The quarterback position is in much better shape than it was this time last year when Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti were ready to battle it out in fall camp for the starting job, but with Wallace recovering from offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder, it will certainly be a hot topic when August rolls around.
Wallace should be close to, if not already, 100 percent when practice begins. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound junior started a throwing program in May to begin strengthening his arm.
The Pulaski, Tenn., native won’t have to worry about winning the starting job this year after throwing for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. However, he needs to work on reading the defense to cut down on his 17 interceptions from 2012. A healthy shoulder will make that number go down.
Although Wallace, if healthy, will have head coach Hugh Freeze somewhat at ease with the play at quarterback, plenty of drama still remains for the backup spot.
Last season’s backup Barry Brunetti will be a candidate for the job, but unlike last year, there are other options as well. Sophomore Maikhail Miller should take a step forward in the mental side of things, and freshmen Devante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan will be coming in fighting for a spot.
Brunetti will enter fall camp with a leg up due to experience, as he saw action in 12 games last season, throwing for 196 yards, rushing for 277 yards and totaling four touchdowns. The 6-foot, 212-pound senior also played in five games his sophomore season.
Miller has always had the arm to make all the throws, but learning the system and making the right reads has held him back. Year two in Freeze’s offense should mean Miller will be more consistent, but he’ll have to prove it on the practice field. His progression will go a long way into shaping the depth chart for this season.
Kincade is considered the top quarterback in the incoming freshman class after being one of 25 finalists in the national Elite 11 camp in 2012. The Dallas native threw for 2,856 yards, 38 touchdowns and had eight interceptions in his senior campaign for Skyline High School. He also totaled 861 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground and was a Texas 5A All-State honorable mention pick. He was named second team All-State as a junior.
Buchanan is another solid quarterback that will compete for a backup spot right away. The Jackson Prep product was rated the No. 15 pocket passer in the country by ESPN.com after throwing for 1,468 yards and 22 touchdowns to lead Jackson Prep to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools-AAA Division I state championship. He was named first team All-State by MAIS and second team by The Clarion Ledger his senior year.
Wallace should be geared up and ready for fall camp, and the time spent on the sidelines during spring practice could prove beneficial if it allowed Wallace to take a step forward in the film room.
As for the backup spot, I expect both Kincade and Buchanan to get plenty of reps to see what they have, but both of them will likely redshirt.
I see Miller taking the much-needed step forward, which will provide Freeze with some options on what to do with Brunetti. If Miller does show signs of being a consistent backup, look for Brunetti to change positions to better use his skill set.
That decision will also be impacted on how well Kincade and Buchanan look in fall camp. Although I see both redshirting in 2013, it will make it easier on Freeze to move Brunetti if he has confidence in one of the freshmen. If Miller still lacks consistency, look for Brunetti to remain at quarterback and be used in special packages like he was last season.
In a perfect world for Freeze, Wallace will progress and have a good junior year, while Miller provides steady play as the primary backup. This will allow for the two freshmen to have a year to progress with one of them taking over as the backup during Wallace’s senior year before taking over the starting job in 2015.
Nevertheless, Freeze is well on his way to building the adequate depth at quarterback he wants for his offense. It’s not where it needs to be now, but if either freshmen surprise some people, the depth won’t be an issue.
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