Top 10 College Quarterbacks Heading into 2012

Vaughn JohnsonCorrespondent IIFebruary 7, 2012

Top 10 College Quarterbacks Heading into 2012

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    These 10 guys are going to be the best of the best during the 2012 season.

    There are quality quarterbacks making the jump to the NFL, but college football will be left in good hands with these 10 quarterbacks who are sure to light it up come August.

    This list was determined by past accomplishments, but also what they could potentially do during the upcoming season.

    The game of college is revolutionizing the forward pass with the spread offense, and these guys will be at the forefront in 2012.

No. 10: Connor Shaw (South Carolina)

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    Connor Shaw will take over under center for the "Ol' Ball Coach" Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks.

    Shaw showed some promise in the limited time he played for the Gamecocks, especially during the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska. Shaw threw only 17 passes, but completed 11 of them for 230 yards and two touchdowns. A very important note was something he didn't do, and that was turn the ball over.

    That was pretty much the entire season for the Shaw, as he threw only 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. 

    Another year under the tutelage of Spurrier will do nothing but good for him.

No. 9: E.J. Manuel (Florida State)

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    E.J. Manuel and the Seminoles went into 2011 with a load of expectations, but injuries to key positions—including Manuel—landed the Seminoles in the Champs Sports Bowl against Notre Dame.

    Clearly, Manuel and FSU struggled to handle the expectations hoisted upon them during the preseason.

    Despite the ups and downs, Manuel still finished with 18 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions.

    Look for a humbled, but matured Manuel to come back in 2012 and dazzle Seminole fans, which FSU fans got a glimpse of during the Champs Sports Bowl. Although it was a low-scoring affair, Manuel completed 20 of 31 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns.

No. 8: Tyler Wilson (Arkansas)

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    Tyler Wilson was a bit overshadowed in the SEC by both LSU and Alabama having tremendous seasons, but he somewhat quietly put together a great season for the Razorbacks.

    Wilson threw for 3,638 yards, 24 touchdowns, only six interceptions and completed more than 60 percent of his passes.

    His performance helped the Razorbacks tie a school record with 11 wins and earn a Cotton Bowl victory as well.

    Wilson announced his return to Arkansas and immediately became a guy to look out for in 2012.

    He and the the rest of the Razorbacks will still have to deal with some great teams LSU and Alabama, who return a lot of players, but Wilson and Arkansas will challenge them both for SEC supremacy.

No. 7: Denard Robinson (Michigan)

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    Say what you want about his passing ability or his NFL prospects, but Denard Robinson is still one of the most dynamic players in all of college football.

    Robinson has one more season under his belt to learn how to become a better passer, but if you take him lightly, he is more than capable of making a majority of defenses pay.

    His interception total may have went up from 2010 to 2011, but so did his touchdowns. Including rushing touchdowns, Robinson scored a combined 36. His rushing touchdowns were also up from the year before.

    With another year of experience for him to look back on, he can become at least an efficient quarterback for the Wolverines. 

    Robinson didn't play all that well against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, but I believe he'll come back stronger in 2012.

No. 6: Geno Smith (West Virginia)

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    Geno Smith proved in the Orange Bowl that he indeed deserves to be in the conversation of the best quarterbacks in the country. 

    Everyone remembers that game for WVU laying a whooping on Clemson, 70-33.

    But what people may not give Smith credit for was moving the ball down the field and not turning the ball over to Clemson. 

    Smith completed 32 of 43 passes for 407 yards and six touchdowns. That game gave him 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns and only seven interceptions on the season.

    The only possible knock against Smith is that his numbers may be inflated because he and WVU play in a very weak Big East.

    And may we not forget his implosion against Syracuse where he threw two interceptions.

No. 5: A.J. McCarron (Alabama)

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    The BCS National Championship Game was A.J. McCarron's coming-out party. 

    McCarron managed to go somewhat unnoticed to the mainstream fans because he had rather pedestrian 2011. He only threw 16 touchdowns but, more importantly, he threw only five interceptions.

    With only one full season as a starter and a national championship under his belt, he will definitely make an improvement on his stats in 2012. 

No. 4: Tajh Boyd (Clemson)

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    The team that was on the receiving end of that 70-33 beatdown in the Orange Bowl was quarterbacked by Tajh Boyd. 

    Boyd did not have a good night, to say the least. He completed a little more than 50 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions.

    Outside of that one bad game, Boyd was largely productive in 2011, throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and recording 33 touchdowns. He did, however, throw 12 interceptions, which is a knock against him.

    Another knock is that Clemson plays in the less-than-stellar ACC.

No. 3: Aaron Murray (Georgia)

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    Aaron Murray is simply one of the best young quarterbacks in the country and essentially saved his coach's job with his improved play during the season.

    Although he did not look like the best in the country during the Outback Bowl against Michigan State, Murray is still capable of beating defenses with his arm and occasionally his legs.

    Murray threw for 3,149 yards, 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions during the 2011 season. Against Michigan State, Murray was limited to two touchdowns and two interceptions.

    Interceptions and the rough-and-tumble SEC are the only things standing keeping Murray from having another great season in 2012.

No. 2: Keith Price (Washington)

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    Keith Price absolutely wowed during the high-scoring Alamo Bowl. He was already having his named tossed around as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and then he went berserk during the Alamo Bowl.

    Price threw for 438 yards, four touchdowns during the defeat to Robert Griffin III and Baylor. 

    Price plays in a pass-happy offense that is also in a pass-happy conference in the Pac-12 and is certainly aiming to follow with some more great plays in 2012.

No. 1: Matt Barkley (USC)

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    This was pretty much the only choice for the top spot. 

    Ever since Matt Barkley announced that he was returning to USC, he instantly became the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. (Barkley would have had a good chance to win the Heisman last season, but USC was on probation.)

    With everyone going crazy over Andrew Luck—and for good reason—people seem to have forgotten just how good Barkley was last year. He threw for more yards, touchdowns and fewer interceptions than Luck in 2011.

    In 2012, expect to hear a lot about Barkley right from the beginning of the season.