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Pick 6: Unsettled college quarterback competitions

Posted: August 28, 2013 - 12:07am
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Penn State quarterbacks Tyler Ferguson, right, and Christian Hackenberg take snaps during the NCAA college football team's practice in State College, Pa., Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Do not hold Penn State coach Bill O'Brien to the timeline that he would settle on a starting quarterback in a couple weeks. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)  Gene J. Puskar
Gene J. Puskar
Penn State quarterbacks Tyler Ferguson, right, and Christian Hackenberg take snaps during the NCAA college football team's practice in State College, Pa., Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Do not hold Penn State coach Bill O'Brien to the timeline that he would settle on a starting quarterback in a couple weeks. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

If a decision has been made on who will start at quarterback for Penn State in its opening game, Bill O’Brien isn’t saying.

“The first Penn State offensive series the starting quarterback is going to go out and both guys need to be ready to play,” the second-year coach said Tuesday. “That’s as much as you’re going to get out of me today on this subject.”

West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen is taking a similar approach. Same goes for Lane Kiffin at USC and a few other coaches.

A couple days before the college football season begins, some coaches have decided it’s best not to decide on a starting quarterback — at least not publicly. They’ll head into the opening weekend with their starters still a mystery and/or with plans to play multiple QBs.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has said he’ll use two signal callers against Mississippi State after the preseason competition between Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh ended in a draw. Both look like good options. Each played extensively last season, passed for more than 1,500 yards and completed more than 60 percent of his passes. Gundy won’t say who’ll take the first snap.

Not every coach is so fortunate.

Here are six teams planning to unveil their starting quarterback during Game 1.

1) Penn State. O’Brien is choosing between two players who have never thrown a college pass. Sophomore Tyler Ferguson has had a full season to learn, but highly-touted freshman Christian Hackenburg arrived on campus in time for spring practice and the race has been neck-and-neck since. O’Brien has said he’d like to settle on one and be done with it. The Nittany Lions open with Syracuse, so he probably won’t have time to experiment.

2) Syracuse. Speaking of the Orange, they also have an OR listed on the depth chart at quarterback. Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen or sophomore Terrell Hunt will start against Penn State at MetLife Stadium, home of the Giants and Jets. Allen didn’t arrive until August, giving Hunt a huge head start. But Allen has the talent advantage and the conventional wisdom is that the job will be his.

3) West Virginia. Holgorsen, trying to replace Geno Smith, has narrowed it down to Florida State transfer Clint Trickett and fellow junior Paul Millard. Millard backed up Smith last season but threw only 19 passes. Trickett has more game experience. Millard is more experienced in Holgorsen’s up-tempo spread. With the Mountaineers opening against William & Mary, expect auditions to continue.

4) Southern California. Sophomore Max Wittek filled in for Matt Barkley when he was injured at the end of last season. The circumstances were difficult, but Wittek didn’t do much to distinguish himself. He and fellow sophomore Cody Kessler have been battling to be No. 1 this season. USC opens at Hawaii, which should allow Kiffin to get a good look at both without worrying about losing a game.

5) Indiana. Coach Kevin Wilson has three options: junior Cam Coffman, and sophomores Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld. All three played last season, but Roberson has star potential. He was the starter in Game 1 in 2012, and broke his leg in Game 2. He seems to be the fans’ choice in Bloomington. Expect to see all three as the Hooisers open Thursday against Indiana State.

6) Cincinnati. With his unforgettable name and easy-to-spot dreadlocks, Munchie Legaux became a college folk hero the past two seasons. His play, though, was spotty, opening the door for Brendon Kay to take the job at the end of last season. Kay’s sore shoulder has re-opened the competition, and coach Tommy Tuberville now says he expects both to play when the Bearcats open against Purdue.

EXTRA POINT: TCU coach Gary Patterson has declined to close the competition between Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin, who became the starter last year when Pachall was admitted into a substance-abuse program. It will be fairly surprising if Pachall, an NFL prospect and maybe the best quarterback in the Big 12, isn’t starting when No. 20 TCU faces No. 12 LSU on Saturday night.

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