NCF Nation: Jamelle Holieway

Instant QB impact at Arizona?

January, 29, 2013
Arizona's biggest question heading into 2013 is at quarterback. Not only are the Wildcats replacing Matt Scott, who earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors and was sixth in the nation with 343.8 yards of total offense per game, but the options on hand this spring are decidedly unproven.

There's 2012 backup B.J. Denker, a JC transfer who was a late addition last summer. And there's Jesse Scroggins, another JC transfer who had academic issues at USC after signing in 2010.

Both have some skills. Neither, however, would be considered a sure-thing, particularly when you consider how valuable Scott was in 2012.

It's possible then that coach Rich Rodriguez might consider a third, youthful option, and it turns out that he's received a commitment from a quarterback that Sports Illustrated believes might have an "instant impact": Anu Solomon.

SI ranks Solomon No. 1 among incoming freshmen QBs in terms of potential "instant impact":
Solomon was a four-year starter at Bishop Gorman. Over that span, the Gaels went 57-3 and won four state championships. Solomon passed for 10,112 yards and 138 touchdowns to just 17 interceptions throughout his career, and he participated in nationally televised showcases against high school powerhouses from California, Florida, Arizona, New Jersey and Maryland. He told analyst Dallas Jackson in October, "The coaches have told me that they want me to come in and compete for the starting job."

Arizona fans are rightfully excited about Solomon, who seems like a nice fit for Rodriguez's spread-option offense.

But the Pac-12 blog would like to insert a "Be Careful What You Wish For." The Wildcats might be better off if Solomon ends up redshirting. At the very least, it would be better for Solomon to see spot action rather than take over the starting job.

Why? Well, the history of true freshman QBs is pretty spotty, other than Jamelle Holieway, who won a national championship as a true freshman at Oklahoma in 1985. And, of course, Holieway's best season was his first for the Sooners.

Few true freshmen QBs start from Day 1, and most are forced into action, rather than winning the job outright. Holieway only stepped in due to an injury to Troy Aikman. Same with Peyton Manning at Tennessee. Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Georgia's Matt Stafford all became the starters when more senior players faltered.

Chad Henne went 9-2 as a true freshman leading Michigan in 2004, but he was surrounded by a lot of talent. We can all agree Robert Griffin III became a spectacular player, but Baylor went 4-7 with him as a true freshman QB.

The best recent example of a true freshman QB in the Pac-12 is USC's Matt Barkley in 2009. He was the first true freshman to start at QB for a top-five team since Michigan's Rick Leach in 1975. That USC team finished 9-4, losing three of its final four regular season games. The Trojans had lost seven games the preceding six seasons. Barkley threw 14 interceptions and 15 TD passes.

We've seen a number of freshmen QBs play really well of late. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, and in the Pac-12 Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley posted outstanding seasons this past fall, with Mariota winning first-team All-Pac-12. And, of course, there's Andrew Luck. He turned out OK.

But they all were redshirt freshmen when they became starters.

It's also notable that a lot of true freshmen QBs, such as Barkley, enroll early and participate in spring practices. That gives them a significant advantage in terms of getting use to the speed and complexity of the college game.

Solomon won't report until fall camp.

Solomon might indeed become a revelation for the Wildcats next fall. He could win the job, play admirably and three years later become an All-American.

But history suggests he won't be immediately ready, and that the best course is patience. It seems like at least a year of seasoning really helps create a tastier quarterback.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Most of the preseason magazines have hit the newsstands.

I know. I've read most of them cover-to-cover. I'm still awaiting a few more to devour.

But one thing has struck me as I look at the Big 12 and analyze rosters and returning players.

Namely, it's amazing how good the quarterback talent has been in this league over the last few years. I don't know if I've ever seen anything like it.

It really hit home when I saw a story from Oklahoma about a summit of almost holy proportions last weekend when Oklahoma's five national-championship quarterbacks appeared at the same autograph signing party. Claude Arnold, Jimmy Harris, Steve Davis, Jamelle Holieway and Josh Heupel remain some of the most noteworthy signal-callers in school history.

But for all of the talent there, I think Sam Bradford will go down as the greatest quarterback in Oklahoma history. He hasn't won a national championship yet, but he is in the process of obliterating the Sooner record book. He's already won a Heisman and could win another. And if he stays in school for two more years, he could end up as themost proficient quarterback by any measure in college football history.

And he's not alone. At other places around the league, we can see other quarterbacks who I think will be similarly remembered.

At Texas, Colt McCoy hasn't duplicated the national championships that have been won by Vince Young, James Street and the others. But McCoy already has most of the record book and could finish this season by doing something none of the other Texas quarterbacks have accomplished by winning the Heisman Trophy. And he could win the national championship, too.

At Oklahoma State, Zac Robinson has accomplished feats no other quarterback is school history has done. Another big statistical season could make him the greatest quarterback in OSU history. He's in the discussion right now, along with his Mike Gundy and Josh Fields. But Robinson can distance himself with a big season.

Todd Reesing at Kansas has quietly developed into the top record-holder in Jayhawk history. He's already led them to the first BCS bowl berth in school history, along with a share of the Big 12 title in 2007. And a big season could make him the consensus top quarterback in school history. He's being mentioned with players like Bobby Douglass, David Jaynes and Frank Seurer.

Right now, those four quarterbacks can make strong claims to being the top quarterbacks in school history. And with big finishes to their respective careers, it won't be close.

And three other Big 12 quarterbacks could have a chance at one day being considered the greatest quarterback at their respective schools.

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin did some magical things last year as a combination rushing/passing threat after a mind-blowing freshman season. If he takes the Bears to a bowl and keeps them winning at that level, he's the kind of player who might have statues built outside Floyd Casey Stadium in his honor.

And two others have a chance with strong growth and development.

Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud had a strong freshman season. If he can grasp the concept of new coordinator Tom Herman's offense and keep piling up statistics over the final two seasons of his career, he might merit mention as the top quarterback in Cyclone history.

And it wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility that Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson could develop into that type of player with two huge statistical seasons. He showed flashes last season when he threw for a school-record 419 yards against Kansas State. He also set the school single-season record for touchdown passes with 21. If he can lead the Aggies back into bowl contention, it might not be a stretch to group him among the very best in school history.

That means there are four quarterbacks who I believe have legitimate arguments to be considered as the best quarterback in the history of their respective schools. And three others with a shot to earn that distinction if they keep progressing during the rest of their careers.

Two schools will be replacing quarterbacks who I believe will go down as the greatest quarterbacks in their school's history. It won't surprise me if Chase Daniel at Missouri and Graham Harrell at Texas Tech are remembered that way.

With all of that talent at quarterback, it's no wonder that we've seen so many big numbers posted offensively in the Big 12 in recent years.

Remember that when you're watching quarterbacks in the league. Because we may never see anything like it again.