Power Ranking College Football's 9 Best Dual-Threat Quarterbacks
College football is all about the latest fads—whether it be uniforms, chrome helmets or corporate sponsorships on everything. However, there is one fad that is likely to stick around, that of the dual-threat quarterback.
In fact, one could argue that it never really left the game at all. Instead of the triple-option, the dual-threat quarterback was put in the shotgun formation and a new type of offense was created.
With the rage being all about spreading things out on offense, there are plenty of quarterbacks showing off athletic ability across college football.
That leads to the inevitable comparisons, so let's take a look at the nine best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country heading in to the 2014 season.
9. Taysom Hill, BYU
If you haven't seen Taysom Hill play, make sure to catch BYU at least once this season. Hill is an electric player, and one that amassed more than 4,000 total yards and 29 total touchdowns last season.
Those are impressive numbers, but one thing is holding Hill back—interceptions. He threw 14 of them to his 19 touchdown passes in his first year as a starter.
Overall though, Hill is a dangerous player with his arm and his legs. He's equally good in the pocket as he is at escaping it. Not only did Hill have a 400-yard passing game, he also had a 250-yard game on the ground last season.
If BYU is going to move in to the national discussion in 2014, Hill needs to make better decisions in the passing game. As long as that growth happens in his second year as a starter, the Cougars will have an elite player on their hands.
8. Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Navy and dual-threat quarterbacks aren't synonymous at all; in fact, one could argue that in the past the quarterback has been a glorified running back at best. Keenan Reynolds is breaking that mold though.
While his passing game needs some work (53.1 percent completion rate in 2013), it was just his first season as a starter for head coach Ken Niumatalolo. He showed enough in the pass game that opposing teams can't key completely on the run.
As for the running part of his game, Reynolds averaged over 100 yards a game and had 31 rushing touchdowns in 2013. He averaged over four yards a carry on over 300 attempts rushing as well.
If Reynolds can improve his completion rate, he could be one of the biggest surprises in the passing game this upcoming season. As it stands, Reynolds is perhaps the best Navy quarterback we've seen in years.
7. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
Ole Miss may get lost in the SEC West shuffle with all the attention Alabama, Auburn and LSU get, but they may have the best dual-threat quarterback in the division in Bo Wallace.
He's a pretty consistent passer, completing 64.8 percent of his passes in 2013 after completing just over 63 percent in his sophomore campaign the year before. He also had 355 yards and six touchdowns on the ground in just 131 attempts on the year.
What separates him from those behind him in our rankings is the strength of his arm—throwing a long of 75 yards this past year.
Wallace does need to cut down on the interceptions, throwing 27 of them in the past two years, but he cut seven off his 2012 total this past season.
If Ole Miss is to make a run in the division, it will be because Wallace has made the strides needed as a passer.
6. Cody Fajardo, Nevada
Colin Kaepernick may be the most famous quarterback from the University of Nevada-Reno, but don't sleep on rising senior Cody Fajardo either.
He may be the most underrated dual-threat quarterback in the country, throwing for 2,633 yards and 13 touchdowns last season while also adding 621 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
What makes Fajardo different than most of the dual-threat quarterbacks in college football is the fact that he is a very efficient passer first and foremost. In his three previous seasons, Fajardo has never dipped below a 67 percent completion rate. Last season he also threw just three interceptions in 10 games.
Fajardo is equally adept in the run game, going over the 1,100-yard mark in his sophomore season and averaging 76.1 yards per game in his 32 career games.
With David Fales and others gone from the Mountain West, Fajardo sits alone as the best quarterback in the league heading in to 2014.
5. Devin Gardner, Michigan
There may not be a more polarizing quarterback in the Big Ten than Michigan's Devin Gardner. Yet an objective look at his numbers shows he's not as bad as the critics say he is.
Gardner completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He also ran for 483 yards and 11 touchdowns despite being sacked over 30 times.
He wasn't without some faults though, as he had a two-game stretch where decision-making was an issue. Gardner threw five interceptions and just two touchdowns in games against Akron and Connecticut, which led to fans hoping for backup Shane Morris to make an appearance.
Going into the spring there was an open battle at quarterback, but Gardner appears to have prevailed for now. The more I've seen of Gardner, the more I'm convinced he gives the Wolverines the best chance to win on a weekly basis.
4. Nick Marshall, Auburn
Auburn's quick rise back to the top of the SEC heap was no fluke, and a lot of that has to do with quarterback Nick Marshall. He became an instant playmaker for Gus Malzahn's quick-attack offense, rushing for over 1,000 yards and passing for nearly 2,000 yards.
Coming in to 2014, he is arguably the best pure rushing quarterback in the country—especially with Jordan Lynch off to the NFL.
However, Marshall does have room for improvement given his 59.4 percent completion rate and 14-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. That should come up with more time in the offense and more time on the field as a starter.
If he can improve on the pass game, Marshall will be one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the country in 2014.
3. Brett Hundley, UCLA
In 2013, Brett Hundley proved he was more than a one-hit wonder, passing for over 3,000 yards and completing over 66 percent of his passes for the second year in a row. His performance is a huge reason why UCLA is a Pac-12 title contender under head coach Jim Mora.
He ended last season with 3,071 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions passing while also rushing for 748 yards and 11 touchdowns as well. That was a follow-up act to a freshman season where Hundley racked up over 3,700 yards passing and 38 total touchdowns.
What will put Hundley over the top is leading his team to a Pac-12 title, something that the Bruins missed out on two of the last three years.
2. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
If there's one player who seems to be in college football forever, it's Braxton Miller. Given his skill set and hype, it's amazing he's not off to the NFL after his three years in an Ohio State Buckeyes jersey. Yet here we are as Miller enters his senior season.
All Miller has done in his time in Columbus, Ohio is smash just about every quarterback record on the books. He already owns the single-season record for most yards from scrimmage and most rushing yards by a quarterback.
Last season, Miller put up over 3,000 combined yards for the second straight season. He had 2,094 yards passing with 24 touchdowns to seven interceptions while also rushing for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns as well.
The Ohio State offense led the way in the Big Ten with over 4,000 yards rushing as a team and a school-record 637 points; Miller had a big hand in all of that.
Yet perhaps the most impressive feat from Miller isn't the gaudy yardage he's put up, but the improvement he's made in the passing game. He went from completing 54.1 percent of his passes as a freshman to 63.5 percent last season.
As long as Miller is healthy, this could be his best season yet given his steady progression from year one to today.
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
If it weren't for a spectacular season by Jameis Winston and two untimely losses, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota may be talked about as the best quarterback in the country. At the very least he's clearly at the top of the charts for dual-threat quarterbacks.
Mariota's sophomore season had NFL scouts salivating as he threw for 3,665 yards and 31 touchdowns and ran for 715 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. That followed a debut season where he passed for over 2,600 yards and ran for over 700 yards,
The key to Mariota's game is the ability to use his legs to set up the passing game. It was made painfully obvious then when Mariota suffered a knee injury in the Stanford game. He simply became a sitting duck (no pun intended) in the backfield, and as a result, he couldn't lead his team to victory over the Cardinal.
When healthy, his ability to hit the deep ball out of the pocket is a thing of beauty to watch. There may not be a better example of why dual-threat quarterbacks work in college football than Mariota.
*All stats courtesy CFBstats.com.
*Andy Coppens is a national college football featured columnist. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndyOnCFB.
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