Thrown Into the Fire
By Paul Myerberg // Aug 18, 2010
The unknown, unpredictable first-year starting quarterback. No position lies under more scrutiny, with a fresh face instilling either confidence in a fan base awaiting a change or anxiety in a group fearing life without their lost starter. In many cases, a new starter has earned time in the past, whether as a reserve — like Penn State’s Kevin Newsome — or as a part-time starter; Landry Jones shouldn’t even be considered a first-year starter, as he made 11 starts in Sam Bradford’s stead in 2009. Regardless of experience level or time spent running with the first team during practice, there’s nothing quite like the first game of the year — that debut start. Some new quarterback have it easier than others. Some are thrown right into the fire on the opening weekend. Here are a few.
Tino Sunseri, Pittsburgh
As a present for outplaying Pat Bostick for the starting role, Sunseri lands a prime time, Thursday night start at Utah. Welcome to the party, Tino. Now, Rice-Eccles Stadium is an intimidating place to play, though not the most unpleasant venue in college football. Nevertheless, with Utah’s tough defense — led by a physical, stout front four — Sunseri’s starting career opens in a most unwelcome fashion. One advantage Sunseri does have over Bostick, however, is in his athleticism. With Utah’s ability to get to the quarterback, Sunseri is a better option to start the season opener.
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
Yes, Illinois has a new quarterback. He’s a freshman, a redshirt freshman, and his name is pronounced SHEEL-house. Could’ve have fooled me, at least with the pronunciation. Scheelhaase surprised many with his poise and leadership during the spring, making him Ron Zook’s clear choice to replace Illinois’ underwhelming trio of passers from a year ago. His starting career opens with a rivalry game against Missouri, a series Missouri has dominated since its resumption.
Jake Heaps, B.Y.U.
Or Riley Nelson, with the potential that both will share snaps in B.Y.U.’s season opener against Washington. Nelson has more experience, as he started as a freshman at Utah State before joining the Cougars following his two-year church mission. He also took some snaps last fall, attempting 10 passes in mop-up duty behind Max Hall. What Heaps has his potential, and plenty of it. If he does earn the starting nod over Nelson, he’ll become the first true freshman to start B.Y.U.’s season opener. So history isn’t on his side; neither will be a Washington team that has bought into its own hype, a team that enters the season riding a wave of optimism.
Ryan Katz, Oregon State
Katz’s job? In the big picture, replace Sean Canfield, one of the most underrated senior quarterbacks in the country in 2009. In terms of the season’s first weekend, Katz will be asked to weather the physical T.C.U. defense, one playing roughly in its own backyard — at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington — and with the benefit of a well-oiled, often prolific offense. Katz won’t be asked merely to limit his mistakes, preventing T.C.U. from playing with a short field, but also put up enough points to keep his offense in a game against a talented opponent.
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