Johnny Manziel returns after winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, but will there be a new name to emerge as the face of college football?
Last week marked the first session of spring practice for most teams, leaving us fans with a small taste of an autumn breeze.
As teams prepare for their respective spring games and the upcoming season begins to unravel, let's check out the Top 10 quarterbacks heading into April’s workouts.
Derek Carr, Fresno State; Brett Hundley, UCLA; David Fales, San Jose State; David Ash, Texas; Bo Wallace, Ole Miss.
10. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
Why: At this point last year, Arizona State had no idea who would start under center. Now, the Sun Devils are aware that they have a dark horse Heisman candidate and an outstanding field general. He will only continue to grow and develop under new offensive coordinator Mike Norvell, who is expected to help open up the offense this spring and summer. ASU has some young talent in the receiving corps and, with Kelly’s success, can contend for the Pac-12 South.
9. Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State
Why: Lunt won the starting job as a true freshman over some very capable counterparts in Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh. Oklahoma State is a bonafide pass-happy football program, so the man under center has to have a gunslinger mentality. Lunt does. He’s still one of the younger guys in the league, but has incredible upside and the WOW factor within his passing skills.
8. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Why: If the Cardinal can replace Stepfan Taylor in the backfield – and they should – then the offense will be more balanced than ever, allowing Hogan to lead one of the more dangerous play-action schemes in the nation. Yes, I said it. Sure, Stanford’s strength will certainly be on the defensive side of the ball, but we need to give Hogan credit where it’s due: he doesn’t make many mistakes.
7. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Why: Mariota threw for nearly 2,700 yards and 32 touchdowns last year as a freshman. He’s a superstar in the making and will only get better. But Chip Kelly is gone, and he was a true quarterback mentor. Things shouldn’t change too much with Mark Helfrich at the helm, but we don’t know that for sure. Will Mariota’s development become stagnant or will he emerge as one of the top passers in the league?
6. A.J. McCarron, Alabama
Why: With a chance to receive his fourth national championship ring this upcoming fall, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron returns as the country’s best game manager. McCarron is the perfect example of a Nick Saban quarterback – he utilizes the running game to his advantage and breaks down the defense with great reads and the short passing game. He didn’t throw his first interception of the 2012 season until Week 11, and was the most efficient passer in the nation.
5. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Why: Although Teddy doesn’t believe in personal accolades and is all about his team, he’s definitely a name to talk about when it comes to the Heisman. Louisville is the easy favorite to take the Big East in its last year before transitioning to the ACC, and he’s the main reason why. With some fun new toys to play with – including his starting running back healthy from a 2011 surgery – Bridgewater will be leading one of the most dynamic offensive units in the game.
4. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Why: As Murray enters his fourth season as Georgia’s starting quarterback, the Bulldogs prepare for what could be their best offensive unit under coach Mark Richt. They return 10 starters – only losing WR Tavarres King – and bring back one of the best offensive lines in the country. Murray can sling it, but throughout his career he’s shown times of inconsistency and the inability to make decisions under pressure. He will have to break out of those habits in 2013 if he figures to be a top pick in next year’s NFL draft.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Why: “Johnny Football isn’t the No. 1 quarterback?! You’re an idiot and know nothing about football!” I’m assuming that’s what the majority of you are thinking at this moment, and that’s okay. He is the reigning Heisman winner and a world-wide celebrity. I get it. But now that he’s a sophomore (hence the sophomore slump), and A&M is expected to contend for a national title, the pressure is on. Not to mention that he loses his top three wide receivers, including Ryan Swope. All eyes are on Johnny Manziel.
2. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Why: Now that Miller and the rest of the Ohio State offense have a year of development under their belts in Urban Meyer’s spread-option system, we can expect that both should be as fluent and effective as ever. Assistant Stan Drayton told reporters that the offense “operated at probably 60 percent” last season. The Buckeyes scored 37.2 points per game in 2012, meaning that a 100- percent-functioning offense will put up 59.5 every time out in ’13. That’s a very high number – and probably a little unreasonable – but with new playmaking additions in the receiving corps and backfield, I’m not putting it out of reach. It’s time to unleash X-Brax 360.
1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Why: Do you like numbers? Yes? Okay good, then you’ll like Tajh Boyd in 2013. He threw 21 touchdowns over his last six games – 36 overall – and at least 300 yards on seven different occasions. Clemson won’t have DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins anymore, but still retain explosive weapons Sammy Watkins, Charone Peake and Martavius Bryant. The Tigers see some weak defenses in during the non-conference schedule, and will continue to put up points against ACC opponents. Expect Boyd to produce some Geno Smith-like passing numbers, with the addition of another 500- (plus) yards on the ground.
Follow @Tyler_Waddell on Twitter