Wilton Speight has won the three-way competition to be coach Chip Kelly’s first starting quarterback at UCLA.
Kelly announced Thursday that Speight will get the start against Cincinnati at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
The 23-year-old Speight transferred from Michigan to UCLA last winter after starting 16 games over three seasons with the Wolverines. The 6-foot-6 dropback passer led Michigan throughout an outstanding 2016 season that ended in the Orange Bowl, and he began last season as the Wolverines’ starter before injuring his back in the fourth game.
After moving to the West Coast as a graduate transfer, he beat out returnee Devon Modster and touted freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson for the Bruins’ starting job in a competition that began in spring ball.
Big Ten’s fresh QBs
In an earlier time, a true freshman starting quarterback wasn’t necessarily unthinkable. It certainly was an outlier.
Not so much anymore, not in this age of what Rutgers offensive coordinator John McNulty calls the “bred quarterback,” those players who immerse themselves in football year-round, get individual coaching from quarterback gurus and arrive on campus ready and expecting to play right away.
Three of the Big Ten’s six new starters were in high school a year ago. Now consider the Big Ten had only five true freshman quarterbacks start openers from 2003-17.
Zack Annexstad will be taking snaps for Minnesota. Arthur Sitkowski will start for Rutgers against Texas State and Adrian Martinez for Nebraska against Akron.
With quarterbacks specializing at their position at younger ages and often skipping other sports, they show up with strong fundamentals and are well ahead of where freshmen used to be in their physical development. Once on campus, they must learn schemes, terminology and reads.
Much of that can be accomplished if — as Annexstad, Sitkowski and Martinez did — they graduate early from high school and enroll in January, which allows them to go through spring practice and get a jump on college life.
Gator cool to heat
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks insists he has nothing to prove. Coaches, teammates and close to 90,000 fans at Florida Field on Saturday probably would disagree.
Franks was benched three times last season, went 3-5 as the starter and finished with more turnovers (11) than touchdown passes (9). The Gators (4-7) posted their second losing record in five years, and the offense ranked in triple digits nationally for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.
“Just ready to get back out there and, not prove myself, but just kind of go back out there and build confidence back up for the team,” Franks said. “I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody. I don’t have anything to prove to anybody.”
Clemson’s NFL front
Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell is tired of the talk, no matter how deserved it may be for the Tigers’ fearsome front four.
Ferrell is among the quartet of starters with end Austin Bryant and tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence who are all projected as high-round NFL draft picks next spring. They’ve been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and hear crazy predictions about 100 sacks and multiple shutouts ahead for No. 2 Clemson.
“It’s kind of been the longest offseason between everything,” said Ferrell, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound junior who’s had 15.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss the past two seasons. “We want to enjoy because we know were on the verge of something special if everything goes right.”
Former Indiana and Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins says he gave up football because he needed to deal with his “deteriorating” mental health.
Syracuse at Western Michigan, 6 (CBSSN)
Utah State at Michigan State, 7 (BTN)
Oregon State at Ohio State, noon (ABC)
Washington vs. Auburn, 3:30 (ABC)
Michigan at Notre Dame, 7:30 (NBC)
Louisville vs. Alabama, 8 (ABC)
Miami vs. LSU, 7:30 (ABC)
Virginia Tech at Florida State, 8 (ESPN)