When to speak: SEC coaches handling quarterback competitions in different ways

When to speak: SEC coaches handling quarterback competitions in different ways

April 21st, 2015 by David Paschall in Sports - College

LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, left, tucks the ball away and sprints out of the pocket, pursued by linebacker Duke riley (40) during the NCAA college football team's spring football game Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Baton Rouge, La.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

There have been several quarterback competitions going on this spring throughout the Southeastern Conference and several ways in which the head coaches have handled them.

Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris continued to vie for the starting job at LSU, and Tigers coach Les Miles made each of them available to the media following Saturday's spring game. Jennings completed 13 of 20 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns during the intrasquad contest, while Harris completed 11 of 17 for 178 yards and two scores.

LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings (10) throws downfield, with protection from center Andy Dodd (72), during the NCAA college football team's spring football game Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings (10) throws downfield, with...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson (6) looks to pass during the first half during their spring NCAA college football game Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Auburn, Ala.

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson (6) looks to pass...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Auburn names Johnson

Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn announced Monday afternoon that junior Jeremy Johnson would be the starting quarterback for the Tigers.
Johnson completed 14 of 22 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns during Saturday's A-Day game, and he only played in the first half. Malzahn made the announcement via Twitter.
"Everyone in our program has 100-percent confidence in him," Malzahn said.
Johnson started last season's opener against Arkansas and played the entire first half while Nick Marshall served a suspension. He threw for 246 yards in 30 minutes against the Razorbacks but played sparingly the rest of the season, completing 28 of 37 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder from Montgomery won the job over redshirt freshman Sean White and early enrollee Tyler Queen.
-- David Paschall

"We were the weak link on the team last year," Harris told reporters afterward. "It's not nice when people talk about our quarterback situation and say that we are not doing really well. I take that with a chip on my shoulder, and I wanted to just come out and prove how much I've improved personally."

That both quarterbacks performed well delighted Miles, who said, "If you go back to the last spring game, I had a pit in my stomach."

First-year Florida coach Jim McElwain also let his quarterbacks speak to the media the week before. Treon Harris and Will Grier have taken turns in recent weeks running the first team for the Gators, with Grier grabbing the upper hand during the final few practices and having the superior spring game.

"There is a lot of the playbook that still needs to be opened," Grier told reporters on April 11. "There are a lot of things we can do that we didn't, but we're not extremely sharp right now."

Not every league coach, however, has wanted the viewpoints of his quarterbacks to be shared.

Alabama has the largest quarterback field, with Jacob Coker, Alec Morris, David Cornwell, Cooper Bateman and early enrollee Blake Barnett competing for the right to succeed Blake Sims. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban did not make any of the five available for comment this spring and repeatedly said there was no clear-cut starter and that somebody needed "to take the bull by the horns."

Coker and Morris worked with the first-team offense this past Saturday at A-Day, and Saban was quick to head off any statistical comparisons by saying those two had the advantage of working with the starting line. Last week, Saban became irritated and digressed in a news conference when asked about the offense.

"If you guys continue to get quotes from players about other players, then we're going to not talk to players anymore," he said. "I read things in the newspaper, and the players are getting asked about other players, and I don't really think that's a good thing for anyone. I don't think it's good that anybody would ask a player about another player. Ask about the team."

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze named Ryan Buchanan as his slight leader over Chad Kelly and DeVante Kincaide, and he allowed Buchanan and Kincaide to talk after the Rebels concluded spring practice on April 11. Kelly, who started out at Clemson and played last season at East Mississippi Community College, was arrested at a Buffalo nightclub in late December and reached a deal in early January in which he pleaded guilty to a noncriminal charge of disorderly conduct.

Even if he becomes the starter, Kelly may not be made available to the media for quite a while.

Then there is the situation at Georgia, where candidates Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park were made available once midway through spring drills. They were not allowed to comment after the G-Day game April 11.

"They don't have an answer for the questions that you have, in my opinion," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said in a news conference last week. "I just want them to try and be better. When we get a real live pecking order, I think it will be the time to talk."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.