley
Backup: Jesse Scroggins, Max Wittek, Cody Kessler
The skinny: Scroggins is the redshirt freshman trying to fight off a pair of true freshmen who enrolled early. Considering this is likely Barkley's last season as a Trojan, winning the backup job is significant.
Starter: Jordan Wynn
Backup: Griff Robles, Tyler Shreve
The skinny: Wynn is out this spring after shoulder surgery, so Robles and Shreve are getting plenty of opportunities to show their stuff. Shoulder injuries are tricky, so the backup needs to be game-ready.
The skinny: It seems fairly simple: The loser of the competition will be the backup. But will the winner of the competition be looking over his shoulder?
Starter: Jeff Tuel
The skinny: Lobbestael is a former starter. He knows the system and has experience. Halliday is widely viewed as the future. If Tuel went down, do you go with experience or potential? So far this spring, Lobbestael looks more ready.