Ranking the Big 12’s quarterback outlooks for 2015
Jeff Caplan, Robert Pace
Even with an enthusiastic new head coach at the helm in David Beaty and a new offensive coordinator in Rob Likens, who plans to resuscitate Kansas' offense with a version of the Air Raid offense, Kansas has a long road ahead of itself on the offensive side of the ball. And it all starts with the quarterback position. The Jayhawks ranked 86th in the nation in passing yards last season and a put up a paltry 17.8 points per game (118th). While Michael Cummings helped boost the offense after taking over for struggling sophomore Montell Cozart, KU's offense was still nowhere where it needed to be to consistently compete in the Big 12. Ultimately, Beaty will select a starter that melds well with the new offense, and incoming freshmen Ryan Willis or Carter Stanley could very well end up getting the job.
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With the departure of steady quarterback Jake Waters, K-State faces an uncertain future behind center. Rising junior Joe Hubener is the only QB on the roster to have thrown a pass in a game—and he's only attempted 17 passes (completed nine). While Hubener has shown promise in the little time he's been on the gridiron, the starting job is up for grabs. Among the contenders is touted three-star freshman Alex Delton, who is an early enrollee and will be competing for the starting spot in spring alongside Hubener and sophomores Jesse Ertz and Taylor Laird. Delton's dual-threat ability and leadership have caught K-State coach Bill Snyder's eye, and he could very well see significant downs, if not become the starter, in 2015. As of now, it's too early to tell how his development will progress at K-State.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY SportsScott Sewell
The Mountaineers lost Clint Trickett earlier than they thought they would last season when he was forced to retire from the game altogether because of concussions. While it was a big blow to West Virginia, it gave his backup, rising junior Skyler Howard, a chance to garner some real experience behind center. Howard rose to the occasion when he had to fill in for Trickett mid-game against K-State, but he was inconsistent in his subsequent starts, particularly in a Liberty Bowl loss to Texas A&M. While it's still early, head coach Dana Holgorsen appears to be leaning towards handing Howard the starting job at the beginning of the season, but there's more than likely to be a shift in the depth chart during the season, as WVU also has dual-threats William Crest and David Sills in line for the starting gig.
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY SportReese Strickland
Tyrone Swoopes received the benefit of the doubt each time he showed the slightest sign of competence, let alone perceptible improvement throughout last season. But pitiful season-ending performances made it clear that Charlie Strong must find an answer under center if Texas is to contend in the Big 12. Any hope of Ohio State’s Braxton Miller coming to Texas to finish his eligibility dissipated quickly. Then Texas lost highly touted prospect Zach Gentry to Michigan. A brief dalliance with Texas A&M signee Kyler Murray proved fruitless. At the final hour, Texas signed Baltimore product Kai Locksley, but his ability to take over as a true freshman is certainly no given. That leaves Texas in the same spot where it ended 2014, with Swoopes’ development in question and backup Jerrod Heard waiting to prove he is a better option.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY SportsScott Sewell
Despite the Cyclones' abysmal performance in 2014 (2-10; 0-9), their passing game was a bright spot at times, thanks to rising senior quarterback Sam Richardson. After a shaky series of starts in 2013, Richardson had to earn the starting job all over again, and didn't take his second chance for granted. In 2014, he compiled one of the best seasons in Iowa State history, setting the school record for completions (254). With talented receivers Allen Lazard and Quenton Bundrage, Richardson has a dynamic duo to target as he attempts to lead the Cyclones back to a bowl game. ISU coach Paul Rhoads is instilling all his faith in Richardson, whom he thinks can be an elite Big 12 quarterback this season. If Richardson falls injured, the Cyclones have a decent backup in Grant Rohach behind him.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY SporSteven Branscombe
There's a long line of Texas Tech quarterbacks that have produced mind-blowing numbers in the Air Raid offense starting with coach Kliff Kingsbury. In Year 3, the young coach is still looking for the next great Tech passer, and it's not clear if he’ll find him on the 2015 roster. Either last season’s starter Davis Webb, prone to inconsistency but with 14 career starts, or Pat Mahomes, who was poised and impressive in the final three games after Webb suffered an injury, will be tabbed the starter, although that’s not likely to happen until deep into fall camp. Webb, averaged 317.4 passing yards with 24 touchdowns, had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder after the season. The sophomore Mahomes, who threw for six touchdowns and nearly 600 yards against Baylor, is mixing in spring practices while playing on the baseball team.
When Mike Leach joined Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in 1999, the Sooners didn’t know their quarterback was already on the roster. Josh Heupel was the man and he won a national championship in 2000 running Leach’s offense, even though the former OC had left that season for Texas Tech. It's now come full-circle in Norman with Stoops hiring Leach disciple Lincoln Riley to install the Air Raid offense. And again, OU doesn’t know if it has its QB of the future. It figured to be Trevor Knight, but he had rocky 2014, which has opened a full-on competition with Cody Thomas, and now-eligible Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield. Mayfield is the wildcard because he’s the only one with experience running the offense, having success two years under Kliff Kingsbury and Sonny Cumbie, who successfully installed a version of the offense last season at Tech.
David Manning-USA TODAY SportsDavid Manning
Art Briles has something of an assembly line of efficient quarterbacks going from Robert Griffin III to Nick Florence to Bryce Petty, who led the Bears to back-to-back Big 12 championships, a feat never before accomplished at Baylor. Seth Russell—big, strong, fast and athletic -- appears to be next in line despite the recruitment of five-star prospect Jarrett Stidham. Russell steps into a pressurized situation with the 2015 Bears shouldering the greatest expectations Baylor's ever faced. The Bears finished No. 5 in the CFP rankings and will surely start 2015 ranked in the top 10 of the two major polls. Russell, a junior, has limited game experience, filling in early last season when sustained a back injury. In 2014, Russell threw for 804 yards, completed 56.5 percent of his passes and tossed eight touchdowns with one interception.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsJerome Miron
Mike Gundy took a gamble by burning Mason Rudolph's redshirt for the final three games of the 2014 season, and it paid off tremendously. Not only did Rudolph thrive as the starter, leading OSU to beat its bitter rival Oklahoma and then notch a bowl victory over Washington, but the gutsy call also changed the aura of the future of Cowboy football. Gundy vanquished all potential controversy early on by declaring Rudolph as Oklahoma State's 2015 starter over J.W. Walsh, who was the starter before suffering a season-ending injury in 2014. With Daxx Garman now out of the equation, the Cowboys have a tenacious tandem of a versatile, dual-threat QB in Walsh and a strong pocket passer in Rudolph that is poised to send the Big 12's defenses into fits.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY SportsMatt Kartozian
Last spring there seemed to be a feeling that Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel would unseat underwhelming starter Trevone Boykin, who Gary Patterson had already tried at wide receiver. That never happened, and Boykin thrived in TCU’s newly implemented spread offense ushered in by the hiring of new co-offensive coordinators. Boykin thrust himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion and will start this season at the top of most Heisman watch lists. He’ll try top a season in which he threw for 300.1 yards a game, completed 61.2 percent of his passes with 33 TDs to 10 INTs. He also ranked second on the team with 707 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. TCU is a favorite to reach the College Football Playoff and neither he nor his team will surprise defenses in 2015, so the pressure is on Boykin to come out of the gates firing.