But as of now, the Pac-12 holds the most talented group of quarterbacks in the country. Both Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley decided to return for another season, while they both could have entered the 2014 NFL draft.
The talent doesn’t stop after Mariota and Hundley, let’s take a look at where the quarterbacks stand going into the 2014 season.
1a. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
We all know Oregon is an offensive juggernaut, but Mariota is the head of the monster. He suffered a minor knee injury that set him back last season, however he is lethal when healthy. He’s 23-3 as a starter, has nearly 8,000 yards of total offense and is responsible for 77 touchdowns, while only throwing 10 interceptions—that’s pretty efficient. Mariota will be a front-runner for the Heisman trophy in 2014.
1b. Brett Hundley, UCLA
Hundley has it all: arm strength, size, accuracy, speed and true leadership. This guy does it all for the Bruins, both in the air and on the ground. If you watch him play, you can’t help but love the way he plays. He’s still perfecting his mechanics and once he puts it all together, watch out. I really like Hundley’s potential, and the ceiling is certainly high. He’ll also be a front-runner for the Heisman and I predict he’ll be a top-10 pick in next year’s NFL draft.
2. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
Arizona certainly wouldn’t have won the Pac-12 South title in 2013 without Kelly and that’s no accident. Kelly is a special talent and head coach Todd Graham has all the confidence in the world in his quarterback. Graham’s expectations for his offense are to score every possession. I don’t question Graham’s thought process, as Kelly has thrown for 57 touchdown passes and has had back-to-back 3,000 yard passing seasons. Don’t be surprised if Kelly has a special senior season.
3. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Hogan may not have the most impressive statistics; however he continues to lead Stanford to victories. His completion percentage dropped last season (71.7 to 61) but his quarterback rating increased during his sophomore campaign (147.84 to 151.64). If Hogan wants to reach the next level, he’ll have to be more consistent. He only threw one touchdown during Stanford’s three losses last season.
4. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
If Mannion is able to keep his interception number down (he threw 12 in his final five games last season), he could become elite. He finished fourth nationally with 37 touchdowns and second with 4,662 yards. The Beavers were white hot to start the season and obviously struggled once Mannion began throwing to the other team. If he takes care of the ball, head coach Mike Riley will be one happy man.
5. Connor Halliday, Washington State
Mike Leach likes to throw the ball around and that’s just what Halliday did in 2013. He attempted 714 passes, which led to plenty of yards and touchdowns. But the 714 passes also led to him throwing 22 interceptions, which led the nation. Are you beginning to see the trend? Take care of the ball and any of these quarterbacks could be elite—and that's obviously easier said than done.
6. Cody Kessler, USC
Kessler beat out Max Wittek,but started the 2013 season slow. However after a few games, Kessler began to find his rhythm. He finished the season with 2,968 yards and 20 touchdowns, while only turning it over seven times. With Steve Sarkisian running the show, this offense could explode. If he keeps his eyes on star receiver Nelson Agholor, Kessler could be at the top of the list next year.
7. Cyler Miles, Washington
A highly-touted recruit, Miles could have went anywhere on the West Coast. He saw action last season backing up Keith Price and did show some promise. Now he has Chris Petersen as his head coach, who doesn't have a poor offensive mindset. Miles' future is bright, I’m anxious to see how he progresses during his sophomore season.
8. Jared Goff, California
You have to respect a kid that comes in and starts as a freshman. Despite his struggles, I give Goff plenty of credit in winning the starting job. He went through the growing pains; now let’s see what he’s got. If the Bears are able to surround Goff with more talent, he’ll begin to take off. He takes care of the ball, he just needs a little more help from his team.
9. Travis Wilson, Utah*
If Wilson is healthy, he has a chance to make his way up the list. In nine games last season, Wilson threw for 1,827 yards and 16 touchdowns. Once again, he needs to take care of the ball, as he threw 16 interceptions last season. However, if he’s cleared to play I expect significant improvement from Wilson in 2014.
10. Sefo Liufau, Colorado
Liufau won the starting job last season as a freshman and saw his share of struggles like most freshman quarterbacks. However, he only threw eight interceptions on 251 attempts. He came on strong against the weaker teams in the Pac-12 (364 yards against Cal, 241 yards against Utah), now he needs to produce against the stronger teams.
11. Jesse Scroggins, Arizona*
Scroggins was a highly-rated recruit coming out of high school and initially enrolled at USC. Now in Arizona, he’s battling for the starting role. I have him winning the spot now but it’ll likely come down to the wire. Regardless of who wins, Rich Rodriguez is expecting someone to come in and run the high-tempo offense. Scroggins didn’t play last season, so he may have to shake off the dust.