The quarterback position in college was incredibly strong this last year. You wouldn’t know it from the result of the NFL Draft, though. Before the season, Matt Barkley was touted to be the #1 pick and Landry Jones was considered just as good as Bradford, but come draft day there weren’t many quarterbacks who looked prospective for the draft. The bulk of the positional strength came from the underclassmen last year. Johnny Manziel won the Heisman, Teddy Bridgewater pulled the upset on Florida, Marcus Mariota led the Ducks to a decisive Fiesta Bowl win over Collin Klein’s Wildcats, and so on. What is exciting about this youth revolution is that we are guaranteed to see them come back this upcoming year short of them screwing it up somehow by robbing a store or assaulting someone, which really is not out of the realm of possibility.
In no particular order:
Easily one of the most entertaining players on and off the field, Johnny “Football” Manziel is a household name in college football. He became the first freshman (albeit redshirted) to win the Heisman Memorial Trophy and did so in electrifying style. He has been making headlines both good and bad on and off the field, respectively. No one can doubt his talent and awareness as an athlete, but many people are questioning his integrity as a face of an organization. Players with his talent and his penchant for not-so-wholesome activities and actions force coaches to weight the risk versus reward of a player. Fortunately for Johnny, his reward is pretty high.
To be fair, however, Johnny has not done anything really wrong, just kind of stupid. His pictures at parties and on spring break in Mexico are not uncommon when it comes to 20-year old college students. A look at any college kid’s Facebook will affirm that claim. College athletes get caught with receiving improper benefits, drinking and driving, possession of marijuana, and a myriad of other illegal activities. To this point, the only thing that Johnny has done like that was get into a bar fight, and even that seemed overplayed.
EDIT: It was brought to my attention that Johnny Manziel isn’t of age to be participating in barfights. According to Deadpsin.com, he was using a fake ID.
This will be a tad hard for me to write, because I’m pretty biased in my opinion on Mariota. Ted Miller makes a pretty good argument for my viewpoint though in his blog entry. I will do my best though in laying out the facts:
Chip Kelly is gone, yes. That is something Oregon is going to have to overcome if they are to continue their rampant success from the past five years. However, Kelly’s departure does not signal a change in the tempo of their offense, just in the way they will score. It is expected that Mark Helfrich, the new head coach, will throw the ball more than his run-oriented predecessor. Last year, Mariota was the compliment to feature back Kenjon Barner. In doing so, he amassed ~2,600 yards and 32 touchdowns while only throwing six interceptions completing 68.5% of his passes. He also rushed for 751 yards with six touchdowns on 7.1 yards per carry. This next year, Mariota is sure to co-feature in Oregon’s octane offense alongside De’Anthony Thomas. Mariota only attempted 336 passes on the year. By comparison, Manziel attempted 434 passes. With limited opportunity, Mariota made the most of every touch. Refer to Ted Miller’s article if you want to hear the stats from a more legitimate source, but the argument remains the same: Mariota has a strong claim to win the Heisman trophy.
Teddy Bridgewater had an exceptional season manning the helm at Louisville in 2012 garnering the Big East Offensive Player of the Year with nearly 3500 passing yards along with 25 passing touchdowns.The only issue was that he played for Louisville who happens to play in the Big East. The Big East is often the butt of many jokees in college football, and deservedly so. Bridgewater’s achievements were thus downplayed because of the level of competition he was playing against. When Louisville got the draw to play heavy hitter and then BCS #3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl, many fans dismissed the game as a guaranteed blowout.
Teddy Bridgewater and his band of merry men had a different idea for Louisville’s first BCS bid since 2006. Louisville scored on the first offensive play of the game intercepting Jeff Driskel and taking it back for six points. Thirty minutes of regulation later, Louisville went into the locker rooms at halftime with a 24-10 lead over the vaunted Gators. Louisville came out from halftime with a similar fervor and ended up leading 33-10 with eight minutes left in the game. Florida responded to Louisville’s last touchdown with a kick return touchdown and mustered one more touchdown before Louisville sealed the deal 33-23. Bridgewater was named the MVP of the game with 266 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns.
Teddy comes back next year to a likely Top 20 position in the preseason polls. With age and maturity comes development, and on the surface he seems to be doing well on that front. He is not exactly a Heisman favorite, but he will be an exceptional dark horse who could easily make a run.
If you are not a Pac-12 fan, then you may not know who this youngster is. Hundley was a redshirt freshman this last year and was overshadowed by Mariota, Keith Price from Washington, and some guy named Barkley from USC. Despite the lack of face time he received, you cannot argue against his statistics and achievements. He threw for over 3500 yards and scored a total of 38 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions. His rap sheet includes wins over then #16 Nebraska and a win over USC to assert LA dominance for the next calendar year. He along with his team and new coach took UCLA to the Pac-12 championship for the second year in a row and won the South Division outright for the first time in school history. While they ended the season on a three game losing streak (losing twice in a row to Stanford on the last game of the regular season and in the P12 championship along with their bowl game against Baylor), UCLA showed amazing promise with the performance of the team no one expected to make waves. Maybe UCLA is the new Pac-12 dynasty that everyone overlooked?
Braxton Miller rounds out this list not because of his past accomplishments but because of his potential. There are all types of college quarterbacks that fall up and down the scale from pure pocket passing quarterback to quick-footed option quarterbacks. Braxton falls somewhere towards the latter. Last year, he rushed for 1200+ yards and 13 touchdowns while passing for 2000 yards and 15 touchdowns. The passing stats are incredibly lacking, but the rushing numbers are impressive for a quarterback. By comparison, Manziel rushed for only 200 more yards while notching seven more touchdowns.
Miller is a walking, well…running, highlight reel. He invokes memories of players like Michael Vick who are more likely to make impact plays with their feet rather than their arm. Miller has proven he is able to thrive in Urban Meyer’s system that was recently brought to Ohio State. The same system that Tim Tebow excelled in. That is not to say that Miller is anywhere near Tebow’s level, but their play style is somewhat similar. Deception, misdirection, and taking advantage of the defense that doesn’t pay attention to his ability are just a few of the facets of his game. It wouldn’t be out of the question for Braxton Miller to score 50 touchdowns in an excellent year using his arm and his legs. He does need to work on his throwing game and prove that he is a mobile quarterback rather than a speedster who can throw the ball.
There are quarterbacks I left off this list who are strong contenders for a Heisman run. Aaron Murray (UGA), Tajh Boyd (Clemson), and AJ McCarron (Bama) to name a few. I highlighted the players above because they have at least one extra year after this upcoming season. Some of them may try their hand at the Draft depending on how their respective years go, but we could potentially see the men above on the 2014 top quarterbacks list as well.
Get excited, we’re just over a month away from the opening kickoff!