The best part of college football is that no team can ever be complacent. No matter how good a player is or how well he fits with a team and a system he can’t play for more than four years. That means that good teams have to be on top of their game and their recruiting to stay good, and teams always have a chance to climb into the upper echelons when a new set of players arrives in town. That constant change can be extremely stressful for fans – especially when your starting quarterback is forced to move on. In some cases a departing quarterback can start a serious decline for a team – like when Chad Henne left Michigan. Other times, though, a new guy steps in and is able to maintain the level of play or even improve it. Here’s a look at four teams which are facing big quarterback changes this year that have a good chance of coming through it just fine:
Texas Longhorns – Garrett Gilbert is in a unique position – he’ll be playing in his first game as a starter in September, but he has already been at the helm of his team in a BCS Championship game. Gilbert looked far from good in the first half of that shocking injury replacement against Alabama, but he composed himself remarkably well at the half and earned some real respect with a solid second half. He was a highly regarded recruit and he has had a strong offseason, so there is real optimism surrounding his play. A couple of things are on his side when it comes to his chances of meeting expectations. First, the team has previously shown that they can succeed when a new QB replaces a legend – Colt McCoy hit the ground running when he took over for Vince Young. Second, the Longhorns have a very favorable schedule this year. The non-conference schedule is very soft, and the Big 12 isn’t nearly as strong as it has been lately. Their biggest competitor is likely Nebraska. Gilbert has a very good team around him, and has the potential to make a very deep run in his first full year.
Florida Gators – Tim Tebow has left to walk on water elsewhere. Those are some big shoes to fill, but the Gators have some talent and a plan to try to do so. Junior John Brantley takes over the offense, and the team is in good hands. Brantley has been relegated to mop up duty behind Tebow, but he’d be a starter at the large majority of programs in the country right now. In limited action so far Brantley has proven to be a brilliant passer and a gifted rusher. He has the experience with the team to step right into the starting role, and he’ll be supported by a strong cast of weapons including a very good running game. The biggest concern about Brantley is his leadership – especially because he is following a mega-leader – but he has reportedly shown good progress on that front. It looks like Brantley isn’t going to have to carry the burden of replacing Tebow alone, either. Coach Urban Meyer experimented with two quarterback systems in the spring – primarily with freshman dual threat QB Jordan Reed – and seems committed to employing them in the fall. That certainly worked well the last time he tried – when Chris Leak was the veteran and Tebow was the freshman.
Purdue Boilermakers – For a guy who got virtually no attention, Joey Elliot was a decent quarterback. He completed 61.7 percent of his passes last year for 3,026 yards and 22 touchdowns in his lone year as starter after taking over for Curtis Painter. Purdue wasn’t a great team last year, but Elliott did lead his team to a huge upset of Ohio State. The Boilermakers are in very good shape going forward even though Elliott has graduated, though. Robert Marve has won the job heading into the summer. He made 11 starts for Miami in 2008, but transferred after losing his job to Heisman hopeful Jacory Harris. Marve had some maturity issues back then, but his talent is obvious, and he’s ready for his second chance. He had a good spring game, and is firmly entrenched as the starter. He gets to open the season against Notre Dame, so he could define the second act of his career in his first start.
Oregon Ducks – The script was set after last season – the Ducks were poised to dominate the Pac-10, and Jeremiah Masoli was a Heisman favorite. But then Masoli proved that he’s one of the bigger morons on the planet and got himself kicked off the team. Thankfully, the Ducks still have some pretty good options and should be in decent shape to exploit a conference ready to be exploited this year. The first choice is senior Nate Costa. He was poised to be the starter in 2008 before a knee injury sidelined him and ultimately opened the door for Masoli. He was solid in limited action last year, and knows the team and the offense as well as anyone. He’ll be pushed hard by sophomore Darron Thomas. Thomas redshirted last year, but had an eye-opening performance as a freshman when he almost rallied his team back in the fourth quarter from a 24 point deficit against Boise State with 210 yards passing and three TDs in the quarter. Either way Oregon is in pretty solid shape.