College Football's Top 25 Quarterbacks for the 2013 Season

Danny Flynn@FlynnceptionSenior Analyst IMarch 4, 2013

College Football's Top 25 Quarterbacks for the 2013 Season

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    Defending Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will take over as college football's new cover boy this offseason.

    Manziel is going to receive plenty of publicity and hype over the next few months. However, he's not the only college quarterback who is worth getting excited about. 

    With many of the top underclassmen signal-callers returning from this past season, and with the expected emergence of some young talented first-year starters, there are certainly plenty of exciting players at the sport's most prominent position.

    Here's a look at college football's top 25 quarterbacks for the 2013 season. 

1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

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    Thirteen-point underdogs, at Alabama, in front of 100,000 screaming fans, facing the No. 1-ranked defense in the country—that's supposed to be a recipe for utter disaster for a freshman quarterback, isn't it?

    Well, it certainly wasn't for Johnny Manziel. 

    Manziel's brilliant performance in a 29-24 upset of the top-ranked Tide turned him into an instant legend, and it was the main catalyst that helped him become the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy. 

    "Johnny Football" had so many excellent performances during his dominant debut campaign, in which he totaled over 5,200 yards of offense and accounted for 47 touchdowns. However, it was that outstanding showing in Tuscaloosa that will truly be remembered for years to come. 

    After just one season as a starter, Manziel now has the college football world buzzing. 

    The question is: What can the dynamic dual-threat quarterback do for an encore in 2013?

2. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

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    After going 7-6 in each of his first two seasons, Louisville head coach Charlie Strong knew that his 2012 squad would likely be his best one yet.

    It appeared to be a team that was capable of competing for a conference championship. All Strong needed was for his young QB Teddy Bridgewater to take that next step and become a true offensive leader. 

    That's exactly what happened. 

    Bridgewater made tremendous progress in his second season as a starter. The former 4-star recruit from Miami displayed the type of poise, toughness, intangibles and overall passing prowess that you rarely see from a sophomore quarterback. 

    He completed 68 percent of his passes for over 3,700 yards and threw 28 touchdowns compared to just eight interceptions, as he led the Cardinals to an 11-2 record and a Big East championship.

    After an incredible performance in a stunning upset victory over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, Bridgewater will surely garner plenty of praise this offseason. It will be fun to see how he deals with the spotlight in 2013.

3. Tajh Boyd, Clemson

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    After starting the 2011 season 8-0, Clemson collapsed, losing four out of its last six games, including an embarrassing 70-33 defeat at the hands of West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.

    Following that disastrous end to the season, many wondered if the defending ACC champs would be able to bounce back in 2012.

    Fortunately, QB Tajh Boyd, whose poor play contributed to the team's 2011 slide, was up to the challenge of leading Clemson's rebound effort this past season. 

    Boyd guided the Tigers to an 11-2 record and a No. 9 overall ranking in the final Coaches' Poll, and he put together some of the most impressive stats of any quarterback in the country.

    The athletic dual-threat signal-caller completed 67 percent of his passes for over 3,800 yards, ran for 514 yards and accounted for 46 touchdowns. 

    After passing up the chance to be a high pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Boyd has returned for his senior year with the goal of winning another conference championship and possibly even a BCS title. 

    If he continues to put up huge numbers with both his arm and his legs, Boyd will definitely hear his name prominently mentioned in the Heisman conversation throughout the 2013 season. 

4. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

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    After winning all but one game in 2012, Oregon has experienced plenty of devastating losses this offseason.

    The Ducks lost head coach Chip Kelly, star running back Kenjon Barner, future top-10 NFL draft pick Dion Jordan, offensive line leader Kyle Long and plenty of important defenders such as linebackers Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay and safety John Boyett.

    So why exactly should the team still be considered one of the top national title contenders for 2013?

    Well, it's a simple answer: Marcus Mariota. 

    Mariota possesses all the special qualities that you look for in a leader and a true game-changing playmaker.

    In his one year as a starter in 2012, the dangerous dual-threat quarterback proved to be a perfect fit for Oregon's high-powered spread offense.

    The Hawaii native totaled over 3,400 yards and accounted for 38 touchdowns. He was the leader of an attack that ranked second in the nation in scoring offense and fifth in total offense.

    The 6'4'', 211-pound redshirt sophomore will be college football's version of Colin Kaepernick in 2013.

5. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

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    You couldn't build a much better quarterback from scratch to run Urban Meyer's shotgun-based spread offense than Braxton Miller. 

    The highly athletic former 5-star recruit flourished in his first season running Meyer's offense in 2012.

    Miller rushed for over 1,200 yards, averaged eight yards per pass attempt and accounted for 28 touchdowns, as he led the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 record. 

    If those are the results that Miller produced in just his first year in the offense, it's scary to think about what he's going to do in 2013 now that he'll be even more comfortable running the system. 

    The explosive 6'2'', 210-pound junior has a great chance to become the star Heisman candidate that Ohio State fans thought his predecessor Terrelle Pryor was going to be.

6. AJ McCarron, Alabama

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    That's the remarkable record that AJ McCarron has compiled during his two years as a starter at Alabama. 

    Obviously, McCarron has benefited from playing on the most talented team in the country. Nevertheless, he still deserves a ton of credit and respect for guiding the Tide to two consecutive BCS championships. 

    This past season, the breakout star signal-caller shed his "game-manager" label and transformed into a true offensive leader. He also developed into one of the most consistent and efficient passers in the country. 

    McCarron completed 67 percent of his passes for over 2,900 yards, threw 30 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions, and he finished the year with a 175 passer rating, which was the highest in the country. 

    Alabama is going to have to replace plenty of key contributors from last year's squad. But with McCarron returning to lead the offense, the Tide still have to be considered the clear-cut favorite to win a third straight national title in 2013. 

7. David Fales, San Jose State

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    Sometimes a college quarterback's completion percentage can be inflated by the type of dink and dunk system he plays in, which allows for easy, safe, short throws. However, you can't make that argument about David Fales. 

    Fales led the nation with a 72 percent completion percentage in 2012, but that number doesn't even do justice to how good he really was.

    Go check out some of the San Jose State signal-caller's highlights on Youtube to see just how remarkably precise he was with the majority of his passes. No matter what type of throw he needed to make—screens, deep corner routes, posts, go routes, crossing patterns—it didn't matter, he was almost always on the money.

    In his debut season, he threw for over 4,100 yards and 33 touchdowns, finished with the third highest passer rating in the country and led the Spartans to their first double-digit win season in over 20 years.

    Following that incredible introductory performance, Fales has now solidified himself as one of college football's premier passers and one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2014 NFL draft class.

8. Aaron Murray, Georgia

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    At just 6'1", 210 pounds, Aaron Murray obviously isn't the biggest quarterback, but he's got one of the biggest arms in college football

    Murray showed off his tremendous arm strength throughout the 2012 season. He was the only quarterback in the country who averaged over 10 yards per pass attempt. 

    The senior signal-caller has developed into an elite passer and a true offensive leader during his three years as a starter. Now, he'll return to Athens, hoping to guide the Bulldogs to their third straight appearance in the SEC championship game. 

    With a supporting cast that will include RB Todd Gurley, wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett and TE Arthur Lynch, Murray will have all the firepower he needs to put together a stellar senior season in 2013.

9. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

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    Nebraska's defense is going to need some serious rebuilding this offseason. Luckily for coach Bo Pelini, his offense doesn't need nearly as much work. 

    Not only do the Cornhuskers bring back two potential stars in RB Ameer Abdullah and WR Kenny Bell, they also welcome back veteran QB Taylor Martinez, who will be entering his fourth year as a starter.

    Martinez is coming off his best season yet in 2012. The athletic senior signal-caller developed into a true dual-threat weapon, as he totaled over 3,800 yards of offense and accounted for 33 total touchdowns. 

    The only big question that remains about Martinez is: Can he step up when it counts the most in the team's biggest spotlight games?

    His poor performances in losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Georgia last year were concerning. But now he'll have one final season to quiet his critics and show that he can indeed lead the Cornhuskers to critical victories in big-time games. 

10. Kevin Hogan, Stanford

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    Kevin Hogan started just five games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, which means it's far too early to even be mentioning him in the same sentence as former Stanford star Andrew Luck. Still, after watching what Hogan was able to do in the latter part of last season, it's easy to get excited about the potential he possesses.

    The former 4-star recruit came in and stabilized the offense, leading the Cardinal to a huge upset victory over Oregon in Eugene, a Pac-12 championship and a victory in the Rose Bowl. 

    The 6'4'', 224-pound sophomore clearly has all the tools needed to flourish in David Shaw's pro-style offensive system. 

    Few quarterbacks in the college game can offer up the combination of size, arm strength, accuracy, intelligence, intangibles and natural passing ability that Hogan can.

11. Derek Carr, Fresno State

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    Fresno State experienced one of the biggest turnarounds in college football this past season.

    The Bulldogs went from being a nine-loss team in 2011 to a nine-win team in 2012. 

    QB Derek Carr was the key player to the team's surprising success.

    The younger brother of former No. 1 overall NFL draft pick David Carr thrived in his first year running Dave Schramm's offensive system. He completed 67 percent of his passes for over 4,100 yards and finished the season with an exceptional 37-7 touchdown-interception ratio.

    After leading a passing attack that ranked 12th in the nation, averaging 325 yards through the air per game this past season, Carr will team back up with explosive receiver Davante Adams to cause plenty of headaches for Mountain West defenses in 2013.

12. Brett Hundley, UCLA

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    Brett Hundley arrived at UCLA as one of the most heralded and highly touted quarterback prospects in the 2011 recruiting class.

    Unfortunately, he was unable to show off his skills for Bruins fans right away, as he was asked to redshirt during his first year. 

    After sitting on the sideline and soaking up the playbook in 2011, Hundley finally got the opportunity to prove himself this past season when new head coach Jim Mora named him the starting quarterback. 

    The athletic young signal-caller definitely didn't disappoint. Hundley flourished in 2012, totaling over 4,000 yards of offense and leading the Bruins to nine wins, a Pac-12 South division title and a huge win over crosstown rival USC. 

    Hundley's got the skills to be one of the Pac-12's biggest stars in 2013.

13. Devin Gardner, Michigan

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    Looking back on what Devin Gardner was able to do when Denard Robinson got injured late in the 2012 season, you have to wonder if Michigan would have been better off starting Gardner for the whole season, instead of Robinson. 

    The supremely athletic signal-caller threw for over 1,200 yards and accounted for 22 total touchdowns this past season.

    Gardner, who started the season at wide receiver, showed outstanding natural playmaking ability when he was finally given the chance to line up under center.

    The former blue-chip recruit from Detroit proved that he's got what it takes to become a breakout star in the Big Ten in 2013.

14. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois

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    Jordan Lynch talked a big game before Northern Illinois' Orange Bowl showdown with Florida State. However, Lynch wasn't able to back up his words, as he and the Huskies got put in their place by the Seminoles in a lopsided 31-10 defeat. 

    Lynch's poor performance in front of a prime-time national audience has led to many fans calling him an overrated fraud. But that's not the case. 

    During the 2012 regular season, Lynch was one of the best quarterbacks in the country. The dual-threat signal-caller threw for over 3,100 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns, as he led Northern Illinois to 12 wins and a MAC championship.

    If Lynch can shake off the criticism he received after his poor showing down at the Orange Bowl, he should once again be one of the best non-BCS players in the country in 2013. 

15. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

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    In terms of natural physical ability and athleticism, there simply aren't many other quarterbacks that can compare to Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas. 

    The 6'6'', 260-pound senior is a physical freak, who has the size and running ability to give defensive coordinators nightmares. 

    The problem? Thomas regressed as a passer in 2012, and there were times when he barely even looked like a starting-caliber quarterback, let alone the top-10 NFL draft pick that he was built up to be before the season started. 

    Thomas completed just 51 percent of his passes and led the ACC with 16 interceptions this past season. His struggles were the main reason the Hokies underperformed and won just seven games. 

    Still, there's reason to believe that the big, athletic dual-threat signal-caller can put his disappointing 2012 performance in the rear-view mirror and finally play up to his potential in 2013. 

    New Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler will be the one who's given the task of molding Thomas and trying to make the most of his rare skill set.

16. Connor Shaw, South Carolina

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    Connor Shaw showed off his toughness in 2012, playing through a shoulder injury for the majority of the season.

    Even though he was banged up, Shaw still showed some tremendous playmaking ability when he was out on the field. He completed 67 percent of his passes, averaged 8.6 yards per pass attempt and rushed for 435 yards.

    The senior signal-caller may not be the flashiest quarterback in the country, but he knows how to get the job done. 

    After leading the Gamecocks to back-to-back 11-win seasons over the last two years, Shaw will be looking to guide the team to its first ever SEC championship in 2013. 

17. Chuckie Keeton, Utah State

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    Most college football fans probably didn't see a single second of any Utah State game this past season. That's understandable, considering the Aggies don't exactly have much prestige or national notoriety to speak of. 

    The lack of attention was unfortunate, especially since QB Chuckie Keeton was just so good in 2012. 

    Keeton led Utah State to its best season in school history. He guided the Aggies to an 11-2 record, a WAC championship, a huge win over in-state rival Utah and the school's second ever postseason victory. 

    Although he'll miss the guidance of former head coach Gary Andersen, the athletic junior signal-caller, who totaled over 3,900 yards of offense and accounted for 35 touchdowns this past season, will still be one of the most dangerous playmakers in all of college football in 2013.

18. Casey Pachall, TCU

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    Casey Pachall's already proven that he's got the passing skills to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

    What he now must prove, however, is that he can be the dependable and trustworthy leader that TCU needs him to be in 2013. 

    Pachall's personal struggles are well-documented. After leaving the Horned Frogs last October following a DUI arrest, there was uncertainty about whether or not he would ever return.

    Fortunately, the gifted but troubled signal-caller has done everything asked of him during his rehabilitation process, and coach Gary Patterson has now welcomed him back to the team. 

    The 6'5'' senior still has to officially win his job back. But if he performs as expected this offseason and gains back the trust of his teammates, Pachall could put together an extraordinary comeback campaign in 2013.

19. Bryn Renner, North Carolina

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    Though North Carolina didn't receive much national attention in 2012, the Tar Heels quietly put together a solid 8-4 season and finished atop the ACC Coastal standings. The team's success was largely based off a passing attack that averaged 291 yards through the air per game. 

    QB Bryn Renner was the leader of that attack.

    Renner really came into his own during his second season as a starter. He completed 65 percent of his passes for over 3,300 yards, threw 28 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions and finished the season with a 150 passer rating, which was the third highest in the ACC.

    Obviously, the senior signal-caller is going to miss the presence of explosive RB Giovani Bernard in the backfield with him. Nevertheless, Renner will still surely benefit from having terrific playmakers such as WR Quinshad Davis and TE Eric Ebron at his disposal once again in 2013.

20. Zach Mettenberger, LSU

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    Many LSU fans expected Zach Mettenberger to be an offensive savior in 2012.

    It's hard to blame the Tiger faithful for having such high hopes for the highly touted transfer from Georgia, considering they had just had to endure watching Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson try to throw a football.

    Unfortunately, Mettenberger didn't turn out to be as good as advertised.  In his first season as a starer, he completed just 59 percent of his passes, threw just 12 touchdowns and was sacked 32 times. 

    There were times, however, when the 6'5'', 222-pound pro-style pocket-passer did show glimpses of his potential. The most notable of them was his clutch performance against Alabama, in which he lit up the Tide's top-ranked defense, throwing for 298 yards in a 21-17 defeat. 

    It's efforts like those that prove that Mettenberger's got the skills to be a special signal-caller. The big question is, though, can he be more consistent, more reliable and most importantly, more effective in 2013?

21. Jeff Driskel, Florida

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    Jeff Driskel arrived at Florida as one of the most highly touted prospects of the 2011 recruiting class. After spending his first season learning behind John Brantley, Driskel finally got to show that his high school hype was warranted when he won the starting job over Jacoby Brissett.

    Though his numbers—1,646 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns and a 132 passer rating—were far from great, Driskel deserves credit for leading the Gators back to national prominence with an 11-win season.

    The athletic junior signal-caller showed that he's got the skills to be a successful starter in the SEC. Now, we'll get the chance to see if he's got what it takes to lead Florida to a conference championship in 2013.

22. Blake Bell, Oklahoma

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    I'm still not sure if  Blake Bell's "Belldozer" nickname is cool or corny. But one thing I am sure of is that I'm going to have to hear it over and over again during the 2013 season. 

    That's because Bell is going to be one of the most captivating and intriguing players in college football.

    The 6'6'', 254-pound junior is one of the most impressive physical specimens in the country. His combination of size and strength is something you rarely see at the quarterback position.  

    He used his massive frame and power to rush for 24 touchdowns over the last two years.

    Obviously, since he's only thrown 20 passes during his college career, there are still plenty of questions about Bell's passing ability. Still, the "Belldozer" is the type of offensive threat that will cause plenty of matchup problems for opposing defenses in 2013.

23. Cody Fajardo, Nevada

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    Nevada had one of the hottest starts of the 2012 season. The Wolf Pack sprinted out to a 6-1 record, which included a big opening-weekend upset over Cal. Unfortunately, the team couldn't keep the momentum going once the schedule toughened up, as the boys from Reno finished with a 1-5 skid. 

    The team's poor performance in the second half of the season was disappointing, but what wasn't disappointing was the play of QB Cody Fajardo. 

    Fajardo was one of the most productive dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. He completed 67 percent of his passes for over 2,700 yards and 20 touchdowns and also added 1,121 yards and 12 scores with his legs. 

    The former WAC Freshman of the Year will benefit from the return of offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich, who will keep the team's pistol offensive system in place, even after the departure of long-time head coach Chris Ault.

24. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State

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    This past season, Taylor Kelly was overshadowed by other more prominent Pac-12 quarterbacks such as Matt Barkley, Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, yet he still managed to put together a highly productive debut campaign. 

    The first-year starter appeared to be a perfect fit for new coach Todd Graham's offense.

    He completed 67 percent of his passes for over 3,000 yards, added 516 yards on the ground and accounted for 30 touchdowns, as he led the Sun Devils to an 8-5 record. 

    The 6'1'', 203-pound junior may not scare opponents with his size, but he's not the type of quarterback that you want to underestimate. 

    Kelly tied for first in the conference with 49 passes of over 20 yards in 2012. If he can find some reliable receivers this offseason, he should be able to create plenty more explosive passing plays in 2013.

25. Brett Smith, Wyoming

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    Wyoming had plenty of problems this past season. The Cowboys struggled to a 4-8 record and they were a complete afterthought in the Mountain West.

    The team's lone bright spot in 2012 was the performance of QB Brett Smith. 

    Smith followed up a fantastic freshman campaign with an even stronger sophomore season. He completed 62 percent of his passes for over 2,800 yards, threw 27 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions and also added 248 yards and six scores with his legs as well. 

    If Wyoming can surround Smith with a decent offensive line and some semblance of a running game in 2013, the Cowboys will have a great shot to bounce back and make it to the postseason.

25 Other Quarterbacks to Watch

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    Blake Bortles, UCF

    Bo Wallace, Ole Miss

    Bryce Petty, Baylor

    Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

    Cody Green, Tulsa

    Daniel Sams, Kansas State

    David Ash, Texas

    Everett Golson, Notre Dame

    Ford Childress, West Virginia

    Jameis Winston, Florida State

    James Franklin, Missouri

    Joe Southwick, Boise State

    J.W Walsh, Oklahoma State

    Kain Colter, Northwestern

    Keith Price, Washington

    Kolton Browning, Louisiana-Monroe

    Max Browne, USC

    Michael Brewer, Texas Tech

    Rakeem Cato, Marshall

    Stephen Morris, Miami

    Taysom Hill, BYU

    Terrance Broadway, Louisiana-Lafayette

    Tyler Russell, Mississippi State

    Tyler Tettleton, Ohio

    Vad Lee, Georgia Tech