Monday, July 15, 2013
Preseason position reviews: Quarterback
By Ted Miller
It's time to start our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.
Here's how we do this: We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."
Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."
"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see because there's no way at present to know. Stanford and Arizona State both got "We'll see" last year at quarterback and things turned out OK.
And away we go ... starting, of course, with quarterback.
Oregon: Marcus Mariota, a sophomore, is among the best returning quarterbacks in the nation and a leading Heisman Trophy candidate. He's also got a strong supporting cast to make him look good. Of course, Matt Barkley showed us last year that there are no sure things.
With Taylor Kelly back at quarterback, Arizona State could be doing a lot of celebrating in 2013.
Arizona State: Taylor Kelly came from nowhere to lead the conference's No. 2 scoring offense (38.4 points per game). He ranked second behind Mariota in passing efficiency, which was good for ninth in the nation. The depth behind him is good: Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici.
UCLA: Brett Hundley led an offense that averaged 467 yards and 34 points per game last year as a redshirt freshman. He ranked second in the Pac-12 and 23rd in the nation in total offense. Took a few too many sacks, though. The Bruins rank below Arizona State here because the Sun Devils' backups are stronger.
Stanford: Kevin Hogan didn't put up big numbers but he went 5-0 after he took over the starting job, including leading a win at Oregon and in the Rose Bowl. He's plenty capable and his numbers should take a big jump this fall. It's also nice to have a beastly O-line in front of you.
Oregon State: The biggest story with Oregon State is the quarterback competition between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz. The silver lining is the Beavers have two capable QBs with starting experience. Things could be far worse.
Washington: Keith Price rated the Huskies in "Great shape" heading into 2012, but things didn't go as planned. While it wasn't all his fault, he nonetheless has a lot to prove this fall. If he looks like his 2011 self, Washington will have a breakthrough season.
Washington State: Connor Halliday has played well at times, and Austin Apodaca was good enough this spring to make things interesting entering fall camp. Further, Year 2 with Mike Leach figures to be good to whoever plays QB.
USC: Star rating tends to boost USC, and Max Wittek, Cody Kessler and frosh Max Browne have plenty of star power. The big-armed Wittek has experienced gained last year when Barkley was hurt, but Kessler had the best spring. QB is a question for the Trojans, but probably not a big worry.
Utah: Travis Wilson flashed potential last year, and it will help that Dennis Erickson is on board with the offense. But there are questions when you average 109 yards passing, as Wilson did in 2012.
Arizona: Who's it going to be? There are three choices with promise: Returning backup B.J. Denker, who saw some action last year; USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, who's got a great arm; and touted incoming freshman Anu Solomon. It doesn't help that the previously deep crew of receivers has thinned a bit since the end of the 2012 season, most notably the loss of Austin Hill to a knee injury.
California: While many folks believe the job is Zach Kline's to lose this preseason, new coach Sonny Dykes isn't showing his cards. Kline has a lot of potential, but he wasn't able to distance himself this spring from freshman Jared Goff and Austin Hinder. Will he do so early in fall camp? Or will the plot thicken?
Colorado: Connor Wood is the favorite over Shane Dillon and freshman Sefo Liufau. He has some experience but it's not terribly impressive. Still, Wood had enough talent to be originally signed by Texas. If he gets comfortable and confident, he could be at least solid. It will help having receiver Paul Richardson back.