Power Ranking Pac-12 QBs Pre 2014 Spring Practice
The Pac-12 has the nation's deepest and most talented quarterback class in 2014. No conference boasts as much experience at the position, with at least nine starters from 2013 returning.
The group includes two preseason Heisman Trophy favorites, the conference's single-season passing yardage record-holder and several potential breakout stars.
Those programs breaking in new quarterbacks get the opportunity to see their future with spring practices beginning around the conference in the coming days.
Primary Quarterbacks: Adam Schulz, Conner Manning, Travis Wilson
Travis Wilson showed off some explosive playmaking ability as a dual-threat quarterback last season, leading Utah to a 4-2 start that included an upset of Stanford. But Wilson's season was derailed when he suffered an injured finger in October against Arizona and a concussion against Arizona State in November.
The concussion revealed what The Salt Lake Tribune described as a "previous injury to an intracranial artery," which supplies blood to the brain. The injury could force Wilson into retirement.
A healthy Wilson boosts Utah's standing among its Pac-12 counterparts considerably, but his uncertainty leaves new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen in a precarious position.
Former walk-on Adam Schulz relieved Wilson last season with mixed results. Conner Manning, a ballyhooed prospect who broke Matt Barkley's single-season Orange County, Calif. passing record, per UtahUtes.com, got a year of experience as a redshirt.
Primary Quarterbacks: Connor Brewer, Nick Isham, Jerrard Randall, Jesse Scroggins, Anu Solomon
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez finds himself back where he started spring practice a year ago, fielding questions about an impending and somewhat mysterious quarterback competition.
There are no shortage of candidates to replace B.J. Denker, and Rodriguez told the Associated Press that all of them are going to get an opportunity.
We're going to have a bunch of them, seven or eight at least, and we're going to give them all reps. We take a bunch of quarterbacks, but we don't take them to take them. We really rep them all so they all get a look. We put them all under stressful situations and see how they come out.
The primary players in this multiple-quarterback competition are Texas transfer Connor Brewer, junior college transfer Jerrard Randall and highly touted 2013 signee Anu Solomon.
Quarterbacks: Sefo Liufau, Jordan Gehrke
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre replaced Connor Wood with true freshman Sefo Liufau midway through the 2013 season. Wood retired last month, leaving Liufau as the likely No. 1 of just two Buffs quarterbacks heading into spring ball.
Liufau finished 2013 with 1,779 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he was impressive in a loss at UCLA where he completed 25-of-36 pass attempts for 247 yards. However, Liufau also ended the season with at least one interception in each of the Buffs' final four games and completed less than 55 percent of his attempts in three of the last four.
He may need to hold off Jordan Gehrke during spring practices to keep the starting position. Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren will have ample opportunity to see what Gehrke can do, as he told The Daily Camera:
I told them to get their arms in shape cause they're going to get a ton of reps. Obviously it would be nice to have a couple more at this point, but at the same time I think it will be really beneficial for Sefo and Jordan. Those guys are two young guys and they will benefit from all the reps. We've just got to keep them healthy.
Primary Quarterbacks: Jeff Lindquist, Cyler Miles, Troy Williams
Much like Utah, Washington would enjoy a better ranking if it wasn't faced with a quarterback conundrum. Cyler Miles, back-up to last year's starter Keith Price, was promising in his late-season appearances.
However, head coach Chris Petersen suspended Miles indefinitely pending an investigation into an alleged incident earlier this month. With Miles unavailable, Washington would be working with a completely blank slate as Troy Williams and Jeff Lindquist have zero college pass attempts between them.
Primary Quarterback: Jared Goff
Jared Goff showed flashes of brilliance running head coach Sonny Dykes' bear-raid offense. He threw for multiple touchdowns in his first three appearances, combined for seven total scores in back-to-back weeks against Arizona and USC and finished the year with 3,508 yards.
He also at times looked like the first-year college football player he was, giving up 10 interceptions and taking an astounding 32 sacks.
Another spring of seasoning should see Goff progress and the reins are his with Zach Kline's transfer.
7. Washington State
Primary Quarterbacks: Connor Halliday, Austin Apodaca
Connor Halliday has started a game in all three of his seasons at Washington State but last year was his first as the clear No. 1 atop the depth chart.
Halliday spelled an injured Jeff Tuel in 2011, setting a program freshman record with 494 yards and four touchdowns in an upset of Arizona State.
A scary liver injury cut his promising start short and in 2012 more injuries put Halliday and Tuel spinning in a revolving door behind center. Head coach Mike Leach turned the reins over to Halliday last season, and he reciprocated with the best year of his career.
He concluded 2013 with 34 touchdowns, completed more than 60 percent of his pass attempts for the first time and was at his best in the Cougars' final push, throwing for 488 yards and four touchdowns against Utah and 410 yards with six scores in the New Mexico Bowl.
Austin Apodaca made three appearances in his freshman campaign, including most of the second half against conference champion Stanford.
Primary Quarterbacks: Kevin Hogan, Evan Crower
Kevin Hogan reached peaks and struggled through valleys in his first full season as Stanford's starting quarterback, but his potential was undeniable.
His completion percentage (from 71.7 percent to 61 percent) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (3-to-1 to 2-to-1) both dipped in his first full season as the starter, but Hogan was also more aggressive with his long ball attempts.
Another year of experience and a solid receiving corps around him should make for big things in Hogan's third season running the Cardinal offense.
Primary Quarterbacks: Cody Kessler, Max Browne
It took Cody Kessler much longer than just spring practice to win USC's starting quarterback job last season. Kessler beat out the since-transferred Max Wittek by Week 2, and Kessler flourished in the campaign's final stretch.
He concluded 2013 with 2,968 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He also saved the best for last, setting career highs for passing yards (345) and touchdowns (four) in the Trojans' Las Vegas Bowl rout of Fresno State.
Kessler must win the job again in 2014, this time competing with redshirt freshman Max Browne. Browne was the most celebrated pro-style quarterback prospect in the 2013 recruiting class, earning a 5-star grade from 247Sports.com.
Wittek's transfer means more repetitions for Browne, thus more opportunities for head coach Steve Sarkisian to see what the talented youngster has to offer.
4. Arizona State
Primary Quarterbacks: Taylor Kelly, Mike Bercovici
Dual-threat quarterback Taylor Kelly shared duties with Michael Eubank for much of 2012, but he took over as the exclusive signal-caller last season. The Sun Devils offense was better for it, and Kelly flourished with 3,635 passing yards and another 608 rushing.
Kelly's command of offensive coordinator Mike Norvell's version of the hurry-up spread offense powered the Sun Devils to a 39.7-points per game average, No. 10 in the nation. It also prompted head coach Todd Graham to call Kelly "an offensive coordinator on the field" last November.
Mike Bercovici was in the mix to replace Brock Osweiler after the 2011 season, but he fell behind Kelly and Eubank. Eubank's transfer this offseason likely moves Bercovici to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
3. Oregon State
Primary Quarterbacks: Sean Mannion, Brent VanderVeen
That the Pac-12 single-season passing record was set in 2013 should come as no surprise. The ironic twist, however, is that it was Oregon State's Sean Mannion setting the 4,662-yard mark operating out of a pro-style offense and not one of the quarterbacks slinging in an air-raid set.
If new offensive coordinator John Garrett has his way, Mannion's yard total will drop in 2014—but not for lack of performance on Mannion's part. Oregon State struggled to establish a consistent—or at times, even existent run game. The imbalance allowed defenses to put more pressure on Mannion, and his production dipped as a result.
All three of his games with under 300 yards came in the season's second half, and he threw 10 of his 15 interceptions in a three-game stretch in the final month of the regular season.
An improved running game should benefit Mannion as should another spring season of maturation.
He can make big improvement in his knowledge of what you do as a quarterback compared to what defenses are doing to stop you. I call it 'quick decision-making.' Sean made a big jump last year; he can make another jump next year.
Primary Quarterbacks: Brett Hundley, Asiantii Woulard
The Hundley for Heisman campaign began in earnest with Brett Hundley making his return to UCLA official, via UCLABruins.com in January. The third-year starting quarterback is coming off a 2013 in which he threw for 28 touchdowns and rushed for another 11 to pace UCLA to 10 wins for the first time since 2005.
Hundley had his share of struggles, particularly in losses to Stanford and Oregon. He was a combined 37-of-58 against the Cardinal and Ducks, but he had just 248 passing yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions in those defeats.
However, he finished 2013 with a bang, running for 80 yards and two touchdowns against USC and 161 yards with another two scores against Virginia Tech. He also bombarded the Hokies with a pair of passing touchdowns in the Bruins' 42-12 Sun Bowl win.
Hundley's explosiveness as a ball-carrier and improving pocket presence makes him one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.
Primary Quarterbacks: Marcus Mariota, Jeff Lockie
Marcus Mariota enters his third season quarterbacking the explosive Oregon offense, and his surprise return was met with much fanfare. Bovada gives Mariota the second best odds to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy behind only reigning winner Jameis Winston of Florida State.
Mariota finished 2013 with 31 touchdown passes and just four interceptions, all of which were thrown after he suffered a knee injury in November.
The knee injury effectively removed Mariota from the 2013 Heisman discussion, though arguably should not have. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was better than any of the other four quarterbacks invited to the ceremony in New York and of that group only Jordan Lynch rushed for more touchdowns.
Reserve Jeff Lockie appeared in mop-up duty nine times, though he threw just 13 passes. He rushed for a touchdown in Oregon's season-opening romp over Football Championship Subdivision opponent Nicholls State.