Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Pac-12 QBs: Who's set and who's not?
By ESPN.com staff
Though there are notable exceptions -- Oregon last year, for one -- it's typically better to have a returning starter at quarterback than to have questions at the position heading into spring practices.
The Pac-12 will boast the best collection of quarterbacks in the country next fall. In fact, no other conference is even remotely close. Seven teams welcome back quality starters, and four of them -- Stanford's Andrew Luck, Oregon's Darron Thomas, USC's Matt Barkley and Arizona's Nick Foles -- are legitimate All-American candidates.
On the flip side, five teams have questions at the position, though just three competitions appear wide open: California, UCLA and Washington.
Here's a quick look at where each team stands.
Arizona: While Nick Foles had some downs in 2010, he's still one of the premier quarterbacks in the country. The more interesting story is the Wildcats would like to redshirt capable backup Matt Scott so he can take over in 2012.
Oregon: Darron Thomas greatly exceeded expectations as a sophomore starter in 2010. What will he do for an encore?
Oregon State: Ryan Katz had his ups and downs last fall but his ups suggested tremendous upside. He might have the best arm in the conference. And history shows Beavers quarterbacks get better with age.
Stanford: Andrew Luck likely would have been the top pick in this spring's NFL draft. Suffice it to say, the Cardinal are set at the position.
USC: Junior Matt Barkley has been a starter since his true freshman season and he made a significant jump forward in 2010. He's expected to do so again this fall and then jump into the NFL draft.
Utah: Jordan Wynn will sit out spring practices after shoulder surgery, but there is no question he's the Utes starter.
Washington State: Jeff Tuel started as a true freshman in 2009 and took some knocks. He made a huge leap forward with a better supporting cast in 2010. And if he duplicates that improvement as a junior, the Cougars will start to win a few games.
Who's not set (working down to most uncertain)
Arizona State: The biggest uncertainty here is Steven Threet's status after suffering three concussions in 2010. He has not been cleared to participate in spring practices. But the expectation around the program is that Brock Osweiler will be the starter this fall.
Colorado: Experienced senior Tyler Hansen is the decided frontrunner, but there's a new scheme and coaching staff and he's coming back from a ruptured spleen. JC transfer Brent Burnette and redshirt freshman Nick Hirschman are the competition.
Washington: The Huskies competition to replace Jake Locker is fairly straight-forward: sophomore Keith Price vs. redshirt freshman Nick Montana. Though Price, the 2010 backup, has a slight edge, in large part due to a solid start at Oregon last year, expect the battle to last into preseason camp.
UCLA: Kevin Prince would be the slight favorite due to experience, but he's coming back from a knee injury and it is questionable how much he'll be able to do this spring. Where does Richard Brehaut stand, seeing he's playing baseball? And might Rick Neuheisel and new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson decide to go with touted true freshman Brett Hundley?
California: This one is completely up in the air, though Brock Mansion likely takes the first snaps since he started the final four games of 2010 after Kevin Riley went down. The candidates after him include: sophomore Allen Bridgford, redshirt freshman Austin Hinder, junior Zach Maynard and junior Beau Sweeney. Spring figures to winnow the field to two, maybe three, candidates.