Pac-12 Football

Power Ranking Every Pac-12 Quarterback, Post-Spring Practice

Jeff BellCorrespondent IMay 1, 2014

Power Ranking Every Pac-12 Quarterback, Post-Spring Practice

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    Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly
    Arizona State QB Taylor KellyRick Scuteri

    If our team power rankings didn't stir up some offseason emotions, perhaps a countdown of the Pac-12's quarterbacks will do the trick.

    Arizona's B.J. Denker and Washington's Keith Price were the only starting seniors in 2013, which gives the league a bevy of experience returning to the position. Both Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley chose to stay in school for at least another season despite the opportunity to be selected high in the upcoming NFL draft.

    All in all, it may be the most solid group of quarterbacks the league has ever had, and ranking them makes rocket science look like pre-algebra. OK, it's not that difficult, but there are at least seven or eight guys with a shot at postseason honors, and no team is in a terrible situation at the position.

    But enough rambling. Click ahead to read through our Pac-12 QB power rankings.

12. Arizona QBs

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    Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez
    Arizona coach Rich RodriguezRoss D. Franklin

    We start the list off with Arizona, but a Wildcat quarterback isn't likely to end the season dead last in the power rankings. 

    That's because Anu Solomon, Jesse Scroggins and Connor Brewer are all talented signal-callers, and we saw what coach Rich Rodriguez was able to do with B.J. Denker in just one season.

    But whoever wins the job will start out in last place because he hasn't played a single snap of college football. Talent is talent, but zero experience has to count for something.

    Here, it means last place, but we'll reiterate that you should not be surprised to see the eventual starter work his way up the power rankings rather quickly.

11. Washington QBs

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    QB Cyler Miles
    QB Cyler MilesMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    If Cyler Miles is named the starter, he would be moved up a couple of spots on this list. But that decision is still up in the air after an incident following the Super Bowl in February in which Miles was not charged.

    Coach Chris Petersen will make the call, and if Miles is not the man under center when the season begins, it probably means that backup Jeff Lindquist will have earned the spot. He, like every quarterback on Washington's roster, hasn't played in a regular-season game thus far in his career.

    Given the uncertainty at the position, we can't rank any Huskies quarterback higher than No. 11 on this list, especially given that there are only experienced starters coming up.

    But if Miles gets the go-ahead from Petersen, he has both the talent and game experience (though brief) to immediately jump up into the top eight or nine spots in the power rankings.

10. Sefo Liufau, Colorado

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    QB Sefo Liufau
    QB Sefo LiufauDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Sefo Liufau being placed at No. 10 should do nothing to discourage Colorado fans about his potential for 2014 and beyond. After all, the Pac-12 has the deepest group of quarterbacks in the entire country.

    But with only a handful of games under his belt, it's hard to really have Liufau much higher at present. In eight games, however, he did manage 12 passing touchdowns and nearly 1,800 yards through the air.

    With a full offseason as the presumed starter, you can expect a much tougher version of the 6'4" signal-caller from Tacoma, Washington, to show up for the Buffaloes' first game.

    Given his youth, you could see Liufau rise up and become one of the conference's premier players in a couple of years. But he's got to earn that distinction first.

9. Jared Goff, California

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    QB Jared Goff
    QB Jared GoffTONY AVELAR/Associated Press

    Gunslinging quarterback Jared Goff may have been on a team that captured three fewer wins than fellow first-year starter Sefo Liufau, but what Goff did as a true freshman cannot be ignored.

    Despite the lone win by the Bears, Goff was able to throw for nearly 3,500 yards and 18 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions. Those numbers aren't ideal in a Sonny Dykes-led offense, but they're pretty solid for a guy who was playing against high schoolers just nine months before his first college start.

    In Goff, the Bears have a big-armed quarterback who can sling it all around the field and isn't afraid to throw it 50 or 60 times per game. He'll need to cut back on his interceptions and learn how to keep his poise when the Bears fall behind by a couple of touchdowns, but that's to be expected from a 19-year-old.

    He certainly isn't one of the Pac-12's premier quarterbacks, but he has one of the brightest futures of the entire bunch.

8. Travis Wilson, Utah

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    QB Travis Wilson
    QB Travis WilsonUSA TODAY Sports

    When Utah quarterback Travis Wilson played well, he was one of the Pac-12's best quarterbacks in 2013. Unfortunately, he mixed in quite a bit of poor play and dealt with some major injuries that hampered his abilities late in the season and even forced him to miss three contests.

    For those reasons we have him at No. 8, but he won't move up any further unless he improves his 16-16 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, few realize he ran for nearly 500 yards and five scores as well.

    Against BYU, Wilson threw for nearly 300 yards and a pair of scores. Against UCLA, he equaled those numbers but tacked on a whopping six interceptions. Becoming more consistent is a huge key for Wilson in 2014.

    At 6'6", 240 pounds, the Utes signal-caller has the ideal build to become an extremely productive quarterback in this league, but he'll have to lead his team to a bowl game and stay healthy to move up in the power rankings.

7. Connor Halliday, Washington State

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    QB Connor Halliday
    QB Connor HallidayStephen Brashear/Getty Images

    Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday is basically a mega version of Cal quarterback Jared Goff. He has a big arm, isn't afraid to chuck it all over the field and piles up monster stats.

    Goff has yet to accomplish that last bit, but Halliday did just that in 2013 by throwing for 34 touchdowns and almost 4,600 yards. Those numbers alone should be good enough to merit inclusion in the top three or four spots, but they fail to mention 22 interceptions.

    And while winning isn't necessarily the best way to judge the strength of a quarterback, Halliday's Cougs had the opportunity to add a couple more notches to the belt and failed to do so.

    With the deepest receiving corps in the conference returning, look for Halliday to once again make the highlight reel week in and week out. The big questions for him will be: Can he reduce the number of turnovers, and can he lead clutch drives in late-game situations?

6. Cody Kessler, USC

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    QB Cody Kessler
    QB Cody KesslerEthan Miller/Getty Images

    If you watched the first half of the Trojans' 2013 campaign and became bored, you might be surprised to see quarterback Cody Kessler break through into the top half of our power rankings.

    However, after throwing six interceptions in his first nine games (not a terrible number by any means), Kessler had just one in USC's final five contests. The team also won six out of its final seven games, including a dominant bowl victory over a ranked Fresno State squad in which Kessler had 344 yards and four touchdowns through the air.

    With quarterback guru Steve Sarkisian now at the helm of the whole operation, folks around the country will be curious to see what Kessler looks like with another year under his belt. He beat out hyped freshman Max Browne in the much-discussed quarterback competition, which points to improvement in the offseason.

    At USC, though, the starting signal-caller is judged more harshly than perhaps anywhere else. Will we see Kessler rise up and become one of the Pac-12's best, or will he simply stay afloat and allow Browne back into the mix?

5. Kevin Hogan, Stanford

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    QB Kevin Hogan
    QB Kevin HoganStephen Dunn/Getty Images

    If every player on this list were judged solely on his team's accomplishments, Stanford's Kevin Hogan would have the top spot. The Cardinal have won the league the past two seasons, and Hogan has been at the helm for the better part of both of them.

    Though he failed to win a second straight Rose Bowl in January, Hogan has undeniable leadership skills and a knack for making big plays when it counts. Think back to Stanford's victory over Oregon in November when Hogan had multiple long scrambles, including one on a key third down in the first half that eventually led to more points and a bigger lead.

    His numbers, on the surface, are pretty solid as well. In 2013, Hogan threw for 2,635 yards and 20 touchdowns while also rushing for another 347 on the ground. We know David Shaw's M.O. on offense is to run the ball and utilize the clock, so Hogan having just one 300-yard performance on the season isn't surprising.

    What keeps him from being higher on the list is the fact that in the team's three losses, he completed just 39 of 70 passes for 497 yards and one touchdown. He needs to play a bigger role in close games and become a leading playmaker on a more consistent basis to make any sort of noise nationally.

4. Sean Mannion, Oregon State

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    QB Sean Mannion
    QB Sean MannionJonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    If Connor Halliday is the mega version of Jared Goff, then Sean Mannion is the final version of both of them. In 2013, Mannion threw for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns. The former stat ranked second only to Derek Carr's 5,083.

    To be fair, Mannion did have 15 interceptions, and thus calling him a "final" version of what he could become isn't totally accurate. He'll have to cut down on that number if the Beavers want to stir up the North Division.

    Another issue with Mannion is that he threw for 29 touchdowns in the first seven games of the season. That just happened to coincide with the easiest part of the Beavers' schedule. When the competition stiffened, he managed just eight scoring throws in the final six games, of which the team won just one.

    Two questions loom large as Mannion enters his senior season: Can he step up against the Pac-12's elite, and will he be able to produce similar numbers without one of the best players in school history, wide receiver Brandin Cooks?

3. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State

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    QB Taylor Kelly
    QB Taylor KellyUSA TODAY Sports

    Looking purely at the numbers, it's difficult to make a case against Taylor Kelly being the No. 2-ranked quarterback in the Pac-12.

    The senior-to-be had over 3,600 yards passing to go along with 28 touchdowns. He tacked on 608 yards on the ground and another nine scores as well. The passing marks are better than the next guy on this list, whose team was even beaten by Kelly's last November.

    But frankly, Kelly can be inconsistent, and after eclipsing the 300-yard mark in each of the Sun Devils' first five games, he failed to do so even once throughout the rest of the year. In his final two games, which were losses to Stanford and Texas Tech, he threw for a total of just 298 yards and one touchdown.

    At his best, Kelly is an efficient passer capable of making plays on his own and ripping up good and sometimes great defenses. But his best doesn't come around often enough to rank him any higher, and his potential, though not the biggest factor in the list, isn't as great as the following signal-callers'.

2. Brett Hundley, UCLA

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    QB Brett Hundley
    QB Brett HundleyUSA TODAY Sports

    Brett Hundley is a name that you're likely to see on the numerous preseason Heisman lists that spring up over the summer. He's 6'3", 222 pounds and runs with the force of a Cam Newton. He isn't exceptionally fast, but he's difficult to bring down.

    Measurables aside, Hundley threw 24 touchdowns through the air and had 11 rushing scores in 2013. He also ran for nearly 750 yards and threw for over 3,000. The scary part? He seems to be just scratching the surface.

    If Hundley can put it together, he'll pose a serious challenge for the No. 1 player on our list and perhaps even surpass him. The key will be an increase in accuracy, especially at the beginning of games, and making key plays in the fourth quarter of tight contests.

    We know Hundley has "takeover" ability, and we've seen him do it. If he does it more often, he'll be staring down a top-five draft spot when he chooses to leave for the NFL. He might also climb atop our quarterback power rankings.

1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

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    QB Marcus Mariota
    QB Marcus MariotaUSA TODAY Sports

    There shouldn't have been any doubt in your mind as to who would be in our top spot, and if there was, you didn't pay enough attention to the Pac-12 last season.

    In Marcus Mariota, Oregon has a player who can do it all. He's as fast, if not faster, than most running backs but happens to be pretty darn efficient at quarterback as well. He had three 100-yard games on the ground in 2013 with the final one coming against Texas in the Alamo Bowl when he eclipsed the 130-yard mark in the first half.

    Mariota also had 3,665 yards through the air with 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Two of them came against Arizona and the other two against Oregon State. Outside of those mistakes, Mariota was darn-near flawless.

    It's hard to point out where he has room for improvement, although he'd probably tell you he can get better in every phase of his game. If he walks the walk and does just that, he'll have a tremendous shot at holding up the Heisman Trophy in December.

     

    All stats via cfbstats.comRemember, these are a ranking of where things stand now and not necessarily a prediction about the order they'll be in following the 2014 season.

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