Power Ranking Gunner Kiel and the AAC Quarterbacks
Now that both are moving on from their highly-successful collegiate careers, the AAC will be looking to a few different names to fill the void and sustain relevancy as it holds on by a thread as the last power conference.
Shane Carden will look to put up some ridiculous numbers in conference play as the ECU Pirates enter their first season as a member of the American, coming over from Conference USA.
Can former No. 1 quarterback prospect Gunner Kiel live up to his hype in his new home in the Queen City? He brings high expectations to the Cincinnati Bearcats’ offense and has the potential to be one of the best in college football.
John O’Korn had an impressive freshman debut, passing for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. With a potent offensive unit around him, he and the Houston Cougars are poised to make a strong run at the AAC title.
How will the rest of the conference quarterbacks look in 2014?
1. Gunner Kiel, RS So., Cincinnati*
2013 stats: Sat out due to NCAA transfer rules
Why: He hasn’t thrown a college pass yet, but Kiel is undoubtedly the total package. Why else would he have collected 24 scholarship offers, including power schools Notre Dame, LSU, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma and more? Kiel possesses all the tools necessary for a ton of success at this level, holding great pocket presence (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and awareness, excellent footwork and a strong arm. But has he developed in his two years one the sideline? Is he ready to be the best and lead Cincinnati to its full potential? If the Bearcats’ spring game was any indication, I’d say yes to both.
2. Shane Carden, Sr., East Carolina
2013 stats: 387-of-549 (70.5 percent), 4,139 yards, 30 TDs, 10 INTs … 90 carries, 103 yards (1.1 ypc), 10 TDs
Why: Entering his third season as a full-time starter, Carden has brought a lot of excitement to an ECU offense that has been nothing short of explosive. A very efficient passer, Carden’s 70.5 completion percentage ranked No. 3 in the nation, and his passing yardage placed him at No. 7 behind a lot of good company. He is the only sure-fire senior quarterback in the conference and will put up a ton of points in 2014 – as long as his reshaped offensive line can keep him upright.
3. John O’Korn, So., Houston
2013 stats: 259-of-446 (58.1 percent), 3,117 yards, 28 TDs, 10 INTs
Why: Throwing just 10 interceptions off 446 attempts is quite the impressive stat, but what makes it even more superb is the fact that O’Korn was a true freshman. Yes, he made mistakes, but he took risks and saw plenty of reward. O’Korn is a great deep ball passer, having four receivers that averaged at least 14.5 yards per catch in 2013 – and six had at least one catch of 29 yards or more. O’Korn might throw more picks this fall, but he’s a high-risk, high-reward type of QB with a big arm and big play ability. And he’s only going to get better.
4. P.J. Walker, So., Temple
2013 stats: 152-of-250 (60.8 percent), 2,084 yards, 20 TDs, 8 INTs … 90 carries, 332 yards (3.7 ypc), 3 TDs
Why: Walker emerged as a budding star in eight games as Temple’s starter last season. Although he got beat up for holding onto the ball too long at times – as young dual-threats tend to do – he was impressive and productive, compiling a 150.0 passer rating five different times and an 82-plus QB rating four times. He’s dedicated to the development of his game, too, as he’s expected to participate in the Manning Passing Academy in July.
5. Neal Burcham, So., SMU*
2013 stats: 64-of-109 (58.7 percent), 556 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs
Why: A former Elite 11 finalist and Co-MVP, what Burcham lack in size (6-foot-3, 185 pounds), he makes up for it with an intense competitive drive. There’s a ton of room for development – he didn’t even consider college football until a few years ago – but his refined footwork and smooth delivery mechanics presents an opportunity for success.
6. Justin Holman, So., Central Florida*
2013 stats: 9-of-14 (64.3 percent), 75 yards, TD, INT … 7 carries, 40 yards (5.7 ypc)
7. Steven Bench, Jr., South Florida
2013 stats: 26-of-64 (40.6 percent), 392 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs
8. Paxton Lynch, RS So., Memphis
2013 stats: 203-of-349 (58.2 percent), 2,056 yards, 9 TDs, 10 INTs … 88 carries, 127 yards (1.4 ypc), 2 TDs
9. Tanner Lee, RS Fr., Tulane*
2013 stats: None.
10. Dane Evans, So., Tulsa*
2013 stats: 84-of-195 (43.1 percent), 898 yards, 4 TDs, 10 INTs … 20 carries, 105 yards (5.3 ypc), TD
11. Chandler Whitmer, RS Sr., Connecticut*
2013 stats: 71-of-129 (55.0 percent), 896 yards, 5 TDs, 6 INTs
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