The quarterback position may be the toughest position to play in football. It requires incredible vision, a cannon arm, and unmatched leadership qualities. At the collegiate level, it often requires having escapability or the skills to scramble and run the option.
When a team's record is suffering, fans often call to change the starting quarterback before every other position. So, here's a look at all the quarterback changes in the MAC this season, due to injury or benching or other factors:
Week 1 Starter: Thomas Woodson
Current Starter: Thomas Woodson
Other Starters: None
Last season, the Zips' quarterback situation did not pan out well due to several injuries. At the end of the season, Akron was starting a wide receiver under center. Wideout Tyrell Goodman took snaps against Ohio in the Zips' season closer, a 9-3 loss to the Bobcats.
But in 2017, the signal caller under center has been a constant each week. Senior quarterback Thomas Woodson, who missed four games completely in 2016 with an injured throwing shoulder, has remained healthy. The gunslinger has 1,456 passing yards and 11 touchdowns this season. His health may translate to Akron's 4-4 record — tied for first in the MAC East.
Week 1 Starter: Riley Neal
Current Starter: Jack Milas/Zack Blair
Other Starters: Jack Milas
Junior quarterback Riley Neal started the first three games for the Cardinals this season, faring 2-1. But a leg injury, discovered after Week 3 may keep the 6-foot-6 quarterback sidelined for the majority, if not all, of the 2017 season. Until several weeks ago, Neal had been a staple at quarterback for Ball State over his three seasons in Muncie. He threw six touchdowns and three interceptions, throwing for over 200 yards in all three starts this year.
With Neal sidelined, quarterback Jack Milas took over the reigns and is still searching for his first victory. The senior nearly topped Western Kentucky on the road in Week 4 but a costly pick-six on a potential game-winning drive gifted the Hilltoppers a victory. Since that September 23 game, Milas' offense has not registered one touchdown in three outings, scoring just 15 points solely on field goals. After a 56-9 loss to Central Michigan where the Chippewas registered eight sacks, Ball State may weight out their options at the position. Milas suffered an elbow injury in the loss, but is still the starter if healthy, according to Ryan O'Gara of the Muncie Star Press.
Sophomore Zack Blair received several reps under center at the end of the blowout loss at home. He completed 2-of-4 passes and could earn his first career start against Toledo if Milas is unable to play.
Week 1 Starter: James Morgan
Current Starter: James Morgan
Other Starters: Jarret Doege
Bowling Green's 2017 has not gone according to plan. After a promising 3-1 finish to 2016, the Falcons have slugged their way to a 1-7 record as the final third of the season approaches. James Morgan opened the season at quarterback for Mike Jinks' team, struggling with accuracy en route to an 0-3 start.
As a result, Jinks brought in freshman Jarret Doege — brother of former Texas Tech star Seth Doege — at quarterback. Doege displayed promise at the end of the 49-7 loss to Northwestern before making his first start at Middle Tennessee, a 24-13 defeat. His completion percentage in each game has exceeded 60 percent, and he appeared to be the solution at the position until a devastating back injury in an 11-point loss to Akron on September 30.
Morgan checked in and started the following week, when Bowling Green defeated Miami (OH) on the road 37-29. It is the Falcons' lone win this year and Morgan fared 11-of-25 for 222 yards (197 to received Teo Redding) in the victory. But the sophomore is still searching for a second victory, and he has now logged nine touchdowns and seven interceptions this year.
Morgan was benched for freshman quarterback Grant Loy in garbage time during the 48-17 loss to Northern Illinois last weekend. Loy threw for 104 yards and one interception on 11 attempts. He also ran for his first career touchdown and ranked second on the team in rushing yards on Saturday.
Doege has progressed in his health and was available against NIU, according to John Wagner of the Toledo Blade. All three quarterbacks are currently an option for Jinks, and Bowling Green will have until Halloween night to test out the trio of passers before trotting one out on the field in a clash with Kent State.
Week 1 Starter: Tyree Jackson
Current Starter: Kyle Vantrease
Other Starters: Drew Anderson
Jackson entered 2017 as a second-year starter. His sophomore season was off to a promising start, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another four in four starts (2-2). But in a September 23 win over Florida Atlantic (which looks like a quality victory now), Jackson injured his knee and hasn't returned to the field since. He is currently rehabbing and may be available in the coming weeks.
But Buffalo's star quarterback this season — and possible quarterback of the future — was the second-stringer. Junior quarterback Drew Anderson attempted just one pass, but the quarterback's name is now enshrined in the record books. In the highest scoring game in college football history — a 71-68, seven-overtime loss to Western Michigan — Anderson threw for a MAC record 597 yards and a conference record seven touchdowns.
Before the heartbreaking seven-overtime loss, Anderson helped the Bulls hang on to the victory over FAU and started his first game in the win over Kent State before the thriller against Western Michigan.
In his third start, Anderson completed 13-of-18 passes with a touchdown pass against Northern Illinois before leaving the game with an injured shoulder. Prior to the injury, Anderson sported an impressive 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, throwing for 1,079 yards in four appearances.
Kyle Vantrease took over in the middle of the 14-13 loss to NIU. Vantrease's offense could not score a touchdown that game, and the freshman followed up by losing his first career start to Miami (OH) 24-14. He will continue to start until Jackson or Anderson returns from injury.
Week 1 Starter: Shane Morris
Current Starter: Shane Morris
Other Starters: None
Morris beat out freshman Tony Poljan for the job before the season, and the Chippewas' haven't looked back since. The Michigan transfer has been inconsistent in the accuracy department, but when he completes passes over the 50-percent mark, Central Michigan is 4-0. Morris threw for four touchdowns and 199 yards in a 56-9 annihilation of Ball State in Muncie last Saturday. He has shattered his season-high with 1,966 yards this season. Morris' career-day occurred at Kansas, where he threw for 467 yards and five touchdowns.
Poljan, a highly-touted recruit, has checked into games several times this year but primarily as a runner. The 6-foot-7 quarterback is the Chippewas' future starter but for now, he'll take a backseat to the senior.
Week 1 Starter: Brogan Roback
Current Starter: Brogan Roback
Other Starters: None
After leading the Eagles to their first bowl game since 1987, Roback continues to function as Chris Creighton's quarterback. The senior is on pace for his third-straight 2,000-yard passing season and has delivered consistent performances week after week.
One problem: the Eagles are 2-5 with five extremely close losses. But Roback is still one of the best at his position in the MAC and will continue to start at the Factory. He needs just 42 more yards to slip into the No. 2 spot in passing yards in Eastern Michigan history.
Week 1 Starter: Nick Holley
Current Starter: George Bollas
Other Starters: Dustin Crum
Nick Holley, primarily a run specialist, started the season under center in Kent State's rush-oriented offense. Holley sprinted for 207 yards in just three games, actually leading the Golden Flashes in the category until last Saturday. But Holley tore his ACL in a 21-0 loss to Marshall in Week 3, forcing the junior George Bollas to start.
Bollas started the 42-3 demolition to Louisville before Dustin Crum earned a shot against Buffalo. Crum was benched in the contest and Bollas threw for a season-high 242 yards in the 27-13 loss. Crum started several weeks later against Miami (OH), but after trailing 14-3, Bollas spurred a comeback to lead Kent State to its first FBS win in 2017 by a score of 17-14.
The senior started over the freshman once again in Kent State's 48-3 loss to Ohio last Saturday, but it seems the two will continue to rotate between starter and backup for the foreseeable future.
Miami (OH) RedHawks
Week 1 Starter: Gus Ragland
Current Starter: Billy Bahl/Gus Ragland
Other Starters: None
Out of all teams in the MAC, other than Toledo, it seemed Miami had the most confidence in its starter entering the season. Ragland lifted the RedHawks out of the ashes last season, finishing 6-7 after an 0-6 start. The Cincinnati native threw 17 touchdowns and just one interception and nearly beat Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
But 2017 wasn't a mirror image of the previous year for Ragland. A pick six and several special teams miscues on kick returns allowed the Marshall Thundering Herd to defeat the RedHawks on Week 1. Two weeks later, a costly pick six by Ragland cost Miami the Victory Bell in a 17-14 loss to Cincinnati — a game Miami led 14-3 with just minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The RedHawks hit their nadir in a 37-29 loss to Bowling Green when Ragland suffered from a lower body injury. Replacement quarterback and former starter Billy Bahl could not evade an upset loss to the Falcons, and Miami continued its skid to a 2-5 record. But last week, Bahl earned his first win since 2015 and threw for 177 yards in a much-needed home victory over Buffalo, 24-14.
If healthy, expect Ragland to return to the field in the near future. Miami resumes action on Halloween night against Ohio to start off Week 10.
Week 1 Starter: Ryan Graham
Current Starter: Marcus Childers
Other Starters: Daniel Santacaterina
Since boasting a Heisman candidate in Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois' succeeding quarterbacks have primarily acted as dual-threat athletes in attempt to replicate the former NIU standout. Ryan Graham started Week 1 in a 23-20 loss to Boston College but injured his shoulder during the narrow defeat, where he rushed for 99 yards and threw for 190 on 15-of-38 passing. There is no sign of Graham's return in the near future.
Daniel Santacaterina, who earned playing time at the tail end of 2016, stepped in and earned two straight victories, including Northern Illinois' notable 21-17 upset over Nebraska in Week 3. Santacaterina hadn't particularly excelled on the ground in 2017 like he did the previous year but his deep ball improved by a significant margin.
He dialed up a streak route on the game-winning possession to beat Nebraska and consistently hooked up with receivers down the field against San Diego State. One problem: he threw three picks against the then-ranked Aztecs, ultimately costing the Huskies the one-possession game. Santacaterina additionally fired an interception on his first attempt of the Kent State game, causing Rod Carey to switch things up at the position.
Freshman Marcus Childers earned the two starts since and presents an unblemished record as a collegiate starter. Childers has thrown seven touchdowns and just one interception, additionally earning over 70 yards on the ground in both starts. But NIU's schedule amps up in the next few weeks as the Huskies face the elite MAC West competition. Childers will remain the starter for the time being.
Week 1 Starter: Quinton Maxwell
Current Starter: Nathan Rourke
Other Starters: None
Maxwell earned the Week 1 start, a 59-0 shutout over Hampton of the FCS. But in the game, Ohio discovered the talented sophomore Nathan Rourke, who rushed for three touchdowns in the convincing victory. Maxwell started in Week 2 in a 44-21 loss to Purdue but Rourke outplayed the former starter and earned the nod for Week 3.
In Week 3, Rourke continued to excel, putting away Kansas 42-30. Rourke has started ever since and now owns four games with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Additionally, he has achieved 100 rushing yards on three occasions and also tallied a hat trick of rushing touchdowns three separate times this season.
Ohio is 6-2 and probably the team with the highest odds of appearing in the conference title game, given the relative strength of the MAC East. Barring injury, it's safe to say Frank Solich puts his faith in Rourke in hopes to land Ohio its first conference title since 1968.
Week 1 Starter: Logan Woodside
Current Starter: Logan Woodside
Other Starters: None
As expected, there's no quarterback controversy in Toledo, Ohio. The Rockets — preseason MAC favorites — display the best record in the MAC at 6-1, with the one loss being on the road to No. 8 Miami (FL).
Woodside ranks 16th nationally with 2,028 passing yards. The senior has thrown 16 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Woodside's standout performance of 2017 occurred in a 54-51 shootout victory over Tulsa, where he tossed the pigskin for 458 yards and six touchdowns. Woodside threw for just 89 yards two weeks ago at Central Michigan but bounced back in a lopsided victory over Akron with his fourth 300-yard performance of the season. He currently owns the ninth-highest QB rating in the country.
Week 1 Starter: Jon Wassink
Current Starter: Reece Goddard
Other Starters: None
Filling the shoes of four-year starter Zach Terrell is no easy task, but sophomore Jon Wassink appeared to be up to the challenge.
After losing to two currently-ranked programs on the road (USC and Michigan State), Wassink's true potential at the position was discovered as the sophomore rattled off four-consecutive victories, including ending up in the winning locker room after the highest-scoring game in FBS history. Wassink completed 23-of-29 passes and threw five touchdowns in the nearly five-hour spectacle. But during a 20-17 overtime victory over Eastern Michigan in Week 8, Wassink went down with a broken collarbone in the fourth quarter. He will likely miss the remainder of the season.
The new starter will be freshman Reece Goddard, who threw his first three passes of his career last Saturday. Goddard will earn his first career start in Kalamazoo versus Central Michigan on Wednesday, November 1. Western Michigan fields an inexperienced quarterback unit, especially after losing Terrell to graduation and Tom Flacco as a transfer to Rutgers. But Goddard will earn valuable reps in the coming weeks, in hopes of guiding Western Michigan (5-3) to bowl eligibility for the fourth-straight season.
Total number of starting QBs (after Week 8): 22
Teams with one QB this season, who remains healthy: Akron, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Toledo
Teams with injured Week 1 QB: Ball State, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami (OH), Northern Illinois, Western Michigan
Teams who have benched and reverted back to Week 1 QB: Bowling Green
Teams who have benched Week 1 QB and have not reverted back: Ohio
Teams who have started three different QBs: Buffalo, Kent State, Northern Illinois