College football’s spring practice session is already underway for some teams, which means the countdown to the 2015 season can officially start.
Quarterback play is always under a microscope and several playoff or conference title contenders are breaking in a new starter in 2015. While pinpointing breakout players is easier after spring practice, it’s never too early to examine some of the top rising stars at quarterback.
The list of quarterbacks on the rise takes into account players that were not starters for a full season in 2014.
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10 COLLEGE FOOTBALL QUARTERBACKS ON THE RISE FOR 2015
Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
Since joining the SEC in 2012, the Aggies have averaged 41.3 points per game. Life after Johnny Manziel presented a few challenges in 2014, but the arrow on Texas A&M’s offense is pointing up headed into 2015. Allen started the final five games for coach Kevin Sumlin, including a four-touchdown performance against Auburn and a 294-yard effort against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. The Arizona native finished 2014 with 1,322 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. Allen will be pushed by talented freshman Kyler Murray this offseason, but the edge in experience should help the sophomore hold onto the starting job. With a talented receiving corps returning, Texas A&M’s passing offense should be among the SEC’s best once again in 2015.
Is Kyle Allen A&M’s answer at QB?
Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
Bercovici steps into the spotlight in 2015 and takes over Arizona State’s high-powered offense from Taylor Kelly. The California native is already a known commodity for coordinator Mike Norvell, as Bercovici started three games in place of Kelly due to injury in 2014. Bercovici torched USC for 510 yards and five scores and threw for 245 yards and one touchdown in a 26-10 win over Stanford last year. In his Arizona State career, Bercovici has thrown for 1,478 yards and 12 scores. He also boasts a 62.2 percent completion percentage and produced three passing plays of 40 yards or more in 2014. The Sun Devils will miss receiver Jaelen Strong, but Bercovici is more than capable of keeping Arizona State’s passing attack firing on all cylinders.
Sun Devils QB Mike Bercovici lit up the Trojans last season.
Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
The insertion of Dobbs into the starting lineup in late October sparked Tennessee to a 4-2 finish over its last six games. The Georgia native threw for 192 yards against Alabama after replacing Nathan Peterman in the first half and guided the Volunteers to a 45-42 upset win over South Carolina by accumulating 467 total yards and five scores. Dobbs also played well in the bowl win over Iowa by accounting for 205 yards and three scores. The junior should have more help from his supporting cast in 2015, as Tennessee should be healthier at receiver, and a young offensive line has a full offseason to grow. Dobbs should push for All-SEC honors in 2015.
Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
Johnson varies slightly in style to former starter Nick Marshall, but Auburn’s offense shouldn’t miss a beat in 2015. The Alabama native ranked as the No. 11 pro-style quarterback in the 2013 signing class and has played well in limited action over the last two years. Johnson completed 29 of 41 passes for 422 yards and six scores in 2013 and threw for 436 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. He also has two starts under his belt, including one against Arkansas (2014). Johnson may not have the dynamic mobility of Marshall, but the junior is going to have a huge season directing the offense for coach Gus Malzahn.
Perhaps it’s too early to place much pressure on Rosen, but there’s little doubt the freshman is ready to push for the starting job at UCLA in 2015. With Brett Hundley off to the NFL, the Bruins have an open battle for the quarterback spot this spring, with Jerry Neuheisel and Rosen considered the favorites. Rosen was ranked the No. 12 overall recruit and a five-star prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite. While Neuheisel has the edge in experience, Rosen has more overall talent and upside. And since he enrolled in time to compete this spring, Rosen should have plenty of time to pickup the UCLA offense. Needless to say, the future is bright for the Bruins with Rosen at the helm.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
It’s no coincidence Oklahoma State’s improvement on offense late in the year came with Rudolph at the helm. The Cowboys scored at least 30 points in five games against Power 5 opponents. Rudolph was the quarterback for two of those efforts, including an impressive 38-35 win over Oklahoma and a 30-22 bowl win over Washington. The South Carolina native finished 2014 with 853 passing yards and six scores in three appearances. Rudolph needs more help from his supporting cast in 2015, but the potential is certainly there for the sophomore to earn All-Big 12 honors.
Seth Russell, Baylor
Over the last five seasons, Baylor’s starting quarterback has averaged 4,031 yards and 30 touchdowns. With Bryce Petty off to the NFL, the keys to a high-powered offense are in Russell’s hands. Of course, he has to hold off a challenge this offseason from sophomore Chris Johnson and talented true freshman Jarrett Stidham. However, there’s a clear edge in experience for Russell, as he has one start under his belt and completed 48 of 85 passes in 2014. The Texas native torched Northwestern State for five scores and 438 yards last year and completed 8 of 17 passes for 82 yards in relief of Petty against Texas Tech. With one of the nation’s top receiving corps in place, Russell – if he wins the job – will be next standout quarterback for coach Art Briles.
Seth Russell is looking to replace Bryce Petty under center.
Greg Ward, Houston
New coach Tom Herman has to be excited about Ward’s potential in 2015. The converted receiver replaced John O’Korn under center and started the final eight games at quarterback. Ward showcased his dual-threat potential in the bowl win over Pittsburgh, throwing for 274 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 92 yards on 14 attempts. He also passed for 360 yards against Cincinnati and 336 against Tulane and finished the year with 573 rushing yards and 2,010 through the air. Ward is far from a finished product, but the potential is there for a monster season in Herman’s offense for the Cougars in 2015.
Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Clemson has won at least 10 games in each of the last four seasons and has a good shot at extending that streak to five in 2015. Watson is the biggest reason for optimism and believing that the Tigers might contend for the ACC Championship, as the sophomore is expected to be at full strength in his recovery from a torn ACL by the season opener. The Georgia native ranked as the No. 41 recruit in the 2014 signing class and completed 93 of 137 passes for 1,466 yards and 14 scores in his debut season. Watson also rushed for 200 yards and five scores last season. The departure of coordinator Chad Morris was a big loss for Clemson, but with Watson’s return and a talented group of skill players, the Tigers will be among the ACC’s best on offense in 2015.
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Malik Zaire, Notre Dame
Zaire isn’t guaranteed the starting job for 2015, as Everett Golson remains in the mix after throwing for 3,445 yards last season and enters next season with 23 starts under his belt. However, all signs point to Zaire emerging as Notre Dame’s No. 1 option under center. In seven appearances last season, Zaire completed 21 of 35 passes for 266 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for 187 yards and two scores. The Ohio native’s most-impressive outing took place against LSU in the Music City Bowl, throwing for 96 yards and a touchdown, while adding 96 yards and a score on the ground in the upset win over the Tigers. With a strong supporting cast in place, Zaire has all of the necessary pieces for a breakout year.