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August 30, 2010
Monday with Mike: Ranking the QB duos
We finish our preseason player rankings by ranking all 120 FBS teams at quarterback. This ranking is not just a comparison of the talent level of the starters. Rather, there are numerous variables:
How comfortable coaches - and fans - should be entering the season with their quarterback situation.
The experience level of the starting quarterback.
The experience level of the backup. (All things considered, a team with an experienced backup is going to rank higher than a team without an experienced quarterback.)
How the quarterbacks fit their offense (which is important when it comes to considering option quarterbacks).
An objective opinion of how these guys will produce in their offense.
Here are the rankings:
Mike Huguenin's quarterback rankings
Starter/backup: Case Keenum/Cotton Turner
The buzz: Keenum has had back-to-back 5,000-yard seasons, just the second player in FBS history to do that. He has thrown for 12,950 yards in his career and would seem to have a legitimate shot at the first 6,000-yard season in history this fall. He has 102 career TD passes and owns a career completion percentage of 68.9 percent. Turner is a junior who threw 40 passes last season (completing 30) after transferring from a junior college
2. BOISE STATE
Starter/backup: Kellen Moore/Mike Coughlin
The buzz: Moore is 26-1 in two seasons as a starter, and he has thrown for 7,022 yards, 64 touchdowns and 13 picks. He has 14 three-touchdown games and threw 39 TD passes and just three picks last season. Coughlin is a senior who has thrown 34 career passes.
Starter/backup: Ryan Mallett/Tyler Wilson
The buzz: Mallett is coming off a 3,624-yard, 30-TD season, but he had trouble against top-notch defenses last fall. He is a great fit for coach Bobby Petrino's pass-happy scheme. Wilson is a sophomore who looked good in spring drills, when Mallett was out with a broken foot.
Starter/backup: Matt Barkley/Mitch Mustain
The buzz: It will be interesting to see how Barkley builds on a solid true freshman season under a new coaching staff. He has a strong arm and can make all the throws. Mustain is the best backup quarterback in the nation.
Starter/backup: Jake Locker/Keith Price
The buzz: Locker, a senior, thrived last fall in his first season under coach Steve Sarkisian. Previously known as a good athlete playing quarterback, Locker morphed into a good athlete with legit NFL skills. He threw for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns and also ran for 388 yards and seven scores. Price is a redshirt freshman.
Starter/backup: Andrew Luck/Alex Loukas
The buzz: Luck played steady football as a redshirt freshman last season and is expected to make big strides this fall, when the Cardinal likely will rely more heavily on the pass. Luck threw for 2,575 yards, but he needs to improve his accuracy (he completed 56.2 percent of his passes last season) and throw more TD passes (13 last season). Loukas, a senior, saw no action last season.
7. OHIO STATE
Starter/backup: Terrelle Pryor/Joe Bauserman
The buzz: Pryor may have played the best game in his career in the Rose Bowl win over Oregon. Will the Buckeyes' coaches turn him loose this season, or will they remain rather conservative? Bauserman is a former minor-league baseball player.
8. TEXAS A&M
Starter/backup: Jerrod Johnson/Ryan Tannehill
The buzz: Johnson threw for 3,579 yards and 30 TDs last season -- and ran for another 506 yards and eight scores -- but because the Aggies finished 6-7, he was overshadowed nationally. He has thrown for 6,014 yards in the past two seasons and should put up another 3,500-yard season this fall. Tannehill is both the backup quarterback and a solid wide receiver who had 46 receptions last season.
9. FLORIDA STATE
Starter/backup: Christian Ponder/E.J. Manuel
The buzz: Can Ponder stay healthy this season? He was having an excellent '09 campaign before getting hurt, throwing for 2,717 yards before being lost for the season with a shoulder injury in the ninth game. Ponder, who has 29 career TD passes but also 22 picks, has good mobility. Manuel did a nice job after Ponder went down.
10. VIRGINIA TECH
Starter/backup: Tyrod Taylor/Logan Thomas
The buzz: Taylor is one of the nation's most athletic quarterbacks, and he's continuing to improve as a passer. Frankly, Tech coaches need to let him run more. Thomas is a big, physical backup who also can play tight end.
11. GEORGIA TECH
Starter/backup: Joshua Nesbitt/Tevin Washington
The buzz: As a runner, few -- if any -- can match Nesbitt. As a passer? Well, did we tell you about Nesbitt's rushing prowess? Washington had a solid spring when Nesbitt was banged up and is a good fit for the option offense.
12. TEXAS TECH
Starter/backup: Taylor Potts/Steven Sheffield
The buzz: Both have started -- and won -- key games. New coach Tommy Tuberville named Potts his starter last week. If former coach Mike Leach still were around, you wonder if Sheffield would be the starter.
Starter/backup: Jacory Harris/A.J. Highsmith
The buzz: Harris is a nice fit for UM's passing attack, though he has to cut down on his interceptions totals (17 last season). The drop off to Highsmith -- whose dad, Alonzo, was a UM running back in the 1980s -- would be a big one.
Starter/backup: Ricky Dobbs/Kriss Proctor
The buzz: Dobbs is Navy's best quarterback since Roger Staubach, and if Navy wins 10 games -- with the Midshipmen's schedule, that's eminently possible -- he will garner Heisman mention. Coaches are comfortable with Proctor at the controls, as well.
Starter/backup: Colin Kaepernick/Tyler Lantrip
The buzz: The only quarterback who might be a better runner than Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt is Kaepernick, a long strider who can rip off huge chunks of yardage on a keeper. He's an OK passer, too.
Starter/backup: Nick Foles/Matt Scott
The buzz: Foles didn't become the starter until Game 4 but still threw for 2,486 yards and 19 TDs. He doesn't have the arm strength of Scott, but he takes much better care of the ball and is more accurate. Foles has 3,000-yard potential this season.
17. OLE MISS
Starter/backup: Jeremiah Masoli/Nathan Stanley
The buzz: Had Masoli stayed out of trouble at Oregon, the Ducks would be a national title contender and he would be a Heisman front-runner. Instead, he's in Oxford, where he should give Ole Miss' offense a huge shot in the arm. Stanley is a better pure passer, but he isn't a running threat.
Starter/backup: Robert Griffin/Nick Florence
The buzz: Griffin was solid as a true freshman in 2008, then missed most of last season with a knee injury. When healthy, he is a dynamic playmaker with his arm and his legs. A healthy Grffin gives Baylor a realistic postseason shot. Florence was competent -- but no more -- when pressed into starting duty last season.
Starter/backup: Blaine Gabbert/James Franklin
The buzz: Gabbert threw for 3,593 yards with 24 touchdowns and nice interceptions last season, his first as a starter. His accuracy needs to improve, but that should come with more playing time. His effectiveness could be curtailed a bit this season because of a rebuilt receiving corps. Franklin is a true freshman who enrolled in time for spring practice.
Starter/backup: Greg McElroy/A.J. McCarron
The buzz: McElroy hasn't lost a game in his two years as a starter -- as a high school senior at Southlake (Texas) Carroll and last season as a junior with the Tide. While Alabama is a run-first team, McElroy is a solid passer. Coaches like McCarron's potential.
Starter/backup: John Brantley/Trey Burton
The buzz: Not to create false expectations, but Brantley might be the best pure passer in Florida history. Coaches will change the offense to best take advantage of his physical gifts, but the Gators still want to run the ball a lot. No other quarterback on the roster has taken a college snap.
22. N.C. STATE
Starter/backup: Russell Wilson/Mike Glennon
The buzz: Wilson lacks prototypical size, but he has had a sterling career for the Wolfpack; he has thrown for 4,982 yards with 48 TDs and just 12 interceptions in his two seasons. He also is a dangerous runner. Coaches like Glennon's upside.
23. SOUTHERN MISS
Starter/backup: Austin Davis/Martevious Young
The buzz: Davis missed most of last season with a knee injury, and Young performed nicely in his stead, throwing for 16 TDs with just three interceptions. But Davis' return gives Southern Miss a more dangerous deep passing attack. He threw for 3,128 yards in 2008, and a healthy Davis could throw for 3,500 -- with at least 25 TDs -- this season. Young gives the Golden Eagles a solid backup, and he also can hurt foes with his legs.
Starter/backup: Trevor Vittatoe/James Thomas
The buzz: Vittatoe threw for 3,308 yards and 17 TDs last season -- and it was a bad year. He completed just 54.8 percent of his passes and also tossed 13 picks, almost matching the 16 he had thrown in his first two seasons as the starter. For his career, he has thrown for 9.683 yards with 75 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. Thomas provides a running threat but has a ways to go as a passer.
25. MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Starter/backup: Dwight Dasher/Logan Kilgore
The buzz: With Dasher, MTSU is the hands-down favorite to win the Sun Belt; he gives the Blue Raiders a chance to win 10 games, too. Alas, he has been suspended indefinitely by the school for some off-field concerns. He threw for 2,789 yards and 23 TDs and also ran for 1,154 yards and 13 scores last season. His accuracy needs improvement (54.9 completion percentage), and he takes too many chances with his arm (14 picks). But he is a true dual threat. Kilgore, a JC transfer, looks as if he'll start the first few games. This ranking is based on Dasher's availability; without him, MTSU's ranking would drop 80 or so spots.
Starter/backup: Landry Jones/Drew Allen
The buzz: Jones was supposed to be a first-time starter this fall. Instead, injuries to Sam Bradford led to Jones inheriting the job earlier than expected -- and earlier than coaches wanted. Jones has a strong arm, but he lacked consistency last season, which was to be expected. He did throw 26 TD passes, meaning at least 30 is a realistic goal this season. Allen is a redshirt freshman.
27. UTAH STATE
Starter/backup: Diondre Borel/Jeff Fischer
The buzz: Borel is a solid dual threat for the Aggies. He threw for 2,885 yards and 17 TDs and ran for another 458 yards and six TDs last season. While his accuracy could stand to get a little better (58.5 completion percentage), he takes good care of the ball (just four picks last season). Fischer is a senior who played in one game last fall.
28. MICHIGAN STATE
Starter/backup: Kirk Cousins/Andrew Maxwell
The buzz: Cousins had a solid first season as a starter in '09 and would benefit from a stronger rushing attack. He has a nice arm and understands the value of spreading the ball around. Maxwell is a redshirt freshman with some upside.
Starter/backup: Jordan Wynn/Terrance Cain
The buzz: Wynn didn't play until Game 7 last season, but he performed well down the stretch for a true freshman. He has a huge upside after throwing for 1,329 yards and eight TDs in five starts. Cain is the former starter; he's an adequate passer but a dangerous runner.
Starter/backup: Ricky Stanzi/James Vandenberg
The buzz: Stanzi has all the physical tools, but he also makes some plays that make you say, "What is he doing?" He threw 17 TD passes, but he also tossed 15 picks and must improve his completion percentage (56.3). Vandenberg almost led Iowa to a win at Ohio State, but he still threw five picks (to two TDs) and completed just 48.3 percent of his passes.
Starter/backup: Garrett Gilbert/Connor Wood
The buzz: Gilbert barely played last season until the BCS championship game, when a first-quarter injury to Colt McCoy pressed him into action. He responded well and shouldn't be fazed by anything he sees this season. His dad, Gale, is a former NFL quarterback, and Garrett has a lot of savvy for a sophomore. While McCoy was the focal point of the offense the past two seasons, Texas coaches know they can't burden Gilbert with that task, so an improved running game is key. Backup Sherrod Harris left school in the spring, meaning Wood -- a true freshman who enrolled early -- is the No. 2 guy.
Starter/backup: Scott Tolzien/Jon Budmayr
The buzz: All the Badgers needed was a game manager at quarterback last season, but Tolzien exceeded expectations and helped Wisconsin lead the Big Ten in scoring offense. He threw for 2,705 yards, 16 TDs and completed 64.3 percent of his attempts. He needs to cut down on his picks, though (11). Budmayr is a shaky No. 2.
Starter/backup: Andy Dalton/Casey Pachall
The buzz: Dalton is heading into his fourth season as a starter, and he became an accomplished passer last season. He's a tough runner who is a good fit for the Horned Frogs' diversified attack. But he can be pressured into mistakes; TCU has lost eight times in the past three seasons, and 15 of Dalton's 24 career interceptions have come in those losses. Coaches are high on Pachall, a redshirt freshman.
Starter/backup: Nathan Enderle/Brian Reader
The buzz: Enderle made huge strides last season, and was a big reason Idaho made it to the postseason. Enderle is a big guy (6-5/227) with a strong arm and is a legit NFL prospect. He threw for 2,906 yards and 22 TDs last season, and has 52 TDs in his career. But he also has thrown 44 interceptions, the most of any active player. Reader played OK last season, when he had to make two starts for an injured Enderle.
35. NOTRE DAME
Starter/backup: Dayne Crist/Tommy Rees
The buzz: Crist, coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, looks as if he will be a great fit for new coach Brian Kelly's offense. He is mobile and has a strong arm. Rees is a true freshman who enrolled early, but if he must play extended minutes, the Irish are in trouble.
Starter/backup: Zach Collaros/Chazz Anderson
The buzz: Cincy will miss Tony Pike -- and Brian Kelly -- but Collaros proved last season that he can make plays. He's a better runner than Pike, and while his arm isn't as strong, he completed 75 percent of his passes and threw 10 TDs and just two interceptions last season. Anderson is a solid backup who has seen time in each of the past two seasons.
Starter/backup: Kyle Parker/Tajh Boyd
The buzz: Parker's unexpected return -- he was a first-round pick in June's MLB draft - is a huge plus for the Tigers. He threw for 2,526 yards and 20 TDs last season. But he must improve his accuracy (55.6 completion percentage) and cut down on his picks (12). Boyd is an athletic backup who can make plays with his legs.
38. SAN DIEGO STATE
Starter/backup: Ryan Lindley/Ryne Clark
The buzz: Lindley had a solid first season in coach Brady Hoke's offense in 2009, throwing for 3,054 yards and 23 touchdowns. Still, at times, he relies on his strong arm to get the ball into tight places, and that doesn't always work out, as evidenced by his 16 picks and his 54.7 completion percentage. Still, he has a big upside and a nice receiving corps. Clark is a redshirt freshman.
Starter/backup: Kyle Padron/J.J. McDermott
The buzz: Padron is the latest off the quarterback assembly line at powerhouse Southlake (Texas) Carroll. He was set to redshirt last season, but after starter Bo Levi Mitchell was hurt, Padron performed well in the final seven games, throwing for 1,922 yards and 10 TDs. He performed so well, in fact, that Mitchell transferred. McDermott is a transfer from New Mexico State, where he played for Hal Mumme, and he is a good fit for June Jones' pass-happy offense.
Starter/backup: G.J. Kinne/Shavodrick Beaver
The buzz: Kinne, who began his career at Texas, had an up-and-down season in 2009, his first as the starter. He threw for 2,732 yards and 22 touchdowns and also led the Golden Hurricane in rushing with 393 yards. But he didn't always make the needed play and tossed 10 picks, each of which seemed to come at the most inopportune time. Still, he is a legit dual threat with some nice weapons at his disposal. Beaver is a good runner who still has some work to do as a passer.
Starter/backup: Tom Savage/Chas Dodd
The buzz: Savage became the starter as a true freshman last season and played well. He has a strong arm and a lot of upside. But he also must become far more accurate (52.3 completion percentage). Dodd is a true freshman with some athletic ability.
42. IOWA STATE
Starter/backup: Austen Arnaud/Jerome Tiller
The buzz: Arnaud, a senior, is heading into his third season as the starter. He threw for 2,015 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for another 561 yards and eight scores last season. While he is a solid dual threat, he also throws too many picks; he has 29 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his career. Tiller is a good runner but a work in progress as a passer.
Starter/backup: Austyn Carta-Samuels/Dax Crum
The buzz: Carta-Samuels was pressed into starting duty as a true freshman and responded admirably, leading the Cowboys to a postseason appearance. He is a good fit for coach Dave Christensen's version of the spread. Carta-Samuels has a nice arm and also can hurt foes with his legs. Crum is the former starter.
Starter/backup: Tate Forcier OR Denard Robinson
The buzz: Forcier did a nice job as a true freshman starter last season, but he is in a battle to keep his starting job. Forcier threw for 2,050 yards and 13 TDs and also ran for 240 yards. But his work ethic was challenged in the offseason by some teammates, and Robinson -- a great athlete who is a big-time runner but still raw as a passer -- could nab the starting job. Robinson ran for 351 yards and five TDs as a true freshman backup last season.
45. FRESNO STATE
Starter/backup: Ryan Colburn/Kelly O'Brien
The buzz: Colburn, a senior, started for the first time last season and came through with a solid performance. Though the Bulldogs relied on the run, Colburn threw for 2,459 yards and 19 TDs and completed 60.7 percent of his passes. More of the offense likely will be on his shoulders this season, and he looks ready. O'Brien, a JC transfer, is the son of former New York Jets QB Ken O'Brien.
Starter/backup: B.J. Daniels/Bobby Eveld
The buzz: Daniels was pressed into starting duty early last season when senior Matt Grothe was lost for the season with a knee injury. Like Grothe, Daniels is a good athlete who is a dual-threat quarterback. And, like Grothe, there are questions about how much skill-position help Daniels is going to get. If he gets hurt ... yikes. Eveld is a true freshman walk-on, though he is a big kid (6 feet 5).
Starter/backup: Cameron Newton/Neil Caudle
The buzz: Newton, who signed with Florida out of high school, arrived at Auburn out of junior college in January and won the starting job in spring practice. He was considered the No. 1 JC prospect in the country in the recent recruiting cycle. He is a freakish athlete with a strong arm, but he must become a more refined passer. In addition, the college landscape is littered with "can't-miss" JC prospects who never came close to living up to the hype. Caudle is a little-used senior.
Starter/backup: Jake Heaps AND Riley Nelson
The buzz: Coach Bronco Mendenhall announced late last week that Heaps, a true freshman, and Nelson, a junior who began his career at Utah State, would share the job, at least early in the season. Conventional wisdom suggests this is a way for the highly touted Heaps to be eased into the job. He has a strong arm and a huge upside. Nelson is a good athlete who can hurt opponents with his legs.
Starter/backup: Ben Chappell/Dusty Kiel
The buzz: Chappell threw for 2,941 yards and 17 TDs last season, when he completed 62.6 percent of his passes. But he also threw 15 interceptions and must make better decisions. Kiel, a redshirt freshman, is the son of former Notre Dame QB Blair Kiel.
Starter/backup: Robert Marve/Rob Henry
The buzz: Marve is a transfer from Miami, and a lot is expected of him this season. He is a good athlete with a strong arm and looks like a great fit for the Boilermakers' offense. While he didn't always seem to be on the same page with Miami's coaching staff, Purdue's staff likes his athleticism and said he has been a good citizen. Henry, who succeeded Florida's John Brantley at quarterback at Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic, is a good athlete who's a better runner than passer right now.
Starter/backup: Jordan Jefferson/Jarrett Lee
The buzz: Jefferson has good physical tools, but he has taken some criticism for the performance of LSU's offense when he has been under center. It's not all his fault, though. Jefferson has good mobility and a strong arm, and he threw 17 TD passes and seven interceptions last season. Lee began the '08 season as the starter but tossed way too many interceptions and was benched.
Starter/backup: Kevin Riley/Beau Sweeney
The buzz: Riley, a fifth-year senior, is heading into his second season as the full-time starter, but he has had an up-and-down career. He has the needed physical tools to succeed but can't seem to maintain consistency. Sweeney, a heady sophomore, is the grandson of former Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney and the son of former Fresno QB Kevin Sweeney.
Starter/backup: Darron Thomas/Nate Costa
The buzz: It was assumed Costa, a fifth-year senior, would get the nod as the starter, but Ducks coach Chip Kelly went with Thomas, a sophomore. Thomas' running ability got him the job, as he remains inconsistent as a passer. Costa's passing ability could get him some playing time this season.
Starter/backup: Adam Weber/MarQueis Gray
The buzz: Weber had a solid sophomore season in 2008 (2,761 yards, 15 TDs), but he regressed big-time last season, throwing more picks than TDs (15 to 13) and completing just 52.0 percent of his passes. It didn't help that he had a new offensive coordinator last season, and he has another new one this season. A competent Weber would be a huge plus for the Golden Gophers. Gray is a good athlete who can make plays with his legs, but he is a below-average passer.
55. ARIZONA STATE
Starter/backup: Steven Threet/Brock Osweiler
The buzz: Threet started at Michigan in 2008, but he was not a good fit for the Wolverines' spread offense; he should be more comfortable in Arizona State's scheme. Threet has a good arm, though not as strong as Osweiler's. But Threet's overall command of the offense seems a bit better.
56. AIR FORCE
Starter/backup: Tim Jefferson/Connor Dietz
The buzz: Neither can throw -- they combined to go 71-of-131 for 1,045 yards with six TDs and two interceptions -- but both are effective running threats in the Falcons' triple-option offense. They combined for five TD runs last season, and coaches wouldn't mind seeing that total increase to at least eight this season.
Starter/backup: Aaron Murray/Hutson Mason
The buzz: A lot is expected of Murray, a redshirt freshman who followed Purdue's Robert Marve as the quarterback of powerhouse Tampa (Fla.) Plant. Murray lacks prototypical passer's height (he's 6 feet 1), but he has a strong arm and played in a high-powered high school offense; he also has good mobility. Mason is a true freshman who was a prolific passer in high school, and he looks to have beaten out junior Logan Gray for the backup job.
58. OREGON STATE
Starter/backup: Ryan Katz/Cody Vaz
The buzz: Beavers coaches are high on Katz, a sophomore who threw 27 passes as a true freshman backup last season. He is replacing Sean Canfield, who was the only Pac-10 quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards last season. Katz has a lot of weapons surrounding him -- most notably, the Rodgers brothers -- and his No. 1 priority is to stay in single digits in interceptions. Vaz is a redshirt freshman.
59. FLORIDA ATLANTIC
Starter/backup: Jeff Van Camp/Graham Wilbert
The buzz: A season-ending injury to senior starter Rusty Smith in Game 7 last season meant FAU started rebuilding with Van Camp earlier than expected. Van Camp responded well, throwing 12 TD passes and two interceptions, and he easily could lead the Sun Belt in passing this fall. He has a good arm and a good receiving corps. Wilbert is a redshirt freshman.
60. MIAMI (OHIO)
Starter/backup: Zac Dysert/Austin Boucher
The buzz: Dysert became the starter early last season as a redshirt freshman and performed admirably on a team that had no running game and a porous defense. He threw more interceptions than TDs (16 to 12), but he completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 2,611 yards -- darned good numbers considering how bad the RedHawks were. Dysert is a big guy (6-4/215) who is the No. 2 passer in Ohio prep history with 11,174 yards. Boucher is a redshirt freshman.
Starter/backup: Bryant Moniz/Brent Rausch
The buzz: If Moniz can stay healthy -- and remain in good graces with the coaches -- he should have a solid season. He threw for 2,396 yards and 14 TDs last season, but he threw too many interceptions (10) and must become more consistent. Rausch is a senior who redshirted last season and threw just 14 passes as a JC transfer in 2008.
Starter/backup: Omar Clayton OR Mike Clausen
The buzz: Clayton is the better passer, Clausen the better runner. Clayton had a solid 2008 season (18 TDs, four picks) but regressed last season (13 and 12). There is a good receiving corps but a shaky collection of running backs, so you'd think new coach Bobby Hauck would have reasons to play both his quarterbacks.
Starter/backup: Mike Hartline/Morgan Newton
The buzz: Hartline was named the starter last week; he began the '09 season in the same role but was sidelined by injury and Newton -- then a true freshman -- took over. While Hartline doesn't give UK the same type of big-play ability as Newton, he is a steadier hand at the wheel. Hartline's brother, Brian, was a star receiver at Ohio State and currently is in the NFL.
Starter/backup: Corey Robinson/Jamie Hampton
The buzz: Hampton won the starting job in 2008, but he suffered a knee injury and never has gotten it back. Robinson is more athletic and looks as if he's going to be the starter. Troy will have a new offensive coordinator after Neal Brown was hired at Texas Tech, but the offense should remain the same, which means the quarterback will have the chance to throw the heck out of the ball.
Starter/backup: Dan Persa/Evan Watkins
The buzz: Persa inherits the starting job from Mike Kafka, who has graduated. Persa, a junior, played in 10 games last season but saw appreciable time in just two, against Penn State and Iowa. Twenty-three of Persa's 34 pass attempts for the season came against Penn State and 17 of his 49 rushing attempts came against Iowa. While he has dual-threat capabilities, his passing is somewhat of a mystery. Watkins is a strong-armed redshirt freshman.
66. KENT STATE
Starter/backup: Spencer Keith/Giorgio Morgan
The buzz: Keith was thrown into the fray as a true freshman and had a solid season. He threw for 2,147 yards with 14 TDs and 11 interceptions, and he had two 370-yard games. Morgan is a former starter.
Starter/backup: Nathan Scheelhaase/Eddie McGee
The buzz: Scheelhaase is a touted redshirt freshman, and if he delivers nothing but consistency, Illini coaches and fans likely would embrace him after putting up with Juice Williams for the past few seasons. Scheelhaase has a nice arm and will be working with new offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who likes to throw the ball. McGee is a senior with some starting experience.
68. OHIO U.
Starter/backup: Boo Jackson/Phil Bates
The buzz: Jackson, a JC transfer, became the starter early in 2008 because of an injury to Theo Scott and did a nice job, throwing for 2,355 yards and 19 TDs. He also ran effectively. But Jackson was injured early last season and Scott took over. Now, the job again is Jackson's after he held off Bates, an Iowa State transfer.
69. WESTERN MICHIGAN
Starter/backup: Alex Carder/Tyler VanTubbergen
The buzz: Carder, a sophomore, takes over for the prolific Tim Hiller. Western Michigan runs a pass-first offense, and Carder looks like a good fit. But he threw just seven passes last season in a backup role. Van Tubbergen is a redshirt freshman.
Starter/backup: Zac Lee/Cody Green
The buzz: Lee, a senior who transferred from a junior college before the 2007 season, struggled in his first season as the starter last fall. Injuries were one reason, but inconsistency was another. He threw for 2,143 yards and 14 TDs, but he also tossed 10 interceptions. Eight of those (and zero TDs) came in the Huskers' four losses. Green is a sophomore who showed good athleticism as a backup last season.
71. EAST CAROLINA
Starter/backup: Dominique Davis OR Brad Wornick
The buzz: ECU's offense will be closely watched all season; the Pirates are going from a run-first offense to a Mike Leach-style passing attack. ECU has a nice group of receivers, so the new starting quarterback could have a big season. Davis is a former starter at Boston College who flunked out, then played at a junior college last season. He is athletic and extremely mobile. Wornick is a former walk-on who had a strong spring for new coordinator Lincoln Riley, who was inside receivers coach at Texas Tech last season.
72. BALL STATE
Starter/backup: Kelly Page/Aaron Mershman
The buzz: Page has a lot of physical tools, but he struggled as a first-time starter last season before being lost to injury in Game 7. Coaches are expecting a solid season this time around, thanks to Page's strong arm and his grasp of the offense. Coaches also like Mershman, a redshirt freshman.
Starter/backup: Brian Anderson/Eddie Sullivan
The buzz: Anderson, a senior, was inconsistent last season, his first as the starter. He had four 300-yard games but also four games where he threw multiple picks. He finished with 2,646 yards, but only 14 TD passes and tossed 13 interceptions. Sullivan is a true freshman who became the backup when Clemson transfer Willy Korn lost out on the starting job, was moved to safety, then transferred again.
74. NORTH CAROLINA
Starter/backup: T.J. Yates/Bryn Renner
The buzz: Yates is going to be a four-year starter (though he was injured and missed a lot of the 2008 season), but he has been extremely inconsistent in his career. He heads into his senior season with 39 TD passes and 37 interceptions. He has had 12 games with at least two TD passes but 10 with at least two picks, and he threw at least one interception in 10 of UNC's 13 games last season and finished with 15 (to 14 TD passes). Renner is a redshirt freshman who could inherit the starting role if Yates is slow out of the gate this season.
Starter/backup: Chris Masson/Brad McGuire
The buzz: Masson made the jump from seldom-used backup in 2008 to competent starter in '09. He threw for 2,406 yards for the ground-oriented Ragin' Cajuns, with 10 TDs and eight interceptions. He has 15-TD potential this season. McGuire also can play running back and fullback, but he isn't much of a passer.
Starter/backup: Tino Sunseri/Pat Bostick
The buzz: Sunseri, whose dad, Sal, played linebacker at Pitt and currently is an assistant at Alabama, will be starting for the first time this season. He will be asked to be a game manager and take care of the ball. He has some nice weapons, most notably TB Dion Lewis and WR Jonathan Baldwin, and as long as Sunseri plays competent football, he'll be the starter. Bostick arrived at Pitt as a highly touted prospect but hasn't come close to living up to the hype. He probably is more physically gifted than Sunseri, but his consistency -- or lack thereof -- is a concern.
Starter/backup: Kevin Prince/Richard Brehaut
The buzz: Prince, a sophomore, has some tools, but injuries and inconsistency meant a mediocre '09 season. He threw for 2,050 yards, with eight TDs and eight picks. You think he would benefit from working with coordinator Norm Chow, but if he doesn't show it early in the season, expect a change to Brehaut.
78. WEST VIRGINIA
Starter/backup: Geno Smith/Barry Brunetti
The buzz: Smith played in five games last season as a true freshman backup, and the job is all his this season. He was a prolific passer in high school in south Florida, but his rushing ability is nothing special, so expect a continued tweaking of WVU's offense. Brunetti is a touted true freshman who was one of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks as a high school senior.
Starter/backup: Zach Frazer/Cody Endres
The buzz: UConn does nothing fancy on offense -- the Huskies line up and run right at you. Thus, the quarterback doesn't need to be a great passer, just an adequate one who takes care of the ball. Coaches hope Frazer can fill that bill this fall. Frazer, who began his career at Notre Dame and battled injuries last season, threw for 1,461 yards, with 10 TDs. But he also threw nine picks and completed just 53.2 percent of his passes. Endres started more often last season, but coaches like Frazer more. Endres currently is suspended and may not return for a while.
80. SOUTH CAROLINA
Starter/backup: Stephen Garcia/Connor Shaw
The buzz: For whatever reason, Garcia just doesn't seem to have "it." He is physically gifted but has shown a startling lack of consistency. While he has the starting job, coach Steve Spurrier made it plain over the summer that he wouldn't hesitate to bench Garcia in favor of Shaw, a true freshman who enrolled for spring practice.
81. PENN STATE
Starter/backup: Matt McGloin OR Robert Bolden
The buzz: McGloin, a sophomore, began is career as a walk-on; he played in one game last season, going 0-of-2 in a 52-3 blowout of Eastern Illinois. Bolden is a true freshman, and given coach Joe Paterno's aversion to playing true freshmen, McGloin may win the job somewhat by default. Bolden, though, is an impressive physical specimen who has had a solid fall camp. Sophomore Kevin Newsome, the one-time heir apparent, looks to have been passed by both on the depth chart. Whoever wins the job will be asked to be a game manager because there is no way Penn State coaches will ask an inexperienced quarterback to make plays.
Starter/backup: Sean Renfree/Brandon Connette
The buzz: Thaddeus Lewis was a four-year starter at quarterback for the Blue Devils, and he will be missed. Renfree, a sophomore, is coming off a torn ACL and was limited during spring drills. Coach David Cutcliffe is a noted quarterback guru, which means Renfree -- who threw 50 passes last season -- could rank much higher on this list at the end of the season. Connette is a true freshman.
83. OKLAHOMA STATE
Starter/backup: Brandon Weeden/Johnny Deaton
The buzz: Weeden, a junior who turns 27 on Oct. 14, is a former minor-league baseball player. He has a strong arm but has played in just four games the past two seasons, completing 16 passes. Deaton is a true freshman who enrolled in January. Oklahoma State has a new coordinator in Dana Holgorsen, who had been coordinator at high-powered Houston, so expect a lot of passes from the Cowboys. Weeden has an extremely strong arm, so this offense could be interesting.
84. WASHINGTON STATE
Starter/backup: Jeff Tuel/Marshall Lobbestael
The buzz: Tuel has good size (6-3/215), a solid arm and a nice upside; last season, he became just the second Cougars true freshman to start at quarterback, joining Drew Bledsoe. But he also was battered and bruised because of a pitiful offensive line. If he can remain upright, he has 20-TD potential. Lobbestael is a former starter who also has been through the wringer because of the weak line.
Starter/backup: Ryan Griffin/Kevin Moore
The buzz: Griffin, a big sophomore (6-5/220), started the last six games last season. He has a nice upside, but doesn't have much talent around him. He had a nice outing in a win over UTEP (278 yards, three TDs, no picks), but the Miners were horrendous defensively. If a legit feature tailback emerges and the line jells, Griffin could put up relatively nice numbers. Moore is a former starter who has a strong arm but is erratic.
86. BOSTON COLLEGE
Starter/backup: Dave Shinskie/Michael Marscovetra
The buzz: Shinskie, a minor-league baseball player for six years, had an OK freshman season, throwing for 15 touchdowns. But he also threw 14 picks and completed just 51.7 percent of his passes. He held off Marscovetra for the starting job in fall drills for BC, which seems likely to lean heavily on the run this season.
Starter/backup: Matt Simms/Tyler Bray
The buzz: Simms, the son of former New York Giants star Phil Simms, began his career at Louisville before transferring to a junior college. He has beaten out Bray, a spindly (he's 6 feet 6 but listed at just 210 pounds) true freshman for the starting job. Simms played in two games at Louisville in 2008, throwing 10 passes.
Starter/backup: Jamarr Robinson/Danny O'Brien
The buzz: Robinson, a junior, gets his first chance to lead the Terps as the starter this season. He is a good runner who must prove he is a competent passer. O'Brien is a redshirt freshman.
Starter/backup: Tyler Hansen/Cody Hawkins
The buzz: Hansen, a junior, has been a part-time starter in each of the past two seasons, and he has nine TDs and 11 interceptions in his career. If he proves to be just a competent quarterback this season, the Buffs could go bowling. Hawkins, the coach's son, has had a tough career with the Buffs. He has thrown 49 TD passes but also has tossed 38 interceptions, and consistency has been a huge problem.
90. LOUISIANA TECH
Starter/backup: Steven Ensminger/Ross Jenkins
The buzz: Ensminger is a transfer from Auburn, and his dad, Steve, was a starting quarterback for LSU in the 1970s and currently is an LSU assistant. Ensminger beat out Jenkins, who was the Bulldogs' starter last season. New coach Sonny Dykes has installed a pass-happy attack at Tech, which relied heavily on the run under former coach Derek Dooley. If Ensminger is comfortable in the new offense, Tech could be the surprise team in the WAC.
Starter/backup: Austin Dantin/Terrance Owens
The buzz: Dantin did a nice job as a true freshman backup last season, and he inherits the starting job from Aaron Opelt, who has graduated. Toledo will remain a varied offensive team, and Dantin has some running ability. Owens is a redshirt freshman.
92. MISSISSIPPI STATE
Starter/backup: Chris Relf OR Tyler Russell
The buzz: Relf is a big-time athlete who ran for 500 yards as a backup last season. But his passing leaves a lot to be desired, and that's why Russell -- a touted redshirt freshman -- could win the job. He's not as good a runner, but has a higher upside as a passer. Mississippi State has a long history of mediocre to poor quarterback play -- no Bulldogs quarterback has completed 60 percent of his passes in a season since 1951 -- and competent quarterback play this season could lead to a bowl bid.
Starter/backup: Trent Steelman/Max Jenkins
The buzz: Steelman did a nice job as a true freshman guiding the triple-option attack last season, leading Army in rushing with 706 yards. He is not a good passer, though, and must get better in that area. Jenkins is a junior who has played in two games in his career. Jenkins, a better passer than Steelman, is the younger brother of Louisiana Tech backup QB Ross Jenkins.
Starter/backup: Kale Pick/Jordan Webb
The buzz: Pick, a sophomore, played in seven games as a backup to Todd Reesing last season. He showed good running ability but threw just five passes. Webb is a redshirt freshman.
95. WAKE FOREST
Starter/backup: Ted Stachitas/Tanner Price
The buzz: Wake lost four-year starter Riley Skinner and has turned to Stachitas, a sophomore whose main claim to fame is that he followed Tim Tebow at quarterback at Ponte Vedra Beach (Fla.) Nease. Stachitas played in one game last season, for six snaps against Elon. His brother, Chet, played basketball at Saint Joseph's. Price is a true freshman who surprisingly won the backup job; he is from Austin (Texas) Westlake, the same high school that produced Drew Brees and current Arizona QB Nick Foles.
96. NORTH TEXAS
Starter/backup: Nathan Tune/Derek Thompson
The buzz: Tune, a senior, had barely gotten off the bench until an injury to starter Riley Dodge pressed him into action last season. Dodge now is playing wide receiver, and Tune held off Thompson for the starting job. Tune started for UNT at Alabama and played well against Troy, and the Mean Green are counting on him to be a stabilizing force. Thompson has some athletic skills and should see time this season.
97. NORTHERN ILLINOIS
Starter/backup: DeMarcus Grady OR Chandler Harnish
The buzz: Harnish has started the past two seasons but has had trouble staying healthy. Grady is a more athletic option. While Grady remains a work in progress as a passer, Harnish hasn't exactly lighted it up as a passer, with 19 TDs and 15 picks in his career.
98. BOWLING GREEN
Starter/backup: Matt Schilz/Kellen Pagel
The buzz: The Falcons are going to miss 4,000-yard passer Tyler Sheehan. Schilz is a redshirt freshman -- and so is Pagel, whose dad, Mike, was an NFL quarterback. Coach Dave Clawson has a good reputation as an offensive mind, and he has a lot of work to do this season.
Starter/backup: Adam Froman/Justin Burke
The buzz: Froman, a senior, made seven starts last season, throwing for 1,354 yards and completing 60.0 percent of his passes. He held off Burke, also a senior, for the starting job. Burke, who has a nice arm, started three times last season.
Starter/backup: Ryan Nassib/Charley Loeb
The buzz: Nassib, a sophomore, was in line to be the Orange's starter last season before the arrival of Greg Paulus. As the backup to Paulus, he threw 68 passes. Nassib is mobile and has a nice arm, but his lack of experience could hurt, especially early in the season. Loeb is a strong-armed redshirt freshman.
101. COLORADO STATE
Starter/backup: Pete Thomas/Nico Ranieri
The buzz: Thomas, a touted true freshman, enrolled in January and won the starting job over Ranieri, a redshirt freshman. Thomas threw for 5,553 yards, 52 TDs and 11 interceptions in his final two years of high school in the San Diego area. Besides breaking in a new quarterback, Colorado State also has a rebuilt line and a revamped receiving corps.
Starter/backup: Marc Verica/Ross Metheny
The buzz: Verica, a senior, started for the Cavs in 2008 -- throwing 16 picks and eight TD passes -- but played in only six games as a backup last season. He has thrown 17 interceptions and eight TD passes in his career. Metheny is a redshirt freshman.
Starter/backup: Patrick Nicely/Matt Rodgers
The buzz: Nicely started seven games as a true freshman for the injury-plagued Zips last season; he had three 200-yard games among his seven starts. Rodgers, a junior, started three times last season before a torn ACL ended his season.
104. SAN JOSE STATE
Starter/backup: Jordan La Secla/Matt Faulkner
The buzz: La Secla, a senior, is headed into his second season as the starter. He threw for 1,926 yards with 10 TDs and 11 interceptions last season. He held off Faulkner, a JC transfer who began his career at Fresno State, for the starting job.
105. KANSAS STATE
Starter/backup: Carson Coffman/Collin Klein
The buzz: Coffman, a senior, began last season as the starter, but he lost his job after four games and didn't get off the bench in the final five games. Klein is a sophomore who threw one pass last season.
Starter/backup: Rob Calabrese/Jeffrey Godfrey
The buzz: Calabrese, a junior, has made 11 starts in his career, but he has completed less than 50 percent of his passes. His knowledge of the offense may enable him to hold off Godfrey, a touted true freshman. But Godfrey has a bigger upside and it wouldn't be a surprise if he takes over as the starter during the season.
Starter/backup: Nick Fanuzzi OR Taylor McHargue
The buzz: Fanuzzi, a junior, made eight starts last season, and he completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,598 yards, 11 TDs and eight interceptions for an offense that struggled mightily. McHargue, an athletic redshirt freshman, is in the running for the job. So is Miami transfer Taylor Cook, an OK passer but questionable as a runner.
108. NEW MEXICO
Starter/backup: B.R. Holbrook/Tarean Austin
The buzz: Holbrook, a sophomore, played at Newhall (Calif.) Hart, which has produced a number of college quarterbacks. He played in five games as a true freshman last fall and has a nice arm. Austin is a touted true freshman from Tampa, Fla.
Starter/backup: Chester Stewart/Chris Coyer
The buzz: Stewart, a junior, has started seven games in the past two seasons, but he hasn't shown much. He has a 46.1 career completion percentage, with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Stewart does have OK mobility and coaches trust him; evidence of that is that last season's starter, Vaughn Charlton, has been moved to tight end. Coyer is a redshirt freshman.
110. CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Starter/backup: Ryan Radcliff/Derek Rifenbury
The buzz: Radcliff is stepping into the starting job vacated by Dan LeFevour, who might have been the best player in school history. Not only that, but Radcliff also must adjust to a new offense installed by new coach Dan Enos. Radcliff, a sophomore, played in seven games last season and was 10-of-21, with two picks and no TDs. Rifenbury is a junior who hasn't played in a game in his career.
111. ARKANSAS STATE
Starter/backup: Phillip Butterfield OR Ryan Aplin
The buzz: Butterfield is a redshirt freshman who was the jewel of Arkansas State's 2009 recruiting class. Aplin is a sophomore who showed good running ability but questionable passing ability down the stretch last season.
Starter/backup: Larry Smith/Jared Funk
The buzz: Smith is headed into his second season as the starter, but he had a dreadful 2009, completing just 46.7 percent of his passes and throwing more picks (seven) than TDs (four) for an offense that ranked 110th in the nation. Funk is a senior who has played in seven career games, all on special teams; he beat out JC transfer Jordan Rodgers -- Aaron's brother -- for the No. 2 job.
Starter/backup: Kolton Browning/Trey Revell
The buzz: Revell, a senior, lost his starting job to Browning, an athletic redshirt freshman. Browning is a better runner and looks to be the better fit in new coach Todd Berry's offense. Revell threw 12 TD passes and 12 picks last season.
114. NEW MEXICO STATE
Starter/backup: Matt Christian/Tanner Rust
The buzz: Christian is a JC transfer who enrolled in time for spring ball and won the starting job. Last season's starter, Jeff Fleming, transferred last week, meaning Rust -- a redshirt freshman -- is the No. 2 guy. The Aggies were last in the nation in total offense last season and were inept in the passing game; coaches hope Christian -- who threw for 2,329 yards and 23 touchdowns last season at Palomar College (Calif.) -- helps upgrade the attack.
115. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
Starter/backup: Wesley Carroll/Wayne Younger
The buzz: Carroll, a junior, is a transfer from Mississippi State, where he started as a freshman. He wasn't overly impressive in spring drills and didn't nail down the starting job until fall camp. Younger, a senior, played a lot in his first three seasons, but consistency has not been a strong point.
116. WESTERN KENTUCKY
Starter/backup: Kawaun Jakes/Matt Pelesasa
The buzz: Jakes started last season as a true freshman, and despite missing most of spring drills with an injury, he held onto his starting job ahead of Pelesasa, a JC transfer. Jakes is a strong runner and showed enough passing ability in new coach Willie Taggart's West Coast offense to retain his starting job.
Starter/backup: David Isabelle/Bryan Ellis
The buzz: The Blazers really are going to miss departed starter Joe Webb, who ran for 1,427 yards and 11 TDs and also threw for 2,299 yards and 21 touchdowns. Isabelle, a sophomore, ran for 288 yards in a backup role, but he threw just 14 passes. Ellis is a junior who has seen action in five career games and has four career pass attempts.
Starter/backup: Jerry Davis/Alex Dennison
The buzz: Davis unexpectedly was thrust into a battle for the starting job when Zach Maynard, last season's starter, transferred to California after coach Turner Gill left for the Kansas job. Davis, a sophomore, played in five games last season, attempting 15 passes. Dennison is a redshirt freshman who has a nice arm.
Starter/backup: Ryan Williams OR Cannon Smith
The buzz: New coach Larry Porter expects to name a starter today. Williams is a true freshman who enrolled in January and impressed coaches during spring drills; he helped lead pass-happy Miramar (Fla.) High to a state Class 6A title last fall. Smith is a Memphis native who is a transfer from Miami; his dad is the chairman of Federal Express.
120. EASTERN MICHIGAN
Starter/backup: Alex Gillett/Devontae Payne
The buzz: Gillett made three starts as a true freshman last season and showed some ability as a runner, finishing with 484 yards and two touchdowns. But he completed just 49.6 percent of his passes, with seven interceptions and three TDs. Payne is a big redshirt freshman (6-6/231) who has a strong arm.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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