Power Ranking Big 12 QBs Pre-2014 Spring Practice
Spring practice in the Big 12 is right around the corner. That means it's time to asses where each program stands heading into the next couple of months.
No position is watched as closely as quarterback, so why not start there?
The Big 12 went through a copious amount of quarterback turnover last year. Not surprisingly, offenses were generally down with only a few exceptions.
But last year's trial by fire has resulted in more confidence in this year's group, led by Baylor's Bryce Petty, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.
How do the quarterbacks stack up heading into spring practice? Check out the list in the following slides. Note that one quarterback from each school made the list.
10. Tyler Matthews
The Horned Frogs have a lot of quarterback questions heading into 2014, and they're bigger than redshirt sophomore-to-be Tyler Matthews.
Matthews appeared in four games in 2013 but went 0-of-3 on passing attempts. With senior Casey Pachall moving on and Trevone Boykin likely bound for a position change, Matthews should emerge as the starter during spring drills. However, he will battle redshirt freshman Zach Allen for snaps.
Once freshmen Grayson Muehlstein and Foster Sawyer make their way onto campus for preseason camp, the quarterback battle should open up even more.
Matthews makes the list because he's technically the most experienced quarterback on TCU's roster with a legit shot to win the starting job. Still, this is a position that's up for grabs.
9. Jake Heaps
Jake Heaps, a BYU transfer, had an underwhelming 2013 season at Kansas. He started 10 games, passing for 1,414 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
He was eventually benched in favor of true freshman Montell Cozart late in the season. Though Cozart's first start against West Virginia was a promising one, a 31-19 win, he was ushered back to the bench the following week in a shutout loss to Iowa State. Heaps finished out the year as the starter against Kansas State.
Cozart is gifted athletically and has a high ceiling, but he has to evolve as a passer. He certainly hasn't cemented himself as the starter heading into next season over Heaps and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard.
Heaps makes the list because he has the most playing experience, but the Jayhawks will go back to the drawing board this offseason.
8. Clint Trickett
School: West Virginia
Though Florida State transfer Clint Trickett didn't begin the year as West Virginia's starting quarterback, he proved to be the best option to win.
Trickett made seven starts last season and finished with 1,605 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's not the most physically imposing quarterback at 6'2" and 180 pounds, but he has tons of grit and confidence.
A shoulder injury first suffered against Oklahoma State hindered Trickett's arm strength and required surgery that will sideline him for the spring.
Still, Trickett should have an edge over backup Paul Millard heading into fall camp; it's whether JUCO transfer Skyler Howard or incoming freshman William Crest can unseat him.
7. J.W. Walsh
School: Oklahoma State
Which J.W. Walsh will Oklahoma State get in 2014? The one who led the team in total offense with 1,854 yards in 2012? Or the one who had a tough year passing last season (1,333 yards and nine touchdowns in eight games) and was eventually benched in favor of Clint Chelf?
For that matter, will Walsh even start for the Cowboys next season? Early enrollee Mason Rudolph should push Walsh during spring and into preseason camp.
Walsh is a good runner who has shown flashes of being a complete dual threat. Pokes offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and head coach Mike Gundy have to do a better job of developing Walsh if he's going to become of the best quarterbacks in the conference.
6. Grant Rohach
School: Iowa State
With the exception of Oklahoma's Trevor Knight, no quarterback in the Big 12 came on stronger at the end of the year than Iowa State's Grant Rohach.
The freshman threw for 631 yards and six touchdowns in the final two games of the season—both wins against Kansas and West Virginia.
Rohach should thrive under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. Inconsistency has plagued Iowa State quarterbacks over the past few years, so Rohach enters spring with an edge in the competition.
There's a lot of potential for Rohach, especially with good offensive weapons around him like running back Aaron Wimberly and receiver Quenton Bundrage.
5. David Ash
Attempting to rank David Ash among Big 12 quarterbacks has its own set of issues.
On one hand, few quarterbacks in the conference are more physically gifted. At 6'3" and 223 pounds, Ash has all of the physical tools a coach looks for. He can run and has a great throwing arm. In 2012, he completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,699 yards and 19 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
It feels like he should be ranked higher.
However, Ash has battled inconsistency. Most notably, he was pulled in a 2012 win over Kansas in favor of Case McCoy for failing to move the ball. He also missed a majority of the 2013 season with a concussion.
Though Ash should be the clear-cut favorite to win the starting job next season, the possibility of USC transfer Max Wittek joining the Horns makes for an interesting storyline. "Texas was actually the first school to contact me after I announced I was transferring," Wittek told Blake Munroe of 247Sports last week.
Perhaps Ash isn't the guy after all?
4. Davis Webb
School: Texas Tech
Like other quarterbacks on this list, Davis Webb didn't begin the season as the starting quarterback for his team.
However, after the departures of Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer, Webb is Texas Tech's only option at quarterback—at least for the spring. Incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes should slide into a backup role once he arrives on campus later this year.
Webb had a nice freshman campaign in 2013 while he split playing time with Mayfield, finishing with 2,718 yards passing and 20 touchdowns. Webb's 400-yard, four-touchdown performance in a win over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl gives him a ton of momentum heading into the offseason.
Though the depth behind him is a concern, Webb is primed for a major leap in 2014.
3. Trevor Knight
From Week 1 to the postseason, no quarterback in the conference underwent a more dramatic transformation than Trevor Knight.
The redshirt freshman stunned everyone when he, not Blake Bell, was named the starter for the opener against Louisiana-Monroe. However, Knight was obviously a run-first quarterback who struggled with accuracy when he played against the Warhawks.
But by the time Oklahoma played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Knight was a true dual-threat quarterback who was dropping dimes to his receivers. The growth Knight showed as a passer over one season should have Sooners fans salivating at what he can do with another offseason under his belt.
The question is whether Knight will be able to stay healthy. If he can, he'll challenge Bryce Petty as the best quarterback in the Big 12.
2. Jake Waters
School: Kansas State
Jake Waters' first season with Kansas State started slow, not unlike the Wildcats themselves. Through the first six games, Waters had just four passing touchdowns and five interceptions.
However, by the time K-State rolled Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Waters had cemented himself as one of the best pure passers in the conference.
Waters finished the 2013 season with 2,469 yards passing and 18 touchdowns, plus another 312 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, despite sharing time with Daniel Sams at quarterback.
It's not clear if Sams and Waters will split time again next year, but Waters is obviously the more polished passer of the two. Even though the Wildcats are a run-first offense, Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett provide a potent passing attack.
1. Bryce Petty
When you're the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, it's assumed you'll top the quarterback power rankings heading into the offseason.
There was no quarterback in the conference better or more consistent in 2013 than Petty. In his first year as the starter, Petty threw for exactly 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns, adding another 14 rushing touchdowns to his total. That led the team in both categories.
Petty could have declared for the NFL early, but instead he opted to come back for his senior year. While that understandably has Baylor fans excited, there are also significant departures on the offensive side of the ball. Among those to leave are All-American offensive lineman Cyril Richardson and receiver Tevin Reese.
When Reese was sidelined last year with a wrist injury, Baylor's vertical passing game suffered. That was a big part of the Bears' offense, too.
Still, Petty is the best quarterback in the conference. Come next year, he could be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the NFL draft as well.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All stats used courtesy of cfbstats.com.
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