DALLAS – The Big 12’s remarkable run of supplying quarterbacks to the NFL hit a roadblock this past May. That may have changed if Baylor’s Bryce Petty had foregone his final season in Waco, but we’ll never know for sure.
Petty will enter the 2014 season as a legitimate Heisman candidate for the Bears. Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight is expected to be the second-best quarterback in the league, but he’ll have to show that he’s more than a one-hit wonder (Sugar Bowl). I was struck last season by how mediocre the quarterback play was in the conference once you got past Petty. It was nearly impossible to pick the second-best quarterback for much of the season because of injuries and inconsistent play. Only three of the Big 12’s teams were represented by a quarterback at Big 12 media days last week. Something like that was unheard of a few years ago.
"I think because of all the media attention now, people recognize players at other positions," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "You want to bring the players who best represent your team."
As recently as 2012, the Big 12 had three quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL draft. That year, it was Robert Griffin III (second overall), Ryan Tannehill (eighth) and Brandon Weeden (22nd). In the previous three drafts to that, the Big 12 had a quarterback selected in the first round. In 2013, West Virginia’s Geno Smith was selected in the second round by the New York Jets. That track record gave the Big 12 a tremendous sense of pride.
Now, it seems like coaches think it’s some sort of competitive advantage not to name a quarterback until the very last minute. It’s pretty obvious that David Ash will start for Texas, but new head coach Charlie Strong has only now started to drop hints in that direction. I asked him if there was anything to be gained by leaving the competition open so long.
"You’d always rather know exactly who your quarterback is from spring practice on," Strong told FOX Sports Southwest.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy believes it’s becoming more difficult to groom a quarterback because so many of them expect to start the first day they walk on campus.
"If they don’t play right away, they’ll leave," Gundy said. "When I was being recruited [to Oklahoma State], you expected to redshirt. And if you started for two years, that was considered a really nice college career."
To Gundy’s point, schools can spend years trying to recover from missing on a top quarterback. Mack Brown’s demise at Texas started with his inability to get anything out of a heralded quarterback named Garrett Gilbert. It’s not like schools are able to recruit two or three bluechippers at quarterback. Once a player with Gilbert’s credentials commits to Texas, other top quarterbacks are going to find better situations for themselves. Kansas coach Charlie Weis has offered refuge to heralded quarterbacks who struggled at their first stop. But that approach hasn’t helped him get the Jayhawks out of the Big 12 cellar.
Baylor coach Art Briles believes these things are "cyclical" and that quarterback play in the Big 12 will improve soon. And if Petty plays like everyone expects him to this season, the conference will once again have a first-rounder at the quarterback position.
Briles also wanted to make sure Tannehill counted on the Big 12’s ledger. Done.