Top 10 Veteran College Football QBs Entering 2014 Season
Having a veteran quarterback doesn't necessarily indicate whether a team is going to be successful. The past two Heisman Trophy winners—Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston—were redshirt freshmen when they took home the award.
That said, a veteran quarterback knows his way around the offense, assuming he's had the same coaching staff. A veteran has seen it all, the good and the bad. He's better equipped to handle adversity. Hopefully, he's a better player than he was when he first arrived on campus.
Which teams have the best veteran quarterbacks heading into the 2014 season? The only rules are that the following selections are at least juniors and have at least one year of starting experience.
10. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
Working on his second or third Ph.D., Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is about as veteran as they come.
The senior has started 26 games for the Rebels and will be a third-year starter in 2014. Per his bio on the Ole Miss athletic site, he's ranked second in school history in total offense (7,085 yards), second in passing yards (6,340) and third in total completions (518).
Wallace hasn't always been the most consistent quarterback—he has 27 career interceptions, hence his leadoff position on this list—but he has won plenty of games. Statistically speaking, he'll go down as one of the better quarterbacks in program history.
9. Taysom Hill, BYU
Most of the quarterbacks on this list are known for their passing skills, but BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is certainly one of the better runners at the position.
If anyone needs proof, just ask Texas. In a 40-21 win over the Longhorns last season, Hill, who will be a junior this year, rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns.
Only Navy's Keenan Reynolds returns with more rushing yards at the quarterback spot, and Hill is only two yards behind (1,346 to 1,344).
On top of the rushing attack, Hill threw for another 2,938 yards, putting his total output for the year at just under 4,300 yards.
8. Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is one of the more exciting players in the country. He'd probably be higher on this list if it weren't for the fact that he missed most of the 2013 season with a brutal ACL and MCL tear in his left knee.
Before his injury, Keeton had 18 passing touchdowns and just two interceptions in five-and-a-half games. He threw for 3,373 yards as a sophomore in 2011 and has 70 career touchdowns in 27 starts. He's an excellent rushing threat too, and he can extend plays with his feet.
Keeton wasn't a highly touted prospect out of Houston, Texas, but he's turned into a premier quarterback outside of the power conferences. As long as Keeton is the quarterback for the Aggies, they have a shot to win.
7. Shane Carden, East Carolina
Another quarterback from a mid-major conference, East Carolina's Shane Carden makes the list of best returning veteran quarterbacks.
As a junior last year, Carden led Conference USA with 4,139 passing yards, finishing eighth nationally. That was about 200 yards better than Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato.
Carden also had 33 passing touchdowns as he led the Pirates to a 10-3 record. As a sophomore in 2012, Carden started in 11 games and threw for 3,116 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The senior is a master of the Pirates' pass-happy offense and is likely to put up more ridiculous numbers in 2014. As one of the more underrated quarterbacks on this list, Carden falls just behind some of the biggest names in college football.
6. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
It's tough leave off a guy who returns as college football's leading returning passer.
A redshirt senior in 2014, Mannion has been Oregon State's go-to guy at quarterback when healthy, with 31 career starts. Last season, he finished second in the country with 4,662 passing yards—a Pac-12 record—to go along with 37 touchdown passes. He also set single-season school records with 400 completions and 603 pass attempts.
Of course, Mannion also had a favorite target in Brandin Cooks, who led the nation with 1,730 of those yards and 16 touchdowns. With Cooks gone, it will be interesting to see if Mannion can maintain, or come close to, the production he had a year ago.
5. Bryce Petty, Baylor
What puts Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty at No. 5 on this list is his relative inexperience.
Prior to being named the full-time starter in 2013, Petty had attempted just 14 passes. Last year, though, he became a household name with 4,200 yards and 46 total touchdowns as Baylor won its first Big 12 title.
Petty loses his best deep-threat in the passing game, Tevin Reese, but the Bears do return leading receiver Antwan Goodley. The '13 team was a special group, and many players on both sides of the ball are gone. Now, the question becomes whether Art Briles' team has the depth to keep playing at a high level.
For Petty, he can show that he's consistently one of the best at his position.
4. Rakeem Cato, Marshall
Yes, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato has launched his way up B/R's "under the radar" board to the point that he's very much on the radar.
The junior has accounted for 83 total touchdowns and thrown for more than 8,100 yards over the past two seasons. As B/R's Adam Kramer previously pointed out, Cato has thrown a touchdown pass in 32 consecutive games.
Cato, like Keeton, was under-recruited coming out of high school. He's been a perfect fit for Marshall, however, despite his listed size of 6'0" and 188 pounds.
An underrated football player who will get more exposure this year, Cato isn't lacking any love on this list. He could start for several BCS-level programs, including another one in the state of West Virginia.
3. Brett Hundley, UCLA
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley doesn't have the most eye-popping stats. With just over 3,000 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, he's not even the most prolific quarterback in his own conference.
However, he led the Bruins in rushing last season with 160 attempts for 748 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a two-year starter, Hundley has led UCLA to a 19-8 record. He also threw for or ran for a touchdown in each one of those games.
He enters the '14 season ranked third on the school's career passing touchdown list and total offense list. In short, there aren't many quarterbacks who are more important to their team's offensive success than Hundley is. That's why he gets top-three consideration here.
(Also, in case you missed it, Adam Kramer has an excellent feature on Hundley.)
2. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller helped his team win 24 straight regular-season games (2011, 2012), so there's no way you can leave him off of a list like this one.
Miller is 24-8 as a starter and has accounted for well over 5,400 yards in his career with the Buckeyes. In 2012, he set a school record with 3,310 yards of total offense. He's a gifted runner, one of the best in the country at his position, but he also has an excellent arm. If your offense needs to get down the field quickly, Miller's your guy.
If there's one knock on the senior, it's that he's had trouble staying healthy. He missed what basically amounted to three games last season because of a knee injury and this spring because of a shoulder injury.
When he's healthy, he's lethal.
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
You want the best veteran quarterback in 2014? You got the best veteran quarterback in 2014. And his name is Marcus Mariota.
A two-year starter, Mariota is 23-3 as a starter. His 3,665 passing yards last season were good for second on the school’s single-season list. He's an important part of the running game too, finishing second on the team with 715 yards and nine touchdowns.
Mariota is an excellent pure passer who just so happens to be an effective and fast runner. He has helped Oregon remain one of the most prolific offensive programs in the country. Last year, the Ducks finished tied for third in the country with 45.5 points per game.
Mariota's future in football is bright. NFL Network's Gil Brandt recently tweeted that Mariota would be his first quarterback off the board in the 2015 draft.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.
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