Power Ranking Pac-12 Starting QBs Heading into Spring Practice
Power Rankings Pac-12 Starting QBs
As spring practices begin in earnest around the country, it is time to take stock of what teams are welcoming back in 2014. The Pac-12 enjoyed a great regular season (dampened slightly by a disappointing postseason), and will be making a strong push for a spot in the new College Football Playoff to determine a national champion next postseason. Leading the charge will be a strong class of quarterbacks returning next fall looking to take their teams to the top.
The conference looks to have incredible stability under center in 2014 with only four teams having a legitimate quarterback competition during the spring. The rest of the programs return an established starter who will be looking to take their games to the next level. Some of them even spurned a chance to jump to the NFL (even as likely first-round picks) to come back to school for one more go at the college level. That decision not only helps their team out considerably but it also puts the Pac-12 ahead of the curve when it comes to returning star-power across college football.
To win in the hyper-competitive Pac-12, a team needs their quarterback to step up and lead the way. While that doesn’t always mean throwing for 400 yards, it certainly doesn’t hurt when the QB can sling the football all over the field. But the quarterback does need to be calm under pressure, ready to put his team on his back in crunch time and find a way to get his team the win. Having a go-to playmaker under center can often make all the difference.
So as the 2014 season gets under way with spring practice, let’s count down the best starting quarterbacks the Pac-12 has to offer.
12. Arizona Wildcats
Rich Rodriguez is looking for his third quarterback in three years for the Arizona Wildcats and has a wide-open race this spring to fill it. Four quarterbacks will share reps this spring with little hope of finding a clear-cut favorite to win the starting job before the fall. Jesse Scroggins is the veteran of the bunch, though none of the contenders have attempted a pass for Arizona. Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon is a name to watch as a dual-threat quarterback that was the crown jewel of Rodriguez’s 2013 recruiting class. The uncertainty surrounding the quarterback situation in 2014 lands the Cats at the bottom of this list.
11. Washington Huskies
Cyler Miles appeared to have the inside track to become the next starting quarterback for the Washington Huskies but his indefinite suspension for an assault on Super Bowl Sunday has the UW quarterback situation completely up in the air. With a new coaching staff and offensive system getting put in place, Miles’ suspension opens the door for sophomore Jeff Lindquist or redshirt freshman Troy Williams to make an impression during the spring and win the starting job. With serious questions about who will be the quarterback and what the offense for the Huskies will look like next fall, it’s hard to rank UW much higher than No. 11 in this countdown.
10. Utah Utes
The good news for the Utah Utes: 2013 starting quarterback Travis Wilson has been medically cleared for non-contact drills, which is the first step towards him returning to the starting lineup in 2014. The bad news: There’s no guarantee that he will avoid a setback during the offseason and be unavailable to play football. If he’s healthy, Wilson has the inside track to returning to the starting lineup as one of the Pac-12’s excellent young quarterbacks. If he can’t, look for guys like Adam Schulz, who stepped in when Wilson was hurt last season, Conner Manning and Brandon Cox to battle it out in the spring to solidify their spots before Oklahoma Sooners transfer Kendal Thompson arrives in the fall.
9. Sefo Liufau, Colorado Buffaloes
Sophomore Sefo Liufau took control of the offense for the Colorado Buffaloes last season and flashed plenty of potential as a leader and playmaker. Over the final eight games of the season as the starter, Liufau threw for 1,779 yards with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He certainly took his lumps behind a Colorado line that is still trying to figure things out and he faces the difficult task of finding success after the departure of Paul Richardson to the NFL. There’s plenty of promise in Liufau’s game but too many questions with Colorado to rate him any higher heading into 2014.
8. Jared Goff, Cal Bears
There was plenty to like about the way Jared Goff took control of the Cal Bears on offense as a true freshman last season. He threw for 450 yards or more in each of his first two games as a starter and had a 504-yard performance just a few weeks later. He finished the year with 3,508 yards passing with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as he struggled to find consistency down the stretch. There was plenty of room for Goff to develop over the offseason and if he can make strides this spring with a talented receiving corps, he could quickly rise up this list during the season. For now, however, he checks in at No. 8.
7. Connor Halliday, Washington State Cougars
Connor Halliday will be entering his third year as the starting quarterback for Mike Leach and his Air Raid attack with the Washington State Cougars. While Halliday looked prolific at times in 2013, there were also terrible decisions made that buried the Cougs in big situations. He finished the year throwing for 4,597 yards and 34 touchdowns (both excellent) but threw a Pac-12 worst 22 interceptions, many of which killed late rallies for WSU. Halliday showed he has the potential to be a great quarterback with his bowl performance (410 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT) but has to consistently make better decisions with the football to be considered one of the Pac-12’s best quarterbacks in 2014.
6. Kevin Hogan, Stanford Cardinal
While Kevin Hogan has led the Stanford Cardinal to back-to-back Pac-12 championships as a starting quarterback, his up-and-down play in 2013 gives a little reason to be concerned. In situations where the Cardinal struggled to run the football or were forced to throw the ball, Hogan often came up short in the big moments. He’ll need to show some improvement through the air in 2014 as the team replaces Tyler Gaffney at running back while returning key playmakers at receiver. If Hogan steps up in the passing game, Stanford has the inside track to a three-peat as conference champs.
5. Cody Kessler/Max Browne, USC Trojans
It took some time for him to find his feet in 2013, but Cody Kessler finished the second half of the season strong as starting quarterback of the USC Trojans. That won’t guarantee him the job in 2014, however, with a new head coach in town. Kessler showed that he can be an excellent quarterback in the Pac-12 after throwing for 2,968 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, capped by a 345-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. If Max Browne unseats him, he’ll have to earn it. Whichever quarterback wins out, however, will have a talented offensive roster around them that should help foster great success in 2014.
4. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State Sun Devils
After seemingly coming out of nowhere to win the starting quarterback job for the Arizona State Sun Devils in 2012, Taylor Kelly has established himself as one of the elite quarterbacks of the Pac-12. The senior signal caller enters his third season as a starter looking to build off a strong 2013 season where he threw for 3,635 yards with 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Kelly is an underrated athlete at the QB position, finding the seams to make plays with his legs when he needs to (he rushed for nine TDs in 2013) while still pressing the action down the field in the passing game with his arm. As the unquestioned leader of the huddle in 2014, Kelly will try and take the Sun Devils over the top next fall.
3. Sean Mannion, Oregon State Beavers
After leading the Pac-12 in passing in 2013, Sean Mannion returns for his senior season with the Oregon State Beavers looking to do even more in 2014. Last season, he threw for 4,662 yards with 37 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His production tapered off a bit once Oregon State got into the meat of their schedule but he will need to produce from start to finish in 2014 to lead the Beavers back into the Pac-12 title race. When all is said and done, Mannion will leave an enduring legacy at Oregon State with the Pac-12 career passing record well within reach this season. Can he add a few more wins for Oregon State this season on top of his personal records?
2. Brett Hundley, UCLA Bruins
Brett Hundley has developed into one of the premier dual-threat quarterbacks in the country and he returns in 2014 to lead the UCLA Bruins for one more year (at least). He has shown the ability to win games with his legs or his arm and has continued to develop into a true leader for the program. Last season, he threw for 3,071 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions while rushing for 748 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. He can do it all for the Bruins and will try and carry the team to the top of the Pac-12 next season.
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon Ducks
Before injuring his knee in loss against Stanford, Marcus Mariota had the Oregon Ducks on track for a national title appearance (and a Heisman Trophy for himself in the process). He returns in 2014 healthy and ready to lead the Ducks again this fall and will undoubtedly be considered an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy again next December. He finished last season with 3,665 yards passing with 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions while rushing for 715 yards (averaging 7.4 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns on the ground. He is as dynamic a playmaker as there is in all of college football and returns as the No. 1 quarterback in the Pac-12 for next season.