Spring practices have cranked up around the country, and several high profile teams have important quarterback battles that could define the landscape of college football. It's unlikely that coaches will make their quarterback decisions after spring practice, but rough drafts of quarterback depth charts will be created heading into summer conditioning.
Which schools have the biggest battles this spring? Let's break down the best of the best (and no, Oklahoma doesn't count).
QBs in the hunt: Malik Willis, Joey Gatewood, Cord Sandberg, Bo Nix
Coach Gus Malzahn will enter 2019 on one of the hottest seats in the country, and he has quite an interesting decision to make in the search to replace Jarrett Stidham. Junior Malik Willis has the most experience and is best equipped to replicate the offense Malzahn was successful with when Nick Marshall was under center and breaking big plays in space. Redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood got a cup of coffee late in the Music City Bowl, has more potential as a passer and has a 6-foot-5, 234-pound frame that could provide more of that Cam Newton power rushing attack to the offense. Fellow redshirt freshman Cord Sandberg still has four years of eligibility after seeing limited action a year ago as well. The former professional baseball player was a four-star, dual threat prospect back in 2012, but the 24-year-old will have to knock the rust off in order to win the job. Then, there's Bo Nix. The five-star dual-threat early enrollee was the No. 33 overall player in the class of 2019. The son of former Auburn signal caller Patrick Nix has the skills to be a star, but will Malzahn have the guts to trot him out against Oregon in Game 1 with so much on the line? It's what will make or break Auburn's season, and potentially Malzahn's career on the Plains.
QBs in the hunt: Justin Fields, Matthew Baldwin
Sure, we all assume that sophomore Georgia transfer Justin Fields will win the job after his waiver for immediate eligibility was approved last month. But first-year coach Ryan Day called it a "battle" when spring practice opened, so the Buckeyes have to be included here. Why? Because it's not like Fields has done a lot as a quarterback in college. He was 27-of-39 passing for 328 yards and four touchdowns in 2018 for the Bulldogs, and added 266 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. That's enough to make him the front runner, but redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin --- a four-star, pro-style prospect in the class of 2018 -- isn't going to go quietly into the night. Fields, the No. 2 overall player in the same class, has more upside, but Baldwin has the experience after working in the offense in 2018.
3. Miami Hurricanes
QBs in the hunt: Tate Martell, N'Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams
Like Fields, Tate Martell transferred and received a waiver for immediate eligibility after he left Columbus for Coral Gables. The redshirt sophomore threw for 269 yards and a touchdown while adding128 yards and two scores on the ground for the Buckeyes behind Dwayne Haskins. He joins former part-time starter N'Kosi Perry as a co-favorite to win the job. Perry threw 13 touchdowns and six interceptions last year for former coach Mark Richt, and the presence of new coach Manny Diaz should give Perry new life on and off the field. Redshirt freshman dual-threat signal-caller Jarren Williams -- a four-star prospect and the No. 77 overall player in the class of 2018 -- saw limited action in Week 2 against Savannah State before taking a redshirt. He's likely fighting an uphill battle, but don't discount his ability to climb up that hill.
QBs in the hunt: Gage Gubrud, Anthony Gordon, Trey Tinsley
Graduate transfer Gardner Minshew kept the Cougars in contention for the division title into rivalry weekend last year, and coach Mike Leach could be turning to another graduate transfer this season. Former Eastern Washington quarterback and two-time finalist for the Walter Payton Award Gage Gubrud joined the program this winter, and assumed front-runner status in the battle to take over Leach's wide open scheme. Now, there's a problem. Gubrud suffered a foot injury in an offseason workout, and will be out for an extended period of time this spring. That opens the door for others to make an impression, including redshirt seniors Anthony Gordon (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) and Trey Tinsley (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) -- both of whom have been receiving the bulk of the first-team reps early in spring practice. Gubrud will likely be the favorite when fall camp opens, but how wide that gap truly is will be determined over the next month on the Palouse.
QBs in the hunt: Austin Kendall, Jack Allison
New coach Neal Brown lured Austin Kendall away from Oklahoma, and created some pressure for junior Jack Allison. Allison only threw for 352 yards and one score last year behind Will Grier, and started the loss Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl after Grier decided to sit out. Both quarterbacks are strong in the short and intermediate game, and the likely winner of the competition will be decided when one can prove to be a consistent deep threat. Neither quarterback has significant experience, and the presence of Brown has leveled the playing field for the two top contenders.
6. UCF Knights
QBs in the hunt: Brandon Wimbush, Darriel Mack Jr.
Former Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush transferred in to the program this offseason, and joined Darriel Mack Jr. in the battle to fill in for injured starter McKenzie Milton -- who is likely out after that devastating knee injury last November. Wimbush started the first three games of last season before Ian Book took over for the Fighting Irish. He came back in for an injured Book in the win over Florida State, but only completed 52.9 percent of his passes on the season and threw more picks (six) than touchdowns (four). Mack stepped in to win the "War on I-4" for the Knights against USF after Milton went down early and in the AAC Championship Game against Memphis the following week, but was under extreme pressure in the Fiesta Bowl against LSU's front seven. He went 51-of-100 passing on the season, which isn't exactly eye-popping. But it's not like Wimbush has been a stellar passer during his career with the Fighting Irish. The bar is high for Josh Heupel's crew, and job No. 1 is finding a quarterback front-runner this spring.
QBs in the hunt: Jack Coan, Danny Vanden Boom, Chase Wolf, Graham Mertz
Jack Coan is the unquestioned front-runner after Alex Hornibrook announced his intent to transfer to Florida State. The junior finished last season with 515 yards passing and five touchdowns, and looked comfortable in his final two games of the season -- wins over Purdue and Miami. Danny Vanden Boom and Chase Wolf are in the battle too, but all eyes will be on four-star early enrollee Graham Mertz. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Kansas-native was the No. 65 overall player in the class of 2019, and has the pro passing pedigree to take coach Paul Chryst's offense to the next level.