Kyle McCord AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

College Football QB Battles Still Undecided After 2023 Spring Practices

David Kenyon

No roster decision in college football is more important than determining which quarterback will lead the offense.

For a handful of projected top contenders in 2023, the choice is simple. USC returns Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, while Michigan and Clemson are set to feature J.J. McCarthy and Cade Klubnik, respectively. We know they'll be propelling a championship pursuit.

But where are the marquee undecided battles?

Alabama and Ohio State headlined two of the seven most impactful competitions that didn't find an answer in the spring. These position battles will be the main headlines during both the summer and fall camp.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Jalen Milroe Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images

On paper, Alabama's quarterback room is stacked. Returning backup Jalen Milroe was a top-100 prospect, Ty Simpson held a 5-star billing and 2023 signees Eli Holstein and Dylan Lonergan were 4-stars.

However, the Crimson Tide still have a QB dilemma.

After spring practice ended, Alabama reunited Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner with offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. Buchner opened three games when healthy in 2022 but left Notre Dame once it became clear Sam Hartman would be the starter in South Bend.

Milroe started one game in place of an injured Bryce Young last season. Simpson earned that coveted 5-star ranking before redshirting in his first year on campus. Buchner was another top-100 player in Milroe's class.

On paper, the Tide are loaded with options. In reality, Bama has no clarity at quarterback heading into the summer.

Florida Gators

Billy Napier and Graham Mertz James Gilbert/Getty Images

The first season of Billy Napier's tenure ended in serious disappointment. Florida trudged to 6-7 and closed the year on a three-game skid to Vanderbilt, Florida State and Oregon State.

Now, the Gators need to replace Anthony Richardson. Though he was inefficient, the recent first-round NFL draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts had dynamic mobility. Florida's offense will look different in 2023 because Graham Mertz and Jack Miller III are more traditional passers.

Mertz, who transferred from Wisconsin, is likely the front-runner because of his experience. But the Gators' challenge is to unleash the version of Mertz that basically disappeared after his incredible debut in 2020.

Miller is only a sophomore, so he's aiming to take command of the UF offense for multiple seasons.

Georgia Bulldogs

Carson Beck John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who replaces two-time champion Stetson Bennett lV?

Georgia lost a bunch of talent to the NFL once again, but this competition will control the headlines in Athens. The pursuit of a third straight national title hinges on the answer.

As you'd expect, the Dawgs have a wealth of talent. Brock Vandagriff earned a 5-star label in 2021, heading to UGA between 2020 4-star Carson Beck and 2022 4-star Gunnar Stockton. Beck served as the backup last season ahead of Vandagriff.

The good news—for Georgia, at least—is the eventual first-stringer will inherit a terrific situation. All-American tight end Brock Bowers returns as the team's featured target.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Kyle McCord AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

Most of us think we know the answer at Ohio State.

The moment C.J. Stroud officially headed to the NFL draft, the attention shifted to Kyle McCord. He built a 5-star recruiting profile, joined the Buckeyes two years ago and outlasted fellow 2021 signee Quinn Ewers in Columbus. McCord backed up Stroud in 2022.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day isn't rushing to declare a starter, though; Devin Brown remains in the conversation.

"It's two guys competing, and one day one guy has the upper hand and the next day the other guy might have the upper hand," Day told reporters late in spring practice.

McCord is the presumed starter, but he likely won't officially secure the QB1 label for a few more months.

Ole Miss Rebels

Jaxson Dart Logan Hannigan-Downs/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The lone program featured that didn't lose an NFL draft pick, Ole Miss is deciding between incumbent starter Jaxson Dart and a couple of high-profile transfer additions.

Early in the offseason, the Rebels added Spencer Sanders from Oklahoma State and Walker Howard from LSU. Sanders opened 42 games over four years leading OSU's offense, while Howard—a top 4-star in the 2022 cycle—left the rival SEC West program after one season.

The lack of a post-spring announcement is no surprise, though.

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin already knows Dart is a capable starter, and the newcomers used the spring to acclimate to a new system. The real competition will begin in fall camp.

Tennessee Volunteers

Joe Milton III Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After watching Joe Milton III throw for 251 yards and three touchdowns in the Orange Bowl win over Clemson, it's fair to consider him the favorite to replace Hendon Hooker.

But we always have to mention a 5-star challenger, right?

The third-best overall prospect of the 2023 class, Nico Iamaleava enrolled early and made a strong impression. While it's unclear exactly how close the competition truly is, Iamaleava stayed close enough to Milton that UT coach Josh Heupel hasn't yet named a starter.

Milton, like McCord, is the expected winner but may need to reinforce that projection in August.

UCLA Bruins

Collin Schlee Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chip Kelly has spent five seasons at UCLA, and Dorian Thompson-Robinson is basically the only quarterback he's ever known. DTR started 48 of 56 possible games in five seasons with the Bruins.

UCLA may have another long-term answer in 5-star freshman Dante Moore, who flipped from Oregon late in the 2023 cycle.

On the other hand, the Bruins picked up Kent State transfer Collin Schlee. He threw for 2,109 yards and 13 touchdowns to five interceptions last season, adding 489 yards and four scores as a runner. Schlee left the MAC program after KSU head coach Sean Lewis bolted to coordinate the offense on Deion Sanders' initial Colorado staff.

For good measure, Ethan Garbers—the backup in both 2021 and 2022—is also back. UCLA has a fascinating blend of upside, experience and familiarity in its QB battle.


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