10 College Football QBs Who Will Become Stars in 2014
Think back to last April. Did you know who Jameis Winston, Nick Marshall or Bryce Petty were? Maybe if you were deep in the woods of college football you did, but generally speaking, they were unknowns.
It's the beauty of college football—something or someone new surprises us each and every year. Whether it was Auburn playing for a national title just one season removed from a losing record or a redshirt freshman winning the Heisman Trophy—you never know what college football has in store.
However, one thing remains a constant, and that's that quarterback is the most scrutinized position in sports.
With Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr and countless other big names off to the NFL this season, it means a new crop must arrive.
Let's explore 10 names who have the potential to become national stars in 2014.
*All 2013 stats courtesy CFBStats.com.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
If you tuned in to the 2013 edition of the Egg Bowl, you saw the potential stardom of Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott on full display. He led his team to a hard-fought 17-10 victory over bitter rivals Ole Miss.
While his stat line (55.8 completion percentage for 115 yards and no touchdowns passing) may not jump out at you, the sophomore dealt with a lot in that game and willed his team to a needed victory.
He has a ton of talent and a season of experience to build off of, especially if you saw what he did to Rice's defense in the Liberty Bowl win, throwing for 283 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-7 win.
The junior comes in having played in 11 games last year, and ended the season completing 58.4 percent of his passes for 1,940 yards and 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He also added 829 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
With no Tyler Russell to compete with, look for Prescott to make the improvement needed in the passing game, making him one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the SEC this season.
Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh
If there's one thing Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst knows, it's quarterbacks. After seeing what then-redshirt freshman did in replacing Tom Savage in the bowl game against Bowling Green, you can see why there's potential stardom in Chad Voytik's future.
He went 5-of-9 for 108 yards passing, while adding 24 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well. Given Savage's graduation and a full spring under Chryst's tutelage, Voytik could be in a good position to explode on the scene in his sophomore season.
It also helps his case that he's got star receiver Tyler Boyd and four starting offensive linemen returning as well.
That's a good recipe for success for any quarterback, let alone a former No. 5-ranked pro-style quarterback recruit.
Voytik will have plenty of chances to make a splash in 2014, with games against Iowa, Virginia Tech and Miami (FL) on the schedule.
Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State
North Carolina State head coach has been waiting anxiously for Jacboy Brissett to take over his Wolfpack offense. Just listen to what he had to say about Brissett upon his arrival on the Raleigh, N.C., campus:
“He's really good,” Doeren said, via Jermey Fowler of CBSSports.com. “Not just talented. He's a great leader. That's the thing. Our quarterback has to be the CEO of our program. He will be that way. He will relish that. We look forward to that.”
That confidence wasn't unwarranted, as Brissett proved he was worth the wait this spring alone. He completed 24-of-37 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns in leading his team of starters (Red) to a 34-0 win in the spring game.
Brissett may have a really good young target to throw to in Bo Hines, who caught 10 passes for 132 yards in the spring game. Having a game-changer at quarterback and receiver goes a long way in making a team successful.
Look for Brissett to be a name everyone is talking about as the season goes on if he can keep up the kind of accuracy he had this spring.
Cody Kessler, USC
USC quarterbacks aren't unknown quantities, however it is never a guarantee of someone being a star. After a 2013 season that wasn't much to write home about, the name of Cody Kessler isn't exactly associated with stardom.
However, he was a much more solid quarterback than most gave him credit for last year. Kessler finished the season completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 2,967 yards and 20 touchdowns to seven interceptions.
Those aren't bad numbers, especially considering the turmoil that surrounded the program all season.
Kessler beat out redshirt freshman Max Browne this spring, and with Steve Sarkisian at the helm of the program, Kessler could become a true star in 2014. Don't be surprised to see him surpass 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns—numbers much more like past stars in a Trojans uniform.
Wes Lunt, Illinois
When a quarterback loses his starting position and transfers, it's rare that they become a success story, let alone a star. Yet, when Illinois native Wes Lunt decided to go back home and play for the Illini, both sides were excited.
Illini head coach Tim Beckman hired Bill Cubit prior to last season, and that meant a pass-happy offense was coming to Champaign. Considering Lunt's abilities, it could be a match made in heaven.
Now it's up to Lunt to beat out senior Reilly O'Toole for the starting job in the fall. His spring game performance was a bit worrisome, going just 6-of-16 for 99 yards and one interception. Yet, it wasn't indicative of his spring overall, at least according to Lunt himself.
“I definitely do,” Lunt said, via Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I was a lot more consistent this spring.”
If he does beat out O'Toole, Lunt has the skill set to make a big difference for the Illini offense.
Passing for more than 3,000 yards and rushing for more than 500 yards shouldn't be too difficult for the young signal caller.
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
If it weren't for Jordan Lynch at Northern Illinois, there may not have been a more talked about quarterback in the MAC than Matt Johnson of Bowling Green.
He out dueled Lynch in the MAC championship game, going 21-of-27 for 393 yards and five touchdowns, but it wasn't just that performance that makes him a prime candidate for stardom this year. For the season, Johnson completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,467 yards and 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Those numbers were impressive last season, but with head coach Dave Clawson leaving for Wake Forest the Falcons hired Dino Barbers from Eastern Illinois. Barbers infuses most of Baylor's offensive system with just a bit more of a power running game, and for Johnson that means a chance for some really explosive numbers.
If he put up nearly 3,500 yards and 25 touchdowns in a more traditional offense last season, imagine what will happen when he's in an uptempo offense and playing a ton more snaps.
Remember Johnson's name now, because chances are he's going to be the biggest star in the MAC this season.
Jared Goff, California
Usually coming off a 1-11 season in which one has 18 touchdowns to 10 interceptions doesn't mean stardom is about to come. However, few have the skill set that Cal quarterback Jared Goff has and an offensive system set up to make quarterbacks look good too.
It was a steep learning curve for the freshman last season, but by all indications the offense looked much better this spring. Things weren't perfect, but coming off a shoulder surgery, Goff grew throughout the spring and showed well in the spring game.
He was 14-of-23 for 170 yards and had one highlight reel touchdown pass to speak of.
Goff's 2013 season wasn't all bad either, as he did complete more than 60 percent of his passes for more than 3,400 yards. Those are good numbers to start a career with—it's just about being better in the decision-making process.
Look for that to grow as he gains more confidence in his surgically repaired shoulder this summer. Goff and the Bears could be a surprise team in the Pac-12 this year with the improvements spring brought.
Davis Webb, Texas Tech
In Kliff Kingsbury's first season at the helm of his alma mater, it felt like musical chairs at quarterback—where no fewer than four quarterbacks saw action. However, it was the performance of freshman Davis Webb that eventually stood out above the crowd.
Fellow quarterbacks Michael Brewer and Baker Mayfield transferred out after seeing Webb throw for more than 385 yards in five of the last six contests for the Red Raiders. Webb finished the year with a 62.6 percent completion rate with 2,718 yards and 20 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
With Webb fully in control of the Texas Tech offense in 2014, it is likely he's going to put up some gaudy numbers. What needs to happen for him to become a star is for those numbers to come in big games—like against Texas and Oklahoma, for instance.
As long as Webb continues to be consistently accurate and makes smart decisions, he could become one of the biggest stars in the Big 12 this year.
Sefo Liufau, Colorado
Passing for more than 1,700 yards and having a touchdown to interception ratio of 12 to eight doesn't exactly scream star potential. However, when you're talking about a freshman quarterback who did that in just eight games, it's a different story.
For Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau, that freshman season showed there is potential for greatness ahead. As for the growth of a young quarterback, all one has to do is look at CU's head coach Mike MacIntyre and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren's history.
They were instrumental in the development of David Fales at their previous stop, San Jose State. Watching Liufau's freshman season, there are a lot of similarities between the two quarterbacks early on in their careers.
Given the pass-happy nature of Lindgren's offense, Liufau has the potential to put up eye-catching numbers. Liufau finished the spring game passing for 19-of-31 for 238 yards and two touchdowns.
His teammates are clearly behind him, voting him one of six team captains after the spring game. If improvement comes along with the confidence his teammates certainly have in him, Liufau could be a star.
Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
Nothing inspires confidence like throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. That single performance cemented Trevor Knight as Oklahoma's starting quarterback and forced others to make difficult decisions on their futures.
Knight's breakout game was an anomaly last year, where he didn't throw for more than 171 yards in any other game, so saying he's already a star isn't exactly being honest; however, it clearly showed he's got the potential to be more than a one-game hit.
In spring, Knight showcased more of the Sugar Bowl-type play than the rest of 2013 showed. He didn't shine in the spring game though, going just 5-of-14 for 53 yards and one interception.
Head coach Bob Stoops didn't seemed all too worried about it though, chalking it up to a defense that was ahead of the offense in his post-spring game press conference.
At the end of the day, the disadvantage for the offense is always the case that the defense is so familiar with them. They know by formation, what their routes are and it makes it harder. He needs all of his linemen out there for it to work different as well.
Spring wasn't kind to most of the Sooners quarterbacks, but Knight showed it against the best of defenses last year. Expect him to be the next big name at quarterback under Stoops.
*Andy Coppens is a national college football featured columnist. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndyOnCFB.
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