Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel can torch defenses with both his arm and his legs
We’re now starting to see an exciting trend develop in college football. Every year, it seems as if a new dual-threat quarterback rises up and becomes the most talked-about player in the sport.
In 2010, it was Auburn’s Cam Newton.
In 2011, it was Baylor’s Robert Griffin III.
And, of course, this past season, it was Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, who burst onto the national scene.
All three players ended up taking home college football’s most prestigious award, the Heisman Trophy. Now, the question is, will we see another athletic dual-threat quarterback continue the trend and take home the award next season?
It’s certainly a strong possibility, since there are so many physically gifted quarterbacks who can beat a defense with both their arms and their legs.
Here’s a look at college football’s best dual-threat quarterbacks for the 2013 season.
After totaling over 5,100 yards of offense and accounting for 47 touchdowns in just his first year as a starter, it will be fascinating to see what Johnny Manziel has in store for an encore in 2013.
He certainly set the bar high, guiding Texas A&M to an 11-win season and became the first ever freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
The dynamic signal-caller is a perfect fit for coach Kevin Sumlin’s offense. He’s the type of quarterback that will continue to cause nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators.
With a strong supporting cast, which includes OT Jake Matthews, WR Mike Evans and RB Brandon Williams, Manziel will have the type of surrounding talent that he needs to compete for another Heisman and also guide the Aggies into contention for an SEC title.
Marcus Mariota may not have the same type of blazing speed as Colin Kaepernick, but it's easy to spot plenty of similarities between Oregon's budding star and the 49ers' sensational young signal-caller. Both Mariota and Kaepernick are natural offensive leaders who possess incredible playmaking skills.
This past season, Mariota stepped into the starting role as just a redshirt freshman and shined in the Ducks' spread offense.
He was one of the most efficient passers in the country, completing 68 percent of his throws for over 2,700 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also added 752 yards and five scores on the ground.
What was really so impressive, though, is that he led the team to a 12-1 record and a No. 2 national ranking.
The Ducks are certainly going to miss Chip Kelly and running back Kenjon Barner. However, the offense should remain one of the most potent and powerful attacks in the country with Mariota back to run the show.
Urban Meyer helped turn Tim Tebow into a Heisman winner back in 2007 at Florida. Now, there's a good chance he could do the exact same thing with his current quarterback, Braxton Miller, at Ohio State in 2013.
Like Tebow, Miller is a perfect fit for Meyer's unique spread offensive system.
The former 5-star recruit is one of the most gifted athletes in the country, and he's one of the most instinctive runners in all of college football.
If he can improve his passing prowess and continue to refine his game in Meyer's offense, Ohio State has the potential to be a true juggernaut.
The big question is, can Miller handle all the Heisman hype that he'll likely receive this offseason?
Tajh Boyd is clearly a more dangerous passer than he is a runner. However, that doesn't mean that he can't create plays with his legs when the time calls for it.
Boyd was one of the most effective and productive passers in the country in 2012, throwing for over 3,800 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 186 times for 514 yards and 10 touchdowns.
There aren't many notable contemporary quarterbacks that the 6'1'', 225-pound junior compares favorably to. Physically, though, he does look a lot like Donovan McNabb back in his Syracuse days. He also possesses a very similar skill set to McNabb.
Although he would have been a guaranteed Day 2 pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Boyd will likely benefit from returning for his senior year and continuing to refine his game before he gets to the next level.
He and WR Sammy Watkins form one of most lethal passing combinations in college football.
In his first two years as a starter at Nebraska, Taylor Martinez was able to establish himself as one of the best running quarterbacks in the country. But going into 2012, he still had plenty of critics who questioned just how good of a passer he really was.
Martinez answered his skeptics by putting together the best performance of his career.
The 6'1'', 200-pound junior completed 62 percent of his passes for over 2,800 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also added over 1,000 yards and another 10 scores on the ground, leading the Cornhuskers to a Big Ten Legends division title.
With potential star skill players such as RB Ameer Abdullah and WR Kenny Bell back to help him out, there's no reason Martinez shouldn't have Nebraska in the hunt for its first Big Ten championship next season.
Last summer, it seemed as if everyone basically assumed that USC would easily roll into the Pac-12 Championship Game as the South division winner.
Instead, however, it turned out to be the Trojans' crosstown rival, the UCLA Bruins, who rose to the top.
The fantastic breakout season that Brett Hundley put together was the main reason the Bruins were able to overtake USC in the division race.
Hundley certainly didn't play like an inexperienced redshirt freshman who had never even played in a game, much less start one, last year. The athletic 6'3'', 233-pound QB totaled over 4,000 yards of offense and accounted for 38 TDs, leading UCLA to a surprising nine-win season.
Although he won't be able to rely on RB Johnathan Franklin any longer, it certainly wouldn't be shocking to see Hundley guide the Bruins back to the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Jordan Lynch went from being one of college football's hidden gems in the regular season to being one of the biggest busts during bowl season.
Lynch's terrible performance in a blowout loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl in front of a national prime-time audience left a lot of new fans with a negative perception of him.
What many of those fans didn't see, however, was the way the talented junior signal-caller put the Huskies on his back and carried them to 12 wins and a MAC title.
Admittedly, he may not have played against the highest caliber of competition last year. Still, Lynch definitely deserves plenty of credit for finishing fourth in the nation with 1,815 rushing yards. He also threw for over 3,100 yards and accounted for 44 total touchdowns.
While he won't have a legitimate shot to win the Heisman because he just won't be playing in enough spotlight games, Lynch still has the chance to be one of the sport's true spotlight players next season.
Logan Thomas entered the 2012 season projected by some analysts as the main challenger to Matt Barkley for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. As it turned out, though, he ended up being one of the most disappointing players in all of college football.
Thomas had an absolutely awful year throwing the ball, as he completed just 51 percent of his passes and threw 16 interceptions.
Still, there's reason to believe that the physically gifted and highly athletic 6'6'', 260-pound Thomas can bounce back in a big way his senior season.
If Thomas can improve on his accuracy and decision-making, he should have Virginia Tech back in the race for an ACC title next season.
At 6'6'', 254 pounds, Blake Bell looks more like a defensive end than he does a quarterback, which is why he's such an intimidating player.
Over the last two years, Bell has been a tremendous goal-line weapon for the Sooners. He's scored a whopping 24 touchdowns on just 104 total carries.
Since he's only thrown 10 passes in his career, we really don't yet know what type of passer "The Belldozer" truly is. Still, we do know that the former 4-star recruit from Kansas is loaded with potential.
Bell's definitely got the chance to be one of the biggest breakout stars in the Big 12 in 2013.
Neither Chuckie Keeton nor his team received much publicity in 2012. However, that doesn't mean that Utah State and its extremely talented young quarterback didn't deserve the attention.
Keeton put together a huge breakout campaign, leading the Aggies to 11 wins, a WAC title, a win over archrival Utah and a victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
It was undoubtedly the best season in the history of the program.
As a sophomore, he completed 67 percent of his passes for over 3,300 yards and 27 touchdowns. He added another 619 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
Utah State may have lost head coach Gary Andersen to Wisconsin, who took the head coaching job at Wisconsin. But there's still plenty of reason for optimism in Logan due to the return of Keeton.
Connor Shaw didn't start all of South Carolina's games the last two seasons. But he still played a huge role in the team's back-to-back 11-win campaigns.
Unlike in 2011, when he had to replace Stephen Garcia midway through the year, Shaw went into the 2012 season knowing full well he would be the starter.
Steve Spurrier's latest pupil didn't put up the gaudy numbers that some of his powerful passers at Florida did, but he was still an effective game manager and offensive leader for the Gamecocks.
Shaw is a versatile quarterback who can constantly keep defenses guessing. He's got all the physical tools to be one of the biggest impact players in the SEC.
Devin Gardner was forced to sit behind Denard Robinson for his first three seasons at Michigan. But once Gardner finally got his chance to shine in the final few games of 2012, he made the most of the opportunity.
Gardner displayed the type of athletic gifts and natural playmaking ability that made him one of the most coveted prospects of the 2010 recruiting class.
It's obvious that his accuracy and defensive recognition skills still need work. But his knack for creating explosive plays—both through the air and on the ground—is why Gardner has the chance to be a special player in 2013.
Statistically, Everett Golson had a solid, but certainly not dazzling, season last year. He completed 58 percent of his passes for over 2,400 yards, rushed for 298 yards and accounted for 18 touchdowns.
Still, the most important number is the 11 wins he had in his first year as a starter.
Golson did a good job of managing the offense, making some key plays when he needed to and then letting the Irish defense dominate. But now it's time for him to step up and become a true offensive weapon in 2013.
He's got the athleticism to be one of the premier playmaking quarterbacks in the country. All Golson has to do is show that he's ready to take that next step.
One of the most interesting storylines to watch will be the quarterback battle at Oklahoma State.
J.W. Walsh, Clint Chelf and Wes Lunt all proved that they could handle the starting role in 2012. However, the favorite to ultimately win the job for next season has to be Walsh.
In a conference loaded with high-profile passers such as Geno Smith, Landry Jones and Collin Klein, Walsh managed to rank first in the league with a 170 overall passer rating and a 9.6 yards-per-attempt average.
He also had a 13-3 touchdown-interception ratio, a 5.8 yards per carry average and seven rushing touchdowns.
With explosive playmakers such as WR Josh Stewart, RB Jeremy Smith and TE Blake Jackson all returning, Oklahoma State's offense should be one of the most powerful attacks in the country in 2013.
Walsh looks like he could be just the type of catalyst who can give the unit the spark it really needs.
Northwestern had one of its best seasons in school history last year. The Wildcats won 10 games for the first time since 1995, and they broke a bowl-win drought that dated all the way back to the 1949 Rose Bowl.
One of the key players to the team's success was QB Kain Colter.
Colter displayed tremendous running ability, totaling 894 yards on just 170 carries (5.3 yards per carry average) and running for 12 touchdowns.
Although he may never be able to stretch a defense with his arm the way he can with his legs, Colter is the type of quarterback that no defensive coordinator wants to have to prepare for.
The athletic 6'0'', 190-pound Colter will once again team with RB Venric Mark to give Northwestern one of the best backfields in the Big Ten in 2013.
Nevada may have lost longtime head coach Chris Ault and star running back Stefphon Jefferson, but the Wolf Pack offense still has a chance to be very scary if QB Cody Fajardo plays up to his potential.
Fajardo was one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country in the first half of the 2012 season, leading Nevada to a 6-1 start. But the wheels came off down the stretch, as the Wolf Pack lost five of their final six games.
Although the team struggled in the latter part of the year, the former WAC Freshman Player of the Year still finished the season with some mighty impressive numbers. He totaled over 2,700 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air, and over 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
It will certainly be interesting to see how Fajardo transitions from playing in Ault's Pistol offense to playing in new coach Brian Polian's scheme next season.
Jeff Driskel is never going to be the same caliber of runner that Tim Tebow was. However, he does possess the athleticism and mobility to scramble and make key runs on the edge when needed.
Ultimately, Driskel finished the year as the Gators' second leading rusher with 408 yards and four touchdowns. What was most impressive is that he had 28 runs of 10 yards or more, which was tied for the eighth most in the SEC.
Coordinator Brent Pease seems like he really knows how to accentuate Driskel's strengths, and he should only continue to get better with a full year now under his belt.
Taylor Kelly was overshadowed by more prominent Pac-12 peers such as Matt Barkley, Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley this past season. However, he still deserves a lot of recognition for what he was able to accomplish in his first year as a starter.
Kelly proved to be a great fit for first-year coach Todd Graham's offense. He completed 67 percent of his passes for over 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns, and he also added 520 yards with his legs.
While Hundley and Mariota will likely receive much more publicity, again, don't be surprised if Kelly turns out to be just as good as his more heralded conference counterparts.
New Miami offensive coordinator James Coley has to be thrilled about the chance to work with such an athletically gifted quarterback like Stephen Morris.
Morris' rushing totals weren't very good last year. He ran for just 70 yards on 51 carries. But don't let those low numbers fool you. He's got the running ability to really cause problems for defenses if used right.
Coley will likely use the speedy 6'2'', 214-pound Morris on many more designed runs in 2013.
Running back Duke Johnson may be the star of Miami's offense, but defenses will have to worry just as much about Morris' playmaking ability next season.
After suffering through a disastrous 2-10 campaign in 2011, Ole Miss was viewed by many as the SEC's weakest link going into the 2012 season.
Instead, though, they turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the season, winning seven games, including a victory in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
One of the big reasons Ole Miss was able to turn things around so fast in Hugh Freeze's first year was that the team finally got consistent play behind center.
A transfer from the JUCO ranks, Bo Wallace took over the starting job and flourished in Freeze's offense. He threw for over, 2,900 yards, rushed for 390 yards and accounted for 30 touchdowns.
If Wallace can cut down on his interceptions, he should emerge as one of the SEC's best playmakers.
Louisiana-Lafayette fans had to love what they saw from Terrance Broadway in his first year of action. Broadway became one of the Sun Belt's biggest breakout stars in 2012.
He threw for over 2,800 yards and 17 touchdowns and added another 769 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, leading the Ragin' Cajuns to a 9-4 record and a second consecutive victory in the New Orleans Bowl.
The former transfer from Houston clearly has the skills to be a dynamic offensive threat.
Brett Smith was one of the lone bright spots of a Wyoming team that went just 4-8 in 2012
After putting together a fantastic freshman campaign in 2011, Smith once again looked very sharp this past season, totaling over 3,000 yards of offense and accounting for 33 touchdowns in just 10 games of action.
If the Cowboys can protect Smith with a better offensive line and give him at least some semblance of a running game to rely on, they actually might have a shot to make it to the postseason.