Young Guns: Stanford, Oklahoma Lean on Freshman QBs To Reach Sun Bowl

Jason Figueiredo@sportschatterCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2009

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 21:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal in action during their game against the California Bears at Stanford Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Whether they are a rookie in the big leagues or just a highly touted high school prospect entering college, there is something about a first-year player that always seems to turn heads.   

When this player gets the opportunity to shine in his first year on a team, it is hard not to get excited about the potential talent that he brings to the field.  But with this opportunity comes a great deal of scrutiny.

Anything less than an outstanding start could bring forth premature worries about how much time this touted player is going to need before reaching full potential or worse, whether or not he is a flat-out bust.     

When this player happens to play the highly scrutinized quarterback position, there is little room for error before their critics make themselves heard.

The 2009 Burt Sun Bowl features two teams that relied on a young quarterback to reach the post-season.  

While Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones share this freshman tag, their journey to this bowl followed quite different paths. 

Luck, who dons a "questionable" status for this bowl game, is a redshirt freshman from Texas with a strong NFL quarterback bloodline. 

In the Cardinal’s spring game, Jim Harbaugh saw enough from his five-star blue chip to name him the starter for the season opener. If you have ever watched Luck throw a spiral downfield, you know that this kid has an extremely bright future. 

Luck is what many would call a ‘system quarterback’ and fortunately for him, the pro-style system that Harbaugh prefers to run is setting him up perfectly for the NFL. 

Andrew’s numbers are not exactly mind boggling but the most important thing to remember about him is his consistency. 

While he only threw for over 300 yards once this season (in a loss to Arizona), he had a completion percentage of 60 or over in seven of his 12 games and only dipped below the 50 percentage mark three times. 

Luck also ranked second in the Pac-10 with a 143.5 efficiency rating, throwing only four interceptions in over 288 passing attempts. 

With Toby Gerhart bruising his way through most games, it would be foolish to say that Stanford’s success this year is a direct effect of Luck’s production. But remember, just a year prior, the Cardinal were not able to breakout and make a bowl appearance with Gerhart and Travita Pritchard running the show. 

Luck works well with this run first mentality and as an added bonus, he isn’t afraid to use his own set of feet to move the chains.  In 61 rushing attempts, he averaged 5.8 yard per carry and even scored two rushing touchdowns.

While these aren’t exactly Jeremiah Masoli-type numbers, it is one of Luck’s talents that many teams often tend to overlook.  

Luck’s future is extremely bright and depending on how Gerhart’s successor picks up the slack, the Cardinal should have a solid base to make these bowl appearances a yearly occurrence. 

In Oklahoma, Landry Jones didn’t have the luxury of playing for a fan base that was content with a simple bowl bid.  He didn’t even have the chance to win the job during the spring.

A product from the state of New Mexico, Landry was also tagged with a redshirt his first year in Oklahoma. 

Jones prepared this off season by learning how to hold the clipboard on the sidelines and tried to soak in as much knowledge possible by watching a Heisman Trophy winner in action.  It’s funny how things don’t always work out as you plan.

After a shocking injury to Sam Bradford in the first game of the season, Sooner Nation looked down their depth charts and realized that the fate of their yearly "Championship or Bust" season lied in the hands of an untested freshman…something that would give even the most powerful powerhouses shivers.

Jones did his best to fill these enormously large shoes left by the fallen Bradford, but when push came to shove, he was unable to get the Sooners past those marquee opponents.

After throwing nine touchdowns in his first two starts, things didn’t seem that bleak in Oklahoma. But once the Sooners took the show on the road, the young quarterback experienced a great deal of turbulence.

Jones posted a dreadful 1-4 record away from home, throwing nine interceptions (seven picks between the Texas and Nebraska game alone).These performances outside of the state of Oklahoma have to raise huge concerns about the Sooners chances of winning this year’s bowl game. 

Stanford isn’t shy about putting up points, and it is these types of explosive offenses that have given the Sooners serious fits throughout this season.

Luckily for the Sooners, they won't have to face this young Cardinal gun slinger...unless Harbaugh has one last trick up his sleeve.