Top 5 AAC Football Quarterbacks In 2013
2013 AAC Football
With the start of the 2013 NCAA football season less than two months away, the hype and analysis of teams are in full force. There will be a much different look in many conferences with the flurry of realignment sweeping across the country over the past two years, including the AAC, formerly the Big East.
The 2013 AAC slate will only be intact for one season, as the Louisville Cardinals (ACC) and Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Big Ten) move on to bigger opportunities next year, while East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa will join in 2014. Football will not be a strength this year, but the AAC will have no shortage of playmakers and teams that could do some great things on a national level. Louisville head coach Charlie Strong has the program on the rise after shocking the country by beating the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl, while the Cincinnati Bearcats and South Florida Bulls got their guys in Tommy Tubberville and Willie Taggart in hopes of avoiding a stretch of down years.
Regardless of the one-year scenario, the AAC has its stable of upper-tier athletes that should make for an interesting season. Over the next few weeks, we will compile a list of the power rankings for the top five players at each position in the league, starting with the quarterbacks. This list is not a projection of who has the best chance to make it to the next level or who will be the best by season's end, but rather the top five quarterbacks entering the 2013 season based on last year's play. Teams that have ongoing battles for who will be the starter will not be listed, only the players who have firmly cemented themselves as the head signal caller for this year.
Several teams have quarterbacks that did not make the cut and not because they can't toss the pigskin around. The Bearcats have two capable signal callers in Munchie Legeaux and Brendan Kay, with Legaux starting eight games last year before being replaced by Kay for the final five after inconsistency. Neither set themselves apart from the other through the spring and the battle looks like it could go on until just before their first game. Both have the potential to be a top-five quarterbacks in the league, but until one wins the job and performs well during the season, they will not make the power rankings.
Also with experienced guys under center are the Connecticut Huskies, Chandler Whitmer, and SMU Mustangs, Garrett Gilbert. Whitmer was too inconsistent last year to make the preseason power rankings, throwing only nine touchdowns to 16 picks. Gilbert, like Whitmer, was way too inconsistent to crack the list. In 2012, Gilbert threw for 15 scores, but also had 15 interceptions with just a 53.0 percent completion percentage and has thrown 28 touchdowns over his career with 38 picks. Any one of these guys could easily make their way into the top five during the season with improvement, but for now, let's take a look at the top five entering the AAC's inaugural year.
No.5 Jacob Karam
Karam's stats don't jump off the page like some of the other guys on this list, but there was no denying that his progression and leadership were a huge factor in the Memphis Tigers finishing the year on a three-game winning streak. During that streak, Karam completed 40-52 passes for seven touchdowns and one interception. His 1,895 passing yards on the season are not gaudy, but he also does not have the players around him that other guys in the league do, though he developed a great pass-catch relationship with receiver Keiwone Malone that should be one of the better combos in the AAC this season.
Karam has good accuracy, and his 64 percent completion percentage is second among the quarterbacks on this list. With a year of running the offense under his belt, the senior should put up even better numbers in 2013 and could lead the Tigers to their first bowl since 2008.
No.4 David Piland
Piland stepped up in the absence of Case Keenum for the Houston Cougars in 2010 and threw for 24 touchdowns and 2,641. After the Keenum era ended in 2011, Piland became the starter in 2012 and posted 2,929 yards through the air with 16 scores. Piland could be higher on this list, but inconsistent play brings him in at No. 4. For the rate the Cougars throw the ball, a 57.1 completion percentage and 12 picks to just 16 touchdowns will not cut it with the conference upgrade. However, Piland has the tools to be much better than his stats indicate. The Cougars will only goes as far as Piland's arm takes them this year, so a lot will be pending on better footwork and a better presence in the pocket.
No.3 Gary Nova
Nova has progressed nicely over his first two seasons for Rutgers and perhaps showed a sign of great things to come in 2012 after passing for 2,695 and 22 touchdowns. It was the kind of jump you'd like to see after being thrown into the fire his freshman year in which he threw for 1,553 yards, 11 scores and nine interceptions. His completion percentage also jumped from 51.1 percent to 57.0 percent in 2012.
Though he made great strides, Nova will still need to work on his accuracy and decision making as he threw 16 picks last year. He also was very underwhelming at times against teams he should not have a problem with, most notably vs. Kent State, where he threw six interceptions, and Army, a game he threw for just 123 yards. As long as Nova keeps progressing with his accuracy and decision making, he will be a force to be reckoned with in the AAC.
No.2 Blake Bortles
Coming in at No. 2 is Central Florida Knights signal caller Blake Bortles. Bortles was one of the top quarterbacks in C-USA last year, passing for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns. Even more impressive was his three-to-one touchdown to interception ratio (seven interceptions in 2012) and his solid 63 percent completion percentage. His 144.5 QB rating was second in the league only to Marshall's Rakeem Cato. Bortles enters the 2013 season riding 174 consecutive pass attempts without a pick and will be tested early with a trip to Penn State followed by a home game against South Carolina. With a talented group of receivers returning, expect Bortles to put together another solid year under center.
No.1 Teddy Bridgewater
Surprised? Probably not. Bridgewater, to say the least, put together a spectacular 2012 campaign that ended with the Cardinals knocking off Florida in the Sugar Bowl. For the season, he posted passing numbers of 3,718 yards, 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions, as well as a 68.5 completion percentage. The junior has a chance to be regarded as one of the best signal callers to ever come through Louisville when it is all said and done.
Bridgewater will need to continue to work on his decision making, which has been suspect at times, but the sky is the limit for this guy. With an even easier league schedule than last year, Bridgewater has a chance to put up 4,000 yards passing and lead the Cardinals to another BCS bowl game and possibly the national title.