Under-the-Radar College Quarterbacks Who Will Break out in 2012

Bradley WilsonContributor IJuly 23, 2012

Under-the-Radar College Quarterbacks Who Will Break out in 2012

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    Denard Robinson, Matt Barkley and Geno Smith are all established starters on a short list of Heisman candidates and playing for teams that are favored to win their conference.

    However, there are several lesser-known quarterbacks who are ready to take college football by storm. Here's a look seven quarterbacks who will break out this season.

James Franklin

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    The junior quarterback from Missouri proved himself last season as a capable passer completing 63.3 percent of his passes for 2,865 yards and 21 touchdowns. Franklin is also a powerful runner capable of breaking tackles. He proved this last season by rushing for 981 yards and leading the team with 15 rushing touchdowns.

    Edward Aschoff and Chris Low of ESPN.com ranked Franklin fifth among SEC quarterbacks, saying, "If he's healthy, Franklin will be the SEC's top dual-threat quarterback."

    The stage is set for Franklin to make the jump into the nation's elite college quarterbacks. One major concern, though, is whether he will be healthy for the start of the season.  

    The Columbia Tribune's Dave Matter reported that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was not promising that Franklin would start the Tigers' home opener after recovering from shoulder surgery last April.

    Also, one has to wonder how Franklin will fare playing in the SEC compared to the Big 12.

Tevin Washington

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    Georgia Tech was third in the nation last season in rushing offense. At the helm of this triple-option threat was quarterback Tevin Washington.

    The Yellow Jacket quarterback has not generated a lot of attention even though he is coming off a season where he led the team in rushing with 987 yards on the ground and scored 14 rushing touchdowns.  

    Washington also led his team to an 8-5 record that included a win at No. 5 Clemson where he rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown.

    If Georgia Tech makes a run for the ACC, it will have to come from its quick-legged quarterback.

Jeff Tuel

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    The Washington State quarterback made a name for himself in 2010 throwing for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns. However, he was sidelined most of the 2011 season by injuries.

    The Cougars finished the year 4-8, and head coach Paul Wulff was sacked.

    Wulff's replacement is Mike Leach, who uses a quarterback-friendly "Air Raid" offense.  According to Phil Neuffer of the Sports Network, not only can Leach's offense at Wazzu replicate his performance at Texas Tech, but Leach also has a Michael Crabtree prototype in 6'4" junior receiver Marquess Wilson.

    All of this bodes well for Tuel when he returns to the starting lineup in 2012. If you check out some of his highlights from the Cougars' spring game, Tuel already appears to be making great strides as a passer.

    By the end of the season, Tuel could find himself near the top of the Pac-12 in passing.  

Danny O'Brien

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    Wisconsin won another highly regarded transfer quarterback when uwbadgers.com officially reported that Danny O'Brien would play for the Badgers in 2012.

    O'Brien's stats from 2011 are not very impressive as Maryland finished the season with a final record of 2-10.  What's worse is the former Terrapin is recovering from a broken arm he sustained in a loss to Notre Dame that ended his season. Still the 2010 ACC rookie of the year has a lot to offer the Badgers.

    Besides experience, O'Brien boasts a very strong arm.  He also has a powerful rushing attack to rely on led by Montee Ball and James White. What may be even more appealing is his two remaining years of eligibility for Wisconsin.

    By this time next year we could calling O'Brien an established starter and Heisman candidate.

Marcus Mariota

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    Almost everyone expected Bryan Bennett to land the starting job for Oregon after he proved himself in the 2011 season. However, the Oregonian reported the Ducks offseason had actually produced a highly contested battle for the quarterback position.

    After redshirting his freshman year, Marcus Mariota may be poised to take over the top spot.

    Mariota shined during the spring game showing off his decision making, arm strength and especially his wheels. B/R columnist Kay Jennings clearly explains why Mariota will have the edge for the starting position.  Even if he doesn't end up at the top of the depth-chart, expect to see Mariota on the field some time in 2012 either as a starter, substitute, or part of a two-quarterback offense.

    When Mariota does get his chance to lead the Ducks at quarterback, don't expect their high-octane offense to miss a beat.

Derek Carr

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    David Carr's younger brother turned some heads in his first season as a starter for Fresno State.  The Bulldog's quarterback completed 62.6 percent of his throws for 26 touchdowns and 3544 yards.  Besides a good arm and success in Fresno State's offense, Carr is also surprisingly athletic.

    Fresno State only went 4-9 last season and Carr will need to lead his team to more victories if he wants to be considered one of the top quarterbacks in the country.  Despite his record Carr had several good games including going toe-to-toe at Nebraska.

    Playing in the Western Athletic Conference, Carr will not get many opportunities to shine on a big stage; however, he will have a good chance to wow a national audience when Fresno State plays Oregon on September 8.

Braxton Miller

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    Braxton Miller may not be not be as under-the-radar as the other quarterbacks on this list, but almost no other player in the country is as ready for a breakout season than the Ohio State player.

    ESPN's Scouting Report said the former 4-star recruit "is a true dual-threat that is advanced as a passer in comparison to most." With these physical qualities Miller should thrive in an Urban Meyer spread-option offense like former college superstars Alex Smith and Tim Tebow.

    Another attribute Miller has going for him is experience.  He already has victories over ranked Big Ten opponents Illinois and Wisconsin.  He also had one of the plays of the year that Badger fans won't forget anytime soon.

    Braxton Miller and Ohio State have a lot going for them this upcoming season.  Expect to see the Buckeyes return to their glory days of winning the Big Ten and dominating Michigan.