The Big 12 Conference has been blessed for most of the past decade with some of the most potent offensive attacks, led by some of the best quarterback play in the country.
Since 2003, two Big 12 quarterbacks Jason White in 2003 and Sam Bradford in 2008, both from Oklahoma) have won Heisman Trophies and a third (Vince Young of Texas in 2005) was a runner-up for college football’s most coveted individual prize.
And it certainly didn’t stop with those talented individuals under center or back in the more spread out shotgun formation. Colt McCoy of Texas, Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State, Landry Jones, who followed White and Bradford at Oklahoma, Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence at Baylor, and who could overlook the whole posse of gunslingers that have come out of the Texas Tech aerial attack, including its current head coach, Kliff Kingsbury.
And Colin Klein at Kansas State made a name for himself and frustrated opposing defenses, not so much with his throwing ability, but rather as a hard-to-bring-down runner with both size and some speed. Something that was very anathema to the pass-heavy offenses that were pervasive and paramount within the Big 12.
So what’s next, and who is going to step up among the Big 12 signal callers to take center stage in 2014?
At the head of the line has to be Baylor returning quarterback Bryce Petty, who lead the Bears to their first conference championship last season as a member of the Big 12, unseating traditional gridiron powers Texas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State in the process.
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder has made a career out of finding talented junior-college performers who have some experience and bringing them in to run the Wildcat offense. In the past, the transfers Snyder would recruit at quarterback were option quarterbacks with good speed and the ability to make plays with their feet even more than with their arms.
That changed, however, when he recruited Jake Waters from Iowa Western Community College. Waters was the 2012 National Junior College Offensive Player of the Year, and he led his team to a national championship that same season.
K-State continued to run the ball with Waters at the control, But now, all of a sudden, they had a quarterback who was blessed with passing ability and talent. And the Wildcats took full advantage of the passing game in 2013, with Waters and All-Big 12 wide-receiver Tyler Lockett hooking up for numerous big plays and huge yardage through the air.
Waters passed for 2, 469 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, third best in the Big 12. And with Lockett back for his senior season and leading running back John Hubert gone, you can pretty well conclude where and whom the Wildcats are going to turn in 2014 for offense.
Look for Waters to be right there at the top of the conference in passing stats in the coming season, as well. The other good news is he won’t be sharing the quarterbacking duties like he did in 2013.
Oklahoma sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight had a very underwhelming start to his college quarterbacking career, except for his ability to run with the football. He was horribly inconsistent and ineffective early on in the 2013 season throwing the football. He was injured in the Sooners’ second game of the season, and lost his starting job until very late in the season.
He returned as the Sooner starter in the next-to-last regular-season game at Kansas State and guided OU to an upset win. And in the Sugar Bowl against two-time defending national champion Alabama, Knight had the game of his life, with three touchdown passes against a very good Crimson Tide defense, and led the Sooners to just their third BCS bowl victory in nine appearances under head coach Bob Stoops.
The question heading into 2014 is which Knight will show up at quarterback when the Sooners take the field to start the new college football season? The one who started out so rocky to being last season, or the QB that took charge late and ended the year in a flourish?
Texas Tech has been the quintessence of a team that never rebuilds at the quarterback position. The Red Raiders simply reload. Barring injury. Texas Tech appears to be set at quarterback for the next several seasons with sophomore Davis Webb at the controls.
Webb had such a lock on the position by the end of last season, that his two backups, Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer transferred (Mayfield enrolled at Oklahoma, where he hopes to play football after sitting out the 2014 season by NCAA rule).
Webb passed for 2,718 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2013 and had a 63 percent completion rate. He looked very good his freshman season and should get even better as he gains more game experience. Webb clearly fits the mold of the great quarterbacks who have played in the pass-happy Red Raider offense before him. I would rate him as the third or fourth best quarterback in the Big 12 coming into the new season.
At the beginning of last season, David Ash at Texas was considered on the two or three best quarterbacks in the Big 12. He suffered a season-ending concussion in the Longhorns fourth game of the season. Ash received a medical redshirt for the 2013 season. He wants to come back in 2014 for his junior season, but no one really knows how, or if, he will be able to perform with any effectiveness, or if there will be any lingering affects from the head injury.
Another quarterback who showed flashes of outstanding play early in his freshman season in 2012, but has failed to live up to expectations since then is Oklahoma State junior quarterback J.W. Walsh. Walsh saw action in eight games in 2o13, but as a backup to senior Clint Chelf. He completed almost 60 percent of his passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns.
Walsh had a good spring practice in 2014, and will enter the fall as the No, 1 quarterback. Like Oklahoma’s Knight and Texas’ Ash, we won’t really know which Walsh we’ll see in 2014 till the Cowboys take the field on Aug. 30 for a giant matchup right out of the gate against last year’s national champion, Florida State.
How the Big 12 Teams Rank Heading Into 2014 at the Quarterback Position
(Projected starter in parentheses)
- Baylor Bears (Bryce Petty, senior)
- Kansas State Wildcats (Jake Waters, senior)
- Texas Tech Red Raiders (Davis Webb, sophomore)
- Oklahoma Sooners (Trevor Knight, redshirt sophomore)
- Oklahoma State Cowboys (J.W. Walsh, junior)
- Texas Longhorns (David Ash, redshirt junior)
- TCU Horned Frogs (Matt Joeckel, graduated, 1 year of eligibility)
- Iowa State Cyclones (Grant Rohach, sophomore)
- West Virginia Mountaineers (Clint Trickett, senior)
- Kansas Jayhawks (Montell Cozart, sophomore)