The most popular player on every football team is always the backup quarterback.
That's never been more true on the college football landscape as it will be in 2017. Everybody loves to drum up a little quarterback controversy. Consider that of the Top 10 teams in our Way-Too-Early Top 25, six College Football Playoff contenders could have varying levels of quarterback intrigue when the opener rolls around in September. That includes three teams that made the playoff last year.
Here's a look at those six schools, and how much quarterback drama could happen this season.
The derby to replace Deshaun Watson will stretch into fall camp. Kelly Bryant, Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper combined for a 45.4 completion percentage at the spring game. There's work to do, and the decision down to Bryant and Johnson, a five-star early enrollee. Keep in mind that Trevor Lawrence, the top recruit in the Class of 2018 according to 247Sports.com, is on the way.
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Wilton Speight returns as the starter in Jim Harbaugh's third season, and Pep Hamilton was brought on to replace Jedd Fisch as the passing game coordinator. Speight beat out backup John O'Korn last year, and he might get a push from Brandon Peters, who impressed in Michigan's spring game. Speight likely will start in the season opener against Florida at Jerry World, but Harbaugh is unpredictable and will play the best option.
Jacob Eason returns as a sophomore to a Bulldogs' team thinking SEC championship, but he's getting more than just a little push from Jake Fromm, who impressed in the spring game by finishing 14 of 23 for 277 yards and a pair of TDs. The Bulldogs open with Appalachian State before traveling to Notre Dame. Eason is the starter, but he'll need to show more consistency to hold off Fromm.
Jalen Hurts was one Watson drive away from leading Alabama to a perfect 15-0 season as a freshman. Hurts passed for 301 yards, two TDs and an interception the Crimson Tide's spring game, yet the buzz continues to build around five-star freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who had 313 yards and three TDs. Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll have one of those nice problems. Hurts will be the starter, but it will be interesting if (and how) Daboll finds ways to get Tagovailoa on the field in 2017.
The addition of new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day will improve the passing game. J.T. Barrett is a year senior whose been through a few compettions at Ohio State, so this isn't the controversy you're looking for. The battle for the backup spot among Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell, however, is worth watching. Top dual-threat quarterback Emory Jones also arrives next year. The depth here is ridiculous.
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Baker Mayfield is a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, and there is no word on whether he will be suspended. Mayfield is still the starter either way, but Texas A&M transfer Kyler Murray impressed in the second straight spring game. Oklahoma opens with UTEP, but that big test comes at Ohio State on Sept. 9.