Pac-12 Battles Under Center
By Jordan Hamm
The Pac-12 conference returns a plethora of talented quarterbacks in 2014. The group is headlined by Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, Sean Mannion and Taylor Kelly. In fact, only Arizona and Washington do not return their starting quarterback. While plenty of quarterbacks are returning, coaching changes and big-time recruits could make for some interesting quarterback battles. Here are some of the most intriguing ones:
This is the most wide-open quarterback battle in the conference. The Arizona quarterback depth chart is riddled with transplants. There’s Connor Brewer, the Texas-transfer; Jerrard Randall, who spent two years with LSU; Jesse Scroggins, who started his career with USC; and Nick Isham, who transferred from Louisiana Tech. Throw in four-star redshirt freshman Anu Solomon and freshman Brandon Dawkins, and Rich Rodriguez has plenty of options at quarterback. This battle doesn’t look to be decided, or significantly whittled down, until the end of spring practice or beyond.
Keith Price’s heir-apparent was Cyler Miles. He showed glimpses of production: throwing for four touchdowns and being a viable running option. That was until Miles and wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow were investigated for beating up a Seattle Seahawks fan after the Super Bowl. New head coach Chris Peterson didn’t take too kindly to that and suspended them indefinitely. So if Miles doesn’t return, it is up to Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams to run the offense. Both have not taken a snap at the collegiate level. Four-star recruit K.J. Carta-Samuels headlined the 2014 recruiting class for Peterson. Could he wiggle his way into the conversation as well?
Sefo Liufau took over quarterback duties for the Buffaloes in mid-October and never gave up his spot. As a freshman, he threw 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He is someone many people in Boulder are excited about, and he possesses the physical tools to be a serviceable Pac-12 quarterback. The question for him: To whom will he get the ball? Paul Richardson, far and away Colorado’s best player last year, is heading to the NFL. While he is young, he should be the go-to guy for the Buffaloes.
Travis Wilson has shown glimpses of being a top-tier Pac-12 quarterback. He made the throws he needed to make in the Utes’ win over Stanford, but he has been anything but consistent. During Pac-12 play in 2013, he threw nine touchdowns to 16 interceptions, with six of those coming against UCLA. Consistency is not the only question about Wilson. He suffered a concussion in Utah’s loss to Arizona State, and it was later discovered he had an enlarged artery in his brain. Adam Schulz took over quarterback duties for the remainder of the season and was on par with Wilson, throwing six touchdowns to five interceptions. Wilson has been cleared for non-contact activities, and all indications point to Wilson continuing to be the starter. If that changes or Wilson is inconsistent, Utah could look to Schulz or Oklahoma transfer Kendall Thompson.
Cody Kessler seems to be the guy heading into this season. He progressed nicely throughout the year, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. You never really know with new coaches, though. It’s a clean slate with Steve Sarkisian, who wants to implement more of a spread offense — something Max Browne, Kessler’s main competition, experienced in high school.