- Jake Trotter, College Football
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With spring ball a month away, we'll be ranking the position groups in the Big 12 over the next two weeks. These evaluations will be based on past performance, future potential and quality depth. Our outlooks will probably look different after the spring. But this is how we see them at the moment. We begin this series with quarterbacks:
1. TCU: Trevone Boykin is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the country and should open the season on the short list of legitimate Heisman contenders. Boykin was fabulous in Year 1 of the Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie spread offense, and could be even better with a season of experience under his belt. Depth after Boykin is a bit of a concern, though Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein were highly touted signees last year.
2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys boast one of the top young QBs in the league -- if not the country -- in Mason Rudolph, who led Oklahoma State to wins over Oklahoma and Washington to end his true freshman season. In just three starts, he displayed a poise that could elevate the Cowboys into dark-horse Big 12 contender status. After Rudolph the Cowboys have a pair of quarterbacks with extensive starting experience in J.W. Walsh and Daxx Garman. They also just signed ESPN 300 passer John Kolar, who could have the luxury of redshirting.
3. Texas Tech: If Rudolph isn't the Big 12's best young returning quarterback, Patrick Mahomes is. He caught fire after taking over the starting job, throwing for 14 TDs in Tech's final three games, including a 598-yard passing effort in a near upset of Baylor. Mahomes has become such an integral part of the program, the Red Raiders have said they will tailor spring practices around his baseball schedule. Davis Webb was thought to be Tech's quarterback of the future going into last season, but struggled with turnovers, then injuries. He still has the ability to be a quality player.
4. Baylor: Bryce Petty is gone, but the cupboard is hardly devoid of talent. Seth Russell has been a solid backup the last two years, and will enter the spring as the favorite to take over as the starter. Russell, however, will have plenty of competition, notably via incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham, who was the top-rated QB recruit to sign into the Big 12. Stidham has all the tools to be a star in the league down the road. Dual-threat Chris Johnson will also be in his third year.
5. Oklahoma: Quarterback remains a huge question mark for the Sooners, but it also has the chance to be way better than it was in 2014. Baker Mayfield is finally eligible after transferring in from Texas Tech last year. Mayfield was the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2013, and could be the favorite to win the job. Returning starter Trevor Knight was actually solid at times last season, but also killed the Sooners with costly mistakes, topping the league with three pick-six interceptions, all of which came in defeats. Cody Thomas, who started three games while Knight was injured, has given up baseball to focus on the QB derby, but might be a long shot after completing just 46 percent of his passes as a starter. Justice Hansen, who redshirted last year, is a former ESPN 300 recruit.
6. West Virginia: Skyler Howard sparked West Virginia with his wheels after Clint Trickett missed the final three games last year. But Howard was also hit and miss with his accuracy, which prevented him from locking up the job. Instead, he'll have to fend off William Crest, who actually beat out Howard for the No. 2 job coming out of fall camp before a shoulder injury forced a redshirt. Crest has a skill set reminiscent of former West Virginia standout Geno Smith. Paul Millard brings veteran depth after taking a redshirt in his fourth year. Freshman David Sills, who once committed to USC in junior high, will also take part in spring drills.
7. Texas: For now, the Longhorns are basically where they were last year. Tyrone Swoopes is the only quarterback on the roster with any experience. He's had his moments, but also struggled late last season as the Texas offense cratered. Jerrod Heard is the X factor. He won a pair of high school state championships and was a highly touted signee, but clearly wasn't ready as a true freshman. Barring an unforeseen transfer, the Longhorns will have to ride with one of those two. Kai Locksley was a key late addition to last week's class, but his passing needs development.
8. Iowa State: When healthy, Sam B. Richardson was the least of Iowa State's problems last year. He did a solid job limiting turnovers and made plays with his feet. He should be the starter again. The Cyclones also return Grant Rohach, who has 245 pass attempts the last two seasons in relief.
9. Kansas: Michael Cummings pumped life into the Jayhawks after going from fourth string to starter following the Charlie Weis firing. Kansas also signed a pair of promising players at the position last week in three-star Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley.
10. Kansas State: The Wildcats are a blank slate at quarterback following the graduation of Jake Waters. Ex-walk-on Joe Hubener will get first dibs at the job entering his fourth year on campus. Hubener has good arm strength and good speed, but only 17 career pass attempts. He'll be pushed this spring by three-star signee Alex Delton, who is already in school.
The Horned Frogs enter 2015 with the best situation at quarterback in the Big 12.