Spring football: 10 burning questions

Defending national champion Ohio State might have too many quarterbacks.

Traditional heavyweights such as Florida, Michigan and Texas might not have enough.

As spring football practice opens around the country, many of the sport's best teams will start to sort out quarterback questions. Six of the teams that finished in the top 10 of the final Associated Press top 25 poll in 2014 -- Oregon, Alabama, Florida State, Baylor, Georgia and UCLA -- will have new quarterbacks this coming season.

The Buckeyes, who defeated the Ducks 42-20 in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship, might have a problem every FBS team would like to have. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer will have to choose from among three quarterbacks who have started games for the Buckeyes.

Here are 10 burning questions as spring practice kicks off from coast to coast:

1. Who will win Ohio State's quarterback battle?

The Buckeyes bring back three quarterbacks -- Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones -- who have started games during their college careers. OSU coach Urban Meyer might not have a problem playing two quarterbacks in games this coming season, but he can't possibly play three.

Jones, who passed up entering the NFL draft, might be the favorite heading into spring practice after leading the Buckeyes to three straight victories to end the 2014 season. He might be the only OSU quarterback healthy this spring, as Miller is still recovering from a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that caused him to miss the 2014 season. Also, Barrett only recently had screws removed from his surgically repaired ankle, which cost him the final three games last season.

Will Meyer and new co-offensive coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner go with experience (Miller), athleticism (Barrett) or the hot hand (Jones)? Will Miller stick around if he feels like he's fallen too far behind Jones to catch up? Miller graduated from OSU in December, which would make him eligible to transfer to another FBS school and play immediately. Miller could also move to a new position if he doesn't win the starting gig.

2. How quickly can Jim Harbaugh turn around Michigan?

The Wolverines opened spring practice last week, and Harbaugh described the start as "like coming out of the mother's womb." Will Michigan crawl, walk or run during Harbaugh's first season?

Harbaugh, a former Michigan quarterback and coach of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, has been described as a savior for his alma mater. The Wolverines went 12-13 the past two seasons combined under former coach Brady Hoke, so there's a lot of work to do.

First and foremost, the Wolverines have to settle on a starting quarterback, which has been a trouble spot the past few seasons. There are seven quarterbacks working in spring practice -- three scholarship players and four walk-ons -- and two more, including Houston transfer John O'Korn, are expected to join the team this summer.

Junior Shane Morris, who attempted 40 passes in five games last season, is the only quarterback who has played at Michigan. Redshirt freshman Wilton Speight and early enrollee Alex Malzone are also in the mix.

3. Is Jake Coker ready to take over at Alabama?

Most Alabama fans and media members -- myself included -- expected Coker to be the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback last season. But it was probably an unrealistic expectation after Coker transferred from Florida State to Alabama last summer. He didn't seem to have a good grasp of the Tide's offense in preseason camp, and senior Blake Sims beat him out for the starting job.

Coker, a 6-foot-5 senior, was a highly regarded backup at Florida State and probably would have been the favorite to replace Jameis Winston there this season. Coker appeared in five games last season, completing 38 of 59 passes for 403 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He'll battle sophomore Cooper Bateman and redshirt freshman David Cornwell and true freshman Blake Barnett for the job this spring.

4. Who replaces Winston at Florida State?

Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, and a boatload of other juniors declared early for the NFL draft. Who's going to start under center for the Seminoles this coming season?

Sean Maguire was Winston's backup last season and started against Clemson when Winston was suspended. Maguire completed 25 of 49 passes for 339 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in limited action in 2014.

Redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino will get a long look from coach Jimbo Fisher this spring, as will ESPN 300 prospect De'Andre Johnson, who has already enrolled at FSU. Incoming freshman Deondre Francois joins the competition this summer.

5. How will Oregon replace Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota?

Mariota started the past three seasons under center and is arguably the greatest player in Oregon history. Replacing him won't be easy. Ducks coach Mark Helfrich probably won't have a plan until after Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams transfers to Oregon this summer.

Junior Jeff Lockie, who was Mariota's backup the past two seasons, will probably be the guy to beat coming out of the spring. He attempted 41 passes the past two seasons and played well in limited action in 2014. Can he hold onto the job after Adams arrives in Eugene, Oregon?

Adams, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior, was one of the most prolific quarterbacks at the FCS level the past three seasons, throwing for 10,438 yards and running for 1,232.

6. Who will be Baylor's triggerman in 2015?

The Bears are coming off back-to-back seasons in which they won at least a share of a Big 12 championship. They're expected to bring back nine starters on each sides of the ball, so there aren't a lot of questions heading into the spring.

But Baylor does have to replace departed quarterback Bryce Petty, who threw for 3,855 yards with 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. The Bears have done an unbelievable job of replacing record-setting quarterbacks under coach Art Briles, and they'll try to have another seamless transition.

Junior Seth Russell, who completed 48 of 85 passes for 804 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception last season, is the heir apparent. Incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham was the highest rated passer the Bears have signed under Briles.

7. Will someone step up as Texas' quarterback?

If the Longhorns are going to make big strides in coach Charlie Strong's second season, someone has to play more consistently under center. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson wants to run a more up-tempo offense this coming season, which will be hard to do if the Longhorns don't get more from their quarterback.

Tyrone Swoopes had an up-and-down sophomore season and seemed to regress at the end of the year. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions (five in the final two games). Redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard was highly recruited and might be ready to push him this spring.

ESPN 300 prospect Kai Locksley, who flipped from FSU to Texas shortly before national signing day, will join the competition this summer. Locksley might not be ready to play as a freshman, but can he become UT's quarterback of the future?

8. What will Georgia's offense look like under new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer?

The Bulldogs didn't want to blow up their offense after longtime coordinator Mike Bobo left to become Colorado State's head coach. Schottenheimer, who spent the past 14 seasons in the NFL and hasn't coached in college since he was USC's tight ends coach in 2000, isn't expected to make a lot of dramatic changes.

Georgia brings back tailbacks Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Keith Marshall, so it will once again rely heavily on its running game. The Bulldogs have to find a quarterback after Hutson Mason graduated. Brice Ramsey was the backup last season, but Jacob Park and Faton Bauta might push him this spring.

Whoever starts at quarterback will get help if receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley return to form after battling injuries the past two seasons.

9. Can Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson regain coach Brian Kelly's trust?

Golson's return from a one-year suspension didn't exactly go as planned last season. He went 7-5 as the starter and committed a whopping 22 turnovers -- 14 interceptions and eight fumbles.

After the Irish lost five of their final six regular-season games, Golson was benched and Malik Zaire started against LSU in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Both quarterbacks played significant minutes in Notre Dame's 31-28 win over LSU, and it's possible Kelly might continue to play both this coming season.

But if Kelly opts to go with Zaire this spring, Golson might be a candidate to transfer elsewhere if he stays on track to graduate from Notre Dame this spring. Golson denied published reports that he contacted LSU in January, but he probably wouldn't have trouble finding a landing spot if he decided to leave.

10. What will Florida's offense look like under new coach Jim McElwain?

One thing seems to be certain: It can't look any worse than it did the past few seasons. After struggling to move the ball and score points under former coach Will Muschamp, the Gators will be installing their fourth offensive scheme in five years when they start spring practice.

McElwain, the former Colorado State head coach, plans to keep things pretty simple this spring, as he and his staff become acquainted with their returning personnel. Former starting quarterback Jeff Driskel transferred to Louisiana Tech, so sophomore Treon Harris and freshman Will Grier will battle for the starting job.