The Pac-12 has a reputation as a strong conference for quarterbacks, and this preseason, there are no subpar quarterbacks, only talented returning starters or unknown entities.
All five established returners — Stanford‘s Kevin Hogan, UCLA‘s Brett Hundley, Arizona State‘s Taylor Kelly, Oregon‘s Marcus Mariota and Washington‘s Keith Price — were named to the preseason Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Watch List. Most of the other seven teams in the conference haven’t decided who their starting quarterback will be in 2013.
Will all five incumbents play well enough to deserve their spots on the Davey O’Brien list by the end of the year? Questionable.
Price had an excellent sophomore year, but his junior season was so underwhelming it was almost surprising to see his name on the list in 2013.
Last year at this time, Price was projected to be among the top quarterbacks in the conference while Hogan and Kelly weren’t expected to play much, if at all, in 2012. Kelly finished in the top ten in the nation in pass efficiency, and Hogan, who took over the starting role partway through the year, led his team to its first Rose Bowl victory in forty years.
Hundley was handed the reins to the UCLA offense last summer, which proved to be a wise decision by new Bruins head coach Jim Mora.
Further north at Oregon, another redshirt freshman surpassed the veterans on the depth chart en route to a phenomenal first season. In his sophomore season, Mariota is expected to again be one of the nation’s top quarterbacks as long as he can stay on his game despite the Ducks’ coaching change.
The Pac-12′s full-time returning starters retained their jobs and received preseason recognition because they played well enough to earn them last season, but the five quarterbacks on the O’Brien watch list aren’t the conference’s only quarterbacks with college-level experience.
At Oregon State, Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz have been in a quarterback competition since Vaz took over for an injured Mannion midway through 2012. The two split time last season but so far, neither has claimed the role this year.
Utah‘s Travis Wilson took over as starter for the last seven games of 2012 and seems to be first in line to start for the Utes again this season, but he didn’t do quite well enough as a true freshman to cement his spot on the depth chart.
Many of the Pac-12′s quarterbacks or potential starters are still young, and by next summer, the conference could feasibly have even more on the preseason watch lists — as long as they prove they can live up to those high expectations this fall.