Every position on the football field is important, however, not all are equal. There is one position that stands out in front of all the rest as the leader of men. Enter the quarterback. No team is complete without one. In the Pac-12 there are several signal-callers that have earned praise nationally, and some that should soon be on the radar of fans everywhere.
It has been seven months since the 2011 college football season ended and several excellent QBs are no longer in the conference. Fear not, the 2012 season is only weeks away, and the following quarterbacks will make the wait worth it. Here are the Pac-12′s top five at the position.
1. Matt Barkley, Sr., USC
Want numbers? Barkley has them. How about experience? The senior has been a starter ever since the beginning of his freshman year. Last season the Trojans QB tossed 39 touchdowns to go against only seven interceptions with a completion percentage of 69.1. Worried about motivation? Barkley opted out of the NFL draft to have a chance to play in the postseason; something that USC hasn’t been able to do for the past two years because of probation. Barkley is talented, smart, and hungry. Oh, did I mention surrounded by elite talent?
2. Keith Price, Jr., Washington
A breakout 2011 season saw the Huskies regain some swagger at the quarterback position. With Jake Locker no longer in the picture, it was unclear if UW could maintain stability at quarterback. Price made Huskies fans ask Jake who? Strait out of Compton, the California kid made as much noise as an NWA album in his first year in purple and gold. As a sophomore Price set a school record of 33 touchdown passes. Not too shabby. An astounding 161.9 rating and over three thousand passing yards in Price’s first full season has Washington fans believing 2012 could be special.
3. Jeff Tuel, Sr., Washington State
Injury sidelined Tuel for much of the 2011 season. Assuming the senior can stay healthy, 2012 promises to be Tuel’s best yet. New head coach Mike Leach loves to air it out and star receiver Marquess Wilson loves to catch it. Unknown to most of the country, fans in the Northwest are familiar with Tuel’s moxy and passing ability. In the spring game Tuel reportedly finished with 285 yards going 19 for 21 and two touchdowns. Under Leach, those numbers could be one quarter of play.
4. Sean Mannion, So., Oregon State
It has been a rough couple of seasons in Corvallis. Eight wins in two years have put head coach Mike Riley on the hot seat. If that seat is to cool down, Mannion will have a lot to do with it. Only a sophomore, the Pleasanton California product has made an impact. Mannion has pro size at 6’5″, a big-time arm, and is a decent athlete in the pocket. As a freshman Mannion threw for over three thousand yards and 16 touchdowns. It was his 18 interceptions that didn’t help anything. The focus for 2012 should be to eliminate mistakes. It will be difficult for a quarterback who feels he must make plays for the team to win.
5. Zach Maynard,Sr., California
A transfer from Buffalo, Maynard was able to help guide the Bears to a bowl game in 2011 after a one year absence. Head coach Jeff Tedford is known for being a teacher of quarterbacks. His latest project seemed to improve as the season went along which is a good sign. Maynard is not big weighing around 185 lbs and standing at 6’2″. His lack of size was evident against Texas in the Holiday Bowl when he was repeatedly harassed in the pocket. If the QB can continue his development expect an improvement on his 2,990 passing yards last year.