NOTE: This is the fourth installment of a 15-part series on 2013′s most pivotal QBs in college football.
Ask any coach about the importance of the quarterback position and he is quick to throw out a tired cliché about quarterbacks getting too much credit and blame.
They will tell you there are 11 guys on the field at all times and each one of them must work together for the team to win.
Coaches know a lot about football. They also know about deflecting pressure from the most important pressure on the field.
How important is the quarterback position? Ask Texas A&M what Johnny Manziel meant to the team in 2012. Ask Auburn about Cam Newton’s worth in 2010. Ask Ohio State after Urban Meyer got a chance to turn around QB Braxton Miller in 2012.
A quarterback might not be everything, but a good one can mask a number of different deficiencies – be it a porous defense, a non-existent run game or erratic special teams.
Teams without a solid quarterback need virtually every other facet of the game to click in order to overcome poor play from the most important position.
This list is designed to spotlight 15 quarterbacks whose play will dictate their teams’ fates. With two exceptions, this list is made up exclusively of established QBs who have been starters for at least half a season.
The carefully chosen term “pivotal” is key here. This is to spotlight teams that could have significant swings based on the position. Players like Manziel and Miller are proven commodities at this point. Florida State has enough surrounding its yet-to-be-named starter – presumably Jameis Winston – to repeat as ACC champ even without great play from the position. Those appearing on this list are opined to have a wider swing.
Today marks the first edition of a 15-part series.
12. Clint Trickett/Paul Millard/Ford Childress, West Virginia
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen exited spring practice so impressed with his options at the most important position on the field that he added another contender to the mix.
Millard, a junior, has thrown 34 career passes – such is the life when one holds the clipboard behind Geno Smith. Childress, a freshman, has yet to make his first career appearance.
With no clear leader after spring ball, Holgorsen entered the Clint Trickett sweepstakes. Trickett left Florida State when it became apparent that highly anticipated freshman Jameis Winston earned the inside track to the starting position. Unwilling to watch from the sidelines for his entire collegiate experience, Trickett looked to transfer away from FSU, where his father Rick serves as offensive line coach.
Trickett finishes his undergraduate work at Florida State in May and will be eligible to play immediately, with two years to play two seasons.
Ultimately, Clint Trickett traded his dad’s current stop for one of his former stops. Rick Trickett served two stints on the West Virginia coaching staff.
Trickett also explored transferring to Auburn, Michigan and South Florida before ultimately choosing West Virginia.
Since Trickett had numerous options of where to sign – and because he left Florida State because he would not be the starter, it seems like a good bet that he got some kind of assurance that he would get first shot.
This is the only spot in the countdown where there is no apparent starting favorite – though as has been discussed, a strong argument could be made that Trickett is the favorite. That’s because, especially in Holgorsen’s offense, the quarterback is so essential.
And after a woeful end to the 2012 season, Holgorsen has plenty to lose this year. Perhaps his job isn’t on the line (at least initially), but the fans in Morgantown won’t take a second consecutive Big 12 embarrassment lightly.
Making matters worse, last year’s talent-laden team had itself in great position to make a run for the Big 12 crown during WVU’s first year in the league. Instead, the Mountaineers struggled to an embarrassing five-game losing streak after a 5-0 start. That was with Smith (who thought he should have been the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft) and collegiate superstars WR/RB Tavon Austin and WR Stedman Bailey.
Now West Virginia is back to the drawing board, including at the quarterback position. The Mountaineers must replace key skill position players and find a defense. Last year they held FBS opponents to fewer than 34 points three times in 12 games.
So there is little question that WVU will need big production from the quarterback position, whether it’s Trickett, Millard or Childress.
With great play from the quarterback position, the Mountaineers could compete for what should be a wide-open Big 12. Without it, even qualifying for a bowl game could be in question.