NOTE: This is the eighth 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.
7. Keith Price, Washington
Huskies fans didn’t enter the 2012 season concerned about the departure of reliable RB Chris Polk last August.
Yes, Polk rushed for 2,903 yards and 25 total touchdowns over his previous two seasons. During his last season, however, Price emerged as the Huskies’ next huge offensive weapon.
Price showed he had the tools – and coach Steve Sarkisian had the recipe – to elevate into the Pac-12 elite quarterbacks ranks. The rising senior capped his 3,063-yard, 33-TD campaign with two sparkling performances – a 291-yard, 3-TD, 0-INT outing in a dominant win over Washington State and a 438-yard, 4-TD, 0-INT game in a high-scoring Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor and Robert Griffin III.
Much as a presidential hopeful gains credibility simply by being on the same stage as the incumbent during debates, Price matching Griffin – the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner – score-for-score only raised the bar for the following season.
Between Price’s marked improvement and Sarkisian’s offense, the Huskies became a chic pick to threaten Oregon for the Pac-12 North. That talk softened after LSU trashed Washington 41-3 in Baton Rouge, but reemerged when the Huskies pulled off a 17-13 home win over Stanford.
The much-anticipated Washington-Oregon matchup turned into a bloodbath quickly. Price never got on track, throwing for just 145 yards. He failed to throw a TD pass and Oregon intercepted him twice, taking one back for a touchdown, in the Ducks’ 52-21 romp.
Price struggled in the first three marquee games – he completed just 55 of 104 passes for 479 yards with 1 TD and 4 INTs.
The blowout loss to Oregon started a three-game losing streak that eliminated any remaining hopes Washington had of divisional dreams.
Saying Price played poorly throughout the 2012 season would overstate the issue.
However, Price was expected to carry the offense – a task largely handed over to RB Bishop Sankey instead because of his consistency.
Injuries along the offensive line certainly hurt. Price took 37 sacks (repeat: 37 sacks) during 2012. Only four BCS quarterbacks were sacked more often. Interestingly, three of them – UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Cal’s Zach Maynard and Colorado’s Jordan Webb – played for Pac-12 teams.
The offensive line is healthy through spring, at least, and now has experienced depth thanks to the injuries last season. That Sankey returns should help balance the offense. Price also has one of the best TEs in college football in Austin Seferian-Jenkins. (Seferian-Jenkins, by the way, could miss time this year for disciplinary reasons after a DUI.)
Sarkisian implemented some changes during the offseason in hopes of helping Price regain his 2011 form. Most notably, Sarkisian installed a faster-paced offense – seemingly the magic bullet in college football these days.
Another move could help Price take the next step. Sarkisian hired former Huskies star QB Marques Tuiasosopo to help mentor Price – a move the Washington coach said paid dividends during spring practice.
Price failed to meet expectations a year ago. Entering as a darkhorse Heisman candidate, he failed to post even one 300-yard performance.
Sarkisian is betting that major offseason changes will help Price reach his vast potential.
With non-conference games against Boise State and at Illinois to start the season, it won’t take long to find out if those bets will pay off. The Huskies will need Price to find the next level to break through their current ceiling and into the division’s elite with Oregon and Stanford.