2011 College Football Predictions: Who Are the Top QBs Who Could Return?

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IJanuary 4, 2011

2011 College Football Predictions: Who Are the Top QBs Who Could Return?

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Quarterback Kellen Moore #11 of the Boise State Broncos warms up before playing against the Utah Utes in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium December 22, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Boise State Won 26-3.  (Photo by Et
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The 2011 college football predictions are going to start with much fervor (if they haven't already) a week from now once Oregon and Auburn are finished in Glendale. 

    The coaching carousel has already kicked into full swing and will continue to do so until every spot is filled and every job is safe (for at least another year).

    But with several juniors and sophomore quarterbacks having outstanding seasons in 2011, their future is also up for debate: Will they head to the NFL?

    Yes, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Ryan Mallett could return to their respective teams, but that doesn't seem a safe bet. 

    We've chosen the top 15 signal callers who are likely to be back in 2011.

No. 15: Bryant Moniz, Hawaii

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    HONOLULU - SEPTEMBER 02: Bryant Moniz #17 of the University of Hawaii Warriors carries the ball during first half action against the University of Southern California Trojans at Aloha Stadium September 2, 2010 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kent Nishimura
    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 65-percent completion, 5,040 yards, 39 TD, 15 INT

    Class: Junior

    The native Hawaiian had a great season in 2010. A Hawaii quarterback leading the nation in passing yards and touchdowns isn't really news: Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang come to mind. 

    And Moniz's stats are a bit inflated, since six of his touchdowns came in a blowout of Charleston Southern. Still, he did well against USC and was the main reason why the Rainbow Warriors dealt Nevada its only loss of the 2010 season. 

No. 14: Russell Wilson, NC State

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    ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 28:  Russell Wilson #16 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack passes the ball during the Champs Sports Bowl against the West Virginia Mountineers at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mik
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 58-percent completion, 3,563 yards, 28 TD, 14 INT

    Class: Junior

    A few different bounces of the ball and the Wolfpack could have won the Atlantic Division of the ACC: They fell to Clemson by just a point and they had a shot at the title in their finale against Maryland.

    Wilson was a big part of the reason why. 

    In nine of their 13 games, Wilson threw at least two touchdowns and his athleticism added another nine touchdowns on the ground.

    And in their surprising 23-7 win over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl, he was magnificent, throwing for 275 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. 

No. 13: Nick Foles, Arizona

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    TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 02:  Quarterback Nick Foles #8 of the Arizona Wildcats throws a pass against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the college football game at Arizona Stadium on December 2, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Wildcat
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 67.1-percent completion, 20 TD, 10 INT

    Class: Junior

    A knee injury kept Foles out of the essential three games this season, but he finished the regular season strong, even if the Wildcats didn't.

    He had great games against USC (353 yards, three TD) and Oregon (448 yards, three TD), but was not particularly good in the crushing loss to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. 

    Still, with another year under his belt in the Pac-10 and a slightly more favorable schedule next year (they played both Stanford and Oregon on the road this year), 2011 could be a great season for Foles. 

No. 12: Ryan Lindley, San Diego State

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Ryan Lindley #14 of the San Diego State Aztecs looks to pass in the first half against the UCLA Bruins at The Rose Bowl on September 4, 2009 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 57.7-percent completion, 3,830 yards, 28 TD, 14 INT

    Class: Junior

    The three-year starter has improved significantly every season and in 2010 he finished the year in fine form.

    His two fourth-quarter touchdowns against third-ranked TCU nearly led the Aztecs to a remarkable upset, and in their surprising beat-down of Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl, he was almost perfect: 18-for-23 with 276 yards and three touchdowns. Lindley and SDSU defeated the Midshipmen 36-14. 

    The 6'4", 215-pounder could be attractive to NFL teams in 2012. 

No. 11: Geno Smith, West Virginia

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    ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 28:  Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountineers passes the ball during the Champs Sports Bowl against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Eh
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 64.8-percent completion, 2,763 yards, 24 TD, seven INT

    Class: Sophomore

    His Champs Sports Bowl counterpart, NC State's Russell Wilson, outplayed Smith (in their bowl matchup), but Smith had a fine 2010.

    The large, mobile sophomore was outstanding in the Mountaineers four-game winning streak to close out the regular season (eight TD, one INT) and played great in the team's 31-17 victory over Maryland.

    Another year in that offense will have Smith ready to lead WVU to another shot at the Big East title and a BCS bowl. 

No. 10: Kyle Padron, SMU

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    DALLAS - SEPTEMBER 24:  Quarterback Kyle Padron #2 of the SMU Mustangs celebrates a touchdown in the third quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on September 24, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 59.4-percent completion, 3,828 yards, 31 TD, 14 INT

    Class: Sophomore

    The young quarterback didn't get off to a great start, throwing three costly interceptions in the Mustangs opener against Texas Tech.

    But as the season progressed, he was a key contributor to the team's Conference USA championship game berth. 

    In their must-win game at East Carolina, he was 21-for-34 with 331 yards and three touchdowns and he was even better in the win over the Pac-10's Washington State, throwing four touchdowns.

    In that June Jones' offense, he should have a fantastic junior season. 

No. 9: Dominique Davis

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    BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Dominique Davis #4 of the East Carolina Pirates runs with the ball against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Blacksburg, Virginia.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 64.5-percent completion, 3,967 yards, 37 TD, 16 INT

    Class: Junior

    Davis actually threw more touchdown passes in 2010 than Andrew Luck, Ryan Mallett, Cam Newton, and Kellen Moore.

    And although he is a fine scrambler (he ran for nine touchdowns this year), Davis was a better passer. Seven times this season he completed 30 passes or more. 

    The stats were a bit inflated, considering that the Pirates were behind by large margins at times during the season, but twice in back-and-forth Conference USA contests, he was at his best.

    In the 51-49 win over eventual conference-champion Tulsa, he threw for 383 yards and five touchdowns. Later in the season, on the road at UAB, his third, fourth, and fifth touchdowns of the game keyed the Pirates fourth quarter comeback. 

No. 8: G.J. Kinne, Tulsa

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 30: G.J. Kinne #4 of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane throws a pass against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes at Notre Dame Stadium on October 30, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Tulsa defeated Notre Dame 28-27. (Photo by Jonathan Danie
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 59.8-percent completion, 31 TD, 10 INT

    Class: Junior

    Not enough people took notice of what the Golden Hurricane did in 2010: A 10-3 record ending with a crushing defeat of the Rainbow Warriors in the Hawaii Bowl. 

    Fewer people took enough notice of the Kinne did during the season. 

    Not only was he one of the top passers in the nation (eighth in touchdown passes), Kinne was the team's leading rusher and was outstanding during the team's end-of-the-season seven-game winning streak.

    Three touchdowns and 343-yards passing in the bowl game sends him and Tulsa into the offseason with great hopes of winning the 2011 Conference USA title.

No. 7: Denard Robinson, Michigan

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines drops back to pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 62.5-percent completion, 2,570 yards, 18 TD, 11; 1,702 yards rushing, 14 rushing TD

    Class: Sophomore

    Say what you will about the future of Michigan and it's electrifying young quarterback: If Rich Rodriguez is canned, his spread offense will go with him and Robinson won't be the leading rusher in the nation. 

    And Robinson certainly struggled in the second half of the season: Throwing the ball, he was not consistent in the team's 2-5 finish.

    But his athleticism is remarkable and with the likely departure of Cam Newton and Terrelle Pryor, he could be the most prolific quarterback in the nation next season. 

No. 6: Robert Griffin III, Baylor

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    AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 8:  Quarterback Robert Griffin #10 of the Baylor Bears passes the bal downfield during the game against the Texas Longhorns on November 8, 2008 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  Texas won 45-21. (Photo by B
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 67-percent completion, 3,501 yards, 22 TD, eight INT; 635 yards rushing, eight TD

    Class: Sophomore

    The duel threat runner/passer led the Bears to a surprised 7-2 record and a spot in the Top 25. 

    Of course, three straight losses as well as a decisive defeat in the Texas Bowl rubbed off some of the luster of the team's 2010 season. 

    But Griffin was fairly consistent throughout and as a junior will be a dark horse to be the Big 12's Player of the Year in 2011. 

No. 5: Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

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    STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 27: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans walks to the sideline during a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions on November 27, 2010 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. The Spartans won 28
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 67-percent completion, 2,825 yards, 20 TD, 10 INT

    Class: Junior

    For a moment, try and forget what Michigan State did in the Capitol  One Bowl against Alabama. The rest of the Spartans' season was great. 

    And so was Cousins. In the upset over Wisconsin, his two fourth-quarter touchdown passes sealed the victory.

    And with the Spartans behind by 10 points on the road at Northwestern, he was remarkable, leading the team to three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including two lengthy drives that he capped with touchdown passes. 

    He made a few bad throws in the loss to Iowa, but when the Spartans needed him to make plays in close games, he rarely let them down. 

No. 4: Landry Jones, Oklahoma

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Landry Jones #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners throws the ball against the Connecticut Huskies during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Peters
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 65.6-percent completion, 4,718 yards, 38 TD, 12 INT

    Class: Sophomore

    Replacing a Heisman Trophy winner is never easy, but Jones filled Sam Bradford's shoes nicely in the second half of 2009 and more than did his job in his first full season as a starter.

    Only Bryant Moniz threw for more touchdowns and yards and Jones did it against a much more daunting schedule. 

    After a great finish to the regular season, a Big 12 Championship win and a Fiesta Bowl trouncing of Connecticut (in which Jones was the Offensive MVP), the Sooners will likely be a top five team in the preseason rankings. 

    Jones will be a major reason why as well. 

No. 3: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

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    STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Brandon Weeden #3 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys looks for an open receiver against the Oklahoma Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Image
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 66.9-percent completion, 4,277 yards, 34 TD, 13 INT

    Class: Junior

    Weeden will be 28 years old early in the 2011 season (he spent several seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system) so he should have a decisive advantage over his fellow quarterbacks: Remember Chris Weinke?

    His Big 12 South counterpart Landry Jones had better numbers and got the best of him in their showdown back in late November. But Weeden's done more with less overall talent. 

    And since the Cowboys had little trouble replacing Dez Bryant, the potential loss of Justin Blackmon in 2011 shouldn't be to traumatic for Weeden and the Cowboys.

No. 2: Kellen Moore, Boise State

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Quarterback Kellen Moore #11 of the Boise State Broncos warms up before playing against the Utah Utes in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium December 22, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Boise State Won 26-3.  (Photo by Et
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 71.3-percent completion, 3,845 yards, 35 TD, 6 INT

    Class: Junior

    Moore will want to return to the Broncos for two reasons: Take one more stab at an unbelievable national championship and improve his potential NFL Draft status.

    He has a good shot at both of those in the 2011 season.  And that was proven in the Broncos Las Vegas Bowl triumph over Utah, when Moore threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns.

    There wasn't a more efficient thrower of the ball last year and that includes Cam Newton and Andrew Luck.

No. 1: Matt Barkley, USC

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 30:  Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans rolls out of the pocket against the Oregon Ducks at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 30, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 62.6-percent completion, 2,791 yards, 26 TD, 12 INT

    Class: Sophomore

    Because of their postseason ban, the USC Trojans have been largely forgotten during the prolonged bowl season. So has their quarterback.

    But Matt Barkley had a fine year in 2010. And if their postseason ban is reduced to just one game, the Trojans could be a BCS contender once again. 

    Barkley struggled down the stretch with injuries and eight interceptions in his last five games. But another year in Kennedy Pola's offense will lead to a major boost.

    If he stays healthy and the Trojans win the Pac-10, Barkley could be in New York in December, bidding to become the third Trojan quarterback in a decade to claim the Heisman.