It’s hard to rank college quarterbacks because unlike their pro counterparts the strength of each schedule is not even close to being equal. Some quarterbacks shine due to the conference they play in. Some would argue Colt Brennan from Hawaii, the quarterback that shattered many NCAA passing records, benefited from playing against the softer defenses of the WAC. Other quarterbacks are system quarterbacks. Some argue that Texas Tech QBs like Graham Harrell fall under this category and for the most part this cannot be argued. Every year head coach Mike Leach is able to find a quarterback that seems to put up mind numbing totals.
What I’ve tried to do is put together my personal list of the best 20 college quarterbacks today. I’m sure many will disagree with this list but it took a lot of time and effort to come up with. How do you evaluate a college quarterback anyways? How much do passing stats mean? How much do rushing yards mean? That’s the kind of questions I had to ask myself when making this list.
I also had to put together a few basic rules. First of all freshman quarterbacks weren’t eligible. Even if I had flown all across the country and evaluated every freshman QB it still wouldn’t be fair to compare those evaluations to game situation stats from the guys below. Secondly any quarterback that has not started or played considerable minutes at any point in their collegiate career is not eligible for the list. As the season continues both freshman and new starters will be eligible, but for now it wasn’t fair to include either.
Please post comments below. Here’s my preseason list of the best 20 college quarterbacks in the country:
1. Tim Tebow (FLA): It’s hard not to go with a guy who has won two national championships and a Heisman Trophy at #1. Tebow is the ultimate college athlete. He can pass well and run over linebackers. He’s one of the most freakish athletes in college sports history. When his team was down after a loss to Ole Miss it was Tebow that stood up and changed the course of the entire season. His speech after that game took the Gators to new heights, including a second national championship in three seasons.
2. Sam Bradford (OU): The Sooners entire offense revolved around Bradford last season. Sure Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray ran well, but the threat of the passing game helped open up the running game (and vise versa). He became just the second player–behind Tebow–to win the Heisman Trophy as a Sophomore. The key ingredient for Bradford was his incredible offensive line last season. He was able to stand in the pocket all day and make throws.
3. Colt McCoy (TX): McCoy finished second in Heisman Trophy voting last season despite a killer schedule and incredible stats. He actually led the Longhorns in rushing last season and led them to victories over Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Oklahoma State. A last second loss to Texas Tech derailed his Heisman hopes and Texas’ national championship aspirations. This year he is among the big headliners in college football, along with Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford.
4. Max Hall (BYU): Hall doesn’t get the big headlines because he’s playing for BYU, in the Mountain West, and not Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, or USC. But take my word on this: If you want an underdog Heisman Trophy candidate this year, take Hall. He takes on Oklahoma to begin the year with a chance to really get his name on the radar. On September 19th, Hall takes on Florida State in Provo and gets TCU at home in October. Winning the Mountain West and finishing the season with one loss could get the Cougars in a BCS game.
5. Zac Robinson (OKST): Last season Robinson was the forgotten man in the Big 12 behind Heisman Trophy winner Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Missouri’s Chase Daniel. This year the Cowboys are ranked in the top ten to begin the season and have national championship aspirations. One of the main reasons for that is Robinson. He’s got a big arm and wide receiver Dez Bryant back. Statistically he struggled in the bigger games last season (outside OU). He threw just one touchdown against Texas & Texas Tech combined.
6. Jevan Snead (MISS): One of the biggest surprises in college football last season was Snead. The scary part is that his play got stronger as the season continued. In his first six starts he threw only 9 touchdown passes, but in his final seven starts he threw an incredible 18 TDs. The most telling stat was that he threw only two INTs in his final five games of the season. This season, in his second season in Houston Nutt’s scheme, Snead should be even better.
7. Daryll Clark (PSU): Clark isn’t flashy but doesn’t turn the ball over. Last season he threw only six interceptions compared to 19 touchdowns. The one problem with Clark is his lack of game changing plays (as already mentioned) and his inconsistency. Against Iowa–the Nittany Lions only loss of ‘08, he threw for just 86 yards and completed just nine passes. This season Penn State has a favorable schedule and a chance to run the table. If they do Clark could be a darkhorse Heisman candidate.
8. Case Keenum (HOU): Keenum gets the lowest amount of publicity out of anyone to this point because he plays in Conference USA. Let’s face it, Houston is never even going to be like Hawaii was for Colt Breenan for Keenum. He won’t be on the big stage at all this season–barring an undefeated season for the Cougars. Last season his biggest game was against Oklahoma State where he threw four TDs. Overall in 2008 he passed for 44 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
9. Dan LeFevour (CMU): One of the best rushing-passing threats in the entire country plays in the MAC. Last season LeFevour threw 21 TDs and 6 INTs and had three 100 yard games rushing. He threw for 2, 784 yards but didn’t capture much publicity because Buffalo won the MAC. Every year he’s completed a higher percentage of his passes including 66.8% last season. This year his best chances at gaining national publicity are against Arizona in the opener and against Michigan State the next week.
10. Todd Reesing (KAN): Two seasons ago Reesing was a Heisman Trophy candidate going into the Border War game against Missouri. After the Jayhawks lost that game he was hailed as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate for 2008, but Kansas struggled for most of the year. This season Kansas is the favorite to win the Big 12 North and Reesing is one of the main reasons. Over the past two seasons he has thrown for 65 touchdowns. The problem for Reesing is in games against Oklahoma and Texas last season he threw just 3 TDs and 2 INTs.
11. Russell Wilson (NCST): After a horrible start to his 2008 season, Wilson finally found himself and his game against East Carolina. he was injured in the opener against South Carolina and didn’t play again until week three against Clemson. Against the Tigers he threw his one and only interception of the entire season. In the last nine games he played in–he did not play against South Florida–Wilson threw 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Beware though. This year the spotlight and pressure will be on.
12. Terrelle Pryor (OHST): He’s got a long ways to go to become a dominant passer (or even dominant quarterback) but he’s already one of the best playmakers in the game. His offensive gifts are mind-boggling and his ability to make plays with his feet is what sets him apart from everyone else. Last season he threw 12 TDs and rushed for 6 more while leading Ohio State to the Fiesta Bowl. This season he should be even better after an entire offseason taking starter repetitions.
13. Juice Williams (ILL): Juice Williams reminds me a lot of former Bears QB Rex Grossman. “Good” Juice or “Bad” Juice, which are you going to get? The Illinois quarterback played well last season despite the Illini’s dismal 5-7 record. His completion percentage has to improve from 57.5% this year and his touchdown to interception ratio needs to get better. The good parts of his game included a 451 yard passing performance against Missouri and a 462 yard game against Minnesota. He even topped the 100 yard mark on the ground twice.
14. Rusty Smith (FAU): Last season Smith was a disappointment. Sure, he threw 24 touchdowns but that was nothing compared to his 32 touchdown season in 2007. This kid can play though. Against Texas in the Owls opener he was 15 of 31 for 253 yards. Not bad for such a large disparity in talent. The problem with Smith is consistency. Against Michigan State a few weeks later he was 8 of 34 in a 17-0 loss. This year I expect him to bounce back and have a huge senior season.
15. Jimmy Clausen (ND): It looks like Clausen is finally developing into the player everyone thought he would become when he came out of high school. Last season he threw 25 TDs and 17 INTs although it should be pointed out that five of those TDs came against Hawaii’s defense in the Irish’s bowl game. Against stiff competition like USC Clausen struggled most of the year. The Trojans had the best defense in the country last season, but 11 of 21 for 41 yards is still a lousy game against anyone.
16. Jake Locker (WASH): Last season Locker was injured most of the year as the Huskies struggled to a pitiful 0-12 record. When he was on the field his passing was not very impressive–53.8%–but his Tim Tebow-like style gets attention. He had three rushing touchdowns in three full games. In a 28-27 loss to BYU Locker had his best game with two rushing touchdowns. The problem is his 08 season is most remembered for an uncalled celebration penalty (where Locker did nothing wrong) that ended up helping cause a game winning blocked extra point by the Cougars. If he stays healthy this year the Huskies could make a run at a bowl game.
17. Tim Hiller (WMU): Hiller is too often forgotten when it comes to naming some of the best quarterbacks in the country. Once again–like Keenum, LeFevour, and Smith–he plays in a weak conference (the MAC) and doesn’t get the attention he deserves. Hiller threw 36 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions last season. Against Nebraska and Illinois, the two BCS teams Western Michigan played last season, Hiller threw for 4 TDs and 1 INT. In a season defining performance against Central Michigan Hiller threw for 471 yards. That’s impressive, no matter how good the competition is.
18. Robert Griffin (BAYLOR): Griffin has to work on his passing skills, especially against better defenses, but is one of the top playmakers in the Big 12. He threw 15 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions last season, but his best weapon is his legs. In 12 games last season he ran for 13 touchdowns. Against Washington State, one of the worst BCS teams in the history of college football, Griffin ran for 217 yards on 11 carries. That’s almost twenty yards per carry.
19. Kellen Moore (BOISE): Moore wasn’t suppose to be this good, this fast. This year he will be a sophomore with extremely high expectations after leading the Broncos to an undefeated regular season as a freshman. This season Boise State is expecting to compete for a spot in a BCS game, and Moore is one of the main reasons why. The opener against Oregon on Thursday night–in front of the entire country–will be Moore’s chance to shine on the Blue Turf in Boise.
20. Tyrod Taylor (VT): Taylor is clearly not the best passer in the world (2 TDs, 7 INTs last season) but is very impressive when scrambling. He ran for 738 yards last season and 7 TDs. Sean Glennon began the season as the starter at QB for Virginia Tech but struggled out of the gate against East Carolina. Frank Beamer then revised his decision to redshirt Taylor by playing him the rest of the season. This season I expect him to have better passing numbers and scare defenses even more when running.
Among Others Considered: Patrick Pickney (ECU), Cody Hawkins (COL), Matt Grothe (USF), Josh Nesbitt (GT), Riley Skinner (WF), Jordan Jefferson (LSU), T. J. Yates (UNC), Thaddeus Lewis (DUKE), Kevin Riley (CAL), Lyle Moevao (OREST), Jeremiah Masoli (ORE), Jarrett Brown (WVU), Tony Pike (CIN), Levi Brown (TROY), Christian Ponder (FSU), Ricky Stanzi (IOWA), Adam Weber (MIN), Jerrod Johnson (TXA&M), Jacory Harris (MIA), Andy Dalton (TCU), Omar Clayton (UNLV), Ryan Lindley (SDST), Trevor Vittatoe (UTEP), Austin Davis (USM), Colin Kaepernick (NEV), Greg Alexander (HAW), Andy Schmitt (ECU), Tyler Sheehan (BG), Corey Leonard (ASU)