This story appears in the May 2, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
MEMORIAL STADIUM, APRIL 2007: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops wrapped up a cold Red and White game by hinting to the media that the Sooners' quarterback job was a wide-open contest between Joey Halzle, Keith Nichol and some kid named Sam Bradford. It wasn't 'til Aug. 21, 11 days before OU's opener, that Stoops announced he had picked Bradford.
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Feb. 2010: Right before Auburn started spring practice, Gene Chizik described a four-man QB derby to the media. "There will be a battle at the quarterback position. May the best man win."
Two months later, at the close of Auburn's spring game, QBs Barrett Trotter and Neil Caudle stood beaming, fielding questions from a gaggle of reporters about their combined 353 yards and 3 TD passes. Cameron Newton, the day's third QB, quietly showered and headed home after his 3-for-8 afternoon. One week later, Chizik tepidly handed the reins to a man who went on to win one of the biggest landslides in Heisman history. "After thoroughly evaluating our quarterbacks during spring practice and over the last week, Cam has emerged as our postspring No. 1 quarterback," he said.
Looking back, the idea of Bradford and Newton jockeying for spring snaps is laughable, if not a little embarrassing. And therein lies the beauty and the madness of spring practice. It is a world where headlines belong almost exclusively to quarterback competitions.