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Conference USA Quarterback Battles to Watch this Fall

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CUSA returns a lot of familiar faces at quarterback this fall but a few battles in the West could end up telling the tale of the division standings.

USM's Nick Mullens will need to hold off a four-star transfer in order to retain his starting spot under center
USM's Nick Mullens will need to hold off a four-star transfer in order to retain his starting spot under center
Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

While we have a pretty good idea of who will be lining up under center for each team in the East, the western division of CUSA is going to be raging with quarterback battles this August. I've listed out each major competitor in this fall's quarterback races with pros and cons listed for each guy. Quarterbacks are listed based on my estimated likelihood to start.

Assumed/confirmed starters:

Marshall: Michael Birdsong

Louisiana Tech: Jeff Driskel

WKU: Brandon Doughty

Rice: Driphus Jackson

MTSU: Austin Grammer

FIU: Alex McGough

FAU: Jaquez Johnson

ODU: Shuler Bentley

Charlotte: Matt Johnson

NORTH TEXAS

Leading Combatants: Andrew McNulty, DaMarcus Smith, Josh Greer, everyone else on campus

The Mean Green will enter the 2015 season after watching some miserable play at the quarterback position in 2014. UNT will have several bodies competing for snaps but none that really jump off the page. Smith is an exception here in my most humble opinion but Dan McCarney might opt to take the conservative route by starting a quarterback with more playbook familiarity.

Andrew McNulty (6'1", 209)
Pro - Experience, intangibles
Con - Wildly inconsistent, marginal athleticism

DeMarcus Smith (6'1", 205)
Pro - Extremely successful in JUCO, offers big play threat that UNT is missing
Con - Missed spring camp, has little experience with the offense

Josh Greer (6'5", 220)
Pro - Brings prototypical 6'5" passing frame
Con - 48% completion rate after 50 attempts

SOUTHERN MISS

Leading Combatants: Nick Mullens, Tyler Matthews

This might be the most intriguing battle. One guy has a low ceiling but is leading this program on a steady return to respectability and bowl eligibility. The other has plenty of talent but struggled to find the field at his last program. With USM stacking up their talent on defense this position battle could end up making the difference between a bowl game or another rebuilding year for Southern Miss.

Nick Mullens (6'1", 196)
Pro - Showed steady improvement throughout 2014
Con - May already be at his ceiling given limited athletic ability

Tyler Matthews (6'4", 215)
Pro- Major, major upside
Con - Has no real college football game experience

UTSA

This might be an easy one on paper-- hot shot freshman is granted a medical hardship waiver to add an additional year of eligibility after showing his stuff on the big stage and gaining the respect of his teammates. Russell Bellomy still has a legitimate shot to start though. The staff seems to be impressed with him and they historically ride with older players over talented youngun's (see Tucker Carter vs. Zac Conque for a painful reminder).

Leading Combatants: Blake Bogenschutz, Russell Bellomy

Blake Bogenschutz (6'1", 180)
Pro - Performed admirably as a true freshman, winning pedigree
Con - Small frame lends itself to injury concerns

Russell Bellomy (6'3", 220)
Pro - Veteran maturity, DI size
Con - Saw little success at Michigan

UTEP

This is a tough one to call in my opinion. Leftwich returns from injury with good experience but defenses are going to stack the box against UTEP. They'll need a quarterback that can avoid sacks and turn defensive over-aggression into touchdowns.

Leading Combatants: Mack Leftwich, Kavika Johnson, Garrett Simpson


Mack Leftwich (5'10", 190)
Pro - Played well in 2013, son of assistant head coach
Con - Mobility concerns coming off of injury

Kavika Johnson (6'1", 205)
Pro - Extremely explosive athlete, might be Sean Kugler's best recruit so far
Con - True freshman

Garrett Simpson (6'7", 250)
Pro - Terrific size, attention to detail
Con - Already lost one position battle to Leftwich