In 2021, Texas A&M and Clemson were both a quarterback away from making the College Football Playoff. Instead, they were held back by the fact that they were in the worst third of the country in terms of passing efficiency, passing yards, and completion %. However, fresh roster acquisitions are set to swiftly shake up the quarterback contests, as seen by their separate spring games.
Over the weekend, all eyes were on Clemson as the top overall pro-style quarterbacks from the 2020 and 2022 recruiting classes competed. Last year, junior D.J. Uiagalelei struggled in his debut season as a starter, completing just 47% of his passes in the spring game while relying heavily on check-downs.
Cade Klubnik, an early enrollee, challenged Uiagalelei on Saturday, completing on 15 of 23 throws for 106 yards and a score in his first meaningful action while displaying a strong arm. If it hadn’t been for some drops, he would have hit on more perfect throws down the field. The offensive staff looked confident in showcasing his abilities, and he formed a solid bond with tight end Jake Briningstool.
The Aggies’ incumbent quarterback, Zach Calzada, went to Auburn, and Jimbo Fisher received his first quarterback transfer since coming at Texas A&M. Haynes King, a redshirt sophomore, won the quarterback competition out of camp in 2021, but two new newcomers to the quarterback room this summer overshadowed the former Texas 6A high school state football champion.
Max Johnson, an LSU transfer, only completed 13 of his 31 throws, but he did so for two touchdowns: a 40-yard ball to receiver Jalen Preston and a 13-yard pass to tight end Blake Smith. He had the most steady control of the offense and completed six consecutive throws in the middle of the game. Conner Weigman, a freshman quarterback, showed his potential immediately away, firing a 32-yard touchdown pass to Yulkeith Brown on his third pass attempt. Weigman only completed seven of his 19 throws, but six of them were for more than ten yards.
While playing for both teams, King completed 11 of 33 passes and recorded an interception on each side. With a dismal performance for a signal-caller entering his third season in the scheme, he only passed for 130 yards on 3.9 yards per pass attempt.
In 2021, both Clemson and Texas A&M were preseason AP Top 10 teams and popular playoff choices, but quarterback performance limited both to 18 wins and held both out of the AP Top 25 for most of the season. The spring game provided early hope that redesigned quarterback rooms may help them turn a turnaround in the 2022 season.
On Saturday, anything else happened?
Auburn: quarterback transfer from Oregon Robby Ashford didn’t have a chance against former SEC stars Calzada and T.J. Finley, but he looked the part. With escapability and a powerful arm, Ashford completed 12 of 16 throws for 132 yards passing. Holden Geriner, an early enrollee, also showed potential with 71 yards throwing and a score on 11 tries. On the Plains, the quarterback competition may be more open than we expected.
Florida State: In the Seminoles’ first live action of 2022, Oregon transfer Trey Benson carried for 77 yards on seven runs for the Seminoles. In all, 270 of Florida State’s 428 yards came on the ground in the spring game. FSU seems to be on pace to replace Jashaun Corbin at running back. On the other hand, the passing game never really took off.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers kept things close to their chest in the modified offense versus. defense spring game, with first-string quarterback Casey Thompson throwing just four passes. Coach Scott Frost recognized that the difficulty of blending his system with new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple in such a short time period made for a stressful spring.