UCLA Football: 5 Best QBs Bruins Will Face in 2014
The Pac-12 in particular is no joke when it comes to quarterback play. Without question, the conference boasts the best collection of talent at the position in the entire country.
Jim Mora and the UCLA football team will have to compete against quality signal-callers week in and week out. This piece will look at the best quarterbacks UCLA will face this upcoming year. The opponents will be listed in order starting with the fifth-toughest signal-caller, to the quarterback posing the biggest challenge.
Here's a look at the top quarterbacks the Bruins defense will have to go up against in '14.
5. Jared Goff
Cal's 1-11 record last year wasn't indicative of the success Jared Goff had.
As a true freshman, Goff threw for 3,508 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was a primary reason as to why Cal had a respectable offense. Although inexperienced, Goff demonstrated the ability to stretch the field vertically in Sonny Dykes' pass-happy offense.
Players usually make a considerable jump from one's freshman to sophomore years. Cal can't be much worse than they were a year ago. With this in mind, expect Goff to improve upon his numbers from 2013.
The game in Berkeley has the potential to be rather interesting. UCLA has not won at Cal since 1998. It's truly been a house of horrors for the program. Goff also has the luxury of throwing to perhaps the best wide receiver duo in the conference (Chris Harper, Bryce Treggs).
4. Cody Kessler
Some might be surprised to see Cody Kessler on this list.
However, Kessler had a very solid season in 2013—throwing for 20 touchdowns and 2,968 yards. He doesn't have the scrambling ability of a Marcus Mariota or Brett Hundley, but he's serviceable when needed on the ground.
With head coach Steve Sarkisian back in the fold, I'd expect Kessler's development as a quarterback to improve. It also does help to have the likes of Nelson Agholor to throw to.
In terms of the Pac-12 Conference, there might not be a more underappreciated quarterback than the Trojans signal-caller.
3. Kevin Hogan
Kevin Hogan has proved to be a big, strong quarterback with the uncanny ability to hurt the opposition with his legs.
Stanford's signal-caller threw for 20 touchdowns and also rushed for 355 yards in 2013. His value as a runner doesn't come on designed plays, but rather when the initial read breaks down. He's able to escape effectively and display better athleticism than he's given credit for.
The Cardinal have been the proverbial thorn in the Bruins' side for the past few seasons. UCLA has not beaten Stanford since 2008.
With the offensive line (led by Andrus Peat) and skill position players returning (such as Ty Montgomery), Hogan will be a handful to deal with when the Cardinal come to the Rose Bowl in November.
2. Taylor Kelly
There may not be a more underrated quarterback nationally than rising senior Taylor Kelly.
The Idaho native torched the conference last year under stellar offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. Kelly threw for over 3,600 yards and rushed for over 600 yards. He alone accounted for 37 touchdowns in 2013.
In the win versus UCLA last year, Kelly rushed for a season-high 99 yards on the ground, to go along with 225 yards through the air. This year, the Bruins will have to make the return trip down to Tempe for a Pac-12 South showdown.
Kelly is an extremely fun quarterback to watch play. Should Arizona State get off to a fast start, he could be a dark-horse Heisman contender. Head coach Todd Graham has already proclaimed this year's offense is the best one he's ever coached.
1. Marcus Mariota
Mariota in all likelihood will be the best player UCLA faces all year—regardless of position.
Oregon's signal-caller is widely considered one of the best two-to-three quarterbacks in the entire country heading into 2014. He combines very good arm strength and elite speed with tremendous poise.
As a sophomore in 2013, Mariota threw for 3,665 yards and rushed for 715 more. Combined, he accrued 40 touchdowns on the year.
The contest versus the Ducks on Oct. 11 could be a Pac-12 Championship Game preview. The play of both Mariota and Hundley will likely determine how successful their respective teams will be in 2014.