The beginning of fall camp for many Big 12 teams this week signals that the college football preseason is officially underway. The start of the season will be here soon, and to get a better understanding of what the ten teams in the Big 12 conference will look like, we’ve been looking at position groups across the conference and ranking them from best to worst.
Obviously, quarterback tends to get more focus than any other position on the field. It has more influence on the offense and necessitates a more intricate understanding of what’s going on from down to down than any other position. For that reason, experience and production – like with the other position groups – are given a bit more weight here than unproven potential.
Keep in mind as well that this is not only a ranking of individual starting quarterbacks and projected starting quarterbacks, but of the quarterback room as a whole. If a team has, say, a potential Heisman candidate at quarterback, of course they would be near the top of the conference. Not having any depth behind that player would on the other hand be a knock against that team overall.
The top half of these rankings are all fairly close, and this year – maybe more so than in years past – if one of these players has a particularly strong 2019 campaign, they could really stand above the crowd.
A decade ago, it would not be strange to see the Longhorns ranked so high on list like this one, but Texas has seen their well-documented struggles at signal caller. Those have all but vanished since junior Sam Ehlinger became the full time starter.
Ehlinger had a breakout campaign as a sophomore for the Longhorns last season, scoring through the air and on the ground to account for 41 total touchdowns. Ehlinger’s combination of athletic versatility and ability to throw from the pocket has many people seeing him as the most probable Heisman candidate in the Big 12.
He’s backed up by redshirt freshman Casey Thompson and Roschon Johnson, who signed with Texas as a four star recruit last December. Both were highly touted coming out of high school, but are unproven.
After consecutively fielding some of the most productive quarterbacks in the Big 12, the Bears ushered in the Matt Rhule era with a bit of a quarterback carousel. Things have settled now, as junior Charlie Brewer prepares to enter this season as the presumed starter at Baylor after a stellar sophomore campaign in 2018 where he threw for 3,019 yards and ran for 375 more.
Backing up Brewer will be redshirt freshman Gerry Bohanon, who was one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the country coming out of high school. He saw a very small number of game reps last season, but the Arkansas could see more snaps if Baylor has any blowout wins this season.
The Sooners seem to be incapable of producing anything other than Heisman winners these days, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see their quarterback room be at the top of this list by season’s end. Lincoln Riley brings in Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts, who was the 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year and lost only two games in two seasons as a starter for the Tide.
Concerns do exist about how Hurts will transition into a Riley-helmed offense that has placed strident demands on its signal caller where down-the-field passing is concerned. Still, there’s no doubt that Hurts has performed on the big stage.
The presumed backup to Hurts is redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai, who was highly recruited but has limited playing experience. Spencer Rattler, a five star quarterback out of Arizona, signed with Oklahoma last December. Both appear to be talented but are unproven.
4. Texas Tech
Last year was a big of a carousel at quarterback for the Red Raiders, but true freshman Alan Bowman managed to rise from third on the depth chart to one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12. Bowman set a Big 12 record by throwing for over 600 yards in a game against Houston, but had his season derailed early by a collapsed lung.
Although he is slated to start for Texas Tech, the seriousness of the injury means that Bowman’s health remains a question heading into 2019. If he’s able to play a full season, Bowman has the potential to really make a name for himself.
Junior Jett Duffey is seen as the sure second stringer. Duffey posted good numbers the seven games he played for Texas Tech, as he passed for 1,221 yards and picked up 369 on the ground. His 8-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio leaves something to be desired.
5. Iowa State
Whoever the Cyclones list as their third string quarterback seems to always be the most dangerous player on the roster, or at least it felt that way the past two years. In 2018, true freshman Brock Purdy emerged as a phenomenal playmaker at signal caller for Iowa State. The athletic Purdy accounted for 21 total touchdowns last season, averaging 10.3 yards per attempt.
Hopefully Iowa State won’t have to go to their third string player again this season, as Purdy’s ten total games played constitutes the most experience on this roster. Redshirt freshman Re-al Mitchell, another dual threat, is slotted to be the second stringer.
6. Oklahoma State
Under Mike Gundy, the Pokes have developed a number of top tier quarterbacks, and there could well be one on campus right now. If anyone in the Big 12 currently has a true quarterback competition, however, it’s the team in Stillwater.
Dru Brown, a Hawaii transfer who’s thrown for over 5,000 yards, is the most seasoned signal caller in the room. Despite such impressive stats, Brown came in last year and was unable to nab the starting gig. At Hawaii, he showcased the ability to throw from the pocket and make plays when scrambling, qualities that could help him become the starter when the season begins.
The hype around the highly touted redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders has been building since he inked with the Pokes. Sanders is a dual-threat quarterback who has the ability to be a highly dynamic player in college football. The question is if Gundy will hand the reins of the offense over to an untested freshman.
7. West Virginia
Even though Neal Brown’s offense is less pass-heavy than that of his former head coach and Air Raid Godfather Hal Mumme, quarterback will be central for the Mountaineers this season. The putative battle is between two transfers in juniors Jack Allison (who came over from Miami) and Austin Kendall (who came over from Oklahoma).
Kendall – understandably – struggled at Oklahoma to see playing time behind two Heisman winners, but is projected to win the job because of the flashes of potential he showed with the Sooners. Allison got his first collegiate start in last year’s Camping World Bowl, but managed to complete only 48.6 percent of his passes.
It’s tough to put West Virginia too high on this list when neither of the two players in competition has been particularly spectacular in the FBS action they’ve seen. Brown could find a way to turn one of them into a high caliber signal caller, but it would no doubt be a surprise.
From the outside looking in, Gary Patterson and his offensive staff appear to have a real conundrum on their hands at quarterback. Four players could feasibly win the job by season’s end. Two return from last year’s team, Justin Rogers and Mike Collins. Two others are newcomers in freshman Max Duggan and senior transfer Alex Delton.
Duggan is a four star recruit who some think will win the job eventually with is talent. Rogers has upside but has been hampered by a foot injury while he’s been in Fort Worth. Collins played in eight games for TCU last year, but managed to only complete 56.4 percent of his passes.
Most bettors would probably put their money on Alex Delton, who came over from Kansas State and is the most experienced. Delton battled for snaps consistently in Manhattan, where he normally excelled running the ball (4.1 yards per carry with 213 attempts), but was less talented as a passer (56.1 completion percentage).
Offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie has produced elite signal callers before, but this is starting to look like uncertainty may persist here through a good chunk of the season.
9. Kansas State
Only two quarterbacks went to Big 12 Media Days this year, and one of those was junior Skylar Thompson, the presumed starter for the Wildcats. Thompson battled constantly for a starting spot under Bill Snyder, so hopefully life under new head coach Chris Klieman will help him turn the corner.
As a passer, Thompson is a 59.5 completion percentage type of player who also has the athleticism to operate an offense that will integrate the quarterback into the running game this season. A breakout year for him is possible, but expecting that might be too much to ask. Three freshmen are expected to compete to be Thompson’s backup this fall.
Improvement behind center would be a sign Les Miles has the Jayhawks moving in the right direction, but it’s fair to be skeptical about how that’s going. Miles has a fifth year senior in Carter Stanley who has experience, but the quality of that experience is up for debate – Stanley’s 14 career interceptions that outnumber his 13 touchdowns certainly aren’t a positive.
But Miles brought in competition in the form of top ranked JUCO quarterback Thomas MacVittie out of Arizona. MacVittie is an imposing pro-style quarterback at 6’5” and 225 pounds, and Miles has indicated that the JUCO standout probably has the edge as we move into fall camp.