A number of critical competitions remain unsettled as we head into fall camp. Here are some key battles yet to be determined that could impact the CFF landscape for 2022.

Western Kentucky QB

Jarret Doege vs. Austin Reed

All signs pointed towards Doege, a WVU transfer, being named starter based on early reports in spring camp. WR Daewood Davis even went so far as to say that Doege could match Zappe’s monster numbers from last year. While Davis clearly enjoys making hyperbolic comments to the media, it is reasonable to think that the WKU QB is still a desirable CFF asset with Ben Arbuckle, Zach Kittley’s right-hand man, taking over as OC.

Arbuckle said he wanted more competition at QB, so enter Reed, who joins WKU via Division II West Florida, where he threw for 7,507 and 78 TDs over two seasons. Doege has had the edge in reps with the ones while Reed learned the playbook during the spring, but there is little doubt that Reed has the more talented arm of the two. He also possesses a level of athleticism that Doege lacks. Doege likely gets the nod in Week 0, but Reed has the higher ceiling should he be given the opportunity.

Winner: Doege

Confidence rating:  Moderate

Fantasy relevance: High

Handcuff need: High

Texas Tech QB

Tyler Shough vs. Donovan Smith vs. Behren Morton

Speaking of Zach Kittley, the competition for his highly coveted QB1 spot has been under the microscope all off-season. Shough is the incumbent with the most experience, Smith is the most athletic of the three that finished 2021 strong, and Morton is the redshirt FR with big upside as one of the Red Raiders’ highest QB recruits in the program’s history.

All of them got some run in the spring game, but Shough came out first and had by far the most volume with 32 attempts as compared to 13 for Morton and 7 for Smith. However, it wasn’t always pretty for Shough as he had the only two interceptions, with one resulting in a pick-six. Morton looked the best and supposedly also stood out in the closed scrimmages. Smith looked out of sorts during the televised portion but did have a TD in the untelevised second half.

Based on reports, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Shough will be the starter unless one of the others takes a significant step forward in fall camp. Shough looks to be the present and Morton the future. But don’t be surprised to see Smith some run as the staff said they plan to use his athleticism in certain packages.

Winner: Shough

Confidence Rating: High

Fantasy Relevance: High

Handcuff Need: Medium


Tanner Mordecai vs. Preston Stone

I know what you are thinking- how can this be a battle? Didn’t Mordecai finish as QB9 last year? Yep. He did. And yes, it’s a battle. Mordecai averaged 28 ppg in 2021 but just 18 ppg over his last four games when the Mustangs faced quality opponents. That shaky finish, combined with a coaching change, loosened the stranglehold on the SMU QB1 job.

One of the best recruiting coups was landing Preston Stone, the highest-rated QB recruit in program history, back when he was the OC at SMU prior to leaving for Miami. Lashlee has a strong relationship with Stone that didn’t exist with Mordecai prior to his return to Dallas when he accepted the head coaching job. Stone is an uber talent with more athleticism and a comparable arm to Mordecai.

Lashlee has proven to be a top-tier offensive mind that you want to invest in for CFF purposes. This is as tight a race as any, but the fact that Mordecai and his experience are still hanging around campus would indicate that he has the slight edge. But his leash will be short, so don’t be surprised if Lashlee makes the switch if things don’t go as planned against Maryland or TCU in Weeks 3 and 4.

Winner: Mordecai by the slightest of margins

Confidence Rating: Low

Fantasy Relevance: High

Handcuff Need: Very High

Texas A&M QB

Haynes King vs. Max Johnson vs. Conner Weigman

King was the Week 1 starter in 2021 but failed to make it through two games before losing his season to injury. He is a true dual threat with legit speed, but he wasn’t a proficient passer by any stretch in his short time last season and in the spring game.

His competition stiffens with the transfer of Johnson from LSU and 5-star prospect Weigman entering the fold. As much as Jimbo wants us to believe that Weigman is in the mix, I refuse to believe more than one true freshman starts on offense, and Evan Stewart currently holds that spot. Despite his shortcomings in arm talent and decision making, Johnson had a 35-7 TD/INT ratio and a QB rating of 141.6 in 18 games at LSU. He fits the Jimbo prototype and was brought in, along with his 4-star TE brother, for a reason. He appeared to be the best option in the spring game and has a slight lead heading into fall camp.

Winner: Johnson

Confidence Rating: Moderate

Fantasy Relevance: Low

Handcuff Need: Low

Louisville RB

Tiyon Evans vs. Jalen Mitchell vs. Trevion Cooley

Louisville certainly has a good problem on its hands. All three of these guys have had their moments at different times. Mitchell went for 722 and five scores last year but disappointed based on his ADP. However, he looked great in the spring game after shedding some weight and gaining some explosiveness.

Cooley tends to be the first one off the board in industry drafts and likely has the highest ceiling. Some of the beat writers acknowledge this and seem to favor him. Evans was very efficient in the Vols backfield, averaging almost a full yard per carry more than Jabari Small.

This has all the makings of a timeshare as each guy is talented enough to warrant touches. It wouldn’t surprise me if the staff rewarded Mitchell’s loyalty for sticking around by giving him first reps. It is hard to justify reaching on any of them in a redraft due to skillset overlap and comparable talent level among them. It is also hard to justify a handcuff when it’s not a two-man race. Not to mention, all three will also compete with Cunningham for carries as well.

Winner: Mitchell

Confidence Rating: Low

Fantasy Relevance: Moderate

Handcuff Need: Low

Buffalo RB

Ron Cook Jr vs. Mike Washington vs. Al-Jay Henderson

The Bulls have had four straight 1,000-yard rushers and, despite the loss of Lance Leipold, they have continued to make the run game the foundation of their offense. Cook has the overwhelming edge when it comes to experience, but the problem is that he hasn’t been all that great in his first three years, averaging less than five ypc. He is 5’9” and 187 lbs., and the best receiver of the bunch, but this isn’t a system that features an RB in the passing game.

Look for one of the two redshirt freshmen to take over as the lead back. Washington is certainly the biggest of the group at 216 lbs. and showed some potential in limited snaps in 2021. However, the star of the spring game was Henderson, with numerous chunk plays and four TDs.

This battle has been the subject of debate among our CFF writers, and for a good reason, given the history of RB success here and the schedule that includes Holy Cross and UMass to go along with the MAC. I give the edge to Henderson based on the speed and big-play ability he possesses, but the Washington stans outnumber me among our CFF team. Fortunately, the cost is relatively low as both Henderson and Washington are late-round picks, and Montgomery, the OC, has proven he can support a solid RB2 to accompany a stellar RB1.

Winner: Henderson

Confidence Rating: Very low

Fantasy Relevance: High

Handcuff Need: High

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