|USC Legends News|
Changing of the QB : Razorbacks won’t have to face three NFL draftees
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ defense won’t have to worry about facing quarterbacks Jay Cutler, Matt Leinart and Brodie Croyle on consecutive Saturdays in September as was the case last season.
Vanderbilt’s Cutler, Southern California’s Leinart and Alabama’s Croyle all were picked in this year’s NFL Draft and no longer can terrorize college opponents.
Leinart and Cutler were first-round picks, No. 10 and No. 11 to Arizona and Denver. Croyle was a third-round pick by Kansas City at No. 85 overall.
“When you go against a triggerman who’s been there, especially in the SEC or a program like USC, you’ve got problems,” Arkansas Coach Houston Nutt said of facing Cutler, Leinart and Croyle. “Because they know what they’re doing. They’re leaders and they’ve seen it all.
“ I’m glad they’re gone. But I’m sure they’ve got good quarterbacks coming in, too.”
USC, Vanderbilt and Alabama, which all again play Arkansas in September of 2006, spent the spring trying to find capable replacements for their departed star quarterbacks.
The Trojans’ quarterback situation is uncertain because of junior John David Booty’s back surgery in March and redshirt freshman Mark Sanchez’s arrest April 26 on a charge of sexual assault.
USC Coach Pete Carroll said Sanchez has been indefinitely suspended from the team while police conduct an investigation.
Sanchez took the majority of snaps with the first-team offense in USC’s spring practice, which ended four weeks ago, but Booty was still listed as the No. 1 quarterback after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc.
Carroll said in a postspring news conference that Booty appears on course for recovery and should be ready to practice in August.
“Everything looks great, and he feels terrific. He has no pain at all at this time,” said Carroll, a former Arkansas graduate assistant coach whose Trojans play the Razorbacks on Sept. 2 in Fayetteville. “When John David comes back, that will be huge at camp. He will jump to the reps at the front, and we will try to get him caught up and see if he can hold on to his
“ Certainly he would win [the job ] right now if he wasn’t hurt. He would have the lead position at the quarterback spot just based on his experience.”
Vanderbilt and Alabama appeared to find starting quarterbacks in the spring with redshirt sophomores.
The Commodores’ likely starter is Chris Nickson for the SEC opener against Arkansas on Sept. 16 in Nashville. Alabama, which plays in Fayetteville on Sept. 23, closed spring practice with John Parker Wilson as the starter.
“It’s just a fact of life in college football,” Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson said of finding a new starting quarterback. “When one of them ’ve to get somebody else ready.
“ It happens every year to some program. Some of them it works out a little bit better than others, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Johnson said he’s confident in Nickson, who is a threat as a passer and runner.
“Jay Cutler, as a senior, it will be hard to replace that level of play,” Johnson said. “But when Jay started as a redshirt freshman, he had some growing pains. That happens when you have a new quarterback.
“ Chris Nickson, we think, is an excellent football. He’s very mobile, but he also has a good arm.
“ He didn’t get a lot of playing time last year because we were in a lot of close games and we had a great quarterback in there playing for us. But we’re confident he can come in and do the job.”
Nickson played in five games off the bench last season, the same number Wilson played for Alabama.
“John Parker didn’t play as much as we would have liked, but did a nice job when he came in and got some snaps at the end of games,” Tide Coach Mike Shula said. “I think he just needs to go play.”
Wilson completed 21 of 31 passes for 244 yards and 2 touchdowns in Alabama’s spring game, but also threw two interceptions.
“He’s going to make some plays for us, and he’s going to make some mistakes because he’s young,” Shula said. “But I think he’s going to get better with experience and I think our football team feels comfortable with him right now.”
At Tennessee, which is back on Arkansas’ schedule this season for the first time since 2002, junior Erik Ainge appears ready to become the full-time starter at quarterback after splitting snaps a year ago with departed senior Rick Clausen.
Coming off shoulder surgery, Ainge played inconsistently last year, resulting in a quarterback shuffle with Clausen that plagued the Vols throughout their 5-6 season.
“It was really a strange, strange year,” Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer said. “I think a lot of things contributed to Erik not having the kind of sophomore year that we all expected him to have.”
Fulmer said he believes David Cutcliffe’s return as the Vols’ offensive coordinator “had a calming effect” on Ainge.
“I think Erik worked really hard in the spring to regain the confidence of his teammates and his coaches,” Fulmer said. “It was reflected in his numbers during the course of the spring. He was very productive.
“ I think we all saw the talent that he has and I think he’s much closer to being that kind of player.”
Junior JaMarcus Russell started 12 games for LSU last season, but missed the Tigers’ 40-3 Peach Bowl victory over Miami and all of spring practice because of a shoulder injury.
Sophomore Matt Flynn, who replaced Russell against Miami and was MVP of the Peach Bowl when he completed 13 of 22 passes for 196 yards and 2 touchdowns, worked as the starter in spring practice. Redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Perrilloux also got a lot of spring practice snaps.
“I really feel like they both made cases for playing time in the fall,” LSU Coach Les Miles said. “I think we go into the fall with a little bit more competitive position, but we’re going to play the best guy certainly.
“ JaMarcus, if he returns to health, may well be that guy. But I think with what Matt has proven, and with Ryan’s ability, I just see the competition benefiting us.”
Miles might want to talk to Fulmer about that.
Tennessee seemed to be in good shape at quarterback going into last year with Clausen having replaced an injured Ainge and been the Cotton Bowl MVP in the Vols’ victory over Texas A&M.
But Ainge and Clausen spent the season replacing each other and the quarterback situation never became settled.
A similar problem could develop at LSU if Miles isn’t firm on his starter in 2006.
“I would only hope everybody’s rooting for the guy who’s taking the starting snap,” Miles said. “I certainly hope there’s a strong thread of team unity.
“ I’d be the first one to tell you I think we look at the guy who won 10 games a year ago first,” Miles added, referring to Russell. “But I would feel very confident there are some other quality quarterbacks that may play and deserve to play.”
Among the other SEC teams on Arkansas’ 2006 schedule — Auburn, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Mississippi State — only the Rebels don’t return a quarterback who started games for them last season.
Junior college transfer Brent Schaeffer, the Rebels’ projected No. 1 quarterback, has starting experience in the SEC, but as a freshman at Tennessee two years ago.
Schaeffer played in seven games, including three starts, in 2004, before sustaining a broken collarbone. After being suspended for disciplinary problems, he transferred from Tennessee to College of the Sequoias in California and earned junior college All-American honors after passing for 40 touchdowns and 2, 970 yards.
While Schaeffer didn’t go through spring practice with the Rebels, there is no doubt he’s expected to be the starter. Seth Adams, a junior walk-on, worked with the first-team offense in the spring.
“We tried to turn it into a positive and get our secondteam quarterback ready,” Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron said of Schaeffer’s absence in the spring. “But you could see the speed of the offense wasn’t what we needed and what we expect with Brent.”
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