- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ah, lists. Gotta love 'em. And we know you do, too.
Our friends at Athlon Sports -- who brought you some of your favorite hits like ranking the Pac-12 coaches -- posted a new list this morning ranking the Pac-12 quarterbacks. Nothing stirs the pot like a list.
College football’s 2013 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about some of the top players in the nation. With spring practice coming to a close around the nation, Athlon will rank the top quarterbacks in each conference. One important note: This is just a ranking of starters and backups weren’t included for this article. Also, some projection for how we think quarterbacks are going to play for 2013 factored into this ranking.
With quarterback competitions still raging at several schools, they had to project the starter in a few cases. But none of those projections feel like too far of a stretch.
Here's how they rank the QBs:
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Brett Hundley, UCLA
Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
Keith Price, Washington
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Sean Mannion, Oregon State
Cody Kessler, USC
Connor Halliday, Washington State
Zach Kline, California
Travis Wilson, Utah
B.J. Denker, Arizona
Nick Hirschman, Colorado
The top three are solid. If you go back to our postseason top 25, we had five quarterbacks on our list. Two of them are gone (Matt Scott, Matt Barkley) and the remaining QBs were Mariota (No. 1), Hundley (No. 15) and Kelly (No. 24).
It looks like they are banking on Price to return to his 2011 form, hence the ranking over Hogan. The Pac-12 blog also thinks Price is going to have a bounce-back year. But given Hogan's icy play and his 5-0 record as a starter -- which includes a 4-0 mark against Top 25 teams -- this half of the Pac-12 blog would probably flip those two.
I don't even want to begin to speculate on the Oregon State quarterback competition. Only Mike Riley knows which way he's leaning. And he's not going to let us into his thought process until well into fall camp. We know both Mannion and Cody Vaz are capable of winning big games. Because both have. We also know both have had their struggles, because both have. Too close to call.
Lots and lots of potential with Halliday in that offense. His legend grew with his liver-lacerating performance against Utah in 2011, but the constant switching last year between Halliday and Jeff Tuel didn't allow for either quarterback to perform consistently. This is probably a fair ranking -- but the potential is there to crack the top five.
Those who closely followed USC's spring are also banking that Kessler will be the starter. We just have to wait a few months to see if either Max Wittek or Max Browne can challenge his front-runner status. He's another guy who could climb the rankings quickly because he has the best wide receiver in the country to throw to and a stable of receivers as strong as any in the conference.
The 9-11 spots is where I'd probably make a couple of switches. There are rare exceptions where you can rank an untested quarterback above those with actual game experience simply by virtue of the offense. Mariota was an example of that last year. But new quarterback, new coach, new system makes it tough in my mind to rank Kline (or Jared Goff, or Austin Hinder) above Wilson or Denker. Both of those guys have played and won games. Word out of Arizona camp is that Denker had a strong spring -- though the loss of Austin Hill hurts. Wilson showed improvement over the second half of the season -- winning three of his last five -- with five touchdowns to two interceptions over that stretch. Kline might prove to be as advertised, but for now I'd go with Wilson and Denker above him.
Again, Colorado is a team where projecting a starter is tough. Maybe the new pistol offense will be a perfect fit for Hirschman? But like Washington State last year, there was so much flip-flopping at QB that consistency was non-existent. And as Ted noted earlier this week, don't count out Shane Dillon, who could pull a Taylor Kelly and leap-frog the competition when fall rolls around.
Overall, pretty fair rankings with only a couple of moves, in my humble opinion.