Conference Of The Quarterback: Ranking The Pac-10's Top 5 QBs
The Pac-10 conference offers the biggest pool of talent at the quarterback position in college football. Of the four teams sitting at 4-0, only the Big Ten has more undefeated teams with five, only Oregon can say they don't have an NFL quality arm under center.
Stanford's Andrew Luck and Washington's Jake Locker are battling out for a possible top spot in the 2011 NFL Draft, and former top recruit Matt Barkley of USC and Arizona's Nick Foles continue to impress with their play so far this season.
In order for the Pac-10 to continue their recent success, the following five quarterbacks will need to be able to shoulder much of the road down the stretch run. As the season progresses, we will be able to see all five of these quarterbacks battle head-to-head in an attempt to reign supreme in the conference.
A bona fide Heisman candidate, Luck has been everything that scouts dreamt he would be this year. With Stanford sitting at 4-0, the 6'4'' junior standout has been the catalyst for the Cardinal with his impressive play this season.
Luck may not be putting up flashy numbers compared to Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, for instance, who has thrown for an NCAA-leading 1,438 comapred to Luck's 912, but he engineers drives and punches the ball in when it matters most as evidenced by his 11 TDs through the air.
Blessed with a high football IQ, Luck has been continually praised by Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who has called him "the best QB I've been around."
Seen as a true leader and field general for the white and red, Luck seems to ahve command of his team and the respect of his peers.While Luck still needs to iron out footwork problems and mature, he has the accuracy and poise to become a star at the next level.
This year, though, Luck is looking toward a possible Heisman trophy and potential national championship berth.
The junior from Ferndale, Washington remains a top pro prospect even though he stumbled out of the gate to start this season.
An gritty competitor, who was used primarily as an option quarterback his freshman year, Locker has had his share of bumps and bruises in his career at Washington. Although he has durability concerns, the positives on Locker reads like a number one pick.
While this year it seems Locker has been pressing under center, he has displayed amazing arm strength, especially down the field, and has a knack for fitting passes into the tightest of places. Combined with his velocity, the Huskies' QB has shown great timing with his receivers and continually beats defenses with comeback routes and back shoulder throws.
It seems as if Locker is the type of player who will flourish once he leaves the college game. With the right talent around him, the 6'3'' right-hander has the potential to be a cornerstone for an NFL franchise.
Foles has gained fame this season leading Arizona to a 4-0 record, as they had into a showdown against Oregon Saturday night.
Another Texas quarterback, the Wildcat QB has shown the ability to make plays, especially in the clutch, even when he may be struggling. Last week against Cal, for example, Foles orchestrated a 7- play, 77- yard drive to score the deciding touchdown with 1:26 to play after struggling mightily all game.
A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Foles has burst on to the scene this year leading Arizona to an upset of then-No.9 Iowa and to the top of the Pac-10 standings.
Ranked third in the nation in completion percentage, Foles is just starting to get the recognition, and NFL attention, that he deserves. As Arizona continues to rise in popularity, Foles is sure to be a household name for college football fans.
The much-maligned USC quarterback has led the Trojans to a 4-0 record this year and has matured into an NFL-caliber prospect.
Tied for the second in passing touchdowns with twelve, Barkley has had trouble living up to the hype that followed him coming out of Mater Dei. This year, though, the sophomore from Newport Beach has built a repertoire with his receivers, especially Ronald Johnson, and has been looking to stretch the field vertically.
Although they have been talent-depleted in recent years, Lane Kiffin's program is looking to weather the storm created by Reggie Bush and look ahead to the future. Barkley's maturation in the pocket, and his ability to throw accurately, are two key developments that he needs to work on to bring his game to the next level.
With at least one more year at school, Barkley has the potential to become a top quarterback, its just a matter of how he progresses and grows into the position.
After three years of inconsistent quarterback play, the Cal senior has made strides as a passer this year and has the Bears sitting at an even 2-2.
This season, Riley has become a more accurate passer, his 60.7% is a career best, and if not for a costly interception at the end of the Arizona game, it could have been his game-winning drive instead of Nick Foles'.
Cal has a long road ahead as they go on to play # 18 USC on the road and then has to face #4 Oregon and #9 Stanford in back-to-back weeks in November. Riley needs to be an X-factor for the Golden Bears as his growth, or lack of it, will determine if Cal can recover from two early season losses.
With a bye week before their next game against UCLA on October 9th, Riley needs to rebound from his sub-par performance against Arizona and bounce back with a crucial win against a tough Bruin defense.