Georgia State’s quarterback position has been a revolving door of brilliant moments, suspensions, game winning drives, and incomprehensible inconsistency. In just two years the Panthers have had three different starting quarterbacks and another heralded transfer that could never get right on or off the field. Of those four quarterbacks the only one that remains on the roster is Kelton Hill, who started the last five games of 2011. Kelton was productive at moving the offense, but was incredibly inconsistent throwing the ball and turned the ball over at a very high rate.
Therefore going into the spring Offensive Coordinator John Bond said the quarterback race was wide open. He said that whoever could be the most consistent throwing the ball, manage the no huddle offense the best, and most importantly take care of the football would win the job. Throughout practice none of the quarterbacks really excelled at throwing the ball consistently accurate, but the player that managed the offense and protected the ball the best was Ben McLane and the redshirt freshman was named the starting quarterback.
But with Bo Schlecter and Drew Little no longer with the team, depth at QB looked like it would be a major concern. The GSU coaching staff was able to sign two quarterbacks in the 2012 class in Mark Weidenaar and Nathan Schuster as well as secure a transfer from Ohio University in Ronnie Bell. These new faces will not look to just add depth, but will come in hungry and eager to prove they can be the man to lead GSU into the FBS.
Ben McLane, R-Fr
The signal caller from Brookwood HS redshirted last season after leading the Broncos to a state title his senior year. He was the most consistent performer during spring practice and in the spring scrimmage and therefore earned the nod from the coaching staff to be the starter heading in to the fall. He throws a very good deep ball but struggles with his accuracy on timing routes such as outs, corners, and hitches. He checks down a lot and is very conservative at times. If McLane can gain some confidence and use that big arm more effectively while maintaining his composure he could be the first 11 game starter in GSU history.
Two years ago Hill was Georgia State’s leading rusher mostly from the Wildcat formation. And then after Little was suspended for the first four games of the season, he was the presumed starter going into the summer. But Hill ran into his own issues and was suspended himself for the start of the season. When quarterback/punter Bo Schlecter was largely ineffective and Drew Little got hurt halfway through the season he finally became the starting quarterback and led the Panthers to two victories over FCS opponents. Hill is certainly electric when he runs with the football and has shown the ability to throw a very pretty pass. He had a number of passes against South Alabama that left Panther fans in awe. But more often than not Hill was inconsistent and committed costly turnovers. There were a number of games that could have been won if he had done a better job of protected the football.
The Ohio University transfer played his high school football in the Atlanta area at Sandy Creek High, where he led his team to two state championships and a 29-1 record as a starter. Bell threw for over 4,400 yards in his last two seasons. His style of play is similar to Hill’s, but he isn’t quite as fast and is a better thrower. His contribution will be completely dependent on how fast he can pick up the offense. He will arrive in school in June and will be able to spend the summer working out with the team, but will not be able to spend time with the coaches learning the offense until fall camp begins. He certainly may be the most talented player at the quarterback position, but Star Jackson proved in GSU’s first season that doesn’t mean you will automatically start under Bill Curry.
The Lakeside HS product from Evans, Ga is an interesting story for the Panthers. Weidenaar was a highly sought after prospect as a sophomore and was receiving interest from BCS level schools. However, a major knee injury as a junior scared the suitors away and caused Weidenaar to fall completely off the radar. The Panther coaches came across him while watching one of their other recruits and began to show interest in Weidenaar, but they had a quarterback already committed and did not have plans for another. When that player switched his commitment, GSU quickly offered Weidenaar and he accepted. That is a potentially major steal for the Panthers, but he will have plenty of competition to see the field.
Schuster is another great athlete that signed with the Panthers back in February. He has been told he will be given an opportunity at QB, where he excelled at Chattooga High School. But he is such a good athlete that if it doesn’t appear he will crack the depth chart as a QB he could be moved to another position.
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