Which Pac-10 Quarterback Will Provide the Best Leadership?
The Pac-10 has had its share of starting quarterbacks succumb to injury in recent years. The biggest example is last year's season-ending ACL tear suffered by Oregon QB Dennis Dixon.
The Pac-10 is a conference littered with all-time quarterback greats. Dan Fouts, Jon Elway, Drew Bledsoe, Derek Anderson, Carson Palmer, Jim Plunkett, Troy Aikman, Jake Plummer, Matt Leinart, and Rodney Peete just to name a few.
With week one on the horizon, new and familiar faces look to rewrite record books and join the list of legends.
Going into spring/summer camp there were high hopes for returning quarterbacks at Washington, Oregon State, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Stanford and UCLA.
Before UCLA could get into full-contact drills they saw both their potential starting quarterbacks go down with injuries. Ben Olson has a broken foot which required surgery, He will be out six to eight weeks. (Surgery performed May 6)
Olson could be back on his feet for the opener, however being unable to workout with the team will greatly influence his on field performance and stamina.
Pat Cowan was next on the depth chart, but he tore his ACL in non-contact drills and underwent season ending surgery to repair the ligament. His career is likely over, he has already used his redshirt year.
If Olson cannot return in time, Mt. San Antonio transfer Kevin Craft could be the man under center. This is Craft's third college in as many years.
The most recent story is the dislocated kneecap of USC's Mark Sanchez. Labeled the next great USC quarterback, Sanchez may have to watch Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain call the shots for the first two weeks of the season.
Mustain was 8-0 as a starter at Arkansas in 2006 before being released for "attitude issues."
Sanchez is optimistic he will return by the Aug. 30 opener. If not healthy the first two are tough games to miss for the Junior signal caller. They play at No. 20 Virginia and host No. 3 Ohio State.
Washington is head-over-heels in love with Jake Locker. As a freshman, Locker dazzled with his quick feet and aggressive/hard nosed Tebow-esque attitude. The only knock on Locker was his inconsistency in the passing game.
Locker completed only 47 percent of his passes and had 15 interceptions to only 14 touchdowns.
Reports out of Husky camp are that Locker is nursing a sore left hamstring. The injury seems minor, however with the Husky ground game relying so heavily on his legs, it'll be a season long battle to remain healthy.
Oregon State has named Junior QB Lyle Moevao the starter for the August 28th road opener vs. Stanford. Moevao is 4-0 in his brief career and has the leadership qualities Mike Riley admires in his quarterbacks.
Moevao dropped 20 pounds in the off season and has coaches excited about his mobility and newfound accuracy.
Junior Sean Canfield is slowly getting back to 100 percent after surgery on his torn labrum. Until Sean can push for shared time or a starting role, Moevao will be the guy to lead OSU to another bowl berth, and the race for the Pac-10 title.
Oregon wishes Dennis Dixon had four more years of eligibility. Unfortunately he is gone and youngsters Justin Roper and Nate Costa are vying for the starting nod.
Roper finished the season last year in tremendous fashion, leading U of O to a 56-21 rout of South Florida in the Sun Bowl.
The spread offense Oregon runs requires physical and mental quickness from the quarterback position. Roper looked good ending last season and Costa seems the favorite going into 2008.
For Oregon, young quarterback + sophisticated offense = slow start.
California...whom to start? A veteran who constantly underachieves but has incredible potential, or a youngster who looks like the future of the program?
The battle between Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley can be summed up in one word, intense. Longshore held the upper hand through the first half of camp, but as of late, Riley has stopped over-thinking and has made play after play to gain the attention of Coach Jeff Tedford.
As a witness to the two-quarterback system OSU had last year, I'd strongly suggest Cal name a starter for the sake of offensive cohesiveness. I think Cal has to go with Longshore until he proves unfit for the job.
Stanford is in the same boat but has three guys competing for playing time. How Pritchard isn't the starter is beyond me. With the upset of USC last year, he won the hearts of the Cardinal faithful and would appear to be the favorite for starting time.
Stanford had better get it figured out fast, because OSU comes into town in less than two weeks and is dead set on harassing the passer. Any uneasiness at the quarterback position will certainly spell 3-8 for the Cardinal.
Arizona and Arizona State return gunslingers Willie Tuitama and Rudy Carpenter. They are veteran quarterbacks who know their offenses inside and out.
Carpenter creates stress for defensive coordinators with his ability to move in the pocket and buy time to find open receivers down field.
Tuitama runs a pass-happy offense and has the arm for it. Although underrated, I think Arizona and Tuitama are poised for big things this year down in the desert.
Lastly, we look at Washington State. Redshirt sophomore Gary Rogers takes over and hopes to inject some life into the lowly Cougars. At 6-foot-6, 233 pounds, he certainly looks the part, but whether or not he can perform will be the big question.
Washington State will need a lot of help this year to sniff a bowl game.
Success in the Pac-10 is heavily weighted on quarterback production. This year will be no exception. Arizona and Arizona State look to be the front runners with returning Seniors at the helm.
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