Spring football is underway, so it is time to start looking at what we can expect this fall on the gridiron. We’ll start out looking at the most important position on the field: the quarterback.
The Big 12 has surpassed the Pac 10 as the league of the quarterback. Big 12 quarterbacks epitomize their teams more than in any other league. Sure, there have been the Tim Tebows and Pat Whites and Bradlee Van Pelts around the country that have willed their teams to victory in the past several years, but the Big 12, with the wide open offenses and historically weak defenses, is a quarterback’s dream league.
Here’s how the projected quarterback starters rank for the upcoming 2010 season:
1. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M
This should come as no surprise. He was the best quarterback in the league last year, and he returns with most of his fellow offensive starters save a few linemen. He’s strong, can throw the ball sixty yards on the run, and has the mental makeup and intelligence of a winner. He has been compared favorably to Roger Staubach.
2. Austen Arnaud, Iowa State
Arnaud was the best player in Iowa his senior year in high school. He missed a couple of games last year because he was banged up, but when he is on the field, there is no doubt who is leading the Cyclone charge. His bowl performance was memorable, as he led the Cyclones to victory with both his arm and his legs. He would start at quarterback for 11 Big 12 schools.
3. Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Jones was thrust into the lineup last year when All American Sam Bradford went down with an injury. Jones did a nice job in relief and you could see his confidence grow as the season wore on. The Oklahoma coaching staff initially did not trust Jones to make many decisions on his own, but it later became evident that Jones is a better game day player than practice player.
4. Robert Griffin/Nick Florence, Baylor
Robert Griffin will get every opportunity to win his old job back. Griffin is a dynamic player with outstanding speed and a strong but erratic arm. His specialty is making something out of a busted play. Florence is a steady, coachable player that the coaches really love, but media pressure will force them to play Griffin, the wild card. Look for Florence to finish the season as the starter as Coach Briles’ play calling with Griffin in the game will force him out with an injury once again.
5. Kale Pick, Kansas
Sure, he has a terrible name for a quarterback, and he’ll be teased by defenses all year long, but look for him to be an upgrade over Todd Reesing. Reesing, who fell apart his senior year, as did the entire Jayhawk team, likely because of the abusive and large Mark Mangino, just did not progress late in his career. Pick has unbelievable athletic ability. He’s a great basketball player and golfer and could play safety if needed. He’s a redshirt freshman but graduated from high school early and is going through his second spring practice. He likely would have replaced Reesing last year if the coaches had not planned to redshirt him.
6. Tyler Hansen/Cody Hawkins, Colorado
First of all, these guys were both terrible last year. However, injuries decimated the Buffaloes and they both seemed to lose a little confidence. You could see in both of these players that their drive and competitiveness would put them back in control one day. Look for Hansen to take the reigns early, but Hawkins is the son of a coach, and he knows how to win. Colorado needs some linemen and receivers to step up this year to help these talented signal callers.
7. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
High school recruiting rankings don’t mean everything. This guy has all the tools, like Ryan Leaf, but the offense has sputtered since he took over. He’s big, has a howitzer for an arm, plays in the very weak Big 12 North, but just hasn’t produced so far. This could be a breakout year for Gabbert. He needs to stop listening to his coaches and just let his talent take over. He can throw passes no one else in the league can throw.
8. Cody Green/Zac Lee, Nebraska
This was the worst quarterback tandem in the Big 12 last year, by far. Neither one of these players would have seen a snap on another Big 12 team. However, they are talented. Lee was the better of the two last year, and look for him to be the starter early in the season. However, if the mental aspect of the game ever clicks for Green, and that’s a big if, he will take over by midseason. The good news is that Nebraska (some could argue Oklahoma State is another) is the only team that will not allow its quarterback to try to win a game. Short, safe passes and handoffs are all that are necessary at Nebraska. It’s hard to screw that up.
9. Steven Sheffield/Taylor Potts, Texas Tech
We’ll see a new Texas Tech offense this year. There will be a tight end if they can find one on campus. A running back just might carry the ball fifteen or twenty times a game. There won’t be four of five receivers on every play. Things are different. Potts was the inferior quarterback last year and will ride the pine unless he can pick up the new system quicker than Sheffield. These two are a big mystery. They could be really good, but they will probably be average, and average is below average in the Big 12.
10. Garrett Gilbert/Case McCoy, Texas
Gilbert has already cemented his name in Texas football lore. He was so bad in his only meaningful playing time, 5 turnovers and 180 total yards in 40 pass attempts, that Alabama abandoned their own passing game. Nick Saban knew that Gilbert would lose the game, so he didn’t even try to win. Look for Gilbert to struggle all season and for Mack Brown to insert the intelligent Case McCoy at quarterback by the middle of the conference slate. Case has a chance to be a good one.
11. Carson Coffman, Kansas State
Coffman would have started last year, except for a freak transfer from a sixth year quarterback who did not have to sit out a year. It’s his turn, now. Coffman has been a great team player and is ready to take over the role as starting quarterback. He was voted a team captain and is respected by his teammates. However, there is a reason that a sixth year backup could transfer to K-State last summer and immediately take over the starting role. Look for Bill Snyder to scour the country for another strange opportunity like that.
12. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
The 26 year old junior tried his hand at minor league baseball before landing at Boone Pickens State. While he has the maturity to handle the pressures of a Big 12 starting quarterback, these older guys are always looked at funny by their teammates, as if they aren’t part of the team. If Oklahoma State starts losing some games, look for fingers to point directly at Weeden. Maybe at the end of the season if the press rags on his teammates, he will defend them by saying, “I’m 27, I’m a man!”