Top 10 QB situations for 2006
Top 10 QB situations for 2006
Eric Moneypenny / Special to FOXSports.com
Posted: 2 hours ago
Last week, I offered up my top breakout quarterbacks for 2006.
However, some schools don't need a quarterback to have a breakout season. They already have a quality quarterback, and, in rare cases, also happen to have a high-quality backup ready to come in and win, if necessary.
Some schools have question marks at the position. The schools on my list today have more than one answer.
To make my final list of best quarterback situations, the school needed to have the following:
# 1. A returning starter at quarterback;
# 2. A backup that also won games as a starter, or compiled impressive statistics in extensive duty; or
# 3. An impact freshman or transfer player that can step in and win games.
With that said, please USC and Texas fans (for example), don't bother emailing on how John David Booty and Mark Sanchez or Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead could all be the greatest things since sliced bread and hamburger buns. I already know.
However, with the qualifications as stated above, here are my top 10 quarterback situations for the 2006 football season.
1. Arizona State
The 4,438 combined passing yards and 37 TDs returning between ASU's top two quarterbacks have landed them at the top of this list with a swift "DUH." I'll start off by stating that Sun Devils senior QB Sam Keller is no Wally Pipp. But, as you probably recall, Keller was forced out of the lineup due to a bum thumb, and freshman Rudy Carpenter came on in relief to lead the whole nation in passing efficiency. Go figure.
That's why Arizona State has the best quarterback situation in all of college football. The starter will smoke the defense to the tune of 330 yards, and if he goes down, the backup might show up the next game to pass for 360.
Rudy Carpenter was impressive last season after starter Sam Keller went down with an injury. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
Head coach Dirk Koetter doesn't appear to have any Spurrierrific plans to shuffle these guys every other play or anything and has stated that he wouldn't. Good thinkin'. Stay the course.
Even though Carpenter had an awesome showing stat-wise in spring scrimmages, it wouldn't be fair for Keller to lose the job because he got hurt, and Koetter understands that; the senior has the edge heading into camp. So, no matter how things shake out after early fall practices at legendary Camp Tontozona, these dudes are in good shape out in the desert. ASU is unquestionably the no-brainer on this list.
2. Ohio State
At the beginning of last season (or really, the past few), I didn't see myself sitting here in July, excited about seeing Jim Tressel's Ohio State offense in the fall.
When Tressel was at Youngstown State, they piled mounds of points on the board, but we never really saw that sort of offensive explosion in the Horseshoe, even during the sheer Clarett-ishness of the 2002-03 National Championship season. Enter senior QB Troy Smith.
Smith took over late in 2004, did the QB shuffle for a bit, then won the job outright from Justin Zwick during the '05 season. With the quick, heady, 6-foot-1, 215-pounder at the helm, Ohio State jumped their offensive mindset ahead a few decades, providing smashing results over the latter half of '05.
Should Smith take too many hits inside or outside the pocket, the Buckeyes have an incredible backup in fellow senior Zwick. As you may recall, "J-Z" was supposed to be the next big-time Buckeye quarterback.
The 6-4, 225-pounder played high school ball in legendary Massillon, OH, so he was under immense pressure to produce with the Buckeyes. For example, if you don't know what Massillon football means in Ohio, put on some orange and black, repeat "Paul Brown" to yourself, then stare at a 17-year-old Chris Speilman on a Wheaties box cover for a couple hours. Right? Go Tigers. Zwick, the homegrown, huge deal was once one of the nation's top high school players, and up until Smith took over, he was expected to rule the Big Teneleven.
But, in the end, Smith has been more effective. However, Zwick's decision to not transfer (like many assumed) leaves the Buckeyes stocked at the most important position. Backup Todd Boeckman could start for many in most programs, and Rob Schoenhoft appears to have a bright future down the road as a Buckeye starter later in his career. The Buckeyes are stocked.
I'm a huge fan of LSU's returning starter JaMarcus Russell. Many college coaches claim they have quarterbacks that can make "all the throws," but Russell's got one of the strongest arms of anybody in the college game, so he definitely flicks the pill around the field.
Backup Matt Flynn's also a top-shelf college quarterback in his own right. While Flynn doesn't have Russell's arm strength, he's showed that he's fully capable of leading the team, as evidenced by his role as a starter when the Tigers whacked Miami 40-3 in last year's Peach Bowl.
The LSU quarterback situation is so strong that young Ryan Perrilloux, one of the nation's top 2005 prep signees, allegedly saw the talent ahead of him for the next two seasons and nearly decided to get up and "geaux."
The rumors that Perrilloux was transferring to Grambling died out, killing any stat-happy hopes of seeing Perrilloux carry on where Grambling's ultra-prolific Bruce Eugene left off. However, since Ryan's staying, it gives LSU three talented quarterbacks to lead them through a tough SEC schedule — if injury or inconsistency arise in the Bayou.
Last season, just as rock group AC/DC once handpicked Brian Johnson to take over for the late Bon Scott as lead vocalist, Utah handpicked their own Brian Johnson to take over for the NFL's top overall pick in 2005, Alex Smith.
Brian Johnson earned 2nd-team All-MWC honors last season at Utah. (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
Johnson performed admirably as a sophomore, gaining second team All-MWC honors. Then, Johnson went down, and senior Brett Ratliff came in, helping the team to two impressive wins, one over BYU and one over Georgia Tech in the Emerald Bowl.
If the Utah QB situation doesn't sound solid enough for you, add in Oklahoma transfer Tommy Grady. Grady checks in at 6-7, 235 pounds and was once a camper at the prestigious Elite 11 camp for QBs and a highly coveted recruit for the Sooners out of Huntington Beach, CA. At Oklahoma, Grady completed an astonishing 93 percent of his passes. Sure, he was only 12 for 14. But with his somewhat thick resume, don't be surprised to see the big transfer bully his way into the mix. Blue-chippers don't transfer from the Big 12 to the Mountain West with third-string expectations.
Sophomore Nate Longshore returns after somewhat surprisingly winning the starting job as a freshman in 2005, only to get hurt in the first game and stay out the rest of the season.
Senior Joe Ayoob was everybody's JUCO Mr. Everything heading into 2005, then had a roller-coaster year after replacing Longshore. Ayoob, who was saddled with ridiculously unfair Michael Vick comparisons in junior college, managed to throw down a shaky 5-4 record as a starter. However, the senior was said to look solid in the spring, despite tweaking his ankle late in the sessions. Converted fullback Steve Levy also returns, having won a couple of games as starter late in 2005.
The three quarterbacks leave a solid situation in Berkeley for coach Jeff Tedford. Longshore's a prototype, 6-5 guy; Ayoob is a fantastic athlete and more accurate than what we saw last year, and Levy was a gamer in every sense of the word. You didn't think the Cal quarterback situation would struggle for very long under Coach Ted's watch, did ya? Plus, Tedford's experience developing college passers in recent memory gives Cal the edge over the next school on our list.
6. Florida State
Sure, in a terribly tough new ACC, Florida State doesn't quite have the same elbow room to stay the juggernaut it once was throughout the 1990s. What they DO have at the quarterback position are two talented sophomores that could walk in and start right away for at least 80 percent of the Division I teams: Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee.
Last year, Weatherford broke Philip Rivers' ACC freshman record for pass yards, and Lee made some big plays with his arm in mop-up duty. Now that they're both redshirt sophomores, the entire Bowden family (North Florida branch) can sleep well knowing their quarterback situation is a little more stable than it was this time last year after Wyatt Sexton left the team.
Last year's positional question mark in Tallahassee now becomes an exclamation point. FSU has a couple of young quarterbacks that can walk into any game and win. Plus, with a running game that should stay strong on the legs of Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith, defenses around the ACC are gonna have a tough time stopping one of these two athletic quarterbacks on any given Saturday.
How does a team lose a starter to the second round of the NFL Draft and jump on to this list? Easy. Sure, Kellen Clemens suffering a season ending injury was the worst thing that happened to the 2005 Oregon football season. However, Clemens suffering a season ending injury was the best thing that could've happened to the 2006 Oregon football season. When the awesome senior went down last year, college football fans like me (and more importantly Gary Crowton's new Oregon offense) got acclimated with the talents of Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf.
Completing over 66 percent of his passes in 2005, Dixon proved to be a very effective passer. He also happens to be the fastest quarterback in school history, setting the all-time UO record at the position with a 4.51 time in the 40.
Leaf, brother of "you know who … aka Ryan Leaf," is a pocket passer, the type of guy offensive coordinator Crowton would've fawned over at previous stops, BYU and Louisiana Tech. Dixon's got the edge when it comes to accuracy and athleticism, but Leaf's a quality backup. Between the both of them, Oregon is set behind center, or five yards behind in the shotgun.
The Gators don't have three or four solid quarterbacks on the depth chart. In fact, in the spring, they only had two quarterbacks on their entire roster. Good thing that those two quarterbacks were talented senior Chris Leak and intriguing five-star freshman Tim Tebow.
When spring football wrapped up, Urban Meyer proclaimed Leak as the starter — case closed: 8,271 career passing yards can't be wrong. However, the coach also said that we're going to see Tebow early and often in the fall, helping prepare his first-year guy for the future, or for the unfortunate event that Leak gets dinged up.
Enrolling early for spring practice, Tebow lived up to the hype and then some. In UF's spring game, the 6-3, 225-pound lefty completed 15 of 21 passes for 197 yards to lead his Orange squad to a 24-6 win over Leak's Blue team.
While fans may be jumping to start some sort of a QB controversy between these two former blue-chip prepsters, the playing styles of Leak and Tebow are very complementary, even in the same offense. We already know that Leak is a textbook pocket passer, with decent, though not jawdropping, mobility.
Armed with a rocket on his left shoulder, Tebow is a fantastic, all-around athlete, drawing comparisons at the high school level to Steve Young and John Elway. He's just as likely to try to run over a defender as around him and is going to be a fun guy to watch in the Meyer spread — since he's almost the prototype player to run it. If I were Urban Meyer, I'd make Tebow my red zone quarterback; I'm going to assume that he's smarter than me and will figure it out in 2006.
Last season, new head coach Walt Harris took over The Farm, and the light bulb seemed to switch on for QB Trent Edwards' vast potential. Now, Edwards, a talented senior rated higher in 2002 by Scout.com than every other high school quarterback in the nation (well, except some dude named Vince Young), is primed for a heck of a season.
However, his backup, fellow senior T.C. Ostrander, is no slouch. Remember, it was Ostrander who came in and almost pulled off the upset of Notre Dame at the end of 2005. Still, Edwards had his best year to date, completing nearly 63 percent of his passes for 17 TDs and only seven INTs, but it's a sweet backup like Ostrander that solidifies this quarterback situation for me.
For a school with a rich quarterback history, you could call the Edwards-Ostrander 1-2 punch the next Steve Stenstrom and Jason Palumbis, the next Guy Benjamin and Steve Dils, or the next Chad Hutchinson and Todd Husak. Or don't, those are slightly obscure Stanford tandems. Just know that their two quarterbacks are experienced enough to be solid and better than most one-two punches.
The Rebels enter their second season of the Urban Meyer-style Shotgun Spread that former Utah offensive coordinator Mike Sanford brought in when taking the head job at Vegas. With Sanford and Noah Brindise (a former Steve Spurrier pupil) calling the plays, the Rebels will aim to move the chains more in 2006 with one of their two talented quarterbacks.
Senior QB Shane Steichen has improved a ton over his UNLV career. He's upped his completion percentage and made much better decisions with the ball than he did early in his career. However, it may be all for naught as former prep-All American QB Rocky Hinds becomes eligible after transferring over from USC.
The competition is still open into the summer, but everyone and their grandparents (except maybe Steichen's) is expecting Hinds, a 6-5, 220-pound redshirt sophomore, to take over this fall in Vegas. After all, there aren't many quarterbacks in the country that can lay claim to running a 10.47 in the 100 meter dash in high school. That's fast. With the option a big part of this spread attack, Hinds could go from playing the role of transfer to assuming all-conference honors in a short time.
However, Steichen's a good, tough runner in his own right, having broken off a couple of touchdown jaunts over 50-plus yards in 2005, and averaging over 60 yards a game on the ground in an injury-shortened season. The fact remains that the Rebels have two quarterbacks that should make their "new" offense run.
OK, sure, I wanted to throw a bone out to one of the smaller conferences in this article. However, remembering the play of the Ragin' Cajuns' top two quarterbacks from 2005 made them my dark-horse candidate in this countdown.
Jerry Babb, one of the best quarterbacks in ULL's history (well, behind Jake Delhomme and Brian Mitchell), returns for his senior season. However, Babb's backed up by sensational sophomore Michael Desmoreaux. Both quarterbacks are threats with their arms and legs, rushing for over 400 yards EACH last season, and both posted 100-yard games on the ground. Desmoreaux had an especially impressive 174 yards rushing against Arkansas State.
The Ragin' Cajuns are everybody's preseason pick to win the Sun Belt, and the fact that they could probably do that with either dude gives them a luxury not known by many in the smaller D-I conferences, which also lands them directly on my list.
Those who missed my cut:
In 2005, Casey Dick made the All-SEC freshman team after a solid job late in the year, and former starter Robert Johnson made big plays this spring in new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's wide-open, no-huddle spread offense.
The nation's top high school quarterback, Mitch Mustain, enters the picture this fall and figures to get his shot at going totally Megadeth on the SEC, after passing for 3,817 yards and 47 TDs while playing for Malzahn at Springdale (AR) High in 2005. Mustain also set the Arkansas state record for completion percentage, drilling over 70 percent of his throws as a senior.
The Hogs have so much talent at the quarterback position that young backup Alex Mortensen (son of ESPN's Chris Mortensen) decided to take his game to Samford for the 2006 season.
We all know that Jordan Palmer's a pretty good quarterback. This year, the Miners have some backups that intrigue me. Redshirt freshman Brandis Dew was a big-time high school. quarterback in California, and the 6-5, 265-pounder is probably the only QB in the country who can brag that he was once Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week at USC's summer football camp for high schoolers. Impressive. Dew is battling for the backup job with junior Lorne Sam, a former wide receiver at Florida State. Sam's expected to play both quarterback and wide receiver in 2006 in El Paso. UTEP's season hangs on Palmer staying healthy, but the two backups have interesting resumes that bode well for the future.
Mark Richt's natural ability to convince a handful of good quarterbacks to stay on the same team has baffled me for quite some time. This year, the 'Dawgs have senior Joe Tereshinski, sophomore Blake Barnes, red-shirt freshman Joe Cox and true freshman Matthew Stafford. Stafford comes in with the heaviest folder of press clippings, while the other three were also once big-time prep recruits. Cox even broke some of Chris Leak's school records at Charlotte Independence (NC) High School. Tereshinski's the starter for now, having filled in admirably for D.J. Shockley in last year's Arkansas game. More in-game college experience distributed amongst the bunch would've landed UGA on my list.
Following in the Terp footsteps of Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich, Stan Gelbaugh, Neil O'Donnell and Scott Dreisbach, big-armed UM senior Sam Hollenbach should be spending his Sunday afternoons as a traveling clipboard holder by 2007. And, before redshirt sophomore Jordan Steffy (a better runner than Hollenbach) got hurt and missed '05, he was thought by many to be Fridge's starter by now. If hotshot Florida transfer Josh Portis were eligible for the '06 season, the Terps would've made the list. Last fall, Portis was expected to steal as many snaps away from Chris Leak as Tim Tebow is this season.
The capital "Y" not only returns big-time player John Beck at starter, but his backup, Jason Beck as well. If the Coogs returned famed guitarist Jeff Beck, too, they would've made the list.
Eric Moneypenny is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com. You may absolutely not e-mail him at email@example.com