For years the torch has been passed from Big 12 quarterback to Big 12 quarterback. When received, it's been held high, allowing the remarkable play of those players to be illuminated and seen across college football.
From 2008 to 2011, the Big 12 produced at least one quarterback taken in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. In fact, in those four drafts the Big 12 has had five first-round quarterbacks selected and one in the third round. The 2012 crop of Big 12 quarterbacks -- Collin Klein, Landry Jones, Geno Smith, Nick Florence, heck even Seth Doege -- may not be locks to be first-round picks, but they were prolific in college.
Heading into 2013 it is not that the Big 12’s brightly burning quarterback flame has been extinguished so much as it has been reduced to the size of a pocket lighter. There still might be some talent. But the Big 12, long a passing league, has been left with a collection of quarterbacks who have yet to fully prove their ability or even make it to their senior years. (Well, TCU’s Casey Pachall has but not without a significant interruption that very well could have him sitting on the bench watching Trevone Boykin in 2013.)
With all that in mind here are the top five quarterbacks to who could reignite the flame and carry the torch into 2013.
David Ash, Texas. Yeah, we get it. Flame. Ash. Ha, ha. But on the serious side of things Ash is poised to have a breakout year for Texas. He has started 18 games in his career and finally, after yo-yoing back and forth with Case McCoy, has the full support of the coaching staff. Ash finished 21st nationally in passing efficiency last season and was the highest-rated underclassman in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh. (Walsh, who is in a quarterback battle, finished fourth in passing efficiency.)
With Texas making the move to a tempo/spread offense, Ash will have more of an opportunity to pile up stats. He is also leading an offense that has nine starters returning.
Wes Lunt or J.W, Walsh, Oklahoma State: Lunt won the starting job last season and proved to be the right selection until he was hurt. Walsh proved to be a very solid starter until he was hurt. Even Clint Chelf proved to be a solid starter and finished with 15 touchdowns versus six interceptions.
Coach Mike Gundy will likely go with either Lunt or Walsh. Walsh brings more of a dual threat to the backfield. Lunt has a bigger arm but he had seven touchdowns and six interceptions in his five starts. Whoever fits into the Oklahoma State system will undoubtedly be one of the top passers in the Big 12 because the offense is constructed to pile up stats.
Bryce Petty, Baylor: OK, he drew a Tim Tebow comparison. Yes, already. Yes, it is only spring. No, they have not started to chisel away at the statue for the Baylor campus just yet. But the materials might have been ordered.
“Bryce is a freak of nature,” running back Lache Seastrunk told the San Antonio Express-News. “His frame, his build and how he throws the ball looks just like Tebow. And when he gets the ball (and runs), he's not going to try to surprise you. He's going to go right at you like a true running back.’’
Petty has only made it into 11 games over the past two seasons, completing 10 of 14 passes for 140 yards. But given what Art Briles has been able to do with quarterbacks there is little doubt his numbers will explode this season. He probably will not be able to keep with the stats posted by RG3 and Florence. But Briles is optimistic about what Petty brings to the game.
"He has everything you're looking for -- size, strength, passion, energy, a great arm and great intelligence,’’ Briles told the Express-News.
Michael Brewer, Texas Tech: Brewer knows the spread and ran it successfully in high school under current Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris. He comes from a family that has a strong football background with his grandfather and dad played quarterback at Texas. Plus he is working with a coach, Kliff Kingsbury, who turned Johnny Manziel into Johnny Football in one season. While Tech doesn’t have near the talent that Texas A&M and Manziel had in 2012 -- the Red Raiders also lost receiver Darrin Moore -- it will have some of the same looks that tend to confuse plodding defenses.
Casey Pachall, TCU: Pachall is not guaranteed the starting spot. After he was removed from the program due to a drug and alcohol problem in 2012, Boykin was able to steer TCU to upset wins over Baylor, West Virginia and Texas. He also kept the Horned Frogs close against Oklahoma and Michigan State. But Pachall, who rejoined the team in January, was prolific in his time under center for TCU. In the first four games of 2012 he passed for 948 yards, 10 touchdowns and an interception. He threw for 2,921 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2011.
Others to watch:
Blake Bell, Oklahoma. He has only thrown 20 career passes but has been around the offense for several years.
Paul Millard, West Virginia. WVU coach Dana Holgorsen has not had to break in a new quarterback since his first year at Houston in 2008. So this could get interesting.
Jake Walters, Kansas State. He was the top player in junior college in 2012 but might split time with sophomore Daniel Sams.