It came as no surprise that when Washington State released its first official depth chart of the season on Tuesday, Connor Halliday was listed all by himself as the team’s starting quarterback. No “or” tagged alongside, as there was so often last year, when Halliday and Jeff Tuel entered many weeks without knowing if either one of them would play the entire game.
To that end, Halliday falls somewhere in between the definitions of “returning starter” and “new quarterback.” He’s also never been a full-time, go-to starter. But he’s certainly no rookie.
There are a few of those in the Pac-12 this season, and a few teams that, with mere days remaining until the first weekend of the season, still haven’t settled on a starter.
Those who return a familiar, relatively seasoned face behind center include Washington (fifth-year senior Keith Price), Oregon (third-year sophomore Marcus Mariota), Stanford (third-year sophomore Kevin Hogan), UCLA (third-year sophomore Brett Hundley), Utah (sophomore Travis Wilson) and Arizona State (fourth-year junior Taylor Kelly).
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Those who have settled, or are still trying to settle, on their new quarterback:
California’s Sonny Dykes is a Mike Leach disciple, so it’s no surprise that Cal’s first-year coach uses the same quarterback evaluation criteria as the WSU coach. And he’s not afraid to put an inexperienced player under center, as he proved when he named true freshman Jared Goff the team’s starting quarterback nearly two weeks ago.
“I don’t think either one of us put a huge value on arm strength,” Dykes said of him and Leach. “I do think we look for a lot of the same characteristics. It all beings with how does this guy handle the team? Do they believe in him? Jared has inspired confidence in our players and football team. He does a lot of the little things well. They’re just intangibles guys know how to do or don’t know how to do. He’s really surprised us all by being a bit further along in that development than most true freshmen are.”
Another first-year coach with a first-year starting quarterback is Colorado’s Mike McIntyre, who named fourth-year junior Connor Wood his starter during the weekend.
Wood’s primary competition was true freshman Sefo Liufau, a Tacoma native who played at Bellarmine Prep, who will start the season as the backup.
Wood does have starting experience, albeit limited: his only career start came last season against Washington, and he’s completed 21 of his 42 career pass attempts for 265 yards.
McIntyre said Wood and Liufau each had strong camps.