Somebody (me) once said that quarterbacks are like presidents: They get too much praise for their victories, and too much blame for their failures. It is hard to argue, though, that anyone had more affect on the outcome of the Ohio Bobcats' games in 2013 than quarterback Tyler Tettleton.
When he was good, so was the team: He had a 166.3 passer rating and a 17-5 touchdown to interception ratio in the Bobcats' seven wins, but a 101.36 rating and a 4-7 ratio in six losses (including the bowl game). This past season Tettleton also posted his worst numbers since becoming the starter his sophomore year, setting career lows in completion percentage, total yardage, yards per completion and throwing a career high 12 interceptions.
In spite of that, Tettleton graduates as the most successful quarterback in program history. In his sophomore year, he became the first quarterback in school history to throw for more than 3,000 yards; and completed 267 passes, 28 for touchdowns, in a season. He also led the team to it's first ever bowl victory that year, engineering a key drive with two minutes in the game to beat Utah State 24-23 in the Idaho Potato Bowl.
But between the sky-highs of the 2011 season and the 2013 Beef O'Brady's Bowl, Tettleton could not live up to expectations. It has now been more than seven months since the Tettleton era came to a disappointing end on the splotchy turf of Tropicana Field, and with the 2014 season fast approaching, the Bobcats must find a replacement.
Right now the starting quarterback job seems to be Derrius Vick's to lose. Vick took snaps in 11 games last year, and even threw an 80-yard touchdown in the Beef O' Brady's Bowl. Vick is a threat on the ground, but has yet to prove he has the arm for the job. He did not attempt more than eight passes in any game in 2013, and completed just 21 on the year for a below average completion percentage of 46.7.
In this spring's Green and White game, Vick ran for 32 yards while completing 17 of 27 passes for 144 yards with 2 interceptions and no touchdowns. Given Vick's struggles in that game, head coach Frank Solich might still be considering going with one of his younger options, who would be able to continuously develop with the rest of the inexperienced offense. But Solich's underclassmen quarterbacks still have work to do.
Sophomore J.D. Sprague would be the top choice of the young bunch. He only attempted six passes this past year, connecting on five of them, but should see more playing time this year regardless of how well Vick performs. He was the only quarterback other than Vick who saw playing time in the spring game; but completed just 4 of 11 passes and also threw 2 interceptions. Freshman Joey Duckworth—coming off a knee injury that shortened his senior season in high school—will also be looking for playing time in a race that is still pretty wide open.
Of course, there will be some external factors that determine who will play, and the level of success they achieve. Scott Isphording is back as quarterbacks coach after a stint in Toledo. He's not overly familiar with any of the candidates, having left Ohio after the 2009 season, so there will likely be no favorites going into fall camp.
There will also be new faces at many offensive positions, including the offensive line and the backfield. If the line makes mistakes (they will), and if the talented but inexperienced running backs that replace Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin struggle, it will put even more pressure on whomever takes snaps from under center. It's a good bet that the starter will be absorbing his share of abuse from the opposing defenses.