The Conference of Quarterbacks has sorted out its quarterback situations.
UCLA, not surprisingly, went with the young guy in a three-way fight. Arizona State, surprisingly, went with the seemingly odd-man out in a three-way race. Likewise, Andrew Luck’s replacement at Stanford wasn’t exactly the betting favorite at the end of the spring.
And Oregon? The Ducks on Friday picked Marcus Mariota over Bryan Bennett in something of an upset inasmuch as Bennett was the backup last season to Darron Thomas. Mariota had a huge spring game, though, showing — what else at Oregon? — great speed.
Overall, the QB talent is down in a league that sent top pick Luck, Brock Osweiler and Nick Foles into the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. But there is no dispute about the ability of the top two quarterbacks in the league this season. After that, the rankings quickly get murky.
Let’s rank the Pac-12 quarterbacks:
1. Matt Barkley, USC, Sr. — Expecting anyone different? The preseason Heisman favorite has the skills and the all the toys around him to be unstoppable.
2. Keith Price, Washington, Jr. — He made replacing Jake Locker last season look easy, passing for more than 3,000 yards and setting a school record with 33 touchdown passes.
3. Jeff Tuel, Washington State, Sr. — Here begins the second tier of Pac-12 quarterbacks, where there starts to be concerns with health, experience or production. Tuel hasn’t officially won the job yet over Connor Halliday, but he’s been getting most of the first-team reps. He’s a big, savvy kid who should post boffo numbers for new coach Mike Leach.
4. Matt Scott, Arizona, Sr. — He’s the best passer Rich Rodriguez has had as a head coach (OK, that might not be saying much) and should handle the no-huddle, read-option offense with aplomb. Offense shouldn’t be the Cats’ undoing this season.
5. Marcus Mariota, Oregon, Fr. — Chip Kelly isn’t going to give someone a job based on potential. Mariota, a redshirt freshman, simply out-performed Bryan Bennett in fall camp and he is way more than capable of running the Ducks’ offense with the usual efficiency and explosiveness. Mariota hasn’t played in a game, so this ranking is all projection, but the Ducks ease into the season with a soft schedule and Mariota should be hitting his (very quick) stride just when the games get really interesting.
6. Sean Mannion, Oregon State, So. — Love the upside of the Mannion. Like his 3,328 passing yards last season. Don’t like the 18 interceptions, with only 15 touchdowns.
7. Jordan Wynn, Utah, Sr. — He has a history of shoulder problems, and some soreness in fall camp is potentially worrisome. If he actually can navigate a Pac-12 season in one piece, his efficiency makes this ranking too low.
8. Zach Maynard, Cal, Sr. — Cal is hoping he picks up where he left off; he completed more than two-thirds of his passes and had a passing efficiency rating of 154.4 in the final four games of last season.
9. Brett Hundley, UCLA, Fr. — The gem of Rick Neuheisel’s 2011 recruiting class, Hundley beat out veterans Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut in camp. He should thrive in coordinator’s Noel Mazzone spread offense, which worked just fine at Arizona State the past two seasons.
10. Jordan Webb, Colorado, Jr. — He was ousted as the starter at Kansas by new Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis, landing in Boulder in the summer and winning the job over Texas transfer Connor Word and Nick Hirschman. Webb played on a couple of bad teams at KU; CU might not a whole lot better.
11. Josh Nunes, Stanford, Jr. — Sophomore Brett Nottingham might have more raw physical skills, but coach David Shaw went with the steadier, headier Nunes. The junior doesn’t have to over-do it as Andrew Luck’s replacement; just don’t turn it over and make the right calls at the line of scrimmage.
12. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State, So. — After running third behind Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank at the end of the spring, Kelly came into fall camp confident and in rhythm with his receivers. Look for the physically imposing Eubank to get some action as a change-up in the QB run game while Kelly tries to lock down the job early in the season.