Spring Quarterback Battles To Watch: Quinn Ewers vs. Arch Manning and Many More QB Competitions

There's a significant amount of turnover at college football's most important position, giving us some exciting spring quarterback battles to watch.

Spring is a time for growth, a time for rebirth. For college football programs across the nation, that also means a time for resetting and reloading for an assault on the season ahead. In 2023, there’s a substantial amount of all of the above for several teams at the most important position in the sport. The following months will shape their starting quarterback, with these potentially program-altering spring QB battles to watch.

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Spring Quarterback Battles To Watch

There is a lot of uncertainty at the quarterback position for many of the nation’s top programs. In the SEC alone, reigning champions Georgia will have a competition to replace Stetson Bennett. Alabama must replace Bryce Young, with Jalen Milroe the favorite to start the season but not a given.

This entire article could have been given over to that conference alone, but in the quest to provide true national coverage of the greatest sport in the world, there are spring quarterback battles to watch across a spectrum of conferences. We haven’t forgotten those FBS Independent programs, either.

Nico Iamaleava vs. Joe Milton | Tennessee

In relief of Hendon Hooker last season, Joe Milton led Tennessee to an Orange Bowl beating of Clemson. The bazooka-armed former Michigan QB seemingly earned himself the starting job for the Volunteers for the 2023 college football campaign, but it might not be quite as straightforward as that.

Milton’s career to date has hardly screamed national title-contending capability, and there’s a hot new commodity heading to Nashville to compete for the job this fall.

The arrival of Nico Iamaleava makes Tennessee one of the spring QB battles to watch. The ninth overall prospect in the CFN Fusion recruiting rankings boasts absurd arm talent and has the creation capacity to thrive in Josh Heupel’s offense. He’s a mentally and physically well-developed true freshman who could ultimately win the starting job between now and the Vols’ opener against Virginia.

Tennessee Orange & White Spring Game: Saturday, April 15, 2023

Dante Moore vs. Collin Schlee | UCLA

Having wrestled Dante Moore away from Pac-12 foe Oregon in a major recruiting coup, there’s an assumption that the 10th overall player in the 2023 CFN Fusion recruiting rankings has a legitimate opportunity to replace NFL-bound Dorian Thompson-Robinson for Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins. With his pocket presence, impressive mechanics, and deadly accuracy, it’s easy to make the case for Moore being a shoo-in for the starting job.

MORE: College Football Impact True Freshman Quarterbacks

That said, there’s a reason why UCLA delved into the transfer portal to snag Collin Schlee. The former Kent State quarterback has the arm talent to hit all areas of the field. Furthermore, he’s an excellent decision-maker — making him the ideal “bridge quarterback” if Kelly doesn’t want to throw his true freshman in at the deep end.

For a conference grappling with viewership and media rights deals, it’s poetic that you shouldn’t sleep on one of the top spring QB battles to watch.

UCLA Spring Game: TBC

Kyle McCord vs. Devin Brown | Ohio State

“Those guys are going to compete, get a bunch of reps,” began Ohio State head coach Ryan Day when asked about the battle to replace C.J. Stroud at quarterback for the Buckeyes as they opened spring practice on Tuesday. “Quickly, as we get back from spring break, there’ll be a lot of competitive situations, winner/loser days.”

There’s an assumption that Kyle McCord, the more experienced and highly-regarded high school recruit, has the upper hand in what promises to be one of the most exciting spring quarterback battles to watch. However, with his well-developed pocket presence and combination of accuracy and arm strength, Devin Brown has the tools to be able to push McCord all the way through spring and into summer.

Ohio State LiFEsports Spring Game: Saturday, April 15, 2023.

Quinn Ewers vs. Arch Manning | Texas

Given the football heritage behind the name of one of the contenders in the Texas QB stakes, and the high recruiting status of both, the Longhorns’ quest to find a star under center likely should sit atop this list of the top spring quarterback battles to watch.

It isn’t too frequent that you have the No. 1 overall recruit of two different recruiting classes on your roster competing for just one starting job.

Be under no illusion. Despite public and professional perception that Arch Manning would likely play second fiddle to Quinn Ewers this fall, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian has made it clear that the top 2023 recruit and the headliner of the 2021 class will be allowed to duke it out through spring practices.

“Quinn has an entire year of a head start, but I don’t want to hold Arch back,” Sarkisian said, as reported by ESPN among multiple media outlets. “I want to see how far he can take this thing and what it can look like.”

In his one season as the starter for the Longhorns, Ewers threw for 2,177 yards and 15 touchdowns, leading Texas to a shutout trouncing of bitter-rival Oklahoma while having his season disrupted by injury. Manning arrives in Austin after setting school records for passing yards and touchdowns previously held by Eli and Peyton Manning.

Texas Orange-White Spring Game: Saturday, April 15, 2023

Grant Wells vs. Kyron Drones vs. Dylan Wittke vs. William Watson III | Virginia Tech

Our look at the Power Five spring QB battles to watch ends in the Atlantic Coast Conference with the Virginia Tech Hokies. Last season was dismal for Brent Pry’s team, finishing second to bottom of the conference for passing yards per game and passing touchdowns, while not featuring in the top half for any major passing statistic. Virginia Tech added some wide receiver help from the portal, including Ali Jennings III, but the QB position is key to improvement in 2023.

Grant Wells was a star at Marshall but had his struggles in a step up with the Hokies. Pry has bolstered the QB room with transfers and multiple recruits, with former Baylor passer Kyron Drones expected to be the key competition for Wells’ starting role.

Dylan Wittke is a long-time commit, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see William Watson III utilize his dual-threat ability and tight window arm talent to force himself on what should be one of the more intriguing spring quarterback battles to watch.

Virginia Tech Maroon-White Spring Game: Saturday, April 15, 2023

Johnathan Bennett vs. Kaidon Salter vs. Trey Lowe | Liberty

The Liberty Flames boast the top running back in Conference USA in the form of Dae Dae Hunter, but with the arrival of former Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell, the quarterback position will be in the spotlight.

Johnathan Bennett led the team in completion percentage, passing yards, and touchdowns in 2022 but will face significant competition this spring from Kaidon Salter and Trey Lowe.

MORE: Jamey Chadwell Looking To Forge Identity, Solve QB Competition

Salter’s dual-threat capability that made him such a highly-regarded high school recruit could be the difference-maker as Chadwell seeks his Grayson McCall. Lowe arrives with experience from his time at West Virginia and Southern Miss, showcasing his arm talent for the Golden Eagles against Chadwell’s former team last fall.

Liberty Spring Football Game: Saturday, Apr. 15, 2023

Brett Griffis vs. Jordan McCloud vs. Billy Atkins | James Madison

Todd Centeio led a college football fairytale last fall, smoothing James Madison’s transition into the FBS with an efficient, yet deadly passing presence while possessing genuine dual-threat danger. As the Dukes enter Year 2 in the Sun Belt, Centeio is gone, and the resultant competition to replace him should rank as one of the most important spring QB battles to watch.

Billy Atkins saw action in five games last fall for the Dukes, and his familiarity with the program shouldn’t be discounted early in the spring. Jordan McCloud has starts in the Pac-12 on his résumé, but the former three-star QB hasn’t played since suffering season-ending injuries in 2021.

Redshirt freshman Brett Griffis could be in the driver’s seat just one year removed from delivering a regional championship for Broad Run HS that saw him commit to Wake Forest. His dual-threat ability could prove valuable.

James Madison Spring Football Game: Saturday, April 22, 2023

Brett Gabbert vs. Aveon Smith | Miami (OH)

Are you ready for some MACtion? How about one of the top MACtion spring quarterback battles to watch? The nation’s greatest midweek conference (although Conference USA is coming for the crown this fall) has a potential QB controversy looming at the heart of one of its most successful programs.

Brett Gabbert has been the RedHawks’ starter for the past four seasons and led the conference in passing yards per game in 2020. However, injury last season opened the door for Aveon Smith to challenge for the starting role heading into 2023. While his accuracy might not be on Gabbert’s level, Smith’s athletic capability as a true dual-threat makes for an interesting competition during spring and summer camps.

Miami Spring Showcase: Saturday, April 22, 2023

Shane Illingworth vs. Brendon Lewis vs. Jax Leatherwood | Nevada

Replacing Carson Strong in Nevada’s offense hasn’t proven to be easy. Last season, the Wolf Pack had one of the worst passing games in the Mountain West, averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt, more interceptions thrown than touchdowns, and a 54.5% completion percentage between Nate Cox and Shane Illingworth.

The former Oklahoma State QB returns, but Illingworth should face significant competition from two new arrivals — making Nevada one of the spring quarterback battles to watch.

MORE: 2023 Mountain West Weekly Football Schedule

Brendon Lewis brings Power Five experience to the table as a dual-threat QB who was Colorado’s season-opening starter last fall. He’s an exciting athlete who can take off for chunk plays.

The other addition to the QB room is Scripps Ranch HS standout, Jax Leatherwood. A highly productive quarterback at the high school level, Leatherwood’s physical tools have earned comparison to Justin Herbert. He’s a 6’8″, 235-pound behemoth with a booming arm.

Nevada Silver & Blue Spring Game: Saturday, April 22, 2023

Ahmad Hatson vs. Taisun Phommachanh vs. Carlos Davis vs. Brady Olson vs. Chase Brewster | UMass

Six different players attempted a pass for UMass last fall. Four quarterbacks made double-digit attempts. Gino Campiotti rushed for more yards than he threw for, and no quarterback threw more than two touchdowns.

Regardless of your offensive identity, it’s a quagmire of a situation that should be one of the most interesting spring QB battles to watch, as Don Brown attempts to solidify the position. The answer has been to completely overhaul the room, with multiple transfer quarterbacks and a highly regarded high school recruit in the form of Ahmad Hatson.

“We think [Hatson is] the perfect guy for us in terms of fit at quarterback,” Brown told the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. “Long-term wise, we feel really good about him. Carlos Davis is a much more experienced guy, a guy that can provide leadership in the room … And then you got Taisun Phommachanh, who’s a New England guy, guy we love.

“We feel like we’ve addressed the quarterback position the way it needed to be addressed. Coupled with Brady Olson as our fourth guy, we feel like that room is completely done over.”

UMass Spring Football Game: Saturday, April 29, 2023

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