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AAC Spring Quarterback Battles to Watch

Only a few teams know who their guy will be. Everyone else has options.

Tulsa v Memphis Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Spring produces a number of great feelings. The weather starts getting nicer and college football teams begin their 2021 season. With that comes competition, and no position is scrutinized more than the quarterback position. The AAC has a number of key quarterback battles that are worth watching, and most of them won’t be fully decided until fall camp begins. Let’s take a look at who’s in the running for each team, and who I think wins the job outright.

Let’s start with the situations that are already decided.

UCF

Dillon Gabriel has this spot locked down with over 7,000 yards and 61 touchdowns to his name, so the question becomes who will back him up. McKenzie Milton (Florida State) and Darriel Mack (Old Dominion) are gone, and Quadry Jones and his two pass attempts are the only other experience returning from 2020. Incoming freshman Mikey Keene is a dynamic player who could compete for the second spot.

Cincinnati

The Bearcats better hope Desmond Ridder can stay healthy all year, because the depth at the position is looking sparse at this point. Ben Bryant, Cincinnati’s backup the last two years, transferred to Eastern Michigan, and no one else has experience. Depth needs to be found quickly, because relying 100% on Ridder’s health won’t be the best plan.

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at East Carolina
Ahlers is the guy at ECU, but he needs to take a step forward in his development.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

ECU

Holton Ahlers needs to prove himself, but not to be the starter. Mason Garcia saw a little time as the backup, but he’ll have to hold off four redshirt sophomores for that honor one again. The Pirates offense has the potential to be extremely dangerous, but how high they go lies on Ahlers’ shoulders. He’s shown flashes of his greatness, but the consistency hasn’t quite followed.

Tulane

Michael Pratt took over the starting job, and provided the Green Wave with a steady hand offensively. He’s back, and many are excited about what he can do. He threw for 20 touchdowns last year with just eight interceptions, and added eight more scores on the ground. Tulane returns some key explosive playmakers at the skill positions, so this is an offense to keep an eye on in 2021.

Spring QB Battles

Houston

Options: Clayton Tune, Maddox Kopp, Soffian Massoud
Winner: Clayton Tune

This one might be surprising to many, but Dana Holgorsen’s at a point where not having a competition is more detrimental. Don’t get me wrong, Clayton Tune’s the favorite, but Kopp and Massoud will push him. Competition’s not a bad thing either, because Tune needs to take a step forward to bring the offense to a new level. He’s better than people give him credit, but it never hurts to have your teammates help elevate your game.

USF

Options: Katravis Marsh, Cade Fortin, Jarren Williams, Timmy McClain (HS)
Winner: Jarren Williams

Jordan McCloud finessed one game into a Power 5 opportunity at Arizona, and Noah Johnson is off to the NFL. Year 2 under Jeff Scott will feature a new face, and all signs point towards Williams. The question becomes if he can elevate USF’s offense. He threw for 2,187 yards and 19 touchdowns with Miami in 2019, so Bulls fans are excited about what he can do in their offense.

Navy

Options: Tyger Goslin, Xavier Arline, Massai Maynor
Winner: Xavier Arline

Seven players threw a pass last year for the Midshipmen, so to say this one’s up in the air is an understatement. Goslin returns the most passing production, but Arline was the better runner. Given that Navy isn’t trying to chuck the ball up too much, Arline gets the nod to me, but I won’t be surprised if I’m completely wrong.

Memphis

Options: Grant Gunnell, Peter Parrish
Winner: Grant Gunnell

Losing Brady White was one of the biggest losses in the AAC, but Ryan Silverfield went out and addressed that before he even left by bringing in Parrish from LSU. Gunnell transferred from Arizona, and his experience makes him the early favorite to win the job. The two play different styles, but Silverfield and his staff will find ways to utilize their skills.

Tulsa

Options: Davis Brin, Seth Boomer
Winner: Davis Brin

With Zach Smith gone, the Golden Hurricane find themselves in need of a quarterback. Smith provided some stability to the passing game, and it’s time for a new face to run the show. Boomer’s struggled throughout his career, but has experience. Brin completed the Tulsa comeback against Tulane last year, including an insane Hail Mary, but that’s his only real game experience. It feels like we’ve seen more from Brin in just one game, but there might be a reason they went to Boomer first before him.

SMU

Options: Tanner Mordecai, Preston Stone
Winner: Tanner Mordecai

Moving on from Shane Buechele won’t be easy, but Sonny Dykes eased the transition by bringing Mordecai from Oklahoma and signing the four star Stone. Mordecai’s limited experience helps him in this situation, so we’ll give him the edge, but this is the most intriguing quarterback battle in the Group of 5.

Temple

Options: D’Wan Mathis, Re-al Mitchell
Winner: D’Wan Mathis

This position is wide open after last year, but the expectation should be that Mathis wins the job. The fact that he started at Georgia should be enough to show that he’s the superior talent. He just needs to prove it on the field. Mitchell can be explosive, but the passing continues to be a concern. The Owls are in desperate need for a quarterback after Anthony Russo left for Michigan State, and Mathis could stabilize the position in 2021.