Quarterback competitions are going to be on the minds of many as Pac-12 teams gear up for spring ball. Pac-12 bloggers Ted Miller and Kevin Gemmell decided to take a look at the two quarterback races they found the most intriguing. Ironically, it was Miller, not Stanford blogger Gemmell, who found the Cardinal competition the most intriguing. Gemmell thinks the arms race in the Pacific Northwest with new Washington State coach Mike Leach has the most intrigue.
MILLER: You want to talk about big shoes to fill? How about replacing a guy who’s touted as the best NFL QB prospect of a generation, a guy who endeared himself on campus for not only his statistics and unprecedented winning, but also for how he represented the school with class, intelligence and humility.
Yeah, replacing Andrew Luck is not unlike replacing Peyton Manning, which, oh by the way, Luck appears likely to do as the Indianapolis Colts have the top pick in this spring’s NFL draft.
The good news is the Cardinal offense will continue, as it did even with Luck, to emphasize a power, run-first attack, so the player who wins the QB job won’t be asked to win by throwing 40 times a game. Further, the new guy won’t likely be calling his own plays at the line of scrimmage, as Luck did. Whoever wins the job will be asked to be more of a game manager, a guy who plays within himself and doesn’t make mistakes.
The frontrunner is 2011 backup Brett Nottingham, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound redshirt sophomore who impressed coaches in practices last year after experiencing some early struggles with the complex offense his first year. He saw action in six games in 2011, completing 5 of 8 passes for 78 yards with a TD and no interceptions. He was a highly rated recruit out of Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif., -- the Cardinal lured him away from a commitment to UCLA -- where he passed for 3,818 yards, 44 touchdowns and six interceptions his senior season. He’s smart and athletic and reputed to be accurate and efficient. You know: Luck-ish.
Nottingham will compete with Robbie Picazo and Josh Nunes, a pair of juniors, and freshmen Evan Crower and Kevin Hogan perhaps could enter the picture. Coach David Shaw, a believer in sustaining competition, won’t hand the job to Nottingham, and it’s more than likely the competition won’t be decided until the fall. But a pecking order is likely to be established by the time the Cardinal wrap things up on April 14.
GEMMELL: Every Pac-12 QB competition has its own level of intrigue and subplot. But it's the battle in Pullman, Wash., that piques my interest. Not just because of who the candidates are -- but who they could become.
Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday, both coming off of significant injuries, are now products of the Mike Leach system. And that means whoever wins the job is probably going to put up monster numbers.
As the Pac-12 blog readers will discover, I'm a bit of a stat cruncher. So consider this: During Leach's 10-year reign at Texas Tech, his quarterbacks attempted an average of 654 passes per season and completed an average of 438 per year -- that's an average completion percentage of 66 percent. The 10-year average was 4,837 passing yards per season, 381 passing yards per game and 38 touchdowns. Why is this significant? Because whoever wins the job -- Tuel or Halliday -- if they put up "average" Mike Leach numbers in 2011, they would have led the NCAA in attempts, completions, total passing yards, finished fourth in passing touchdowns and would have been in the top 20 in passing efficiency rating (if my math is right, no promises).\
That means the next guy in Washington State is going to catapult atop national statistical rankings, get more national exposure and -- possibly -- play their way into the NFL draft down the line. Kliff Kingsbury and B.J. Symons both finished in the Top 10 in Heisman voting when they played for Leach.
There is the sidebar of veteran Tuel versus the youthful moxie of Halliday. Both have good size. Tuel, who hails from Fresno, Calif., is 6-3, 225. Halliday comes from Spokane, just an hour north of Pullman and is 6-4, 180. He'll likely put on more weight in the offseason. There will be plenty of time to pick apart every nuance and mechanical aspects of their game. But at first glance, this competition intrigues me more than any other because statistical history suggests whoever starts for Leach usually plays their way into the national conversation of top quarterbacks.