Continuing my breakdown of the coming college football season, this article examines and evaluates the Big 12 quarterbacks who will take the reins for their respective teams in the 2014 season.
In breaking down the various operating parts of an offensive unit in college football, you can compare and contrast it to the basic parts of the automobile. Previously, we examined and ranked the 10 conference teams on the basis of the running backs and the wide-receiver position.
Thinking of it in terns of the automobile, if the running backs and receivers are like the wheels and the offensive line serves as the engine and transmission that gets all the other parts moving forward, then it is easy to consider the quarterback as the chief operator or driver of the vehicle.
In recent seasons the Big 12 quarterbacks have been among the best anywhere in the country, and a prime reason why the Big 12 offenses have been as prolific and off the charts in terms of offensive yardage and scoring numbers.
This is clearly exemplified by the fact that since 2001 four quarterbacks out of the Big 12 have been voted by a national panel to receive the Heisman Trophy, the college game’s highest individual honor. Nebraska’s Eric Crouch won the honor in 2001, Jason White of Oklahoma in 2003, Sam Bradford, also of Oklahoma, in 2008 and Robert Griffin III of Baylor in 2011.
In addition, OU’s White was a Heisman finalist in 2004 and Collin Klein of Kansas State was among the finalist for the award in 2012, the year that Texas A&M redshirt freshman Jonny Manziel was voted the Heisman winner.
At least six Big 12 teams will begin the 2014 season with signal callers who started in the position three or more games previously for their schools last season. If junior Texas quarterback David Ash is able to resume his position as the No, 1 quarterback for the Longhorns after sitting out much of last season with a head injury, that would make it seven returning starters.
Here is how I size up and rank the Big 12 quarterbacks entering the 2014 season:
- Bryce Petty, Sr., Baylor Bears – The Baylor second-year starter at quarterback led the conference in every major passing category in 2013 and was No. 2 in the nation in pass efficiency. He led the Bears to their first Big 12 championship in football, and there is no reason to believe that he won’t be just as good, if not better, in 2014.
- Jake Waters, Sr., Kansas State Wildcats – After sharing the quarterback position a year ago with Daniel Sams, the main job belongs to Waters’ heading into 2014. Waters’ completed 159 of 260 passes in 2013 for 2,469 yards and 18 touchdowns. In 2014, with the No. 1 job already nailed down, he should improve on his 2013 numbers as the Wildcats become much-more aggressive in the passing game than in recent history under coach Bill Snyder. To a great extent, K-State’s 2014 season will be determined by how well Waters performs.
- Davis Webb, So., Texas Tech Red Raiders - Webb, who was highly recruited out of high school, started last season as the backup to Baker Mayfield, who lost the starting role to Webb midway through last season. Webb got progressively better as the season went on, and capped his freshman season throwing for over 400 yards and four touchdowns, without an interception, in the Red Raiders’ Holiday Bowl win over Arizona State. Webb’s performance last season was so strong that his two primary backups in 2013, Mayfield and Michael Brewer, transferred to other schools. (Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma.)
- Trevor Knight, RSo., Oklahoma Sooners – After an up-and-down redshirt freshman season at quarterback for the Sooners, Knight surprised the college football world in completing a Sugar Bowl-record 32 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns as Oklahoma knocked off two-time defending national champion Alabama. Knight’s performance in OU’s final three games of the season resulted in former starting quarterback Blake Bell moving to tight end for the 2014 season. The big question is whether Knight, who has only started five games as a collegian, can carry over the way he ended the 2013 season into 2014 and show consistency over a full season.
- J.W. Walsh, Jr., Oklahoma State Cowboys - Walsh, a junior, had a stellar season as a freshman in 2012, but his playing time and contribution dropped off significantly last season in a backup role to starter Clint Chelf. Walsh completed 113 passes in 2013 for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns. He also put up close to 300 yards rushing. The downside on Walsh in his first two seasons in Stillwater has been decision-making and consistency, two areas in which the junior QB looked much improved in spring practice, according to OSU coaches.
- Matt Joeckel, Sr., TCU Horned Frogs - Joeckel is a graduate transfer from Texas A&M, where he had the misfortune to play behind Johnny Manziel for the last two years. He has a year of eligibility left, which works well for TCU because it allows the Horned Frogs to go with someone who has game experience while giving them some time to develop their two freshmen quarterbacks. Joeckel is far from a proven entity, however. He started only one game last season, completing 23 of 37 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Trevone Boykin, who had started games at quarterback for TCU the past two seasons, is moving to the wide-receiver position in the coming season.
- Tyrone Swoopes, So./David Ash, Jr., Texas Longhorns – Ash would be the first choice if he is able to sufficiently recover from a second concussion he suffered in the 2013 season. Otherwise, the job will go to sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, who has good size and talent, but is raw and inexperienced in terms of seeing much actual game action at the position. The Longhorns also have USC transfer Matt Wittek, who still has two years of eligibility left after graduating from USC last May. Wittek played in 14 games for the Trojans, two of them in a starting role, in his two seasons at USC. He could become the primary backup for the Longhorns this season, if not the starter, if either Ash or Swoopes doesn’t work out in the lead role.
- Clint Trickett, Sr. West Virginia Mountaineers - Trickett, a Florida State transfer, got his first start in a West Virginia uniform in the Mountaineers fifth game last season and led West Virginia to an upset win over Oklahoma State. Trickett hurt his shoulder in the fourth quarter of the Oklahoma State game, however, and was never quite the same the remainder of the season. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has already named Trickett his starting QB for the Mountaineers’ 2014 season opener against William & Mary. With more than half a season of experience in the WVU offense from the 2013 season, Trickett gives the Mountaineers the best chance to win of the quarterbacks on the West Virginia roster this coming season.
- Grant Rohach, So,. Iowa State Cyclones - Rohach should win the starting role to begin the 2014 season on the basis of throwing for more than 3oo yards each in wins over Kansas and West Virginia to end the 2013 season. Iowa State had been just 1-9 before closing out last season with two consecutive victories. Rohach had four touchdown tosses in the three-overtime win at West Virginia. Rohach took over at quarterback last season from former starter Sam Richardson, who will challenge Rohach for the starting position in 2014.
- Montell Cozart, So., Kansas Jayhawks - Cozart will be the Jayhawks’ third starting quarterback in the same number of seasons under head coach Charlie Weis. Cozart, a sophomore, is billed as a dual-threat QB, but his real threat is with his legs. He scored two rushing touchdowns in the Kansas 2014 spring game and was named the Most Valuable Player in the game, but he failed to complete a pass in 10 attempts. For the 2013 season, Cozart completed just 23 of 63 passes. His accuracy and pass efficiency is going to have to improve dramatically in 2014 if the Jayhawks are going to avoid becoming one dimensional on offense and easy prey for opposing defenses.