FOX Sports South reveals its springtime listing of college football's Top 15 Quarterbacks For 2015 -- a countdown which cumulatively factors in components like individual stats, team success, starting experience, NFL-worthy talent and preseason hype heading into the fall. We also wanted 'opportunity' to be a major determining factor. However, at this point, it doesn't make sense to ignore the combination of Ohio State's super QB trio -- Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones (right) -- before Urban Meyer settles on a full-time starter. Plus, Miller still has a chance to transfer to another elite program. (Photos: Rich Barnes/Brett Davis/Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)
15 -- Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
2014 STATS: 1,547 yards passing, 16 TDs/4 INTs (three starts) ... SKINNY: 1) If the three-game sample size can work for Ohio State's Cardale Jones (more on him later), then Mahomes deserves a countdown shot, as well. Against Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor last season, the super soph averaged 440 yards and 5.3 TDs. He torched the Big 12 champion Bears for 598 yards and six scores. 2) Now for the bad news: Mahomes isn't a lock to beat out Davis Webb as Texas Tech's opening-week starter. And right now, it's a hard battle to handicap, since Webb (2,539 yards passing, 24 TDs last year) recently had shoulder surgery ... and Mahomes moonlights with the Red Raiders baseball team. 3) The yet-to-be named starter can look forward to the following three-game gauntlet in September/October: At Arkansas and home outings against TCU and Baylor.
14 -- Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
2014 STATS: 1,675 total yards (1,206 passing), 17 total TDs/6 INTs ... SKINNY: 1) Tennessee was 4-2 last year with Dobbs running the show -- taking on five SEC games and one bowl victory against Iowa. 2) Dobbs' coming-out party occurred against South Carolina, amassing 467 total yards (301 passing) and five touchdowns. 3) Citing some Web sites, Tennessee coach Butch Jones has produced top-5 recruiting classes in consecutive years. In other words, the days of the Volunteers merely collecting six wins and pulling off the occasional upset are over. It's time for Dobbs, tailback Jalen Hurd, receiver Marquez North and Co. to compete for the SEC East title. 4) In the first two months, Dobbs will encounter heavyweight defenses like Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama. Thankfully, he's up to the task.
13-- Vernon Adams, Oregon
2014 STATS (w/ Eastern Washington):3,483 yards passing, 41 total TDs/8 INTs ...SKINNY: 1) It's a little weird that Adams -- who will officially transfer to Oregon this summer -- had been taking classes and working out at Eastern Washington ... the first opponent on the Ducks' schedule. 2) Against Washington last year, Adams passed for 475 yards and seven TDs. Keep in mind the Huskies had four defensive players drafted within the first 44 picks (LB Shaq Thompson, DT Danny Shelton, CB Marcus Peterson, LB Hau'oli Kikaha). 3) Oregon's starting quarterback should always rank among the nation's leading passers -- in terms of proficiency. Otherwise, the Ducks coaches would simply tap the next successor. Which brings us to this: Adams is no lock to eclipse Jeff Lockie (terrific spring game) as the opening-week starter.
12 -- Braxton Miller, Ohio State
2013 STATS: 3,162 total yards (2,094 yards passing), 36 total TDs/7 INTS ... SKINNY: 1) At the very worst, Miller shall be known as the nation's premier third-string quarterback. In a perfect world, the senior trumps Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett and becomes the starting QB on the country's top-ranked program. Our prediction: Miller's 2015 fate lies somewhere in between ... as the ace for another name-brand school. 2) In his final 10 games with the Buckeyes two years ago, Miller amassed 34 touchdowns (12 rushing). 3) As a full-time starter, Miller should be a Heisman Trophy candidate. 4) Miller could convert to wide receiver with Ohio State, in hopes of becoming the next Randall Cobb. If that's the case ... we'll gladly cross him off this list.
11 -- Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
2014 STATS: 2,977 yards passing, 12 TDs/15 INTs ... SKINNY: 1) Say hello to perhaps the most controversial ranking: Before Penn State's thrilling comeback win over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl, Hackenberg accounted for only eight passing TDs. EIGHT! But then the awakening occurred in the bowl game, with Hackenberg crushing the Eagles for 371 yards passing and four TDs -- including one absurd scoring toss where the kid delievered a pinpoint bullet pass amongst three BC defenders. 2) At 6-foot-4, 239 pounds, Hackenberg might be the first QB drafted next spring, which bolsters his countdown ranking. Bottom line: We're chalking up Hackenberg's sluggish sophomore campaign as mere growing pains, after switching head coaches (Bill O'Brien to James Franklin) 16 months ago. He's finally ready to dominate in college.
10 -- Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
2014 STATS: 3,254 yards passing, 31 TDs/13 INTs ...SKINNY: 1) In his first season with the Bearcats, Kiel was one of 13 collegiate QBs to pass for 30-plus TDs. He also enjoyed top-21 rankings with Yards Per Attempt and Passer Rating. 2) Against Ohio State, Kiel passed for 352 yards and four touchdowns (zero INTs) -- off only 21 completions. 3) Kiel was considered the nation's best schoolboy talent coming out of high school, but it took a few big schools to find his ultimate footing at the college ranks. 4) In a pro-style offense, Kiel posted a minimum completion rate of 64 percent five times last season. As part of that, he tossed multiple interceptions only three times. 5) On the down side, Kiel didn't hit the attainable threshold of 250 yards passing in his final four outings.
9 -- Cardale Jones, Ohio State
2014 STATS: 860 yards passing, 7 TDs/2 INTs ...SKINNY: 1) If Jones hadn't led Ohio State to a Big Ten title (59-0 rout of Wisconsin) and College Football Playoff national championship (upsets over Alabama and Oregon), he wouldn't rank in this countdown. After all, passing for one touchdown in two of three starts qualifies as pedestrian more than elite. 2) The pro scouts covet Jones' upside at the next level. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound quarterback evokes memories of Daunte Culpepper, Ben Roethlisberger, JaMarcus Russell, Ryan Mallett or Zach Mettenberger -- classic drop-back passers who move like Sherman tanks. 3) On the down side, it's certainly possible that Jones doesn't crack the Buckeyes' starting lineup and loses the all-important draft buzz for 2016.
8 -- Anu Solomon, Arizona
2014 STATS: 3,793 yards passing, 30 total TDs/9 INTS ... SKINNY: 1) Solomon enjoyed a fabulous freshman campaign, racking up big numbers and leading unheralded Arizona to a Pac-12 South title. 2) The kid announced his presence to the college world by passing for 425 yards and four TDs against UNLV. His progressions continued from there, with Solomon tallying four-plus touchdowns four times. 3) Solomon actually rushed for 100-plus yards against Colorado, but he's more of a drop-back passer in Rich Rodriguez's high-octane offense. 4) On the down side, for Arizona's five most prominent games last season (USC, UCLA, Boise State and Oregon twice), Solomon totaled just four TD passes. 5) Compared to the other novice passers in the countdown (one year of starting experience), Solomon logged the most pass attempts last season (540).
7 -- Jared Goff, California
2014 STATS: 3,973 yards passing, 35 TDs/7 INTs ... SKINNY: 1) Goff could be the first quarterback taken in next year's draft, a credit to his sterling collegiate record (only one clunker start last year -- vs. Stanford), dead-eye accuracy (62-percent last season) and pro-worthy size (6-foot-4, 210 pounds). He also resembles Cal alum and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, in terms of pocket presence and throwing motion. 2) In his first five games last year (three Pac-12 clubs, one Big Ten foe), Goff stealthily racked up 22 passing TDs. 3) Cal dropped six of its final seven games in 2014; but during that span, Goff had only four INTs. In fact, against Oregon and USC, he averaged 320 yards passing/2.5 TDs.
6 -- Connor Cook, Michigan State
2014 STATS: 3,214 yards passing, 26 total TDs/8 INTs ... SKINNY: 1) Cook has enjoyed a rock-solid career in college, posting a 47/15 touchdown-to-interception ratio and leading Michigan State to two major bowl victories. He also has the physical qualities prized by NFL scouts -- 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, strong arm, classic pocket passer. 2) Of Cook's four best passing outings last year, three came against Oregon, Ohio State and Baylor. 3) Cook may be a viable Heisman candidate by season's end, especially if the Spartans can usurp Ohio State for the Big Ten East title. The Cotton Bowl comeback (down 20 to Baylor in the second half) certainly launched that promotional tour.
5 -- Deshaun Watson, Clemson
2014 STATS: 1,666 total yards (1,466 passing), 19 total TDs/2 INTS ... SKINNY: 1) I was at Grant Field on Nov. 15 when the freshman suffered a serious knee injury against Georgia Tech. Two weeks later, Watson miraculously accounted for 282 total yards and four TDs -- otherwise known as an Al Bundy Game -- in Clemson's rout of rival South Carolina. Perhaps he's a superhero? 2) Watson was amazing in relief against top-ranked Florida State last year, racking up 296 total yards and one TD in limited action. A week later, in his first collegiate start, Watson blew up North Carolina, passing for 435 yards and six touchdowns. 3) Last October, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit boldly hailed Watson as the "face of college football" for the 2015 and '16 seasons. Well, that future is now.
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4 -- Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
2014 STATS: 4,435 yards passing (986 rushing), 41 total TDs/11 INTs ... SKINNY: 1) Of his 13 games last season, Prescott accounted for multiple touchdowns 12 times. The lone clunker: He tallied 331 yards passing and only one TD against Arkansas. 2) Prescott finished 8th in last season's Heisman voting and ranks 4th among the returning studs. 3) Mississippi State held the No. 1 ranking for numerous weeks last season -- a credit to Prescott's prodigious play. Of his first six games, Prescott cracked the 100-yard rushing threshold four times. 4) Prescott ranked 15th nationally in Passer Rating last year (151.7). 5) Prescott has three Heisman-showcase outings at home this season -- LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss.
3 -- Cody Kessler, USC
2014 STATS: 3,826 yards passing, 38 TDs/5 INTs ... SKINNY: 1) Citing the returning quarterbacks for 2015, Kessler tallied the most passing TDs last season. He also finished third nationally in Passer Rating (167.1). 2) Kessler notched four-plus touchdowns six times last year; of equal relevance, he didn't post a single outing of multiple interceptions. 3) Kessler (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) may not have the immense physical stature as Cook, Hackenberg or Cardale Jones, but he still has the size and requisite arm strength to be the first quarterback in next year's draft. 4) Kessler is a dead-eye accurate passer. His completion rate only dipped below 60 percent once last season -- 59 percent against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
2 -- Trevone Boykin, TCU
2014 STATS: 4,608 total yards (3,901 passing), 41 total TDs/10 INTs ... SKINNY: 1) Full disclosure: In the FOX Sports South office, we had a spirited debate of choosing either Boykin or Ohio State's J.T. Barrett at No. 1. Almost too close to call. 2) The accurate Boykin enjoyed seven outings of elite-level passing last season, posting a completion rate of 64 percent or higher seven times. On the down side, his two "clunkers" came against Baylor (58 points scored ... but just one Boykin TD) and West Virginia (just 12 completions). 3) With a daunting schedule that includes trips to Minnesota, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma and ends with a high-profile home showdown against Baylor, Boykin will have plenty of chances to capture TCU's second-ever Heisman (along with Davey O'Brien).
1 -- J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
2014 STATS: 3,772 total yards, 45 total TDs/10 INTs ... SKINNY: 1) Barrett was the most welcome surprise of the 2014 season, replacing the injured Braxton Miller and positioning the Buckeyes for a Big Ten title (before breaking his ankle against Michigan). Forty-five touchdowns for a freshman? 2) Barrett's coup de graceperformance came against Michigan State's vaunted defense, amassing 386 total yards (300 passing) and five touchdowns. 3) Of his final nine complete games last season, Barrett notched three or more TDs eight times. 4) Assuming full health, Barrett appears to be the favorite in Ohio State's high-profile QB competition -- against Braxton Miller and Cardale Jones. 5) As such, Barrett's a popular choice for the Heisman Trophy anda College Football Playoff national championship.