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August 19, 2006

Top backups a nice luxury for some coaches

Let's say you're a college football coach in a major conference the Big 12, maybe.

Hypothetically, you have to kick your starting quarterback off the team days before the start of fall camp.

The departure leaves your national-title aspirations in jeopardy. However, this season, you can take a backup quarterback from any team in the country to start for your team for one season. Who will it be?

Our list includes the nation's leader in passing efficiency, a Bowl MVP, the nation's fourth-leading player in total offense and three former five-star recruits.

Would you take Arizona State's Rudy Carpenter, who was the nation's most efficient passer in 2005 despite spending the first half of the season on th bench. LSU's Matt Flynn, Oregon's Brady Leaf and Louisville's Hunter Cantwell also stepped up when injuries struck their teams.

What about rolling the dice with a redshirt or true freshman? LSU's Ryan Perrilloux, Southern California's Mark Sanchez and Georgia's Matthew Stafford are oozing with talent but waiting for their turn under center.

Backup quarterbacks can be the most popular player on campus, but these 10 would be popular on any campus as the starting quarterback.

Who else made the list and where did they fall ? Here are Rivals.com's top 10 backup (as of today) quarterbacks:

Rivals.com 2006 Preseason Top Backup Quarterbacks
1. Rudy Carpenter, Sophomore, Arizona State
Carpenter stepped in for injured starter Sam Keller in the sixth game of the season and became the nation's most efficient passer and the offensive MVP of the Insight Bowl. Thrust into the starting role, he completed 68.2 percent of his passes and threw 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His poise and production give him the top spot on this list.
2. Matt Flynn, Junior, LSU
Flynn was nearly the odd man out in the LSU quarterback situation between incumbent starter JaMarcus Russell and five-star true freshman Ryan Perrilloux. The Peach Bowl changed all that. Filling in for an injured Russell, Flynn completed 13 of 22 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns in the 40-3 rout of Miami. Now, the pressure is on Russell with Flynn and Perrilloux looking over his shoulder.
3. Mark Sanchez, Redshirt freshman, Southern Cal
The No. 7 player in the country in 2005, Sanchez is battling John David Booty for the USC starting job. After one season in Los Angeles, Sanchez is right on the heels of another top recruit in Booty, who has been in the Trojans' system for four years. Sanchez's signing with USC helped push Rocky Hinds (see No. 5) out of town. For a quarterback who has yet to play a down, he has certainly made an impact.
4. Brian Johnson, Junior, Utah
With three capable quarterbacks on the roster, Coach Kyle Whittingham will redshirt Johnson, who tore his ACL in the 11th game last season. He was healthy enough to participate in fall practice, but Utah will let Brett Ratliff and Tommy Grady while playing it safe with Johnson. He was fourth in the country in total offense (2,892 passing yards, 690 rushing yards), filling in admirably for Alex Smith.
5. Rocky Hinds, Sophomore, UNLV
When Hinds left USC in 2005, he sat behind Matt Leinart and John David Booty with top recruit Mark Sanchez on the way. Like LSU's Ryan Perrilloux (see No. 7), Hinds looked at Texas but decided to transfer to UNLV. Now Hinds, a former four-star recruit, will have to win the job from senior Shane Steichen. Had things gone differently, Hinds could be starting for the Trojans or Longhorns. That's enough to make him welcome on any team.
6. Matthew Stafford, True freshman, Georgia
The top quarterback in the 2006 recruiting class probably will start this season behind fifth-year senior Joe Tereshinski III, but it might not be long before he's taking all the snaps. Stafford, who has the strongest arm among the Bulldogs' four quarterbacks and was the only one not to throw an interception in the spring game, would warrant consideration for playing time as a true freshman at many schools.
7. Ryan Perrilloux, Redshirt freshman, LSU
The former five-star quarterback who spurned Texas for LSU at the last minute is in a neck-and-neck competition with Matt Flynn for backup duty behind starter JaMarcus Russell. At LSU, Perrilloux could start the season as a third-string quarterback. There are plenty of schools that would take him as their starter.
8. Brady Leaf, Junior, Oregon
Like Rudy Carpenter and Matt Flynn, Leaf has experience as an emergency fill-in. The difference last season is that the job was not completely his after Kellen Clemens broke his ankle in the eighth game of the season. Leaf rotated with Dennis Dixon, who was named the Ducks' starter for 2006. Leaf had his moments last year, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime against Cal.
9. Kirby Freeman, Sophomore, Miami
Freeman hasn't seen the field much since Kyle Wright won the competition for the starting job prior to last season. Although Wright threw more than 90 percent of Miami's passes last year, the gap between the two isn't as wide as one might think. Freeman, who has been clocked at 4.42 in the 40-yard dash, could surprise if given the chance to start.
10. Hunter Cantwell, Sophomore, Louisville
After Brian Brohm's knee injury late last season, Cantwell served as the fill-in. Against Connecticut and Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl, Cantwell was 31 of 62 for 487 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. He benefited from extra practice during the spring while Brohm recovered from the knee injury. If called upon again, he should improve upon last year's production.
The Rivals Five
Here's a list of backups who could finish the year as starters:
1. Mitch Mustain, True freshman, Arkansas
Robert Johnson was named the starter during the preseason, but he lost the job last year after seven games. Mustain already has familiarity with the offense the Razorbacks' new offensive coordinator was his high school coach but he needs to adjust to the speed of the college game.
2. Isiah Williams, True freshman, Illinois
Ron Zook played Chris Leak as a true freshman at Florida. Will he do the same with this Rivals100 quarterback and play him over second-year starter Tim Brasic (11 TD, 11 INT in 2006)?
3. Matt Grothe, Redshirt freshman, South Florida
With Carlton Hill temporarily out of the mix, Grothe was the surprise of the spring. Grothe has his sights set on Pat Julmiste, who completed 49.2 percent of his passes and threw 11 interceptions to six touchdowns last year.
4. Ike Whitaker, Redshirt freshman, Virginia Tech
Whitaker started the season behind Sean Glennon and Cory Holt on the depth chart. If the talented quarterback matures (he was suspended after an arrest for underage drinking last year), he could leapfrog both players.
5. Jabu Lovelace, Redshirt freshman, Rutgers
Mike Teel claimed the starting job at midseason and lost it shortly after. He threw 101 passes and 10 interceptions in 2005. If Teel has similar results, the mobile Lovelace could force coach Greg Schiano to rethink the starting spot.

More Preseason Player Rankings:
Quarterbacks | Running backs | Offensive linemen | Kickers/Punters | Return Specialists
Wide receivers | Tight ends | Linebackers | Defensive linemen | Cornerbacks | Safeties | Backup Quarterbacks

Click here for more Countdown to Kickoff '06 coverage

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