- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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The easiest Pac-10 quarterback to rank? California's Kevin Riley.
He falls just after the talented foursome who comprised the Pac-10 quarterbacks tour of the East Coast and just ahead of the quarterbacks who's resumes are middling, incomplete or nonexistent.
And how do you rank Washington State's Jeff Tuel? He turned in a valiant effort and flashed potential in 2009 as a true freshman with absolutely no support. Should he rank higher than Oregon's Nate Costa, who has started just one career game and still may not end up as the Ducks No. 1 quarterback?
And what about Ryan Katz at Oregon State? I saw him during the spring. He's a good athlete with a gun. But he's never played a meaningful snap.
It's a bit of a cop-out to say experience must play a key role when ranking quarterbacks in the preseason but ... experience must play a key role when ranking quarterbacks in the preseason.
1. Jake Locker, Washington: He's big. He's fast. He's got a strong arm. He's a high-character guy and a great leader. He will be a first-round NFL draft pick. He tied for the Pac-10 lead with 21 touchdown passes in 2009. Only issue is getting his completion percentage higher than 60 percent.
2. Andrew Luck, Stanford: He's big. He's fast. He's got a strong arm. He's a high-character guy and a great leader. He will be a first-round NFL draft pick. Only issue is how his production will be affected when the opposing defense isn't obsessing about stopping Toby Gerhart. Led the conference in passing efficiency as a redshirt freshman, but only threw 13 touchdown passes, which ranked seventh.
3. Nick Foles, Arizona: Word is that Foles' footwork and throwing mechanics will be much better in 2010, which likely means he'll throw more passes downfield. He's got the sort of supporting cast that could help him put up big numbers. While he faded a bit in 2009, he still threw 19 touchdown passes.
4. Matt Barkley, USC: Barkley is a major talent and he was nearly flawless during spring practices. But, though he was the conference's third-rated quarterback as a true freshman, he threw 14 interceptions -- most in the conference -- compared to 15 touchdowns.
5. Kevin Riley, California: Riley is 15-8 in 23 starts and is the conference's active career leader in touchdown passes with 37. He's had some nice games. And some that weren't so nice. The big issue: Consistent accuracy -- see a 54.2 career completion percentage. But senior Pac-10 quarterbacks often see the light in their final frame.
6. Kevin Prince, UCLA: The Orange County Register noted: "Over the second half of the 2009 season Prince’s passing yardage, touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio and quarterback efficiency rating were actually better than Barkley’s." Prince has the ability to be a first-flight quarterback. But there are still questions about how well he will run the new "Pistol" offense, which features a lot of options.
7. Jeff Tuel, Washington State: Tuel's first career action as a true freshman? At USC. His first start? At Oregon. Welcome to college football. Tuel started five games before a knee injury ended his season, but he still -- with little talent around him and terrible pass protection -- completed 58.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns. In other words, he produced. Like when he completed 28 of 42 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns at California, the second-highest yardage total by a true freshman in school history behind Drew Bledsoe.
8. Nate Costa, Oregon: Costa was nine-of-17 for 82 yards in a 24-10 win at UCLA in 2009, his only career start, but before the 2008 season he was the touted heir-apparent to Dennis Dixon. He's smart, he's a survivor -- see three knee operations -- and he looked good this spring. Coach Chip Kelly thinks folks underestimate his ability to be a threat out of the spread-option. Of course, sophomore Darron Thomas might end up beating him out.
9. Ryan Katz, Oregon State: Katz, a redshirt sophomore, has the arm and athletic ability to one day become an All-Conference quarterback. But it's impossible to know how he'll react when the lights go on. Further, recent Beavers quarterbacks have struggled in their first years as a starter, from Matt Moore, to Sean Canfield, to Lyle Moevao (you could even throw Derek Anderson in there).
10. Brock Osweiler, Arizona State: While the Sun Devils quarterback competition is hardly resolved, it appears that Osweiler, a true sophomore, might have a slight lead. He made one start and saw spot action in 2009, completing 43.6 percent of his passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. He's huge -- 6-foot-8, 242 pounds -- has a good arm and is a good athlete. Needs to improve his accuracy.