Young quarterbacks becoming stars has become a part of the norm for college football. Last season a freshman won the Heisman, and numerous others led their teams to unexpected heights.
This fall, the same results will occur at a number of top programs that are looking for a jolt offensively. At least eight major programs will look to freshmen to run their offenses.
Some young quarterbacks chose schools whose depth chart put them in position to start early. Others are just talented enough to win a lot more games than the next guy in line.
Looking ahead to the 2013 season these are the top candidates to be the next freshmen starters.
The Cal Bears are entering a transition point with a new coaching staff and an exiting senior quarterback. 2013 will bring a lot of change, and the starting quarterback will be one of the most followed position battles of this offseason.
Heading into the race, rising redshirt freshman Zach Kline is the leading candidate to take the job. Kline was one of the best quarterbacks in the 2012 signing class and has progressed well since arriving in Berkley.
The Bears will try and tear back into Pac-12 relevance with Kline leading the offense this year. Kline will battle with Austin Hinder and Allan Bridgford for the starting job, but with all three being on a level playing field with a new staff, Kline has the edge.
The Pitt Panthers were led this season by their senior quarterback Tino Sunseri. He was a consistent player for the team, and kept Pitt in a number of games last fall.
Heading into the new year, a new signal-caller will be crowned. By the end of the season Chad Voytik appeared to be the front-runner in the competition. He will be a rising redshirt freshman this fall.
As the Panthers begin their transition into the ACC, a talented passer will be needed to guide the offense. Voytik is the guy that will lead the transition.
The Tennessee Volunteers will say goodbye to longtime starter Tyler Bray after this season. Bray has departed early for the NFL, and the Vols are left with an open competition at quarterback.
Justin Worley has some experience, but Nathan Peterman is the expected rising star. Peterman is a redshirt freshman that will be a major player in the quarterback competition.
Worley played in a few games last fall, but he lacked poise in the pocket and made fans cringe when they thought he may be the future. Peterman was a top-rated recruit in 2012, and Butch Jones has a history of turning out great quarterback play.
Under Jones the Vols should return to the former heights achieved during the Manning years.
The West Virginia Mountaineers ushered in the Big 12 era with a tear to begin the season, and a flop to finish. The offense remained potent, but the worst defensive unit in the country killed the Mountaineers' shot at a Big 12 title.
Heading into the new year, Geno Smith with depart and the Mountaineers will be looking for a new quarterback to guide the prolific offense. Ford Childress is the guy.
Childress was a top recruit in the 2012 class and will be a rising redshirt freshman. He made it through the year as the third-string guy behind Paul Millard, but an open competition favors Childress.
Look for the Mountaineers to find their next star in a rising freshman.
The Texas Longhorns tried to fill the quarterback position this fall with a mix of David Ash and Case McCoy, but neither player stepped out as a solid leader for the offense. McCoy was sent home during the bowl game because of discipline issues, and may have a high hill to climb to get back to playing time.
Ash has been inconsistent, so an open competition has to be called in Austin. That would favor rising redshirt freshman Connor Brewer. Brewer is a very athletic signal-caller that could take over the Longhorns offense and proved at minimum the totals that were earned by quarterbacks a year ago.
He is a major upgrade in talent level, and he would be a player that could help Texas find an offensive spark for 2013. There is a need for a change and Brewer would bring a positive spin to the Texas attack.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish finished the year 12-1 with a loss coming in the final game of the year against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. The Irish were throttled 42-14 and were unable to move the ball during the first half.
Everett Golson was a good player at the quarterback position for the Irish at the end of the year, but there is a need for more from the position. Expect an open competition to begin for the position this spring.
The Irish have at least four other options that could pull a start this year outside of Golson. The most likely pick is Gunner Kiel. Kiel is a rising redshirt freshman and has the most talent of any quarterback on roster.
If the competition is truly open, Kiel is a favorite to win it. Another dark horse is incoming freshman Malik Zaire.
Penn State overcame amazing odds to win eight games this past year, but it is headed to unsure times with the coming years. As scholarship limitations begin to grip the school, it will need a leader to step up and guide the team through the roughest point in living memory.
Christian Hackenberg is an incoming freshman that will be able to take the reins and be that leader as a freshman.
This is a tumultuous time for this program and the leadership of a young quarterback that will provide hope in the future is a perfect fit.
Look for Hackenberg to be a steady performer, and a name that becomes etched in history as he will guide the Nittany Lions back to the top of the Big Ten.
The Oklahoma Sooners say goodbye to four-year starter Landry Jones in 2013, and there is no clear leader to step in and take over the starting quarterback position.
Blake Bell is the listed backup, but he is a run-first type of guy that has a future as a tight end, not as a quarterback. The Sooners have incoming freshman and Elite 11 quarterback Cody Thomas heading to Norman this summer.
Thomas is a 6’5”, 220-pound passer with a rocket arm that looks college ready. He runs a similar scheme to Oklahoma in high school and should be able to come in and contribute right away.
Oklahoma needs a pure passer to take over the position and Thomas looks to be the best option.