Pac-12 Football: The Year of the Quarterback Part 4

By Matt Heinz
Pac-12 Quarterback Sefo Liufau
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The fourth and final part of my year of the quarterback series features two schools with open battles for the starting position and a true sophomore from Pac-12 South doormat, Colorado. The quarterback competitions at Utah and Arizona still need to determine a winner. While the situation in Colorado is clear in who the starter is but bleak in the production department.

After back-to-back 8-5 seasons under Rich Rodriguez, Arizona fans are waiting for the next Pat White or Denard Robinson to take snaps in Tucson. Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon has gotten the majority of first team reps during fall camp according to the Arizona Daily Star’s Dan Berk. Solomon, the nation’s second-rated dual-threat quarterback by, led his national powerhouse high school team, Bishop Gorman, to four straight state titles as a starter.

Texas transfer Connor Brewer joins the Wildcats after sitting out last season due to transfer rules. Then we can’t forget about Jesse Scroggins, the fifth-year senior who transferred from USC is the elder statesman of the bunch. When asked about the QB competition, Rich Rodriguez said, “I’m hoping to have at least two I can win with. I’m not concerned with having a starter. I just want two I can win with.” The competition has been so secretive that the Wildcat quarterbacks have not been granted permission to talk with the media.

In 2013, only Connor Halliday threw for more interceptions (22) than Utah quarterback Travis Wilson (16).  Halliday however, threw the ball 714 times while Wilson had the fewest pass attempts among the conference’s 12 starters last fall with 237. Wilson has been the starter for the better part of two years and hasn’t given Utes fans much reason for optimism.

He did save his best performance for the Pac-12 champs, Stanford, where he completed 23 of 34 throws for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the upset win. In two years, the quarterback from California has thrown only 23 touchdowns to go along with 22 picks.

Wilson’s competition for signal caller is Kendal Thompson who transferred from Oklahoma with two years of eligibility left. Thompson is the son of legendary Sooner option QB, Charles Thompson. Wilson has proven he is a mediocre quarterback and the Utes need to prove they belong in the Pac-12. Thompson gives the Utes an added dimension that Wilson didn’t in his ability to scramble. If I was coaching Utah, I would go with Thompson.

As a true freshman in 2013, Sefo Liufa started seven games for Colorado. This tells us more about the lack of talent on the Buffaloes roster than the quality of the quarterback. Colorado hasn’t made a bowl game since 2007 and it won’t do so in 2014. Head coach Mike MacIntyre got the most out of quarterback David Fales when he coached him at San Jose State. Last April, Fales was drafted by the Chicago Bears where he is currently competing with Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer for third-string reps in training camp. It will be intriguing to see if MacIntyre can develop Tuifai similarly.

Liufau is a good athlete, he was a four-year varsity starter on his high school’s basketball team. The 6-foot-4 Liufau even had 20 points, 22 rebounds and seven assists in one of his playoff games. His football career during his high school days was good enough for to rate him as their 19th best quarterback in the nation. In 2014, he will improve upon his marginal numbers from last year but doesn’t have enough talent around him for anybody outside Colorado to notice.

Liufa and whoever gets the nod at Arizona and Utah will have a lot to prove in 2014. The quarterbacks from the three schools mentioned are in the fourth and bottom tier level for quarterbacks in the conference. In the nation’s premier quarterback conference, these QBs will have to show that they belong. Rodriguez is the best quarterback coach of the bunch, therefore look for his group to have the most productive season.

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