Pac-12 Football: Updating Every Team's Quarterback Situation
Every position on the football field is important to a team's overall success, but there's virtually zero chance of becoming elite without an effective signal-caller. In the Pac-12, those special players can be found in nearly every nook and cranny.
As we enter spring practice (or exit, for some), we enter a time when position battles are often decided and the team begins to hone in on exactly what it wants to be throughout the 2014 season.
Quarterback battles typically grab the most headlines, so we're going to update each Pac-12 team's status in regard to the starting signal-caller. Recent years have seen plenty of turnover and numerous battles for the starting gig in the offseason.
But 2014 is a little different, as just two starting seniors—Arizona's B.J. Denker and Washington's Keith Price—are gone from the 2013 campaign.
Still, several teams have wide-open competitions, while others have yet to completely decide on who will start at quarterback when the beginning of the season rolls around. And finally, a few teams have zero doubt as to who will start at signal-caller, and it doesn't take a football depth chart guru to figure out which squads we might be referring to.
Take an updated look now at where each Pac-12 team stands at the quarterback position.
The Arizona Wildcats have no quarterbacks on the roster who have thrown a pass in a regular-season contest. So yes, a quarterback competition is definitely taking place in Tucson this offseason.
Four candidates have a realistic shot to win the job.
The first is Texas transfer Connor Brewer. The 6'2" 196 pound sophomore served as the team's scout-team quarterback in the fall, so he has some familiarity with the system. Next, there's USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, another highly touted passer who doubles as a capable runner.
Third on the list, although not necessarily penciled in behind the aforementioned duo, is Jerrard Randall, an LSU transfer with the most upside of anyone. He is an elite runner who could transform Rich Rodriguez's offense into something truly dangerous. Lastly, you have Anu Solomon, the only candidate who was recruited by the Wildcats.
At this point, it's a four-sided coin flip. Whoever performs best throughout spring and fall camp is going to win the job. At this point, you might want to lean slightly toward Brewer or Scroggins, but don't be surprised to see any one of the candidates named starter when the season arrives.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State has zero doubt about the starting quarterback position for the 2014 season, which will belong to senior-to-be Taylor Kelly.
In 2013, he passed for more than 3,600 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also added nine scores and another 600 yards on the ground, which made him one of the best dual-threat signal-callers in the nation.
The super Sun Devil has excellent decision-making abilities in addition to a knack for playmaking that allowed the offense to rack up nearly 40 points per game last season. When you combine him with the extraordinary talents of wide receiver Jaelen Strong, defensive coordinators may be trying to find a way to sneak extra defensive backs into the secondary.
After Kelly, it would have been a battle for second string between Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici, but Eubank transferred in December, leaving the job to Bercovici, who's entering his junior season.
Like a number of schools on this list, the quarterback depth is clear for the Sun Devils, although it will be interesting to see if any young players emerge to nab the third spot in line.
Barring a serious regression in skill or decision making, quarterback Jared Goff is going to start for Cal once again in 2014.
This is in part because he has no competition aside from senior Austin Hinder, who attempted a whopping four passes in 2013 and completed just one. The highly touted Zach Kline chose to transfer out of the program, leaving Sonny Dykes' future in the hands of the big-armed sophomore.
Luke Rubenzer is a talented freshman who is set to arrive in the fall, but it would take some serious development for him to be considered a candidate to start after only several weeks with the team.
But perhaps the biggest reason Goff is going to start once again is because, well, he was pretty darn good as a true freshman. He tossed 18 touchdowns to go along with nearly 3,500 yards, which are numbers you can expect to go up in Dykes' pass-heavy system.
It may be extreme to say the future of the Colorado football program rests on the shoulders of quarterback Sefo Liufau, but for the first time in seemingly forever, Buffs fans have a young kid they should be excited about.
In just eight games, he threw for 12 touchdowns and nearly 1,800 yards—modest numbers that look quite a bit better when you consider the lack of talent around him. He benefited from the play of stud wideout Paul Richardson, who chose to take his talents to Sundays, but Liufau showed a lot of promise as well.
The coaching staff has to love that backup Connor Wood has experience in the system, which means the most important position on the field is mostly settled as the offseason moves forward.
Still, should Liufau fail to improve on an intriguing freshman season, Wood could be given another opportunity at the helm. This competition is pretty much nonexistent, but there's a small chance of that changing in the future.
Oregon has no quarterback competition when it returns one of the best overall players in the country to the position.
We're talking of course about Marcus Mariota, who has the whole package at signal-caller.
He's as fast as any player on the team, especially in the open field. Combine that with his razor-sharp accuracy and improving arm strength, and you're looking at a guy who may start on Day 1 in the NFL, whenever he chooses to make the jump. His stats, which show 40 total touchdowns in 2013 and just four interceptions, back that up.
After Mariota, the duel is on between Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues for the backup job. Beyond that, there's redshirt freshman Damion Hobbs, who will be joined by incoming freshman Morgan Mahalak in the summer.
Oregon State Beavers
Sean Mannion may be the second-best quarterback in the state of Oregon, but he has just as much of a stranglehold on the starting spot as Marcus Mariota does.
Before the 2013 season, it was anyone's guess as to who would lead the Beavers into the future, and Cody Vaz certainly made a case toward the end of the 2012 campaign. But when the job was given to Mannion, he never looked back, passing for more than 4,600 yards and 37 touchdowns.
He won't feel any pressure about being challenged for the starting spot, and like Mariota, he likely has a future on Sundays.
After Mannion, you'll probably see sophomore Brent VanderVeen, although he could be challenged in the summer when Nick Mitchell and Marcus McMaryion, members of the 2014 class, arrive in Corvallis.
If you were using a scale of 1-10 to rate how secure Kevin Hogan's spot was atop Stanford's depth chart, eight would probably be a safe number.
Which is to say, the position is definitely his at this point, and it would take several major developments for that to change, but it's not inconceivable. That in itself sounds a little wacky, considering Hogan just led the Cardinal to two straight Rose Bowl appearances, winning the first.
He also passed for more than 2,600 yards and 20 touchdowns and tacked on another 353 yards rushing. But the issue with Hogan is a lack of explosiveness. He'll complete a long pass here and there and break a few tackles for a 12-yard-run now and then (just ask Oregon), but he's nowhere near the word "dynamic" when you look it up in the dictionary.
Still, he's a proven winner, which cannot be overstated at the college level. Look for the incoming Keller Chryst to make a few headlines in the fall and possibly earn the backup job fairly quickly.
If we're using the same scale from the previous slide, Brett Hundley is at a 10. There is zero chance that anybody else will be the starting quarterback for the opening game of the Bruins' 2014 campaign, and you'll only need to look at the various preseason Heisman lists to understand why.
Here's a guess that Hundley will be on most, if not all, of them, and for good reason too. He threw for 3,071 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2013. He also ran for 11 touchdowns and nearly 750 yards, making him one of the premier dual-threat weapons in the country.
The situation after him is murky, although you can still see the ground. Jerry Neuheisel (yes, son of Rick) received the most playing time after Hundley, although highly touted redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard will likely win the backup spot.
He's an athletic freak with perhaps a few areas in the passing game that need refining, but he's probably the quarterback of the future in Westwood.
Cody Kessler or Max Browne? That's the only question that matters when it comes to the quarterback position at USC.
On one hand, you have Kessler, the only player on the roster with meaningful snaps at the position. He ended the 2013 campaign in strong fashion by throwing for 344 yards and four scores against Fresno State. On the season, he threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 20 scores, which is pretty impressive for a freshman.
On the other side of the coin, you have the highly touted Max Browne, who had all the skills in high school but has yet to be on a stage to display them at the college level. Does he have enough to beat out the experienced Kessler?
To some it may be a coin flip, but there's certainly extra weight on one side for experience. If you had to guess who will win the job at this point in the offseason, the safe pick would be Kessler. And really, if he continues to improve at a natural rate, Browne doesn't stand a chance. But this is one to keep an eye on as the season draws closer.
Much like the situation at Washington, the Utah quarterback carousel was in flux this offseason until Travis Wilson was cleared for non-contact practice, according to the team's official Twitter account. It was previously unknown how serious his injuries were or whether he would be able to play again next fall.
If Wilson ends up being fully healthy and ready to go in September, he'll be the starter. In nine games this past season, he passed for 1,827 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for another 386 as well.
His combination of height, speed and passing ability makes him a unique threat on offense, and Bleacher Report's Brian Leigh even writes about how he could be the Blake Bortles of 2014.
If Wilson is unable to go, look for backup Adam Schulz to get the first look, because he filled in for the injured starter toward the end of the 2013 campaign. One final name to remember is Kendal Thompson, a talented transfer from Oklahoma who will be arriving in the fall.
The Huskies' situation at quarterback was muddled up until March 31, when it was decided that semi-experienced sophomore Cyler Miles would not be charged from an incident that occurred following the Super Bowl on February 2, per Adam Jude of The Seattle Times.
Because he's the only quarterback on the roster with any game experience, we're inclined to believe he'll get the nod come fall. And in a few brief stints in 2013, he showed quite a bit of promise in completing more than 60 percent of his passes and throwing for four touchdowns. He also ran for 200 yards on just 23 carries.
Still, it remains to be seen what Chris Petersen will do with Miles in relation to the incident, if anything at all. And he still has to beat out fellow sophomore Jeff Lindquist.
Finally, there's redshirt freshman Troy Williams, who is yet another intriguing talent for Petersen to figure out how to utilize. If nothing else happens with Miles, it's a safe bet that he'll be the starter. But if any further disciplinary action is taken, expect a heated battle between Lindquist and Williams.
Washington State Cougars
Let's head back to our trusty scale, where we'll rank Connor Halliday's level of job security at an eight.
It's that high because, well, he threw for 4,597 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2013. In Mike Leach's Air Raid offense, you need to be able to throw it 50-60 times per game and rack up big yards. Halliday did well in spreading the rock around, too, as a whopping eight players had more than 300 yards receiving.
But he can't be any higher than an eight on our made-up scale because of his 22 interceptions.
That number is going to be higher than normal, given the number of times he's passing each game, but anything more than 12-15 are way too many. Look for talented freshman Tyler Bruggman to earn the second-string spot, but he won't receive any meaningful playing time unless Halliday fails to fix his turnover problems.
All stats via cfbstats.com.
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