By Nicholas Talbot
The Big 12 Conference was known as a quarterback league.
Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford are all in the NFL, though. And this year, there are more questions than answers for the athletes lining up behind the center.
Only Baylor’s Bryce Petty is even in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy. Petty finished seventh in the voting last season, which is a far cry from what the Big 12 used to have for signal callers.
But for a league without a star quarterback, the conference does have depth as several starters could be replaced during the season — or even in fall practices. It seems only Petty and Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb have the job all to themselves.
That said, here are my rankings of the top quarterbacks heading into the fall.
1. BRYCE PETTY, SR., BAYLOR
Petty enters the 2014 season as one of the top Heisman candidates, along with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and returning Florida State Heisman winner Jameis Winston. He won’t win it. Baylor won’t be good enough to help him out in that regard. But his stats will pop off the paper. Last season, he threw for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns, and his 174.29 passing efficiency rating was second nationally. He only threw three interceptions, which he will have to replicate if the Bears are going to win the Big 12 title like some are predicting. However, with Petty at the helm, Baylor could make another BCS run — even if they do get run over on the national stage again.
2. TREVOR KNIGHT, SO., OKLAHOMA
Yes, one game was that impressive. It was, after all, against Alabama. Before the Sugar Bowl win, Knight took turns under center with Blake Bell and finished the season completing 59 percent of his passes for a total of 819 yards and nine touchdowns. In that one game, though, he was unleashed. He tore apart the Crimson Tide for 348 yards and four touchdowns, completing 32 of his 44 attempts. Was it a fluke game? Probably not. And that is why he is No. 2 on this list. Plus, Oklahoma, along with Baylor, is the favorite to win the Big 12, and winning never hurts a perception of a quarterback’s abilities. But he could have ended up on the bench if Baker Mayfield would have been given eligibility. After leaving Texas Tech and showing up on the Sooners’ doorstep, Mayfield completed nine of nine passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the Oklahoma spring game.
3. DAVIS WEBB, TEXAS TECH
Davis Webb battled mainly with Mayfield last season for the starting quarterback position at Texas Tech, eventually winning the job and playing in 10 games and starting six. He finished the season 226-of-361 (62.6 percent) for 2,718 yards with 20 touchdowns. Webb capped off his freshman campaign by being named the Holiday Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player after he recorded 403 yards on 28-of-41 passing for four touchdowns. He is the incumbent starter and barring injury shouldn’t be challenged. In the Red Raider system, he could have the most impressive numbers of any Big 12 quarterback by season’s end.
4. DAVID ASH, JR., TEXAS
Ash’s numbers extrapolated over a full season last year are 3,040 yards, 28 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. And he would have rushed for 600 more yards. But, he only played in three games. Ash suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot during spring practice, and last season he suffered a concussion during the BYU game that resulted in him missing the Ole Miss game and then the rest of the season after he experienced a recurrence of his symptoms. In the shortened season, Ash threw for 760 yards and seven touchdowns. If he can rebound on the promise he showed, though, Texas could have a 10-win season. Although, if he gets injured again or struggles, phenom Tyronne Swoopes is waiting.
5. J.W. WALSH, JR., OKLAHOMA STATE
J.W. Walsh lost the starting quarterback job at Oklahoma State midway through last season to Clint Chelf. But Chelf is gone. And now, maybe, it is finally Walsh’s time. He was strong as a freshman throwing for more than 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns and even ended the season in the top five in the nation in total QBR. But still he battled Chelf for the starting job again as a sophomore. While Walsh’s arm strength isn’t what it needs to be, he fares well with the short, timing passes that the Cowboys rely on. Last season he passed for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns while completing 59.5 percent of his passes. If he slides again, OSU coach Mike Gundy might pull the cord on him again.
6. TREVONE BOYKIN, JR., TCU
Trevone Boykin took most of the snaps with the first team during the spring, but he doesn’t have the job just yet. Matt Joeckel, former Texas A&M quarterback, transferred to TCU at the end of the spring. Joeckel will be eligible to play immediately because he already graduated from A&M. Boykin, however, has more game experience. He played in 12 games for the Horned Frogs last season and threw for 1,198 yards and seven touchdowns. Boykin also ran for 313 yards and seven touchdowns. If Boykin is moved, he would end up being one of the top receivers in the Big 12. Either way, he is a threat for TCU.
7. JAKE WATERS, SR., KANSAS STATE
Waters finished 2013 with a 21-of-27 passing for 271 yards and three touchdown performance against Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. When his competitor in the pocket, Daniel Sams, transfered to McNeese State this spring, the quarterback job belonged solely to Waters. Waters finished last season with 2,469 yards for 18 touchdown passes while completing 61.2 percent of his passes. Outside of Webb and Petty, his job is the most secure, and that could have moved him above Boykin, but the Wildcats are still a run first team and his numbers are not likely to improve from last season.
8. CLINT TRICKETT, SR., WEST VIRGINIA
Trickett never looked comfortable nor confident in Dana Holgorsen’s offense in 2013, and then a shoulder injury forced him to miss the spring. He might not have enough tangible experience to make the offense hum this fall. Last season, Trickett played in eight games and threw for 1,605 yards and seven touchdowns. However, he also threw seven interceptions, and his QB rating of 114.6 ranked him 110th out of 130 eligible quarterbacks in FBS. Still, it is the old Oklahoma State system, and if he somehow masters it, he could put up respectable numbers.
9. SAM RICHARDSON, JR., IOWA STATE
Sam Richardson hasn’t yet won the job of starting quarterback for Iowa State next season, but he has more experience than the other two he is up against. He played in 11 games last season and threw for 1,397 yards and 11 touchdowns. Richardson ran for 356 yards. However, Grant Rohach, who threw for more than 1,200 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, had the strongest spring of the three quarterbacks to take an edge in the competition into the summer. The Cyclones, however, are holding off on naming a starter until at least mid-August. That could give redshirt freshman Joel Lanning a chance to win the job.
10. MONTELL COZART, SO., KANSAS
Montell Cozart emerged as the No. 1 quarterback for Kansas in the spring. But, it is still Kansas football, so he sits here in last place among quarterbacks — even below Richardson, who has a 50-50 shot at being the starter for the Jayhawks. Cozart started three games and played in four total last season but lacked consistency. He threw for 227 yards but ran for 214. If the sophomore continues to develop as a passer, he could help the Jayhawks offense, which has been terrible of late, improve. Jake Heaps, a senior who would have been the backup, transferred to Miami (Fla.). Fellow sophomore, T.J. Millweard and redshirt sophomore Michael Cummings, who started a few games as freshman, sit behind him on the depth chart.
Krista Pirtle contributed to this report.
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