Starting quarterback has been a precarious position in the Big 12.
Whether due to injuries or coaching decisions, staying on the field has been a challenge for many of the league's quarterbacks who started the season No. 1 for their programs.
Injuries have knocked out starters at some point in the season for Texas, Kansas, BYU, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia and Central Florida — more than half the league.
Oklahoma State's quarterback carousel lasted through the first few games before coach Mike Gundy settled on Alan Bowman. Even Kansas State, which won last season's Big 12 championship game behind veteran Will Howard, put in freshman Avery Johnson when Howard struggled. The senior responded with his best play of the season.
The position has been as jumbled as the league standings. Seven teams are within two games of conference leader Texas.
Oklahoma and Iowa State have been injury- and rotation-free and the Sooners and Cyclones are still in the mix for the league championship. Dillon Gabriel has been exceptional at times for the Sooners, leading a win over Texas and setting school records last week against West Virginia,
Iowa State's Rocco Becht was thrust into the starting role because Hunter Dekkers was snagged by the state investigation into Iowa and Iowa State athletes engaging in sports wagering. Dekkers pleading guilty to underage gambling and paid a fine, and hasn't played while serving an NCAA suspension.
League front runner Texas won two games with backup Maalik Murphy in for injured starter Quinn Ewers. Ewers returned last week for the 29-26 win over TCU, but Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian praised his team's ability to win with Murphy.
Texas has Ewers back on the field for two critical games, against Iowa State and Texas Tech. Texas is pursuing its first Big 12 title since 2009 in what will be the program's last season in the league before heading to the Southeastern Conference along with Oklahoma next summer.
“I think he was a little sore” after the TCU game, Sarkisian said. “But as the weeks go on, if we can continue to protect like we did the other night, he’s going to continue to get healthy.”
BYU's first season in the Big 12 included a plan to redshirt junior college transfer Jake Retzlaff as an understudy to Kedon Slovis. That plan blew up with an injury to Slovis' throwing arm, and Retzlaff struggled in losses to West Virginia and Iowa State.
UCF's Big 12 debut saw starter John Rhys Plumlee knocked off the field for a month with a knee injury.
TCU has lost three in a row behind freshman Josh Hoover, who took over for Chandler Morris (knee sprain). Morris was the starter in 2022 when he was injured in the first game. Max Duggan took over and led the Horned Frogs to the national championship game.
“I think that's just kind of the nature of college football and, you know, just look around the league and again, starting with us, there's a lot of starting quarterbacks that have gone down,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes said. “It's just kind of the nature of the beast.”
No team has had more hard luck at quarterback than Kansas.
The Jayhawks had the preseason offensive player of the year in Jalon Daniels in Lance Leipold's emerging program. But he has played only three games because of back problems and was a pre-game scratch before a 40-14 loss to Texas. He hasn't returned.
Jason Bean has started in his place and led the program's historic win over Oklahoma. Bean sustained a head injury last week against Texas Tech. That left the Jayhawks with walk-on Cole Ballard, the son of Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, playing most of the game in a 16-13 loss.
Leipold said he is “very optimistic” Bean will return this week.
Texas Tech can almost match that misery and musical chairs at QB.
Starter Tyler Shough broke his left leg at the end of September. It was the third consecutive season the sixth-year transfer has missed significant time due to injury. Since then, Behren Morton took over, then had a shoulder sprain and freshman Jake Strong had to start a game.
Morton has returned but Texas Tech is one of nine schools to start at least three quarterbacks this season.
AP Sports Writers Stephen Hawkins, Eric Olson, Mitch Stacy, John Raby, Dave Skretta and freelance writer John Coon contributed.
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