Football

A look at Big 12 quarterback situations

Prior to the 2019 season, most Big 12 teams knew who their starting quarterback was. There were some open competitions, but most teams across the conference knew who was lining up under center when week one showed up.

Many of the names on the list of 2019 Big 12 quarterbacks find themselves here on a 2020 look at the starting quarterbacks around the conference. This preseason, there is but one true quarterback competition in the conference in Lawrence, Kansas.

Every other team is near certain of who their quarterback will whenever week one rolls around. That certainty should lead the conference into a renaissance year at quarterback, including another likely opportunity at the Heisman Trophy.

Texas Tech – Alan Bowman
2019: 101/154, 1020 yards, 6 TD, 3 INT, 1 rushing TD

When healthy, Alan Bowman can capably lead Texas Tech’s high-tempo spread offense. He did it under Kliff Kingsbury, and in limited action, did it under Matt Wells. But after 11 games in two injury-ridden seasons, the question for Bowman is if he can stay healthy for a full slate of games.

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Bowman is aided by the return of receivers Erik Ezukanma, TJ Vasher, and Dalton Rigdon, but the best way he can help the Red Raiders is by remaining on the field. Jett Duffey is no longer there to be the Red Raiders’ experienced backup. If it’s Bowman’s show, he needs to be able to star.

Oklahoma – Spencer Rattler
2019: 7/11, 81 yards, 1 TD

Lincoln Riley made a decision that spoke volumes in the Sooners’ playoff loss to LSU. When it was time for Jalen Hurts to leave the game, Riley placed true freshman Spencer Rattler at quarterback as opposed to Tanner Mordecai, who had spent several years in the Oklahoma program.

There will be a “battle” in Norman, just as there was a “battle” between Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall and as there was a “battle” between Mordecai and Hurts. Though this “battle” might be more justified in losing its quotation marks than the other two, Rattler is the likely candidate to win the job.

Rattler or Riley? The Arizona blue-chip has 12-to-1 odds to win the Heisman via Bovada, but is that a result of his own skill or simply his status as the next product from the crimson and cream quarterback factory? The odds may have more to do with the latter, but there should be no discounting of the former. Rattler’s passing ability should make opposing defensive coordinators long for the days of Hurts.

Oklahoma State – Spencer Sanders
2019: 155/247, 2065 yards, 16 TDs, 11 INT, 139 rushes, 628 yards, 2 TDs

Sanders redshirted during the 2018 season when Taylor Cornelius was at the helm of Mike Gundy’s offense, patiently waiting his turn. The only obstacle between Sanders and the keys to the Cowboy offense in 2019 was Hawaii transfer Dru Brown, and Sanders overcame him quickly.

He performed admirably for a redshirt freshman, giving Oklahoma State fans a glimpse of what the next few years under center in Stillwater would look like. Sanders passed for 2065 yards, an OSU freshman record, on his way to being named the Big 12 offensive freshman of the year.

Sanders’ own dual-threat skill set is a challenge for opposing coaches. Throw in having to defend star running back Chuba Hubbard and Biletnikoff finalist Tylan Wallace, and it’s evident why Oklahoma State is a Big 12 title contender in 2020.

Should Sanders continue to develop, he could have a prolific season like so many other Gundy quarterbacks in the 2010s.

TCU – Max Duggan
2019: 181/339, 2077 yards, 15 TDs, 10 INT, 130 rushes, 555 yards, 6 TDs

TCU started 2019 with a handful of options at quarterback. At a certain point, Gary Patterson and TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie decided to roll with the promising freshman in Duggan and let the chips fall where they may. It was either Duggan or transfer Alex Delton, who was better suited to play running back.

Duggan played like most would expect a true freshman to play in 12 games, accumulating only 2077 yards on 53 percent passing with a 15-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. That was with 21st overall pick Jalen Reagor at receiver. Those are acceptable numbers for a first-year player, but the exciting stat line is in Duggan’s rushing numbers.

Duggan was the second leading rusher on the Horned Frogs and tied for the team lead in rushing touchdowns with 6. He showed impressive mobility, often out of necessity, that hints at an ability to do real damage in the run game.

His life will be much different without Reagor, but there are other skill players on TCU’s offense like Te’Vailance Hunt, Taye Barber, and five-star Zach Evans that will help Duggan shoulder the load in 2020. If his passing improves, and TCU’s odd offensive coaching situation causes little distraction, Duggan will be a formidable Big 12 quarterback.

Baylor – Charlie Brewer
2019: 251/389, 3161 yards, 21 TDs, 7 INT, 147 rushes, 344 yards, 11 TDs

Though there isn’t a quarterback competition in Waco, there is a huge ‘if.’ What happens if Brewer can’t remain healthy for a full season?

Brewer was instrumental in Baylor’s excellent 2019 campaign. He had several multi-passing touchdown games and Denzel Mims’ excellent campaign was aided by Brewer. The Lake Travis product helped on the ground too, with touchdown rushes in eight games. When on, he was on. When off, it was due to injury.

Possible concussions knocked Brewer out of games against Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia over the last month and a half of the season. Former head coach Matt Rhule shuffled between freshmen Gerry Bohanon and Jacob Zeno in Brewer’s place.

A healthy Brewer is a very good Big 12 quarterback. Any other form of Brewer struggles to remain on the field. Bohanon and Zeno’s combined experience in meaningful end-of-season games last year does help first-year head coach Dave Aranda some, and Zeno could very well be the future at the position. How early that future arrives depends on Brewer’s brain.

Texas – Sam Ehlinger
2019: 296/454, 3663 yards, 32 TDs, 10 INTs, 163 rushes, 663 yards, 7 TDs

Little question exists that Sam Ehlinger is a top-flight quarterback in the Big 12. Even with a hot-and-cold offense in 2019, Ehlinger recorded improved passing statistics in all categories save interceptions compared to his 2018 season. He had one fewer carry in 2019 but still out-rushed his 2018 total by 181 yards. However, since Texas’ short yardage offense was nowhere near as effective in 2019, his rushing touchdown total dropped from 16 to 7.

Ehlinger is approaching some Texas offensive records and stands a solid chance of eclipsing several this season, but the emphasis in Austin this year is on finally breaking through and winning the Big 12 for the first time in over a decade. Anything short of that will be a disappointment.

Texas is breaking in a new offensive coordinator and a new group of starters at receiver, but the goal of a conference title remains. Should Texas get there, it will come as a result of Ehlinger leading a prolific passing offense while still using his legs in the right situation.

Kansas

The only true battle in the Big 12, Kansas looks to find the next person to drive Brent Dearmon’s RPO offense under head coach Les Miles.

Thomas MacVittie, a not-experienced senior, might be penciled into the role right now but there’s no guarantee he holds onto that spot. His main competition seems to be freshman Jalon Daniels.

Whoever wins the battle likely won’t be the feature of the offense, that will be standout running back Pooka Williams. Still, someone needs to be able to present the ‘P’ in RPO and if Daniels is the best chance of that happening, the senior MacVittie will remain on the bench.

Kansas State – Skylar Thompson
2019: 177/297, 2315 yards, 12 TDs, 5 INT, 114 rushes, 405 yards, 11 TDs

Skylar Thompson emerged from Bill Snyder’s final season in Manhattan as the quarterback Chris Klieman would choose to build his program around. He wasn’t asked to do a lot in the Klieman offense in 2019, but he improved on every meaningful statistic in his first year under the former North Dakota State coach.

The job clearly belongs to Thompson entering his senior year. He loses his top target in Dalton Schoen to graduation as well as several other contributors to last season’s surprising 8-5 mark. Thompson has a chance to elevate his game and leave his legacy in Manhattan, but his ceiling likely resides at the very top of the middle tier of conference quarterbacks.

Iowa State – Brock Purdy
2019: 312/475, 3982 yards, 27 TDs, 9 INT, 93 rushes, 249 yards, 8 TDs

The top four contenders for the Big 12 in 2020 have the top four quarterbacks in the league. Though Iowa State might be thought of as the “fourth” contender among Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, there’s a strong argument that their quarterback is “first” prior to the 2020 season.

Purdy spread the ball around last year on his way toward being named the All-Big 12 second-team quarterback. Iowa State returns receiving threats in Charlie Kolar and Tarique Milton. David Montgomery’s replacement, Breece Hall, returns his 1149 yards from scrimmage alongside Purdy in the backfield.

If there was ever going to be a dream season for the Cyclones, this is the year. If it happens, it will be lead by Purdy.

West Virginia – Jarret Doege
2019: 79/120, 818 yards, 7 TDs, 3 INT

After Austin Kendall sputtered at the end of the 2019 season, Bowling Green transfer Jarret Doege took over and led the Mountaineers to a 2-1 record. That seems to give him the inside track on the starting job for 2020, but the lack of spring ball doesn’t guarantee that.

Doege was efficient in his November action, posting a better completion percentage, yards per attempt, and touchdown-to-interception ratio than Kendall. His late-season successes should position him to start for the Mountaineers in 2020, especially since Kendall has had opportunity after opportunity.

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