RELATED: The Case for J.W. Walsh
The quarterback is undeniably the most visible position in sports, particularly in college football. Since 2000, Mark Ingram is the only non-quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy. During that time, the Big 12 has reigned supreme, garnishing four Heismans, not counting Colt McCoy, Graham Harrell, Landry Jones, Brandon Weeden, and Vince Young amongst others. No other conference accounted for more than two Heisman-winning quarterbacks.
That reign is over. Quarterback play in the Big 12 has been lackluster, at best, for the past two seasons. Last season, the conference had only one elite quarterback while three schools that annually produce some of the best signal callers struggled: Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma’s Sugar Bowl win over Alabama and Bryce Petty’s return to Baylor for his senior year have revived hope for the position in 2014, which could see many quarterback duels last until opening day, but hype surrounding the quarterbacks hasn’t been higher since Wes Lunt arrived on campus in Stillwater in 2012 after the departures of RGIII and Brandon Weeden. Four-year starter Landry Jones returned, but hadn’t provided much optimism among fans after a ho-hum year in 2011.
While the Big 12 is unlikely to climb the hill to reclaim its reign as the quarterback conference this season, there’s plenty of reason to be excited. These are the 10 best quarterbacks for 2014:
1. BRYCE PETTY, BAYLOR
Art Briles has been masterful at developing efficient quarterbacks in his offensive scheme since his arrival in Waco. Petty, who may have been a Heisman frontrunner heading into the final weeks of the season if not for a brutal loss in Stillwater, is no exception. The senior-to-be threw for approximately 4200 yards and 32 touchdowns to only three interceptions. He also led the Bears in rushing touchdowns with 14. Coming into the season, the buzz was on Lache Seastrunk, who publicly declared he would win the Heisman after his performance in 2012, but injuries kept him out most of the season while Petty dominated opposing defenses.
2. BAKER MAYFIELD, OKLAHOMA *Sitting out 2014 due to transfer
It might be a surprise to see Mayfield so high on the list. The two-time walk-on quarterback, now at Oklahoma, not only managed to win Tech’s quarterback competition last fall, but was also named the Big 12 freshman offensive player of the year. Mayfield roared onto the scene after a monster performance against SMU on opening weekend, throwing for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns while running for another. Mayfield also carved up Baylor’s offense to the tune of 314 yards and four touchdowns before Baylor pulled away in the second half. What puts the sophomore so high on the list is his spring game début in Norman. Mayfield was a perfect 9 of 9 for 125 yards and two touchdowns, easily outplaying Sugar Bowl MVP Trevor Knight.
3. TREVOR KNIGHT, OKLAHOMA
Knight showed everyone what Bob Stoops saw in his young quarterback during OU’s victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. After an inconsistent beginning to his 2013 campaign and getting benched in favor to Blake Bell, Knight finished the season strong, culminating in a Sugar Bowl performance for the ages. Knight had torched defenses with his legs most of the season, but shredded a tight Alabama defense with his arm. He threw for more than 340 yards and four touchdowns to a single interception, and was named the game’s MVP. It might be a little too early to buy into the hype, though. Knight struggled in OU’s spring game. But the potential is there. If Knight fails to improve in 2014, the duel with Mayfield (and Hansen and Thomas) will be something to watch next spring (2015).
4. JAKE WATERS, KANSAS STATE
Bill Snyder has long had a philosophy of recruiting junior college standouts to help build his program at Kansas State. Waters might be a legend in the JUCO ranks, where he led his team to a 12-0 record and a national title while putting his name in the record books. The Wildcats were a run-first team, and used dual- threat quarterback Daniel Sams often, which kept Waters’ stats conservative. He was a efficient game manager down the stretch for Kansas State, who ended the season winning six of seven games, including a dominant win over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. In that game, Waters completed 21 of 27 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. He also managed more than 340 yards and three touchdowns on the Big 12’s second best pass efficiency defense, Oklahoma.
5. DAVIS WEBB, TEXAS TECH
Despite his teammate, Baker Mayfield, being named Big 12 offensive freshman of the year, Webb (also a freshman) led the Red Raiders in passing yards. Webb carried a heavy workload for Tech. During a four-game stretch Webb attempted more than 220 passes, including 71 against Oklahoma State in Lubbock. He completed more than 62 percent of those passes for nearly 1700 yards and nine touchdowns. Webb, who was benched when Mayfield returned, saved his best performance for last. Mayfield announced his transfer prior to the Holiday Bowl against Arizona State. Webb was called on and delivered. He threw for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-23 win. ASU was favored by two touchdowns.
6. J.W. WALSH, OKLAHOMA STATE
Perhaps no one on this list has had a more up-and-down career than Walsh. Walsh started for the Cowboys in both 2012 and 2013, but lost his position both times, once to “injury.” He faces a steep competition this spring, but brings a lot of experience to the Cowboys offense. Walsh is a dual-threat quarterback with excellent vision. Walsh struggled with decision-making in 2013, often throwing poor passes into coverage, which led to his benching midway through the season. However, Walsh played well in 2012 and steps up in big games. If Walsh can win the quarterback competition and improve his decision-making, he has the potential to be much higher on this list before the end of the season.
7. DAVID ASH, TEXAS
David Ash isn’t guaranteed his starting position when the season starts in September. Ash broke his foot in spring practice and will require surgery. The setback only adds to the pressure of holding off Tyrone Swoopes and possible USC transfer Max Wittek, who will be eligible to play immediately. After completing 67 percent of his passes for 2700 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2012, Ash was off to a promising start in 2013 before concussion symptoms eventually cost him much of the season. Ash has struggled at times, but has developed into an efficient quarterback at Texas. He can be trusted to lead the offense and make key plays down the stretch. His return is key in Charlie Strong’s first season.
8. GRANT ROHACH, IOWA STATE
Optimism about Rohach grew quickly after taking over for a bruised and battered Sam Richardson midway through 2013. Despite freshman growing pains, Rohach produced fantastic results in season closing wins over Kansas and West Virginia. He completed nearly 68 percent of his passed for more than 630 yards and six touchdowns while adding 77 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He hasn’t been named Iowa State’s starter for 2014, but made a strong case the spring game, completing 22 of 38 passes with two touchdowns while taking the majority of snaps.
9. TREVONE BOYKIN, TCU
Boykin was thrust into action during the 2012 season when Pachall left the team to enter rehab. Just a freshman, he struggled at times but also challenged defenses with his athleticism. However, Boykin failed to make positive strides in his development as a sophomore. Pachall’s return sent Boykin to the bench before the season began, but after a sluggish start, Patterson called on Boykin to lead the offense. Armed with one of the Big 12’s most dangerous receiving threats in Brandon Carter and a solid defense, Boykin could not manage to move the ball down the field. Boykin is a athletic quarterback capable of breaking down the defense, but needs to improve to lead TCU to the top of the conference.
10. CLINT TRICKETT, WEST VIRGINIA
West Virginia could not seem to produce a quality replacement for the departed Geno Smith in 2013. Three quarterbacks played significant minutes for the Mountaineers, but Trickett produced the best results down the stretch. Trickett was responsible for leading the offense in its improbable win against the Cowboys, throwing for 309 yards and a touchdown, including a 17-yard pass on third down to put West Virginia in position to kick a field goal to extend its lead late in the game. He ended the season with 356 yards and two touchdowns against Iowa St. Trickett led West Virginia in passing and threw seven touchdown passes.
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