This is the second part of our quarterback rankings for the Pac-12. Part 1 sent us through some of the less experienced or less accomplished qbs in the conference, and while there’s some great potential guys in there, they just don’t quite have what these top qbs have. In the top half we have a mostly veteran and impressive crew of signal-callers. Let’s get into it.
6: Matt Scott, Arizona – Matt has his type of coach finally down in the desert, and his name is Rich Rod. Scott’s full skill set will be exposed to the fullest degree and his game experience will help a team in transition to be better than they probably should be. I don’t see this team winning in this conference this year, but somehow I think Scott and friends will surprise me and many others in some games that they are “not supposed to win”. Scott is a bit of a wildcard but I think with the coaching fitting his skill set he will soar this season unlike he would’ve under Stoops.
5: Marcus Mariota, Oregon – The RS freshman hasn’t really proven anything yet and based on our bottom 6 qbs (Hundley, Kelly and Mannion all got demoted on our list citing inexperience), there’s a prerequisite for this guy to pass the tests before he meets the standard here. However, we’ve all seen what Chip Kelly has done with his young and explosive qbs in the recent past, and for Mariora to beat out a guy like Bryan Bennett for the starting job is really saying something. The kid is 6’4, 211 lbs, which is huge for any kind of freshman, so he looks the part. He is also basically a running back with better feet than you can see on film (he ran 80+ yards to the house in Spring game… where all you have to do is touch the qb as a defense to “bring him down”). And who’s the authority on it all? LaMichael James is. He has said that Mariota is the real deal and will be “the best Oregon has ever seen”. Nuff said.
4: Keith Price, Washington – Price is a smart, heady quarterback who has the innate ability to lead a team. He is always smiling, even in the worst of situations and has a presence about him that commands respect. He believes he is a winner and plays like it on every play, even when he is getting beaten into the turf, and I really believes he gets more out of himself and more out of his team than is actually there because of that attitude. Because of that a lot of people would put him in the 2 or 3 slot, but I just don’t see it. I watched him nearly all last season and he lacked something to me. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it throughout the season, but I think the more I think about it he just won’t scorch a guy (on his own team) when he needs to. Personally I think they lost the Alamo last season because he didn’t jump up on his defense and challenge them, rather he said “I’ll dig us out” and it didn’t work out. He’s a really good athlete, but I think he’s overrated as of yet because he lacks a killer instinct at the position. If he acquires that fire and killer mentality this season and gets his team to perform high above expectation then he could be great easily jump up as high as #2 by the end of the season.
3: Jordan Wynn, Utah – Jordan is a “heart and soul” player. He doesn’t have the best of anything and in fact if you took any of his skills individually they wouldn’t be in the top 1/2 of these guys. However, he has something most of the other players can’t measure up to, and that’s the pure will to win despite everything that’s set against him. Yes, in the arena of athleticism and quarterback skill he can be seen as highly overrated, but it is the mysterious aura surrounding the team when this guy is in the game that keeps Utah afloat and gives them a powerful chance to challenge for the Pac-12 South. Simply put, he makes everyone around him better than they are, all the time.
2: Jeff Tuel, Washington State – This will be seen as a “homer pick”, but after analyzing the qbs as best I can, Jeff has all the “tuels” to be here. I don’t care what you say about missing a year in this case, because he played more than half the season as a freshman and all of it as a sophomore, putting up almost 3,000 yards for a really bad young team. If Jeff stays healthy he is the dark-horse in this conference in my opinion and will put Washington State back on the map this season. He stands at 6’3, 221 lbs and can move his feet impressively for that stature. Not to mention, with the receiving cast that will be on the field and the offensive system that he has been put into, he will put up numbers the likes of which most Cougar qbs never dream about. Don’t be fooled by the Cougars’ records when you’re looking at this guy. Even with the defense that Washington State possesses, with Tuel at the helm a 6 win season is probable and as many as 9 wins is a decent possibility. He’s a legitimate NFL prospect if he can stay healthy and I truly believe we’d be talking early to mid second round right now had he not stalked a truly inauspicious linebacker last season. As it is, at season’s end we should be talking 4th or 5th and his draft status could boost after NFL teams meet with him and see him throw.
1: Matt Barkley, USC – Everyone knows about the G.Q. worthy Matt Barkley. Standing at 6’2, 230 lbs, with hair of gold, he is the legend of Mater Dei HS in Cali. Got to live his dream of staying close to home and playing for one of the prominent programs in the country and is soaking up every opportunity to be a college legend. His choice to stay with his USC teammates centered not around his overall NFL status, but the love of the game at the college level and the ability to do something that he hasn’t yet: Be a champion, of anything. I was not impressed in his freshman year but he has absolutely embodied his hype and taken his game to levels of greatness. With his incredible pocket presence and arm strength, most believe he is as good or better than Luck, he is the front-runner to go #1 in the NFL draft and really goes above and beyond having everything he needs to be successful not only at this level, but the next. Wherever he goes, Luck and he shall be entrenched in a battle for 15 years to come over who was the better qb. I’m not sure there will be a loser, but I’m sure that they are both winners.