With the passing of signing day, it is official. We've finally reached the true doldrums of the offseason. The good news is that if you are reading this, you've already demonstrated yourself as one of the most dedicated among all Husky fans. I will attempt to reward your dedication with a series of offseason lists that will help you through the process of assessing the prospects for your Huskies in 2015.
Today, we start with the one position grouping that each and every one of you will have an opinion on: Quarterbacks. Here are my rankings of the Pac 12 teams based on how their quarterback position group (not just their anticipated starter) projects for the 2015 campaign.
1. USC - Cody Kessler, Max Browne, Ricky Town
Kessler will enter the 2015 season as far-and-away the most productive QB in the Pac 12. Not unlike Keith Price, Kessler's contributions have exploded under the tutelage of Steve Sarkisian and Marques Tuiasosopo. Last season, he threw for a 70% completion percentage on a base of 452 attempts and 8.5 yards per attempt. Those stats are no joke. If for some reason he can't carry the load, Sark has two five star prospects in Browne and Town to work with. USC is flat out loaded at QB. I've been hearing some great commentary on the work that Browne is doing down there and Town may well be the best QB in this year's recruiting class. Sark is loaded down there.
2. Cal - Jared Goff, Luke Rubenzer
While not nearly as accurate or methodical as Kessler, Goff is the best of the "gunslinger" style QBs in the Pac. He has a decent enough arm and enough mobility to move around the pocket and avoid big hits. He excels at keeping plays alive and seems to always be cool under pressure. He played much of last season in a platoon with Rubenzer, who was used primarily as a running threat. That said, Rubenzer does have some pop in his arm and could develop into a decent passer if given the chance. The depth beyond those two is questionable, but this is a good tandem for Sonny Dykes to build around.
3. Stanford - Kevin Hogan, Keller Chryst
Hogan has taken his fair share of criticism over the past two seasons. I suppose that is to be expected when you are replacing Andrew Luck, when your offense is hyper-focused on conservative/field-position oriented play-calling and you sat behind four new offensive linemen in 2014. It got so bad that rumors were swirling a month ago that Hogan was going to transfer. We seem to be past that now and Hogan projects as one of the top returning QBs in the Pac. In fact, he managed to pass for both a higher percentage and YPA than the aforementioned Jared Goff did a season ago. Backed up by the tantalizingly talented Chryst, Stanford looks well stocked at QB.
4. Arizona State - Mike Bercovici, Manny Wilkins
Unlike a season ago when 10 of 12 P12 teams had strength at QB, the line between the 2015 have and have nots gets drawn right here. Bercovici is the clear cut starter for Todd Graham and he should get credit for the productivity that he had as a spot starter last season. He's a tough player with a big arm and a lot of guts. But, he's also a gunslinger with questionable accuracy and even more questionable decision-making. If the Sun Devils have to dip into their bench, the next man up is multi-tooled RS Frosh Manny Wilkins. Wilkins oozes potential with both a strong arm and quick feet. In fact, I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see him push Bercovici more than the average fan may expect. He could be starting for the Devils by the end of the season.
5. Arizona - Anu Solomon, Jarrard Randall, Brandon Dawkins
While I was impressed with his "it factor", I must admit that I came away from 2014 unsure if Soph Anu Solomon would be able to secure the starting job in Tucson for another year. He has some tools - a good arm, a good sense of when to run and a flair for the dramatic. However, he is also terribly inaccurate and prone to serious gaffes in decision making. If those issues are more than just "young QB" issues, don't be surprised to see Solomon get challenged. Sr. Randall is an LSU transfer who has eye-popping athleticism while Dawkins is another RS frosh who also possesses multiple tools in his tool box. There are certainly options for Rich Rod going into 2015.
6. Washington State - Luke Falk, Tyler Hilinski, Peyton Bender
I have to be honest here: I have zero idea on who will be the next QB at WSU. On one hand, Falk is the most experienced having served as the backup to Connor Halliday a year ago. However, he's got limitations with his arm strength and foot speed. If Hilinski can nail down the playbook, he's a multi-tool guy who could easily pass Falk based on underlying talent alone. Bender is the wild card here. He's a tall and lanky kid with a bazooka for an arm. But, he's got mobility limitations and may not have enough time in the system to really know it. Regardless, Mike Leach has versatility amongst his options and is relatively well-positioned going into 2015.
7. Washington - Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist, KJ Carta-Samuels
I'm going to go ahead and predict a vicious Cyler Miles debate in the comments following this piece. Go ahead, have at it. I know that you can't resist. I will say this: Miles, still just a junior, was able to put up some pretty decent productivity - particularly from October on - that would seem to belie all of the limitations that have been projected upon him by uber fans who all seem to have degrees in Quarterback Kiniseliogoy. In fact, his production in October and November of 69% accuracy and 8 YPA were at the same levels of Brett Hundley. That productivity and his athletic tools give him a decent baseline upon which to start in 2015. However, he has clearly not yet shown an ability to really elevate the team. If either Lindquist or Carta-Samuels can leap frog Miles in their ability to generate big plays, we could see a new starter in 2015. Regardless, the depth and the experience of the talent on the roster is a pretty decent asset for Chris Petersen to work with.
8. Colorado - Sefo Liufau, Jordan Gehrke
While some of you may argue that Jr. Liufau is a better QB than Miles (which is quite debatable), it really is the case that the Buffs lack the kind of depth at the position relative to the teams listed above them. Liufau is a gamer kind of QB with strong leadership skills. However, he's only got so-so arm talent, isn't really all that mobile and has issues with accuracy. In fact, he averaged just 6.4 YPA in 2014 and had a TD/INT ratio of less than 2.0. That's not too good. Jr. Gehrke is the only real compeition to Liufau at this point, but he failed to impress when Liufau was benched for a short while in 2014 and, at this point, looks relegated to permanent backup status.
9. UCLA - Jerry Neuheisel, Josh Rosen, Asantii Woulard
Under normal circumstances, replacing a stud like Brett Hundley would be no easy feat. Trying to do it with a stable that includes the son of the former coach and a true freshman with way too much hype behind him seems almost impossible. There are other names that will get a chance to be sure, but the best bet is that the job will ultimately fall to either the experienced backup in Neuheisel - who Noel Mazzone loves - or the potential future Heisman candidate in Rosen. While either scenario could lead to a great long-term outcome, neither bodes as particularly promising in 2015.
10. Utah - Travis Wilson, Kendal Thompson
If it were not for the fact that Wilson and Thompson were going to be learning yet another new playbook with yet another new offensive coordinator, I'd be inclined to rate them higher as a position grouping. Obviously, both players have experience and each possess their own unique skills sets that have been shown capable of winning Pac 12 games. However, both are inconsistent and prone to grievous mental mistakes as seen last year. That problem will only be exacerbated with a new offensive system.
11. Oregon - Jeff Lockie, Morgan Mahalak, Vernon Adams
I can see Oregon fans taking offense here, but keep in mind that this is a ranking of the status of the positional groupings heading into 2015, not a forecast of how the team will do. Obviously, Oregon is so well-stocked with RBs and WRs that Lear Pilot could step in and put up Heisman numbers for the Ducks. But, as it stands now, QB looks like a minus position grouping for the Ducks. Jr. Jeff Lockie is a run-first guy who has yet to demonstrate any kind of pocket awareness or arm talent. Soph. Mahalak was viewed at one time as the "next Mariota". However, aggressive flirtations by the Ducks with transfer candidates Braxton Miller and Vernon Adams (yeah, I'm sure there was no tampering there) would seem to indicate a lack of faith by the staff in what is on the roster today. The fact that many fans are predicting that Adams will win the job hands-down despite having no access to the team until fall and no experience in their playbook indicates a similar lack of faith beyond the staff.
12. Oregon State - Luke Del Rio, Brent VanderVeen, Seth Collins
New OSU coach Gary Andersen hasn't really tipped his hand on what he's thinking about for QB or, for that matter, offensive philosophy. The good money is on a conservative, run-first style with elements of hurry up not unlike what UW runs. In that case, Soph Del Rio - a transfer from Alabama where he was a walk-on - and Jr VanderVeen would appear to be the two combatants for the right to take over from record-breaker Sean Mannion. Neither has much by way of experience and, obviously, everybody is lacking in expertise in the Andersen playbook. If those two don't pan out, there are actually a number of other contending bodies, including tall, athletic, true frosh Collins, who flipped from SJSU at the last second and has already enrolled in Corvallis.