Matt Barkley and 10 College Quarterbacks to Watch Next Season

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIJanuary 7, 2012

Matt Barkley and 10 College Quarterbacks to Watch Next Season

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    Andrew Luck was on everyone's radar screen from Day One this season, and everyone already knew how good he'd be.

    Kellen Moore was in the same boat, as everyone watched him break Colt McCoy's win record, which may never be broken.

    Robert Griffin III, on the other hand, was known to very few people outside of the Big 12 until his monster game against TCU. He stayed in the spotlight the rest of the season, wrapping up the year by winning Baylor its first Heisman Trophy.

    All of these players will be playing in the NFL next year, so who takes their place as the best college quarterbacks in the country?

    Here are 10 underclassmen who you should keep your eye on next season.

1. Matt Barkley, USC

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    Matt Barkley pulled an Andrew Luck this year, deciding to stay in school rather than declare for the NFL draft. He likely would have been a top-five pick.

    With his return to USC, the Trojans will be national title contenders. He lost his left tackle (Matt Kalil) and one of his best defensive players (Nick Perry) to the draft, but there's still a ton of talent on the team.

    If nothing else, they'll finally be a challenge for Oregon in the Pac-12 championship.

    This season, Barkley completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Next season, he'll be the presumed favorite for the Davey O'Brien Award and the Heisman.

    He'll also be the favorite for the first overall pick in the draft.

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

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    Landry Jones started the season as a top-10 pick. However, after leading Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles sustained a season-ending injury, he started slipping.

    Then he caught a break when Matt Barkley announced that he'd stay in school, almost assuring him a first-round selection. Then he decided to stay in school and let Blake Bell continue to vulture his touchdowns.

    I don't get the decision-making process there, but whatever. Maybe he really wants his degree.

    Anyway, Jones threw for 4,463 yards this season and 29 touchdowns, but he also turned the ball over 15 times, six of those in his last four games. His completion percentage also bottomed out in the latter part of the season, even though he was a pretty good 63.2 percent for the year.

    He'll be playing to improve his draft stock, so if he returns to his early-season form, it may turn into a pretty good move. Keep in mind that in the beginning of the season, he looked every bit as good as Matt Barkley.

3. Tyler Bray, Tennessee

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    Up until Matt Barkley announced that he would stay in school, every 2013 mock draft I've seen had Tyler Bray listed as the first overall pick. Despite Tennessee's disappointing season, Bray is still an impressive quarterback.

    Bray passed for 1,983 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2011, which is pretty good when you consider that he sat out for five games and part of a sixth with a broken thumb.

    Before his injury against Georgia, Bray was completing 65.9 percent of his passes, had only thrown two interceptions and Tennessee was the most efficient team in the country on third down.

    In 2012, Tennessee will return all starting receivers, all starting offensive linemen and all tight ends. Expect Tyler Bray to have a monster season.

4. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

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    Speaking of guys named Tyler in the SEC, there's also upcoming senior Tyler Wilson, who already had a monster season with Arkansas.

    Wilson threw for 3,638 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also led his team to victory against every opponent they faced except the two teams appearing in the national championship.

    Arkansas definitely will be a contender for the 2012 SEC crown.

    Wilson will lose his best receivers in Jarius Wright and Joe Adams, so if he can keep putting up big numbers next season, he could be in the running for the Heisman.

5. Tanner Price, Wake Forest

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    Yeah, a Wake Forest player.

    If you watched him this season, you couldn't help but be impressed. Despite playing on a team without a lot of talent, Tanner Price led Wake Forest to a bowl game while upsetting Florida State (and almost Clemson) along the way.

    His individual stats are pretty impressive too.

    For the season, Price completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,017 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. Not bad for a 2-star prospect who's in his sophomore season.

    Wake Forest won't contend for a BCS bowl or anything, but you can bet that Price will still be a very impressive player next season.

6. Keith Price, Washington

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    If you missed the Alamo Bowl, I feel sorry for you. Unless you don't like big-scoring games, in which case, you didn't miss anything.

    Keith Price has been great all season for Washington, but his game against Baylor was on a completely different level. He threw for 438 yards, rushed for another 39 yards and scored a total of seven touchdowns.

    For the season, he completed 66.9 percent of his throws for 3,063 yards, 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

    Expect the team to rely on him a lot more in his junior season with both the team's leading receiver (Jermaine Kearse) and running back (Chris Polk) gone for the NFL.

7. Aaron Murray, Georgia

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    The SEC is going to be a quarterback's conference next season.

    Aaron Murray was presumed to be the best quarterback in the SEC at the beginning of the season. Tyler Wilson outperformed him, but he still makes a case.

    Murray threw for 3,149 yards, 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He was a big part of Georgia's big season.

    His best game came against Auburn, where he completed 77.8 percent of his passes for 224 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

    He can also run the ball when the situation calls for it. He put up over 100 rushing yards and got a couple of rushing touchdowns this season as well.

8. Darron Thomas, Oregon

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    Darron Thomas seems to be getting better and better. Now, a lot of his success comes from Oregon's offensive system, but you can't ignore his talent.

    Darron Thomas threw for 2,761 yards with a completion rate of 62.2 percent, which is good, but doesn't look like anything special. What is special is his touchdown-to-interception ratio: He has 33 touchdowns to seven interceptions.

    Thomas can also make plays with his legs when he needs to. He's only rushed for 205 yards this season, but that's because he rarely needs to run the ball. He also tacked on three rushing touchdowns.

    Thomas will need to have a great senior season if he wants to start in the NFL, but without LaMichael James there as the main part of the offense, he very well could.

9. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt

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    Like I said, it'll be a quarterback's conference in the SEC next season.

    Jordan Rodgers wasn't incredibly impressive in his first year as Vanderbilt's starter, but he showed flashes of greatness, and when the best quarterback in the NFL's little brother shows flashes, you pay attention.

    Rodgers threw for 1,524 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his nine starts. He ran the ball very well though, rushing for 424 yards and four touchdowns as a starter.

    If he makes the big jump in accuracy that most quarterbacks see when they transition from their first to their second year as a starter, then he ought to be pretty good.

    If nothing else, he's Aaron Rodgers's little brother. Doesn't that, by itself, pique interest?

10. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

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    He won't be playing in a bowl game and he won't be draftable next year, but Braxton Miller is definitely a player to watch next season.

    Miller won Big Ten Freshman of the Year for a reason. Miller passed for 1,159 yards, 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also rushed for an additional 564 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Miller's numbers may not look like much compared to the other players on the list, but he was great for a freshman coming into a troubled program without a head coach.

    He ought to flourish under Urban Meyer and become Terrelle Pryor 2.0 (hopefully without the tattoo discount).