The Big 12 has a history of producing prolific quarterbacks. Since 2001, four of the league’s signal callers have won the Heisman Trophy (Nebraska’s Eric Crouch in 2001, Jason White and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma in 2003 and 2008 respectively, and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in 2011). Three of the top ten all-time passing leaders in the NCAA’s FBS division hail from the Big 12 (Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Graham Harrell of Texas Tech and Texas’ Colt McCoy). In fact, if you tried to compile a list of the conferences greatest QB’s, there would be some big time names left off your list.
So it is somewhat surprising that entering the 2014 season, almost all of the member schools can fit their quarterback position into one of three categories – unsettled, unproven or unknown. Only defending champion Baylor has a QB that started all twelve games in 2013. The following is a breakdown of how each school stacks up at the QB position, going from the most stable to the least:
1. BAYLOR: Bryce Petty, the league’s 2013 Offensive MVP, returns for the Bears. Last season, the fifth year senior threw for 4,200 yards and 32 TD’s while getting picked only three times. If he posts similar or better numbers this year, he could become Baylor’s second Heisman winner in four years.
2. KANSAS STATE: The Wildcats will once again hand the reins to senior Jake Waters, who seized the job midway through last season. The JUCO transfer led K-State to six victories in their final seven games, and actually posted a better Adjusted Total QBR than Petty during the same stretch. In 2014, we will see if he can do it over the course of an entire season.
3. OKLAHOMA: Oklahoma has gone all in with Trevor Knight following his MVP performance in the Sugar Bowl. The sophomore-to-be was magnificent in that contest, torching Alabama for 348 yards and 4 TD’s through the air. However, his regular season numbers were a pedestrian 5 TD passes against 5 interceptions. Whether he is the next great Oklahoma QB or a one game wonder is still an unanswered question.
4. OKLAHOMA STATE: J.W. Walsh began last season as the Cowboy’s starter, only to be replaced by Clint Chelf. And while he appears to have won his position back this spring, head coach Mike Gundy has not officially named him as the starter over Daxx Garman or highly regarded freshman Mason Rudolph. His career numbers are above average (22 TD’s. 9 INT’s and 2,897 yards), but he has yet to put his stamp on the job.
5. TEXAS: The Texas QB job appears to belong to David Ash, and the fourth year junior has shown flashes of brilliance during his time in Austin. However, Ash suffered a concussion which limited him to only three appearances in 2013. And while he was cleared to return, his participation in spring drills was cut short by a broken bone in his foot. The only other QB on the roster is sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, who desperately needs to be red-shirted. Former USC QB Max Wittek is rumored to be transferring to Texas, and would be eligible to play immediately. Incoming freshman Jerrod Heard, the nation’s 6th rated dual threat QB, is another option should Ash go down again.
6. TEXAS TECH: On the surface, the Red Raiders would appear to be set at QB. Davis Webb put up some decent numbers in his freshman season (20 TD’s, 9 INT’s, 2,718 yards) and entrenched himself as the starter with a sterling performance in the Holiday Bowl. However, with the defection of Michael Brewer to Virginia Tech and Baker Mayfield to Oklahoma, Webb is currently the only QB on the Tech roster. Incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes could provide depth, but he may be on a MLB roster come September. The Red Raiders are one injury away from disaster.
7. TCU: Despite starting several games at QB in his first two seasons at TCU, Trevone Boykin finished last season at wide receiver. When head coach Gary Patterson announced the Horned Frogs were switching to an up tempo, no huddle offense, most presumed that long time back up Tyler Matthews would emerge from spring practice as the starter. Instead, Boykin held onto the job and Matthews transferred. Former Texas A&M back-up Matt Joeckel will be enrolling at TCU this fall and is expected to challenge for the job. Two highly recruited freshmen QB’s, Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein, will also be on the Horned Frogs’ roster this fall.
8. IOWA STATE: Iowa State has tabbed Grant Rohach as their starter. In 2013, the freshman threw for 7 TD’s against 8 interceptions in limited action. However, he started the final two games and led the Cyclones to victories against West Virginia and Kansas. He had a decent spring game, going 22-38 for 171 yards. While that was good enough to win the starting job over Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning, time will tell if he is ready to carry I-State for an entire season.
9. WEST VIRGINIA: At West Virginia, Clint Trickett ended last season as the starter. Paul Millard had a good spring and is expected to challenge for the starting job this summer. However, neither is likely to make Mountaineer fans forget about Geno Smith or Pat White. So don’t be surprised if heralded freshman William Crest is given a serious look as the season progresses.
10. KANSAS: Last season Montell Cozart played sparingly for the Jayhawks and put some very forgettable numbers (23-62, 227 yards, 0 TD’s and 2 INT’s). And yet this spring he beat incumbent starter Jake Heaps and sophomore T.J. Milweard for the job.
So while Petty begins the season as conference’s only proven commodity under center, odds are someone will join him before all is said and done. Knight, Webb and Walsh could all take the step to the next level. Ash and Trickett could stay healthy. Joeckel could grab the reins in Fort Worth. Cozart and Rohach could blossom between now and December. Or one of the league’s true freshman could become an overnight sensation. History is, after all, on the Big 12’s side.
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