Nothing raises the antennas of college football fans more than uncertainty at the quarterback position, and there’s plenty of that at about a half-dozen Power Five schools after the second week of the season.
The most high-profile situation is Texas, which visits No. 4 Southern California this week. The Longhorns don’t have an all-out controversy, mind you, but first-year coach Tom Herman does have a quandary.
Shane Buechele, who has started all 13 games in his career, still hasn’t recovered from the bruised shoulder he got against Maryland. First-time freshman starter Sam Ehlinger was more than solid in a 56-0 win against overmatched San Jose State on Saturday. Jerrod Heard, who moved from quarterback to receiver last season, also took some snaps in short-yardage situation and in the red zone and ran for two touchdowns.
If Buechele isn’t fully healed, how close to 100 percent does he need to be?
“We’ve got to make sure that Shane can do everything he’s capable of doing and doing it at an elite level before we throw him back in there because, A, you don’t want a setback from a health standpoint from him,” Herman said. “And, B, you don’t want the pride of getting him in to inhibit the offense’s production.”
A look at some other tenuous quarterback situations:
The Bears are 0-2 for the first time since 2003, and Arizona transfer Anu Solomon was not sharp at all in a 17-10 loss to Texas-San Antonio. Zach Smith started the last four games in 2016 and put up good numbers. He certainly would not be overwhelmed by playing in a road environment against Duke this week.
Nick Starkel broke his ankle in the opener against UCLA and might be out the rest of the season. Freshman Kellen Mond started against Nicholls State and was replaced in the second half by senior Jake Hubenak, who threw for two touchdowns and helped the Aggies win 24-20. Coach Kevin Sumlin said the QB situation is still sorting itself out. Who starts against Louisiana this week is anyone’s guess.
Three interceptions got Anthony Brown the hook in the third quarter of a 34-10 loss to Wake Forest and Darius Wade finished up. Brown, a redshirt freshman, won the job in the preseason and was decent in a 23-20 opening win over Northern Illinois. He clearly has the greater upside compared with Wade, a backup since 2014.
Peyton Bender beat out Carter Stanley in the preseason, and he won over FCS Southeast Missouri State in the opener. But Bender had difficulty handling Central Michigan’s pressure in a 45-27 loss, needed a school-record 62 attempts to complete 32 passes for 323 yards, and he threw two interceptions that led to CMU touchdowns.
Coach Pat Narduzzi said Max Browne is still his starter after a 33-14 loss to Penn State, but the firmness of Browne’s grip on the job is unknown. Browne was picked off twice and victimized by dropped passes. Ben DiNucci ran for a 3-yard TD on his only play of a series after Browne got his helmet knocked off, and he was in for Pitt’s final possession and was 5 for 9 for 49 yards. Narduzzi said DiNucci gave the Panthers a spark.