Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Preseason position reviews: Quarterback
By Ted Miller
It's time to start our preseason position reviews. And quarterback seems like a good place to start. For most Pac-12 teams, at least.
For our new friends in Salt Lake City and Boulder, here's how we do this: We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."
You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."
And I like the vagueness of "We'll see." Because that's exactly what we'll do. Plenty of promising players tank. And previously lousy ones blossom.
For one, we had no idea what to expect from Oregon at the position last year. Who knew that Darron Thomas would lead his team to the national title game and earn second-team All-Pac-10 honors ahead of -- cough-cough -- NFL first-round pick Jake Locker?
And away we go.
- Stanford: Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in the nation. One caveat: Luck's backups, Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo are sophomores with no experience.
- Oregon: As a sophomore, Darron Thomas was good enough to earn second-team All-Pac-10 honors and throw for 363 yards and two touchdowns in the national title game. What will he do as a junior? Bryan Bennett didn't have a great spring, but the redshirt freshman has a lot of skills.
- USC: Junior Matt Barkley, an elite passing talent, will be a third-year starter for the Trojans. He improved significantly from his freshman year to his sophomore year, throwing for 26 touchdowns. Most think this will be his final year before he enters the NFL draft. What will he do to impress NFL GMs? Redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins is the backup.
- Arizona: Senior Nick Foles has the best receivers of all these guys, so he might end up with the best passing numbers. And he's also playing for his NFL draft position. Further, with Matt Scott, who has starting experience, as his backup and senior Bryson Beirne as a solid No. 3, the Wildcats are deeper at the position than any other conference team.
- Washington State: Jeff Tuel may be ready for his close-up. He put up good numbers a year ago -- 18 touchdown passes -- and he's got a strong group of receivers, led by Marquess Wilson. Senior Marshall Lobbestael gives the Cougars a backup with significant experience.
- Oregon State: Big-armed junior Ryan Katz will be in his second year as a starter. He was solid in 2010, but is fully capable of significant improvement, particularly if his top receivers -- James Rodgers, Jordan Bishop and tight end Joe Halahuni -- are healthy. Sophomore Cody Vaz had an outstanding spring to take hold of the backup job.
- Utah: Jordan Wynn, now a junior, started as a true freshman, is 11-4 as a starter and four times has passed for over 300 yards. Two issues hold Wynn and Utah back here: 1. Wynn is coming back from shoulder surgery, which is always worrisome for quarterbacks; 2. Neither of Wynn's backups, Tyler Shreve and Griff Robles, looked good this spring with Wynn on the sidelines.
- Arizona State: Brock Osweiler did enough in the Sun Devils final two games to convince many folks that he was going to beat out starter Steven Threet this spring. When Threet was forced to retire due to recurrent concussions, the job became Osweiler's by default. Redshirt freshman Taylor Kelly and true freshman Mike Bercovici are promising but have no experience.
- Colorado: Tyler Hansen has 15 career starts. He has looked good at times -- he was completing 68 percent of his passes before he got hurt last year after seven games -- and he turned in a good spring. Backups Nick Hirschman and Brent Burnette have no experience.
- UCLA: Bruins have two quarterbacks with considerable starting experience in Kevin Prince, who sat out spring but was No. 1 on the depth chart released in May, and Richard Brehaut. In fact, if you could guarantee Prince's health -- a huge "if" -- the Bruins would be in good shape. But you can't. Moreover, neither Prince nor Brehaut have played well consistently, which is why so many UCLA fans were eager to see touted true freshman Brett Hundley this spring.
- California: Zach Maynard, a starter at Buffalo before transferring to Cal, won the Bears job this spring over Brock Mansion and Allan Bridgford. He put up decent numbers at Buffalo in 2009 and he's a pass-run threat. But he hasn't played against Pac-12 competition and he sat out last season. Ergo, the category.
- Washington: Keith Price turned in a solid performance in his lone start for an injured Jake Locker at Oregon last fall. And he was consistently impressive this spring, so much so he was announced as the starter over Nick Montana after a strong spring game. Still, it's impossible to know how he will react when Steve Sarkisian hands him the keys to the offense.