No preseason Heisman hype for Big 12 quarterbacks

Quick, name a Big 12 quarterback being mentioned as a Heisman

Trophy candidate.

Sam Bradford is now in the NFL after the 2008 Heisman winner’s

injury-shortened time at Oklahoma. So is Colt McCoy, a two-time

Heisman finalist who set the NCAA record with 45 victories at

Texas.

Zac Robinson? Todd Reesing? Nope, they’re gone too after

becoming the most prolific passers at their schools and helping

Oklahoma State and Kansas get into the Top 10.

”A few years ago, we had the perfect storm with quarterbacks,”

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. ”I always said at that time it

was hard to imagine that any league could have the number of

high-level quarterbacks that there were. I think it’s a little bit

more typical now.”

This season, most of the Big 12 quarterbacks are relative

unknowns outside the conference – and sometimes even outside their

own schools.

That is much different from past years, when the likes of

Bradford, McCoy, Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, Brad Smith and Vince

Young created plenty of national preseason hype.

”From a competitor’s standpoint, I’m a little excited about it

that we don’t have those high-profile guys to worry about and lose

sleep over,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.

Texas coach Mack Brown is careful to separate experience from

talent.

”We’ve got some great quarterbacks maybe that haven’t played as

much as that little run on quarterbacks we had,” he said. ”But I

think at the end of the year we’ll be talking about how great this

quarterback group is.”

There is dynamic dual-threat quarterback Robert Griffin at

Baylor. But he is coming back from right knee surgery that limited

him to only three games last year after his sensational freshman

season in 2008 (2,934 total yards, 28 touchdowns).

Coach Art Briles won’t be able to blow the whistle Saturday

night to keep Sam Houston State defenders from tackling Griffin,

who got a medical redshirt and is still considered a sophomore.

”When he’s out there and the bullets are live, he’ll know how

to respond,” Briles said. ”Robert has good instincts and great

talents to go with it.”

The league’s most experienced starters are Iowa State’s Austen

Arnaud and Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson. Both seniors have

started 23 games.

The 6-foot-5 Johnson, a receiver before being moved back to

quarterback, led the Big 12 with 314 total yards per game and threw

30 touchdowns last season. But the Aggies still had a losing

season.

The Longhorns’ Garrett Gilbert got shoved onto the national

stage after McCoy got hurt on the first drive of the BCS national

championship game. Gilbert threw the only two TDs – and only four

interceptions – of his freshman season going 15-of-40 passing

against Alabama.

Gilbert gets his first start for fifth-ranked Texas on Saturday

at Rice.

”Those teams that lost players like Texas and Oklahoma, they

always and will always have guys in the wings ready to step in,”

Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. ”I’m sure that you lose a

Bradford or McCoy, you look at it from the outside, you say `Wow,

that’s too bad.’ … They have guys that will step up and

play.”

After Bradford injured his shoulder in last year’s season

opener, Landry Jones went on to throw for 3,198 yards, breaking

Bradford’s Big 12 freshman record. Bradford was the No. 1 overall

draft pick after bypassing his senior season.

”As far as me getting to Sam’s level, that’s not my goal. My

goal is not to be Sam Bradford,” Jones said. ”Yes, he is a great

player. … But that’s not who I’m trying to be right now. I’m

trying to be Landry Jones, the best player that I can be.”

Coach Bob Stoops said that, like Bradford, Jones has a good

attitude and work ethic while being a humble team guy for the

seventh-ranked Sooners. The coach doesn’t want to extend the

comparisons much further right now.

”In all fairness to Landry, we love where he’s at. We love

everything that he’s doing,” Stoops said. ”But to compare him to

the No. 1 pick in the draft and a guy that set records, it’s just

not fair. … Just isn’t quite fair just yet.”

Zac Lee is back for Nebraska after starting 12 games last

season, but coach Bo Pelini won’t say if he will still be the

starter when the No. 8 Cornhuskers open Saturday against Western

Kentucky.

Lee missed spring practice to recover from surgery on his right

(throwing) elbow, possibly clearing the way for backup Cody Green

or spring sensation Taylor Martinez to start.

Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach often plugged in different

quarterbacks with the same head-spinning results in his pass-happy

offense. Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons, Sonnie Cumby, Cody Hodges,

Harrell and Taylor Potts all led the Big 12 – and often the nation

– in passing.

New Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville plans to be a bit more

balanced but will still throw plenty. Potts earned the starting nod

over Steven Sheffield in the preseason.

At Colorado, junior Tyler Hansen will again start over coach’s

son Cody Hawkins; senior Carson Coffman (four starts in 2009) will

start for Kansas State; and sophomore Kale Pick replaces Reesing as

Kansas’ No. 1 quarterback.

Oklahoma State’s new starter is junior Brandon Weeden after only

limited snaps behind Robinson.

Blaine Gabbert followed Daniel at Missouri, and threw for 3,593

yards with 24 TDs and nine interceptions last season even while

bothered by a gimpy ankle. Gabbert is healthy and can build on that

valuable season of experience.

”Seeing the things I did right and some of the things I did

wrong have helped me out a lot,” Gabbert said. ”I’m a whole new

player.”

Sounds like so many of the Big 12 quarterbacks.

AP Sports Writers Jeff Latzke in Norman, Okla., Luke Meredith in

Ames, Iowa, and Associated Press writers Betsy Blaney in Lubbock

Texas, and Alan Scher Zagier in Columbia, Mo., contributed to this

report.