Job #1 for many teams this spring is finding a new starting quarterback. Roughly 30 teams will be looking for a new signal caller this spring and summer. And there have been plenty of blogs recently outlining the top QB battles (here...here...here...and here).
However, let's be honest here, I couldn't care less who wins the right to hand-off to Montee Ball at Wisconsin, and I'm only mildly intrigued who comes out on top at Texas, Stanford, Florida and Auburn. I'm worried about statistics, and as a fantasy prognosticator, here are the battles that I'll have my eye on:
1) Washington State - Jeff Tuel vs. Connor Halliday vs. Cody Clements
The last four years have not been kind to Wazzu quarterbacks; they've only been sacked 184 times. So it is no shock that they've also had trouble staying healthy. Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday have both had their moments and their share of injury issues. Tuel missed most of what was supposed to be his breakout season with a broken collarbone, and Halliday ended the season with a lacerated liver. This will be an intriguing battle between the veteran (Tuel) and young buck (Halliday). This one will likely linger until early August, and with Coach Leach at the helm, it will be worth the wait.
2) Oregon - Bryan Bennett vs. Marcus Mariota
This is not a knock on Marcus Mariota -- by all accounts, he's a future stud -- but I fully expect Bryan Bennett to lead the Ducks offense this fall. Until Bennett is officially named the starter, the competition is open. There are many that believe the offense won't miss a beat with Bennett taking over the reigns, and this means fantasy owners should make him a priority on draft day.
3) Oklahoma State - Clint Chelf vs. Wes Lunt vs. J.W. Walsh
It doesn't matter who's the quarterback or offensive coordinator, Mike Gundy's teams have become notorious for putting up numbers through the air. The 2012 version is naturally expected to take a step back without Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, but I fully expect the Pokes' starting quarterback to put up QB2-worthy numbers. Clint Chelf, Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh will get equal reps this spring, with Chelf holding the edge in experience.
4) Houston - David Piland vs. The Field
The Cougars have some rebuilding to do and will be dealing with a change of leadership at the top. New head coach Todd Levine and offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt are expected to keep the Houston's "Air Raid" offense intact, which will continue to make Houston a destination for fantasy owners. Unlike 2010, the Cougs were lucky enough to be able to redshirt Piland in 2011, and he enters the competition as the heavy favorite.
5) East Carolina - Rio Johnson vs. Brad Wornick vs. Shane Carden vs. The Field
Though last year was a disappointment for the Pirates spread offense, they still play a style that is fantasy owner-friendly. Rio Johnson held down the backup duties last fall, while Brad Wornick did the same in 2010. I'm not even going to attempt to pick a favorite in this one, and I wouldn't be surprised if a fella comes out of nowhere and beats both of them out.
6) Toledo - Terrence Owens vs. Austin Dantin
The old saying "if you have two starting quarterbacks, you don't have one" rings true for fantasy owners. Even before Austin Dantin was knocked out with concussion issues, Terrence Owens was starting to take over more and more of the offense. IF head coach Matt Campbell and the coaching staff can settle on a single starter -- especially Owens -- he'll be one to own.
7) Boise State - Joe Southwick vs. Grant Hedrick
As long as Chris Petersen remains in Boise, Bronco offensive players will always be an attraction. Unfortunately, this one has quarterback rotation written all over it. Look for Joe Southwick to take the first snap against Michigan State on Aug. 31 and Grant Hedrick to get plenty of snaps to mix things up.
8) SMU - Garrett Gilbert vs. Stephen Kaiser
June Jones is still kicking it at SMU, making the Mustangs' quarterback battle one to watch. Garrett Gilbert is still taking classes at the University of Texas, but he's expected to graduate and enroll at SMU this summer. If all goes as planned, Gilbert would be the frontrunner heading into August camp.
9) Notre Dame - Tommy Rees vs. Andrew Hendrix vs. Everett Golson vs. Gunner Kiel
Alright, I caved and joined the national Notre Dame slurpfest. I still hold the belief (though dwindling) that Brian Kelly can develop quarterbacks. This one will quickly enter Wisconsin territory for me if Tommy Rees comes out on top. It's time to see what Andrew Hendrix or a youngster can do.
10) Hawaii - David Graves vs. Stump Godfrey vs. The Field
This one has lost a bit of its luster with the departure of the Run N' Shoot offense. But David Graves is a kid that caught my eye early on and I'm still intrigued by his dual-threat ability. If he can secure the starting job, I'll take a shot at him.