If there is one trend that is emerging in the 2010 college football season, it’s the importance of dual-threat players—specifically quarterbacks.
In an age where offense is king, a quarterback who can both throw and run is an incredibly valuable asset to any team.
It’s hard enough stopping the pass. When that same quarterback can take off and scramble for the first down or more, it’s virtually impossible to defend.
Now, not all quarterbacks have equal talent when it comes to the two skills. Some quarterbacks are much better passers who just happen to be able to run. Stanford’s Andrew Luck is a good example.
On the other hand, there are quarterbacks who are excellent runners who haven’t yet shown they have the passing skills to be a true great college “quarterback.”
Well, regardless of whether these guys can pass or not, here are the 10 best running quarterbacks in the nation.
Note: Rankings were based on 2010 numbers. Also, passing ability was not factored into the ratings. Although some of the quarterbacks mentioned can definitely sling the ball, it was their running ability that landed them on this list.
Ricky Dobbs, Navy
Alex Gillett, Eastern Michigan
Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State
Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss
Although preseason national title dark horse Virginia Tech hasn’t exactly gotten out to the start it hoped for, its senior quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, certainly hasn’t been the problem.
In three games, Taylor has thrown for over 500 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception. But another huge reason for his success is his ability to scramble, both opening up the passing game and adding to his impressive rushing totals.
Already this year, Taylor has rushed for 191 yards on only 38 carries and has a long rush of 29 yards. Certainly one of the best dual threats in the country, Taylor is off to a fine start even if the Hokies aren’t.
If there is one thing Air Force is known for, it’s running the football. That trend doesn’t stop with their running backs. Quarterback Tim Jefferson gets into the mix as well.
The Falcons are off to a good start (defeating BYU and barely losing to Oklahoma), and Jefferson is a huge reason why.
Although his passing numbers haven’t been spectacular (only 354 yards and three touchdowns so far), he’s more than made up for it with his running prowess. On only 30 attempts, Jefferson has rushed for 193 yards and four touchdowns.
If that continues, Air Force could be a real contender in the Mountain West.
As a freshman, Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase couldn’t have been put in a tougher position. He’s been charged to lead a Big Ten offense for a coach fighting for his job against opponents who would love nothing less than to take his head off.
Well, despite those odds, Scheelhaase has performed remarkably well for the Illini so far. Although the team has struggled (and likely will the rest of the year), Scheelhaase has been one of its few bright spots.
Although his passing numbers haven’t been great (380 yards, three touchdowns with three interceptions), his rushing ability has been a spark for the Illinois offense.
On just 40 attempts, Scheelhaase has scrambled his way to 204 yards and a touchdown on over five yards a carry. The second coming of Juice Williams?
Although UAB is not a good team and David Isabelle is arguably not even a good quarterback, he sure knows how to run.
This year, the sophomore has thrown for just 204 yards and two touchdowns on only 43 percent passing—bad numbers if there ever were.
Yet he’s still their starting quarterback. Why? Well, on only 43 attempts he’s rushed for 264 yards and three touchdowns with a long of 50 yards. When you’re averaging over six yards a carry, coaches are going to get you in the game even if the passing offense suffers.
After rushing for over a thousand yards last year, everyone knew Georgia Tech senior quarterback Josh Nesbitt was a threat on the ground.
Yet they still haven’t found a way to stop him. Although the Yellow Jackets have already suffered a loss in 2010, Nesbitt is still playing like he did last year.
No, his passing isn’t anything laudable (200 yards, two touchdowns), but it never was. His running ability is why he is Georgia Tech’s starting quarterback. On 57 carries this year, he’s already racked up 267 yards and six touchdowns.
For opposing defenses, it’s pretty obvious: If you want to stop the Yellow Jackets, you must slow down Nesbitt.
Although Northern Illinois certainly isn’t one of the most recognizable teams in the Midwest, let alone the country, they have a quarterback that could make some national news if he keeps up his play.
Junior Chandler Harnish, a starter since his freshman year, is having an outstanding season despite being on a sputtering team.
Although Harnish’s passing numbers haven’t been great (354 yards, one touchdown), his rushing numbers are approaching ridiculous. On just 32 carries, Harnish has run for 295 yards (a 9.2-yard average) and two touchdowns.
Although Michigan’s Denard Robinson may be getting all the hype just to the east, Harnish is quietly establishing himself as one of the nation’s premier running signal callers.
As a first-year starter, Auburn junior quarterback Cameron Newton was probably one of the most nervous kids in all of America to start 2010.
After the start he and the Tigers have gotten off to, there’s certainly no reason for him to be nervous anymore.
Auburn is 3-0, and an enormous reason why is the play of Newton. Not only is he throwing the ball well (525 yards, seven touchdowns), but he’s running it equally as well.
On only 50 attempts, Newton has rushed for 309 yards, with a long of 71 yards, and two touchdowns. Although his passing may be the main reason why he’s in the starting lineup, his running sure doesn’t hurt.
If Nevada senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn’t play way in the WAC, he would probably be mentioned as a top five candidate for the Heisman Trophy right now. He’s that good.
This year, in leading the Wolf Pack to a 3-0 start, Kaepernick has been basically unstoppable. Not only has he thrown for over 700 yards and five touchdowns on 70 percent passing, but he’s basically untouchable when he decides to take off.
Only just 39 carries, he’s rushed for 369 yards and seven touchdowns. Oh, that’s only 9.5 yards every time he uses his legs.
The overwhelming debate going into 2010 for Nebraska was over who the Cornhuskers’ starting quarterback would be. Three games into the season, it’s safe to say that question has been answered.
Although freshman Taylor Martinez hasn’t yet shown that’s he a top-notch passer (392 yards, one touchdown on 65 percent passing), his running ability reminds Nebraska fans of Eric Crouch. In Lincoln, there’s no bigger compliment than that.
On only 40 rushes, Martinez has run for 421 yards (a 10.5-yard average) and eight touchdowns with a long of 80 yards. If he continues on that pace, Crouch will be just an afterthought for Cornhusker fans.
Like Nebraska, a quarterback controversy enveloped much of the offseason talk at Michigan—and like Nebraska, it appears as though the Wolverines made the right choice.
Sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson has simply been unreal these first three games. Not only is he throwing the ball well (671 yards and four touchdowns on 70 percent passing), but he’s running the ball like everyone knew he could.
He’s the leading rusher in the FBS with 559 yards and already has four touchdowns. He’s averaging around eight yards a carry and appears faster than every other player on the field.
Now, whether Robinson can keep that up against Big Ten defenses is a whole different question, but as of now, he’s the best running quarterback in all of college football.