At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.
This week's question: It's likely we all would agree that USC's quarterback battle during spring practice will be intriguing. The question: Other than USC, which team's quarterback situation will you most closely follow this spring?
Olin Buchanan's answer: Stanford has made positive strides under coach Jim Harbaugh and was close to becoming bowl eligible last season. Making that next step likely will require a better performance from the quarterback. Tavita Pritchard, the incumbent starter, threw more interceptions than touchdown passes last season. Although he will be a senior this fall, he'll be challenged for the starting job by redshirt freshman Andrew Luck, who was rated among the nation's top pro-style quarterbacks coming out of high school. Coaches usually favor experienced quarterbacks, especially a senior. But Pritchard's inconsistency and Luck's potential will make for an interesting competition this spring.
Tom Dienhart's answer: Given the depths to which Michigan sunk last season, I am focused on the quarterback derby in Ann Arbor. All eyes will be on Tate Forcier, a true freshman who already has enrolled. He's an athletic marvel with a strong arm and the moxie and swagger to match. That's good because coach Rich Rodriguez needs a good quarterback to make his spread-option offense work. Since Steven Threet transferred, Forcier's only competition will be former walk-on Nick Sheridan. But Sheridan was inconsistent and ineffective en route to completing 46 percent of his passes for two TDs and five interceptions; he also rushed for only 92 yards. The bottom line: Forcier needs to shine this spring. If he isn't the answer, it could be another long season.
David Fox's answer: The quarterback competition I will follow closely is the one at Alabama. Coach Nick Saban has said he won't name a replacement for John Parker Wilson before the end of spring. I imagine the comments from and about quarterbacks Greg McElroy and Star Jackson will be guarded, if there are any at all. This will be a critical position battle on a team that could challenge Florida in the SEC. Replacing starters on the offensive line and the quarterback will determine whether Alabama will be able to reach the same heights the Tide reached a year ago.
Mike Huguenin's answer: I'm going to cheat and pick four quarterback "situations," each in the SEC: Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee. Florida and Ole Miss are the only league teams that go into spring practice confident in their quarterbacks. The SEC West race is such that if either Alabama or LSU gets solid quarterback play, it will win the division. At Alabama, Greg McElroy seems the likely winner. As long as he can be an effective game manager, coach Nick Saban will be happy. At LSU, Jordan Jefferson needs to show his Chick-fil-A Bowl performance was a harbinger of good things, not an aberration. At Georgia, if Joe Cox is an able replacement for Matthew Stafford, the Bulldogs can win 10 games. As for Tennessee, had the Vols received even mediocre quarterback play last season, Phil Fulmer still would be the coach. Can Lane Kiffin and his staff magically turn pumpkins into legit SEC quarterbacks?
Steve Megargee's answer: You can pinpoint plenty of reasons for Michigan's disastrous 2008 performance, but ineffective quarterback play has to rank near the top of the list. Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan combined to complete less than half their attempts while throwing more interceptions (12) than touchdown passes (11). Now the Wolverines seem likely to hand the reins to Tate Forcier, a true freshman who is on campus for spring practice. Rated the nation's No. 5 dual-threat quarterback, Forcier threw for 3,424 yards and ran for 783 yards while accounting for 35 touchdowns his senior season at Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego. Forcier only has to beat out Sheridan for the job since Threet announced last month that he plans to transfer. Michigan actually signed two four-star quarterback prospects this year – Forcier and Denard Robinson – but Forcier's status as an early enrollee gives him a head start. Michigan bet on a true freshman quarterback five years ago, and the gamble paid off huge when Chad Henne threw for 2,743 yards and 25 touchdowns while leading the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl. Michigan seems light years away from Pasadena after going 3-9 last season, but that won't stop Michigan fans from holding out hope that Forcier can make a Henne-like instant impact.