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Best System QBs in College Football History

Alex CallosCorrespondent IMay 10, 2012

Best System QBs in College Football History

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    The term system quarterback is said to have originated in the early 1990s when the Houston Cougars had a pair of college quarterbacks who had a lot of success at the college level, but could not translate that to the NFL. 

    That success for these two quarterbacks was because of what came to be called a "run-and-shoot" offense. This allowed for some big time passing numbers that had never been seen before.

    When it comes to system quarterbacks, there are different systems that allow certain quarterbacks to excel by playing to their strengths.

    Along with the run and shoot offense, there is also the "spread" offense that has come on more recently and the "option" offense, geared toward running quarterbacks.

    With these three different offenses have come some system quarterbacks over the past two decades who have excelled on the collegiate level.

    Here are 12 of the best.

12. Kevin Kolb, Houston (2003-2006)

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    Kevin Kolb did not put up the eye popping numbers that some of the other players on this list did, but the run-and-shoot offense at Houston allowed him to pass for over 2,750 yards in four consecutive seasons and over 3,100 for three of those years.

    He threw for nearly 13,000 yards in his four years, along with 85 touchdowns and only 31 interceptions.

    Houston is known as the originator of the system quarterback offense, and they have had their fair share of quarterbacks over the years who have enjoyed it.

    Unlike almost all of the other quarterbacks on the list, Kolb has had a little success in the NFL. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles No. 36 overall in the second round and was traded to the Arizona Cardinals before last season, where he started until injuries cut his season short.

11. Timmy Chang, Hawaii (2000-2004)

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    Timmy Chang shattered almost all of the college football passing records during his five seasons at Hawaii.

    He missed most of his sophomore year due to injury—and that did not slow him down at all. His best season was his senior year, where he passed for 4,258 yards and 38 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.

    During his five-year career, he passed for 17,072 yards and 117 touchdowns. The yardage mark still stands today as the second most of all time.

    Chang went undrafted out of Hawaii and was signed by the Arizona Cardinals out of training camp before being cut and playing in the preseason for the Detroit Lions and eventually moving on to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Eagles allocated him to NFL Europe, and he retired from football in 2009 without ever making it in the NFL.

10. Dennis Dixon, Oregon (2004-2007)

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    Dennis Dixon was one of the original quarterbacks of the spread offense, and Oregon has been perfecting it ever since.

    He did not see the field too much his first two seasons, but once he did during his junior campaign, he was virtually unstoppable along with the Oregon offense.

    Dixon and the Ducks played strictly out of the shotgun and he could beat teams with his arms or his legs.

    During his junior season, he passed for 2,143 yards and 12 touchdowns, while running for 442 yards and two more scores. As a senior he threw for 2,136 yards with 20 touchdowns and only four picks. He also ran for 583 yards and nine touchdowns.

    He was drafted in the fifth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 156 overall, and has been a serviceable backup to Ben Roethlisberger ever since.

9. Eric Crouch, Nebraska (1997-2001)

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    Eric Crouch has been one of many option quarterbacks in Nebraska history, and he used a system offense to win a Heisman Trophy.

    He took over the starting quarterback spot as a redshirt freshman after an injury to starter Bobby Newcombe. Crouch never looked back and passed for over 1,100 yards in three of his four seasons as a starter, while rushing for over 885 yards in each of his final three years. 

    His best year came in 2001, where he won the Heisman Trophy. Crouch passed for 1,510 yards and seven touchdowns on the year, while rushing for 1,115 yards and 18 touchdowns.

    He was drafted No. 95 overall in the third round by the St. Louis Rams as a wide receiver, but has never played in an NFL game.

8. David Klingler, Houston (1988-1991)

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    David Klingler spent two seasons backing up Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware and then nearly won a Heisman himself in the run-and-shoot offense of Houston.

    As a junior in his first season as a starter he threw for an amazing 5,140 yards and 54 touchdowns, including 11 in one game. Numbers very rarely seen at the collegiate level. During that season he threw 643 passes, while finishing fifth in the Heisman race.

    The very next season he passed for 3,424 yards and 29 more touchdowns before being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals No. 6 overall.

    He spent six seasons in the NFL, but only two as a starter, and never lived up to the hype, proving what many people thought about the system quarterback from Houston and helping to create its name.

7. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech (2005-2008)

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    Similar to Houston, Texas Tech has produced their fair share of system quarterbacks, and the best of them all was Graham Harrell.

    Harrell had some excellent targets to throw the ball to, including Michael Crabtree, but was certainly a product of the system during his four-year college career.

    He passed for over 5,100 yards in each of his final two seasons and threw the ball an unprecedented amount of times. Over his final three seasons, he threw the ball 1,960 times, including 713 attempts as a junior.

    His touchdown totals of 38, 48 and 45 were excellent, considering he only threw 31 interceptions over that three-year span.

    Harrell went undrafted after college and was cut by the Cleveland Browns. He has since signed on with the Green Bay Packers, but is yet to appear in a game.

6. Chase Daniel, Missouri (2005-2007)

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    Chase Daniel excelled at Missouri running the spread offense and loved to move the ball around all over the field.

    Daniel passed for 3,527, 4,306 and 4,335 yards during his final three seasons at Missouri. Over that span he threw for 100 touchdowns.

    He could also run out of the shotgun, rushing for over 900 yards and 10 touchdowns during that three-year span. 

    Daniel finished as the all-time leader in total offense for Missouri and was fourth in the Heisman balloting during his junior season.

    He went undrafted and was signed by the Washington Redskins before being released in 2009. He then signed with the New Orleans Saints and is currently the backup quarterback to Drew Brees.

5. Case Keenum, Houston (2006-2011)

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    Case Keenum is the most recent of the system quarterbacks, and perhaps no quarterback benefited more from a system than him.

    During his six years at Houston, he passed for over 5,000 yards three times and went over 5,600 twice.

    He passed for 44 or more touchdowns three times and finished in the top eight in the Heisman race two times.

    During his senior season, Keenum passed for 5,631 yards and 48 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He also had a quarterback rating of 174.0.

    He was not drafted in the 2011 NFL draft, and has signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent.

4. Colt Brennan, Hawaii (2005-2007)

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    After going to Colorado originally as a walk-on and being dismissed from the team, Brennan attended a year of junior college before signing with Hawaii.

    Immediately he put up gigantic numbers in the Hawaii run-and-shoot offense.

    He completed over 70 percent of his passes during the three years and passed for over 14,000 yards, while finishing sixth in the Heisman race in 2006 and third in 2007.

    By far his best season came in 2006 where he passed for 5,549 yards and 58 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions.

    Brennan led Hawaii to the Sugar Bowl during his senior season and was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round, No. 186 overall. He served as a backup for a year before suffering an injury and eventually being released. He was then signed and released by the Oakland Raiders in 2010.

3. Tommie Frazier, Nebraska (1992-1995)

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    Tommie Frazier had the opportunity of playing on some extremely talented Nebraska teams and like Eric Crouch after him, benefited from the option offense.

    He was more of a running back and during his four seasons at Nebraska, he only passed for 3,626 yards, but that did not stop him from finishing runner-up in the Heisman balloting during his senior season in 1995.

    That year, Frazier passed for a career high 1,467 yards and 18 touchdowns with six interceptions. He also rushed for a career high 803 yards and 16 more touchdowns. He helped lead the Cornhuskers to the national championship in 1995.

    Frazier went undrafted and signed in the Canadian Football League out of college, but had to give up football shortly thereafter because of a health scare.

2. Andre Ware, Houston (1987-1989)

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    Andre Ware was the first so-called system quarterback and was the first black quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy, taking home the award in 1989.

    He passed for 4,699 yards and 46 touchdowns during his Heisman season with 15 interceptions, while completing over 63 percent of his passes.

    Ward passed for 75 touchdowns over his three seasons, and declared early for the NFL draft.

    He was selected No. 7 overall by the Detroit Lions. He then spent parts of six seasons in the NFL, but never really caught on and was released by multiple teams before moving to to the Canadian Football League, playing for four different teams over four years.

    The original system quarterback could not do much when he was away from the system in Houston.

1. Tim Tebow, Florida (2006-2009)

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    Tim Tebow may not be the first system quarterback like Andre Ware, but he is the ultimate system quarterback.

    The former Heisman Trophy winner mastered the spread offense of Urban Meyer, helping to lead Florida to a pair of national championships in the process.

    Over his four years, Tebow passed for 9,285 yards and ran for 2,947. He did all his work out of the shotgun and threw for 88 touchdowns while rushing for 57 more. During his Heisman sophomore season, he had 32 touchdowns passing and 23 rushing while totaling over 4,000 yards of offense.

    The Denver Broncos selected Tebow in the first round, No. 25 overall in the 2010 draft. He moved into the starting role last season, before being traded to the New York Jets in the offseason.

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