The Pac 12 returns nine out of twelve starting quarterbacks this season. One glance at the list tells me that almost all the returning nine have a shot at playing in the NFL one of these days. Andrew Luck is at the top of the list and he is one of the most coveted quarterbacks in the history of the conference.
Washington, California, and UCLA are where the biggest question marks lie. The Huskies will be breaking in Keith Price while the Bears have named Buffalo transfer Zach Maynard the starter. As usual the Bruins are a mess with nothing settled after a lackluster spring.
Stanford...Andrew Luck would have been the first QB chosen in the NFL draft if he had chosen to come out but he returns despite the loss of head coach Jim Harbaugh to the 49ers. I have watched him play quite a bit and I don't really see many flaws in his game. He is definitely ready for prime time.
"I've said this to a few people I work with," Jon Gruden said. "He's the best prospect I've studied. Period. I'm not the oldest guy, and again, I'm accused of liking everyone. ... I think this kid has it all. Provided he stays healthy and provided he stays on the line that he's on, this guys has got a rare upside. There's not a lot of things that I don't like. He's got a photographic memory. I love him."
Oregon...Jr. Darron Thomas is a perfect fit for the Oregon offense. I like him better than Masoli who he prematurely replaced last season but I wouldn't rank him as high as Dennis Dixon. Ted Miller thinks that Darron is one of the most indispensable players in the Pac 12. Did you know that Darron was from Texas?
If not for some backpedaling by LSU coach Les Miles in the fall of 2007, Thomas might be starting against Oregon in this game. In high school, Thomas originally gave a verbal commitment to the Tigers, announcing his decision on local TV in his hometown of Houston.
Arizona...Nick Foles has put up some big numbers for the Wildcats. Some observers think he will lead his squad to the first South division title if WR Juron Criner is ready to play this fall.
Foles has thrown 39 touchdown passes over the past two seasons and is coming off a 2010 performance in which he threw for 3,191 yards while completing 67.1 percent of his attempts.
Southern California...Matt Barkley has been a superstar in waiting for the past two years. Perhaps this is the year he breaks out and performs the way Pete Carroll though he would when he was recruited.
Barkley had 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season after posting a 15-14 ratio as a freshman. He said he’s "light years ahead" of where he used to be in terms of forcing passes into coverage.
Washington State...I like Jeff Tuel and I think he has the ability to lead his team to a 5-0 record to start the season before they get whacked back into reality by Stanford. Tuel is the best kept secret in the Pac 12.
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel is the biggest reason Washington State was able to shock the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis the last time the Cougars took the field. An under the radar recruit, Tuel took the reigns for Washington State as a true freshman, and has steadily progressed ever since.
Utah...I haven't seen Wynn enough to have my own opinion on him so I have to yield to experts like Ted Miller who feel the Ute's are in very good hands with Jordan leading the offense.
Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn has been throwing for about a month and says his surgically repaired right shoulder feels good. Wynn said he's throwing pain free and expects to be 100 percent by the season opener, September 1 against Montana State.
Arizona State...Brock Osweiller won't have anyone looking over his shoulder this season because of the medical retirement of Steve Threet. He is expected to lead the Sun Devils to a South division title. Can he play at a consistently high level that pushes him to the next level?
Dennis Erickson's team has experience, speed, depth and the most destructive defensive force in college football. The Sun Devils are good enough to compete for a division title in the debut season of the Pac-12, and the schedule lines up nicely. For a team that hasn't been to a bowl game in three years, the optimism is thick and the words are coming easy.
Colorado...Tyler Hansen is a guy most of us aren't familiar with but he is a lot better than you think. He missed almost half of last season with a ruptured spleen. Competing with the coaches son (Cody Hawkins) took a toll on all involved.
Hansen was named the starting quarterback for the 2011 season earlier this week following 15 practices in spring ball under a new coaching staff led by Jon Embree. And for the first time in years, there was really no doubt whom the coach would select when Embree told reporters an announcement was coming.
Oregon State...Ryan Katz did a credible job at QB last season for the Beavers. He has a big arm, good presence in the pocket, and the speed to make people miss when they are trying to sack him. A year of starting experience is going to help him. Not having the Rodgers brothers in the lineup is going to hurt.
The Beavers also no longer have a first year quarterback. This is a big factor, as there is not just a precedent, but a pattern, of Oregon St. quarterbacks making significant progress in their second season as a starter. And Ryan Katz has a better tool set to work with than most of his recent predecessors who all won some significant games under similar circumstances.
Washington...Sophomore Keith Price won the starting job this spring by significantly out dueling RS Nick Montana who didn't exactly look exactly bad himself. Price started one game last season when Jake Locker was injured against Oregon. An NFL QB who has watched Price play this past spring feels that he is going to really surprise some people this fall. Insiders say that that while he doesn't have as strong an arm as Jake he should put up better passing numbers.
"He's very engaged," Steve Sarkisian said after Price completed 20-of-28 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns in Washington's spring game. "Keith's a really bright young guy. He's an engaging kid. He's very competitive. Bright-eyed. A lot of energy. And loves the game of football, which is what you want."
Zach Maynard's decision to transfer to California appears to have been the right move after all. Maynard was picked as Cal's starting quarterback to open the 2011 season Saturday, emerging as the clear front-runner from one of the deepest and most wide-open spring competitions in coach Jeff Tedford's tenure.
UCLA...Our good friend Nestor said it best the other day. How can you expect to win with Kevin Prince, Kevin Craft, Richard Brehaut, Darius Bell and Clayton Tunney? Kevin Prince was a slight leader coming out of the spring but keep an eye on true frosh Brett Hundley this fall.