After seven spring practices, the quarterback competition is in full swing as coach Jeff Scott and the Bulls try to find their starter for the 2021 season.
“It’s a different situation than maybe where we were a year ago. I think sometimes you have competitions and you’re looking for somebody to step up and be consistent enough, and then sometimes you have a situation where you have several guys that are just playing very well,” Scott said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“And right now that’s what we have, it’s going to be a tough decision.”
The four quarterbacks in the race are freshman Timmy McClain, sophomores Jarren Williams and Katravis Marsh, and junior Cade Fortin. It appears Williams and Fortin are currently the two front-runners, as they’ve been getting the most reps with the first and second teams in practice.
“For the quarterbacks, we got four guys really competing,” Scott said. “We split up their reps 3-3-2-2, so they’re always getting reps pretty much every period and getting some good experience.
“We mix up who goes with the ones and twos. Cade and Jarren have been going back and forth with the ones and twos, and Katravis and Timmy are splitting time with threes and fours, and [Marsh] has gotten some reps with the twos [as well].”
Scott has spoken highly of Fortin since the beginning of spring practice and has been impressed with the improvements he has made.
Last season, Fortin saw action in two games before being sidelined with a shoulder injury he sustained in week seven against Tulsa, effectively ending his season.
“I can’t say enough about Cade Fortin,” Scott said. “The improvement that he’s shown from last year to this year is really incredible. Just his overall processing, understanding where to go with the football and the timing and delivery of the ball, he’s been outstanding through seven practices.”
Fortin credits his development to the consistency of the offensive coaching staff, and feeling more comfortable with the system in his second year with the team.
“I think the thing that’s different for me from last year, and really in my whole college career, [is] this is the first time I’ve gone into an offseason where I have the same offense, same offensive coordinator, same quarterback coach, since my junior year of high school,” Fortin said.
“So that’s been a huge advantage for me, coming back into this offseason with coach [Charlie Weis Jr.] and just being able to learn the fine details of all the routes, and different reads that we have, different concepts. I feel like that’s been a huge advantage for me so far.”
Williams, who transferred from Miami in the offseason, is still learning and getting comfortable with the offense, but the talent has flashed in practice.
“Jarren Williams [is] very talented, just got here,” Scott said. “He’s probably the one that’s a little further behind learning the offense because he just got here, compared to some of the other guys. But we’ve seen flashes in him, and I think the more he continues the better and better he’s going to be once he gets more comfortable in what we’re doing.”
Williams said despite his continued learning of the offense, he has enjoyed running it. He explained that he is a fan of how much responsibility is on the quarterback.
“I feel like this offense, it’s an RPO-based [Run-Pass Option] system. Every play I have the option to either throw it [or] hand it … it’s a very quarterback-friendly offense,” he said. “It’s a lot on the quarterback, the quarterback can make checks, I just feel like it really allows me to flourish.
“I feel like mastering this offense and really getting good in this offense is going to help me at the next level, it’s a very nice system.”
As spring practice moves along and the first game of the 2021 season against North Carolina State on Sept. 2 approaches, Scott will eventually make his decision on who will be the starter.
Until then, the position is up for grabs.
“Right now it’s really simple, the best players are going to play … I honestly believe all four of those guys have legitimate potential to be our starter,” Scott said.