Position battles in the G5 landscape include quarterbacks at SMU and running backs at UTSA

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Nine of the 12 FBS programs at Texas State entered the spring with a quarterback battle at the forefront of mind. Arguably only Houston (Clayton Tune), UTSA (Frank Harris), UTEP (Gavin Hardison) are safe at quarterback. Even SMU’s Tanner Mordecai, who threw for more yards than any other FBS player in the state in the 2021 season, is facing substitute pressure with former four-star Preston Stone nipping at his heels. .

Quarterback is the sexy position in modern football. The NFL Draft proves its importance as teams reach the first round every season. Teams without quality quarterback play are doomed to mediocrity. Teams that find superior quarterback play are much more optimistic about the present and the future. This is also true for college. Maybe the defense still wins championships, but the passing game gets you there.

As spring training heats up across the state, let’s take a look at the positional battles that will be making headlines at all seven G5 schools across the state of Texas. We took a look at the five quarterback battles taking place across all five Power Five programs earlier in the week.

MUSTANG SMU

Tanner Mordecai vs. Preston Stone

The arrival of freshman head coach Rhett Lashlee means every position is up for grabs heading into the 2022 season, even quarterback. Mordecai, a Waco native who transferred to SMU from Oklahoma, set a school record for touchdown passes in 2021 with 39. He led the AAC with 3,628 yards and completed 67.8% of his passes. Mordecai threw for more than 300 yards in eight of SMU’s 12 games in 2021. He threw for five or more touchdown passes on five occasions. Going into his senior season, a guy with that kind of production a year early should be a lock on keeping his starting job.

But college football in the modern landscape isn’t always so straightforward. Stone, a four-star prospect out of high school, was heavily recruited by Lashlee. Stone is also a guy SMU wants to give the keys to once Mordecai is done with college football after the 2022 season. Keeping Stone on campus was a top priority for the new coaching staff and allowing for a battle spring’s legitimately open quarterback was likely one of the factors. Stone and Mordecai will split a few reps, but Mordecai should be the man unless he struggles or gets injured. Stone can resume the program in 2023.

HOUSTON COUGARS

Center

The Cougars are firing most of their starters from a 2021 team that finished 12-2 and reached the AAC Championship Game against Cincinnati. Houston, at least on paper, is the best G5 team in the country in 2022 and the Cougars want a run at a conference title and a trip to the college football playoffs. One of the only real positional battles taking place in Houston this spring is at center. Kody Russey’s transfer was great in 2021, but he was only a one-year rental.

The Cougars must find a suitable replacement to manage the offensive line or quarterback Clayton Tune won’t be as sharp in 2022. Two on-campus options are real-life freshman Demetrius Hunter, a former Oklahoma draftee who signed up early, or Jack Freeman. If neither of those options gives the coaching staff confidence, Houston could still come back to the transfer market this summer for another year-long band-aid.

UTSA ROADRUNNERS

No. 1 running back

Finding a star to build the offense was never a concern for Jeff Traylor in his first two seasons at UTSA. Sincere McCormick, a local Converse Judson product, was already on campus. He left UTSA after his junior season as the top offensive player in the program. He had 3,929 yards and 34 touchdowns in his three seasons as a Roadrunner, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt and 109.1 yards per game. McCormick also caught at least 20 assists in each of his three college seasons.

That security blanket is no longer on campus. A new generation of actors must emerge to fill the void because it is unfair to ask one person to replace this type of production. UTSA hopes JUCO signer Tye Edwards can deliver immediate results in his first year on campus. The 6-foot-2, 232-pound Edwards arrived at UTSA from Hutchinson CC as the third-ranked JUCO in the 2022 cycle. Deanthony Lewis is another name UTSA loves, but Lewis is out of commission for the spring training.

NORTH TEXAS MEANS GREEN

Austin Aune vs. Jace Rudder vs. Stone Earle vs. JD Head

North Texas needed a five-game winning streak to end the regular season to reach the six wins needed to play in a bowl game despite improving defense and one of the best running offenses in the game. the history of the program. The real culprit of the struggles was inconsistent passing play. Austin Aune and Jace Rudder split time at the start of the season. Aune eventually became the No. 1 quarterback, but his game in 2021 doesn’t suggest his position is secure in 2022. Aune and Rudder combined for a 51.78 completion percentage. The duo threw more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (12), and North Texas averaged just 197 yards per game through the air.

North Texas head coach Seth Littrell added Earle and Head from the transfer portal. Earle, a sophomore who spent the previous two seasons at Abilene Christian, could be the favorite to win the starting job. He started the first seven games for the ACU in 2021 before an injury ended his season. Earle passed for 1,216 yards and 13 touchdowns on just four interceptions in those seven starts, adding 120 yards and two rushing scores. Head, a product of Pearland, played the previous two seasons at Louisiana Tech. It debuted twice in 2021.

RICE OWLS

offensive line

Rice could be located at quarterback for the first time in several years if Wiley Green takes another step forward at the Spring Ball. Rice has played four quarters in 2021 due to injury and inconsistency. Green was the best of the group when healthy. Multiple quarterbacks have played in six of Rice’s 12 games. This revolving door hurt the owls. Rice finished 4-8 with two overtime losses. Assuming Green locks the position in the spring, the offensive line becomes the focal point.

The Owls lost two starters in the trenches in Cole Garcia and Jovaun Woodford. Young people need to surpass themselves. Rice needs to find a new tackle and a new keeper. Tackle options include Ethan Onianwa and Mike Leone. Guard options include Braedon Nutter, Faee Pepe and John Long.

TEXAS STATE BOBCATS

Brady McBride vs. Layne Hatcher

A big season looms for the Bobcats in Jake Spavital’s fourth year in charge of the Texas State football program. His team won three games in 2019, two games in 2020 and four in 2021. A 3-5 record in the Sun Belt conference during the 2021 season was enough for second place in the division. Texas State’s roster is as talented heading into 2022 as it has been since Spavital arrived in San Marcos. The Bobcats are feeling good on the offensive line, and the staff feels like there are enough weapons at wide receiver and running back to step forward offensively.

The quarterback’s inconsistency doomed Texas State in multiple games in 2021. Brady McBride battled nagging injuries and ultimately missed the end of the season. McBride completed 60% of his passes for 1,507 yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the seven games he played. Many observers felt the offense worked best with Tyler Vitt in charge. McBride remains on campus, but Spavital added to the competition by securing Hatcher’s transfer from Arkansas State. Hatcher has thrown for over 7,000 yards at Arkansas State in 32 career games and has two years left in eligibility.

UTEP MINERS

Wide Receiver No. 1

The Miners reached a bowl game and got seven wins in 2021 thanks, at least in part, to a big-play passing offense led by quarterback Gavin Hardison. Hardison is back for 2022, but his top two targets from last season are no longer in El Paso. Jacob Cowing, who caught 69 passes for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns, was traded to Arizona. Justin Garrett, who caught 50 passes for 685 yards and four touchdowns, is no longer eligible. No other player on last year’s roster caught more than 33 passes.

UTEP was in danger of losing its top three wide receivers from last season, but sophomore Tyrin Smith has taken his name off the transfer gate and is practicing with the minors at Spring Ball. Smith, a Cibolo Steele product, caught 33 passes for 570 yards and four scores. He’s the safest bet to become Hardison’s top target in 2022. Other options include Jeremiah Ballard, Kelly Achoraiya and Reynaldo Flores.

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