Q&A: Quarterback Competitions; Best Video Games

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Quarterback competitions dominate springtime around college football. Though few quarterback competitions are decided until August — at least publicly — these are the stories that most intrigue fans and media during these 15-practice allotments.

This week’s CFB Huddle Q&A fittingly opens with a question on quarterback competitions. Let’s get to it — but first, mandatory reminder: Submit your questions for CFB Huddle Q&A on Twitter @kensing45 or @cfbhuddle. You can also email publisher@cfbhuddle.com.

ALABAMA

We’re now going on three straight years of quarterback competitions at Alabama — though that’s hardly been a bad thing for the Crimson Tide.

Blake Sims put up record-breaking numbers after beating Jake Coker for the job in 2014. Coker got his opportunity a few games into the 2015 campaign, following Cooper Bateman’s rocky start. While Coker was hardly a standout last season, he delivered in the Tide’s two biggest games of a national championship-winning campaign.

Another spring brings another quarterback competition, this time pitting Bateman against talented youngsters Blake Barnett and David Cornwell.

Barnett intrigues me because he’s a dynamic dual-threat, something Alabama hasn’t really had, and he played his high school ball for Jeff Steinberg in Southern California.

I briefly covered a Steinberg-coached team in my first newspaper job out of college. He came from Canada, and introduced elements of the pass-happy Canadian game to the SoCal prep scene. Steinberg’s tutelage under Lane Kiffin’s watch piques my interest.

MICHIGAN STATE

Mark Dantonio shares a state with another program replacing its quarterback. Perhaps you’ve heard something this offseason about that other team?

Yeah, Michigan football’s overexposure shadows a pretty compelling story at Michigan State. But what else is new?

Sparty has been free of quarterback competitions for much of Dantonio’s tenure. Kirk Cousins started from 2009 through 2011, then Connor Cook held the job from 2013 through 2015. Add Andrew Maxwell’s stint in 2012, and Michigan State’s had just three starters and three true quarterback competitions over seven years.

Another three-year starter likely won’t emerge this year. Senior Tyler O’Connor and junior Damion Terry are the top candidates for the job.

NOTRE DAME

Of this spring’s quarterback competitions, Notre Dame’s is the most intriguing. No matter how promising the prospect, most programs will tab unproven players as their new starters, like Notre Dame rival USC with Max Browne (presumably).

The Fighting Irish deviate in that they have two proven options in Malik Zaire, who had great games against LSU and Texas in his first two starts; and DeShone Kizer, an unlikely breakout star last season when Zaire was injured early.

Perhaps Brian Kelly was onto something last spring when he compared Notre Dame’s quarterback prospectus to that of Ohio State, which returned two past Heisman contenders and a national championship winner. Though, I doubt Kelly had the foresight to see the problems the Buckeyes would endure with a crowded depth chart.

Reports of Zaire voicing frustration this spring bring to mind the on-and-off Cardale Jones-J.T. Barrett efforts Ohio State made a season ago, only getting consistent production from the latter late in the campaign.

Everett Golson transferred out of the program shortly after last spring. That’s a distinct possibility for the runner-up in all quarterback competitions, but in Notre Dame’s case, losing either Zaire or Kizer means parting ways with a special talent.

COLORADO (4-9)

USC breaks in a new quarterback under a new coaching staff. UCLA returns a standout quarterback in Josh Rosen, but lost play makers up and down the roster.

Arizona and Arizona State both face myriad question marks amid staff changes, and coming off disappointing 2015 campaigns.

All that uncertainty opens the door for Colorado to finally break through.

Mike MacIntyre compared Colorado of 2014 to a junior varsity in terms of experience, and a varsity in 2015. The Buffs are even more experienced heading into 2016, returning eight offensive starters and nine on defense from a team that lost five games by eight points or fewer. Assuming he bounces back from injury, Sefo Liufau could be in for a monster senior year.

I can see Colorado winning as many as nine regular-season games, and no fewer than seven. Trips to Stanford, Oregon and Michigan are the only penciled-in Ls I have on the Buffs’ docket. Otherwise, this has the potential to be a breakout year.

FAU (3-9)

I consider Florida Atlantic one of college football’s hidden gems, needing only the right direction to hit it big as a program. FAU’s situated in prime recruiting real estate, and just recently opened a new, on-campus facility.

Charlie Partridge is starting to tap into FAU’s lofty potential, and we should see the first tangible signs of progress in 2016.

FAU returns eight starters on offense and six on defense. Among the defensive returners is sack-machine Trey Hendrickson, spotlighted in 5 For Friday. Hendrickson shined in the overtime loss at Florida, one of a handful of late-season games that sent the Owls into the offseason with momentum and promise.

TULANE (3-9)

Willie Fritz built a national championship contender at Sam Houston State, then won a Sun Belt Conference title in Georgia Southern’s inaugural FBS season. Remarkably, he accomplished both feats employing much different styles.

Sam Houston State ran a spread variation that, while run-heavy, differed vastly from the option his Georgia Southern squads used. Fritz is a proven winner, and he’s demonstrated he can do so in different ways.

His ability to adapt should translate to immediate success at Tulane, similar to that which he experienced in his last two stops. Tulane’s a high-potential program, situated in a recruiting hotbed and boasting a beautiful, new stadium.

The right recruiter can use Tulane’s lofty academics as an invaluable tool, much in the same vein as David Shaw at Stanford or Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern. That’s further down the road, however.

In the more immediate future, Fritz’s in-game strategy, coupled with the chance to climb in the American Athletic West, should get the Green Wave bowl eligible in 2016.

UNLV (3-9)

I’ll admit to harboring some reservations about the Tony Sanchez hire. Plenty of high school coaches have hit it big in the college game: Gus Malzahn and Todd Graham are two of the more noteworthy names.

However, they transitioned to college first as assistants, then as head coaches.

With Sanchez, the first name that came to mind was not Malzahn or Graham, but Todd Dodge. Dodge, for those who don’t remember, was the wildly successful Texas high school coach whose brief stint at North Texas went disastrously.

Sanchez, however, exceeded my expectations and put UNLV on the right course.

A 3-9 record may not wow on its face, but the Rebels lost four games by a combined 24 points. Three of those single-score losses were on the road, and one went to overtime.

Those are the kind of close losses in Year 1 that can turn into wins by Year 2.

Allow me to preface the following with a brief history of my video game-playing. Sega Genesis was my first console system, a birthday present in the early/mid 1990s. Around the same time, I was into arcade games. My small, hometown had an arcade/miniature golf place with all my favorite stand-up games ever: NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter II.

I bought a Sega Saturn shortly after its launch with lawn mowing money, but I quickly learned the error of my ways and traded it in for a Playstation.

I upgraded to the Playstation 2. Around the same time, I played online PC games — mostly Counterstrike.

My last console system was XBox 360, which I sold to help pay for my wedding. I’ve largely been out of the video game business since. But here’s my favorite from each platform I played:

ARCADE: NBA Jam

SEGA GENESIS: Mortal Kombat 2

PLAYSTATION: Resident Evil Director’s Cut

PLAYSTATION 2: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

XBox 360: NBA 2K10

Choosing just one as a singular favorite borders on impossible, but I have to give the nod to GTA: San Andreas.

I loved every GTA title from 3 on, but San Andreas felt revolutionary with the size and diversity of its world.

MLB: Oakland A’s, High Heat MLB 2003

High Heat was a gem of the PS2 that, sadly, went defunct just a few seasons into production. I blame Curt Schilling gracing the cover, given his track record with video games.

My college friends and I would often play the 2003 version while throwing back cheap beers, which would often lead to quibbling over who got to play as the A’s.

This game’s release followed the A’s 102-win 2001 season, and despite losing Jason Giambi to the Yankees and Johnny Damon to the Red Sox, they still had Jermaine Dye, Eric Chavez and 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada.

And that pitching rotation. OH, that pitching rotation. Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson in their primes? Absurd.

NBA: Seattle Supersonics, NBA Jam

It’s perhaps cheating to dub a two-man team the best of a 5-on-5 sport. It’s definitely unfair that NBA Jam’s version of the Chicago Bulls were sans Michael Jordan, as His Cryness signed away his video game rights to the awful Windy City Mayhem.

Later editions of NBA Jam also lacked Shaq, who was instead featured in the abominable Shaq-Fu. I played a stand-up version of NBA Jam with Shaq, and the Magic’s one-two punch of he and Penny was pretty tough.

But the Shawn Kemp-Gary Payton was arcade perfection. Payton had tenacious defense and passing covered, while Kemp delivered the dunks you want from NBA Jam.

Truth be told, however, the Spurs were my team. Sean Elliott and David Robinson are two of my all-time favorite NBA’ers.

NFL: L.A. Raiders, Tecmo Bowl

Self-explanatory. Though I never owned an NES, I’ve played more than enough Tecmo Bowl to know the Bo Jackson-led Raiders were neigh-unstoppable.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks, NHL 95

No, I’m not letting Swingers influence my recollection. Swingers was art imitating life — though I posit the 95 title was superior to the 94 edition played in the movie.