2014 Pac-12 Football: The Year of the Quarterback Part 1

 

Pac 12 Football, Marcus Mariota, Sean Mannion, Brett Hundley
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014, the Pac-12 returns more starting quarterbacks than any other conference. Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly and Sean Mannion all have started at least 26 games in their careers. Mariota and Hundley have been garnering big time Heisman hype this preseason and deservedly so but the conference is filled with other great signal callers this season.

Most football fans with a pulse know that Mariota is a top Heisman candidate for the Oregon Ducks. Mariota is the total package when it comes to running the tempo, zone-read option based offense in Eugene that averaged over 45 points per game last season. He is incredibly accurate with his passes and his legs seem to move faster than Charles Barkley chasing down an ice cream truck.

Hundley, from the UCLA Bruins, has brought his team a lot of high expectations that stem from his 3,071 yards passing and 748 yards rushing in 2013. When Hundley arrived in Westwood, he came into town with a label of the second best dual-threat quarterback in the country according to rivals.com. Hundley lost his top weapon from last season in Shaq Evans but should have more time to find targets this year as four of his five lineman are returning.

Matt Leinhart, John Elway, Ryan Leaf, Andrew Luck, Akili Smith and Carson Palmer all were historic Pac-12 quarterbacks, but none accomplished what Mannion did for the Oregon State Beavers in 2013. Last season, Mannion broke the conference record for passing yards in a single season with 4,662. He loses Biletnikoff  Award winner Brandin Cooks, who will be catching balls from Drew Brees this year, but retains 6’7 tight end Connor Hamlett. Hamlett hauled in 40 passes last season and if Jimmy Graham has taught us anything, it’s that 6’7 tight ends can be very productive.

The top-tier quarterbacks in the conference are Mariota, Hundley, and Mannion. Heisman hype and conference records don’t come to your average quarterbacks. From top to bottom, the conference has an incredible amount of talent at the most prominent position in all of sports. It takes a lot to be part of this top tier fraternity but Mariota, Hudley, and Mannion have earned it. Stay tuned for part two to see where the rest of the quarterbacks rank.

Follow Matt Heinz on twitter @MattHeinz_Rant for more college football related news and opinions.