College Football 2012: Top 10 Quarterbacks Heading into Spring Practice
The 2011-12 season hosted many outstanding quarterbacks, but have said good-bye to prolific leaders such as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins and Kellen Moore.
This leaves room for new names to rise and become the face of college football.
Last weekend marked the first session of spring practice for most teams, leaving us fans with a small taste of an autumn breeze.
The Texas Longhorns will kick off the year's first spring game on Sunday, April 1, while most teams will follow with theirs in the latter weeks of the month.
As the upcoming season begins to unravel, let's check out the Top 10 quarterbacks heading into the spring workouts.
*All quarterback passer rating predictions are based off the NCAA's pass efficiency formula.
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10. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Weight: 230 lbs
2011 stats: 298-of-499 (59.7 percent), 3,828 yards, 33 TDs, 12 INTs, 141.2 passer rating
2012 prediction: 289-of-473 (61.1 percent), 3,796 yards, 37 TDs, 13 INTs, 148.8 passer rating
Why: Seemingly coming from nowhere, Boyd emerged as one of the more elite quarterbacks in the ACC last year. With the entire receivers corps returning—including All-American Sammy Watkins—this Tiger offense could be more explosive than ever.
The upcoming junior struggled toward the end of last season, throwing nine interceptions in the final six games after three in the first eight. However, his tremendous athleticism gives him and Clemson the upside to once again contend for a conference championship.
9. A.J. McCarron, Alabama
Weight: 205 lbs
2011 stats: 219-328 (66.8 percent), 2,634 yards, 16 TDs, 5 INTs, 147.3 passer rating
2012 prediction: 230-of-340 (67.6 percent), 2,781 yards, 19 TDs, 6 INTs, 151.3 passer rating
Why: One season in, one ring for A.J. McCarron. Nick Saban didn't ask him to do much (25.3 attempts per game), but when he did, he stepped up.
Like last year, McCarron will have an outstanding defense and run game, so he won't have to deal with a whole lot of pressure. But don't let this take away from how important he is in the Tide's offense; he's extremely efficient and, like you saw in the national championship, he's clutch.
8. Bryn Renner, North Carolina
Weight: 215 lbs
2011 stats: 239-of-350 (68.3 percent), 3,086 yards, 26 TDs, 13 INTs, 159.4 passer rating
2012 prediction: 220-of-329 (66.8 percent), 2,750 yards, 22 TDs, 9 INTs, 153.4 passer rating
Why: Renner had an outstanding first season as the Tar Heels' signal caller, finishing with the nation's No. 14 completion percentage and leading his team to a winning record and an appearance in the Independence Bowl.
His numbers could see a small decrease this year due to an exceptional amount of talent leaving, but he's still an efficient QB and deserves top-10 consideration.
7. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Weight: 211 lbs
2011 stats: 238-of-403 (59.1 percent), 3,149 yards, 35 TDs, 14 INTs, 146.4 passer rating
2012 prediction: 260-of-416 (62.5 percent), 3,458 yards, 35 TDs, 11 INTs, 154.8 passer rating
Why: Murray suffered what most would call a 'sophomore slump' last season, as his statistics took a hit from his freshman year.
So why is he so far up on this list? Six reasons: the final six games of 2011. Murray completed 60 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns and compiled a 151.2 passer rating during this time, giving us a clear look at what's to come. I believe a seasoned Murray two seasons deep in the SEC will come out firing on all cylinders.
6. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Weight: 220 lbs
2011 stats: 277-of-438 (63.2 percent), 3,638 yards, 24 TDs, 6 INTs, 148.4 passer rating
2012 prediction: 261-of-406 (64.3 percent), 3,435 yards, 28 TDs, 6 INTs, 155.2 passer rating
Why: Everybody wondered what was going to become of Arkansas after Ryan Mallet's departure and the season-ending injury to All-SEC running back Knile Davis. Well, junior QB Tyler Wilson took over right where Mallet left off and led the Razorbacks to an 11-2 (6-2 SEC West) record and a Cotton Bowl victory over Kansas State.
What really impressed me about Wilson is his decision-making—he only threw six interceptions all year in the toughest division in all of college football. And with Davis returning to the backfield, I'm sure all the stress won't lie on the passing game.
5. Casey Pachall, Texas Christian
Weight: 216 lbs
2011 stats: 228-of-343 (66.5 percent), 2,921 yards, 25 TDs, 7 INTs, 158.0 passer rating
2012 prediction: 237-of-359 (66.0 percent), 3,038 yards, 28 TDs, 9 INTs, 157.8 passer rating
Why: How would TCU ever replace Andy Dalton under center? Easy. With Casey Pachall.
In Dalton's sophomore season, he completed 182-of-307 (59.3 percent) of his passes for 2,242 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Pachall one-upped Dalton by blowing him away in nearly every statistic.
Granted, the Horned Frogs will arguably be facing a stronger conference schedule, playing in their first season as a member of the Big 12. But accuracy is accuracy, and I think what we saw from Pachall in 2011 is what we'll see in the years to come.
4. Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Weight: 229 lbs
2011 stats: 355-of-562 (63.2 percent), 4,463 yards, 29 TDs, 15 INTs, 141.6 passer rating
2012 prediction: 414-of-588 (70.4 percent), 5,254 yards, 34 TDs, 12 INTs, 160.5 passer rating
Why: After falling far short of expectations, Jones surprisingly announced that he'd forgo the upcoming draft—and likely a first-round selection—to return for his senior season.
He took a step back from his sophomore year, completing 60 less passes, throwing nine less touchdowns and three more interceptions.
However, from an NFL draft point of view, Jones can really benefit from taking this year to refine his skills and work on his accuracy. He's going to have to stay healthy, but if he plays his cards right he can make it into next year's draft with a significantly higher stock.
3. Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Weight: 210 lbs
2011 stats: 147-of-247 (59.5 percent), 1,983 yards, 17 TDs, 6 INTs, 144.8 passer rating
2012 prediction: 292-of-438 (66.7 percent), 3,960 yards, 33 TDs, 9 INTs, 163.4 passer rating
Why: Tyler Bray is what most NFL scouts would call the 'prototypical quarterback.' He has a great frame, a fluent throwing motion and knows how to read a defense.
His stats last season don't reflect the kind of athlete Bray is (or can be), mostly due to an injury suffered to his throwing hand that prevented him from playing in five games and affecting his performance in a big way.
With his entire offensive line and receiving corps returning to the field in 2012, Bray could emerge as one of the best QBs in his class and watch his draft stock soar.
2. Geno Smith, West Virginia
Weight: 214 lbs
2011 stats: 346-of-526 (65.8 percent), 4,385 yards, 31 TDs, 7 INTs, 152.6 passer rating
2012 prediction: 373-of-540 (69.1 percent), 4,805 yards, 39 TDs, 10 INTs, 163.9 passer rating
Why: Smith flourished in Dana Holgorsen's offense last season, passing for 337.3 yards per game and remarkably threw just one interception per 75.1 attempts.
He returns all three starting receivers, including Stedman Bailey, who led the team with 1,279 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011.
Now a member of the Big 12 and in his second year with Holgorsen's pass-friendly offense, Smith has a great opportunity to make a run at the Heisman Trophy and to show the NFL scouts what he's made of.
1. Matt Barkley, Southern California
Weight: 220 lbs
2011 stats: 308-of-446 (69.1 percent), 3,528 yards, 39 TDs, 7 INTs, 161.2 passer rating
2012 prediction: 370-of-516 (71.7 percent), 4,277 yards, 46 TDs, 8 INTs, 167.6 passer rating
Why: Barkley is the unanimous selection among most college football analysts as the next-best college quarterback. He decided to take his chances and stay for his senior season at USC to "finish what he started."
If he can continue to tear up the Pac-12 and stay healthy, there's no reason he won't be in consideration for the Heisman and go on to be the No.1 QB selected in the 2013 NFL draft.
He also gets to participate in the Trojans' first bowl appearance (assuming they qualify) since being placed on probation in 2010.
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