The Quietest Quarterback Battle In College Football

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

Curt Cignetti doesn’t love revealing information about his football team. He really doesn’t like revealing information about his team’s quarterbacks.

At Sun Belt Media Day in late July, Cignetti briefly discussed his team’s top two options, redshirt senior Jordan McCloud and redshirt freshman Alonza Barnett III.

“Jordan McCloud has 19 FBS starts under his belt at quarterback,” Cignetti said. “He started as a true freshman at USF for two years and then went to Arizona and started, got injured. The next year they brought a quarterback in, and we got him in the portal.”

As for Barnett: “Alonza Barnett is a talented young guy that’s gone through two springs and one fall.”

Cignetti also said he would feature McCloud and Barnett in the battle for the starting role, essentially knocking Billy Atkins and Brett Griffis out of the starting competition. That tracks with reports from spring practices, but helped make it officially official.

Cignetti also hinted that McCloud’s experience is a major plus in the fight for the starting role.

“It sure would be nice to some experience at quarterback going on the road Weeks 2, 3, and 4, but whoever plays the best in camp will be the starter,” Cignetti said.

JMU plays at UVA, Troy, and Utah State in Weeks 2-4. The Dukes open with FCS opponent Bucknell.

Radio silence since

After speaking at Sun Belt Media Days, Cignetti hasn’t said much of anything about the position. He mentioned after last week’s scrimmage that the position group is developing well, but he didn’t elaborate beyond a basic quote.

Cignetti hasn’t mentioned specific names much, if at all, during camp. That’s true of multiple positions, but reports suggest Cignetti isn’t accepting questions about the quarterback position.

Secretive!

With Cignetti quiet, arguably the most interesting camp quote about the quarterback spot came from offensive lineman Tyshawn Wyatt. JMU’s projected starting left tackle recently gave Barnett an unprompted shoutout for performing “really well” after a general question about offensive development.

Aside from Wyatt’s quote, we really have no idea how the position is shaking out with only two weeks until game day.

There are a few hints available for those who love to craft wild theories about the competition. For example, recent videos from JMU camp have shown Barnett throwing to Reggie Brown and handing off to Kaelon Black, projected starters at wide receiver and running back.

Barnett was also listed as the team’s projected starter in Phil Steele’s annual college football preview magazine, which is interesting as Cignetti spoke with Steele in the spring for about an hour.

Other hints include Cignetti’s quote from media day, suggesting that experience would be helpful early in the year. Only McCloud has significant starting experience.

In the end, the “hints” don’t really get us closer to determining which guy is starting.

Who will start Sept. 9?

At this point, your guess on JMU’s projected starting quarterback is as good as mine.

McCloud has the experience edge and decent numbers at previous stops, but Barnett’s talent and future upside seems high. Wyatt’s comments suggest Barnett is putting together a great fall camp, and reports indicated he performed well during the spring.

It’s been an unusual spring and summer as it relates to the quarterback competition, with almost no information coming out about either of JMU’s likely starting quarterbacks.

Barring an unforeseen change, fans may be in the dark until at least the Bucknell game on Sept. 2.

The Bucknell game might not even reveal the team’s true QB1.

My JMU Sports News co-founder, Jack Fitzpatrick, thinks reps will be split between McCloud and Barnett in Week 1, with them being listed as co-starters entering Week 2. He explained his thoughts on our most recent podcast episode.

In fairness, JMU could probably beat Bucknell with any of the quarterbacks on its roster starting.

The UVA game in Week 2 is different. That Sept. 9 game represents a massive opportunity to defeat an in-state ACC team. UVA hasn’t played JMU in 40 years, and the Cavaliers are expected to finish at the bottom of the ACC.

JMU couldn’t dream of a better chance for a statement win with regional and national value.

Who will start at quarterback on Sept. 9? That’s the real question. Will fans know the answer before the team takes the field in Charlottesville?

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