Big 12 Preview: Ranking The QBs

Running coach Mike Gundy’s offense gives Oklahoma State’s quarterbacks (led by Clint Chelf, pictured) a shot to be the best in the Big 12. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Few years have seen a tougher call for the mantle of Preseason Top Big 12 QB. A strong argument could be made for most of the 10 starting QBs – three of which haven’t even been named – being the best by year’s end.

Texas QB David Ash has the most experience. He might also have the least quarterback-centric offense of the top eight in the league. Pass-happy attacks at Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia shouldn’t be overlooked. Those five schools ranked among the top seven nationally in passing yardage.

That’s right: Half the conference ranked in the top seven in passing yardage. Now if only Bob Stoops could get one of those overrated, dainty little SEC secondaries to dare to play his Sooners… (It’s called sarcasm.)

Little of this list is based on anything more than speculation – and any of them could rank among the best 25 in the nation by season’s end.

Here is our countdown of the top QBs in the Big 12:

1.      Clint Chelf/J.W. Welsh – Oklahoma State

Chelf hasn’t officially won the QB1 position, but he seems to be the favorite to start Week 1 against Mississippi State. Wes Lunt’s decision to transfer only increases Chelf’s chances, though J.W. Walsh remains a viable option. All three players started in 2012, with injuries serving as the DJ in musical quarterbacks. Lunt got hurt, Walsh took over. Walsh got hurt, Chelf started. Now the job appears to be Chelf’s. Walsh suffered what was thought to be a season-ending knee injury, though he played in reserve duty late in the season. He finished the season completing more than two-thirds of his passes for 1,564 yards (with four starts), 13 TDs and 3 INTs. Chelf, a senior, connected on 60.4 percent of his passes for 1,588 yards (in six starts) with 15 TDs and 6 INTs. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy initially said in spring practice that Chelf would start the season opener. He later backed away from that statement. Whoever starts has experience in an offense that ranked sixth nationally in passing yards despite cycling through three signal-callers.

2.      Casey Pachall – TCU

Pointing out that Pachall led the Big 12 in passing efficiency before he left the team to rehabilitate as a result of a DUI doesn’t tell the full story. The Horned Frogs, at the time, had played one league game – against last-place Kansas. Still, much is expected of Pachall, who has enough considerable talent to be the top passer in the conference this season. As a sophomore in 2011, Pachall threw for 2,921 yards and 25 TDs with only 7 INTs. To haters that want to point out those stats came against Mountain West opponents, take a look at what Pachall did at Baylor (25 of 39, 251 yards, 5 total TDs, 1 INT) and at Boise State (24 of 37, 473 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT). TCU went from Big 12 contender to also-ran once Pachall left. Trevone Boykin performed serviceably in his stead, but couldn’t run an elite passing attack. Pachall can and, with TCU facing a daunting schedule, will need to for the Horned Frogs to compete for a conference crown in 2013.

3.      David Ash – Texas

Ash’s experience – and little else – leaves him as the Big 12’s No. 3 quarterback entering the season. It’s not that Ash has been a bad quarterback or posted poor statistics. He simply hasn’t shown the consistency to be a Heisman Trophy contender. The best quarterback in the Big 12 usually is in consideration for a trip to Radio City Music Hall. At times last year, Ash looked like he would realize his potential as a superstar. He threw for 326 yards and 4 TDs in a blowout win at Ole Miss and followed that performance with a 304-yard, 3-TD effort in a road win at Oklahoma State. However, Ash played horribly in losses at Oklahoma and against TCU. He struggled so mightily at Kansas that coach Mack Brown turned to Case McCoy to win the game. McCoy did, reigniting the quarterback competition that engulfed the 2011 season. Ash will have a steady – if not special – run game on which he can rely. With that support at his disposal, Ash is upwardly mobile. However, with several strong systems below him on the list, don’t be surprised if he falls by midseason.

4.      Michael Brewer – Texas Tech

It’s rare that a program can lead the nation in passing yardage and TDs and be excited about throwing the ball more. Welcome to Lubbock – Home of the Air Raid. Former coach Mike Leach is gone, but one of his most successful products, Kliff Kingsbury, returns to campus to lead the Red Raiders. Naturally, Tech faithful have high expectations about a runnin’-and-gunnin’ offense capable of dropping 70 points any given week. Brewer seems all but a certainty to be the guy this year. As the backup last year, the four-time high school state champion completed 34 of 48 passes for 375 yards and 4 TDs. Only his lack of experience keeps him from ranking higher on this list. Don’t be at all surprised if Brewer turns out to be the best quarterback in the Big 12 in 2013.

5.      Blake Bell – Oklahoma

Fans have gotten to know Bell – he of “Belldozer” fame – over the past two seasons. He is a 6-foot-6, 254-pound behemoth plows defenders on his way to short-yardage first-down conversions and touchdowns. Can he do enough with his arm to earn the QB1 title at Oklahoma? Spring practice wrapped with no starter named. Bell is the presumed favorite, but Trevor Knight remains in hot pursuit. Kendal Thompson also pushed for the position, but might have killed any chance he had to win the starting nod by getting arrested in May. Oklahoma’s offense is going to give whoever wins the starting job a chance to be among the best in the conference. But until Bell – or Knight or Thompson – shows he can throw with the best in the conference, it’s hard to place the Oklahoma QB position too high.

6.      Jake Waters/Daniel Sams – Kansas State

There is no clear leader in this race entering fall camp, though Dave Thoman at Jug of Snyder offered up his take on Sunday. Thoman suspects, as do I, that Waters will ultimately win the starting position – albeit for different reasons. Waters spent last season as the top-ranked JUCO QB according to Rivals. He could have taken any number of opportunities to play and it simply seems like he would have an indication that he would at least get the benefit of the doubt. Sams, on the other hand, has a great deal of athleticism and could seamlessly move into the read-option offense preferred last year by K-State. Waters might not have the same running ability Sams possesses, but he was able to gain ground yards when necessary at Iowa Western Community College. He also threw for 3,501 yards with 39 TDs and 3 INTs. Look for the winner of this QB battle to be among the league’s best.

7.      Bryce Petty – Baylor

It’s starting to become questionable whether Art Briles will ever get enough credit for his offensive prowess. Consider it a high compliment to have a third-year QB with 14 career passes to his name ranked seventh on this list. It’s not as though Petty was a hotly recruited high-school prospect, either. The three-star recruit (according to Rivals) had just three other scholarship offers. Still, Briles massively improved his reputation by losing 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and then posting the nation’s No. 2 passing attack. Nick Florence wasn’t a household name to start the 2012 season. He certainly became known in Big 12 circles by the end of his lone starting campaign. Look for Petty to follow in Florence’s footsteps – and have the added benefit of the respect in the run game necessitated by RB Lache Seastrunk.

8.      Clint Trickett/Paul Millard/Ford Childress – West Virginia

Trickett left Florida State after watching Jameis Winston – who, incidentally, is drawing early comparisons to Robert Griffin III – take a commanding lead in the quarterback race, he decided to look for a place he could start. He ultimately landed in Morgantown with quarterback guru Dana Holgorsen. Trickett joins Millard and Childress, who Holgorsen described as being in a “wide open” race. Don’t, for one second, think Trickett left the warm weather of FSU, where his father is a coach, to don a baseball cap and carry a clipboard. As a backup, Trickett threw for 947 yards, 7 TDs and 4 INTs in limited action. His two career starts came in 2010 when he replaced an injured E.J. Manuel for the Clemson game. Trickett responded by completing 24 of 38 passes for 336 yards, 3 TDs and an INT in a narrow defeat. However, he got benched in his second start after throwing a couple first-half INTs two weeks later in a loss at Wake Forest. While Trickett doesn’t have the experience the two quarterbacks below him possess, he does have Holgorsen calling plays.

9.      Sam Richardson – Iowa State

Richardson got his call as the Iowa State starter late last year, leading the offense over the final three games. He proved both very competent – going 23 of 27 for 250 yards, 4 TDs and a rushing TD in a win at Kansas – and green. Against West Virginia, he threw 3 TD passes and rushed for 119 yards, but completed just 42 percent of his passes. He connected on just 47 percent of his passes in the Liberty Bowl loss to Tulsa. While Richardson showed he has the potential to be good, the question is whether he will get a chance to shine or if coach Paul Rhoads will prefer a ground-and-pound attack. Between Shontrelle Johnson and James White, the Cyclones have a couple quality backs from which to choose. ISU also lost its top three receivers from a season ago. Eight TDs against just one INT certainly is eye-opening and Richardson could live up to that stat line from a year ago. If he does, he certainly will not rank at the bottom of this list by season’s end.

10.  Jake Heaps – Kansas

After apparently lighting up the Kansas starting defense as a scout-team player last year, Heaps has staked his claim for QB1 this spring. He seems a virtual lock to win the job and hopes to live up to expectations thrust on him after a record-breaking freshman season at BYU. Heaps started at BYU in 2010 and opened as QB1 in 2011 until up-and-down play through the first four games led to his benching in favor of Riley Nelson. After the Cougars finished the season 10-3, Heaps realized he faced an uphill battle to ever reclaim the starting job. He happily joined Charlie Weis in Lawrence rather than staying in Provo. Heaps has experience others lack, but might not have the weapons at his disposal. The Jayhawks ranked 119th nationally in passing yards in 2012, ahead of just the service academies, Temple and New Mexico. Of those five programs, only Temple didn’t run the triple option.

Topics: Baylor Bears, Big 12, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, TCU Horned Frogs, Texas Longhorns, Texas Tech Red Raiders, West Virginia Mountaineers

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  • Kyle Kensing

    With the receivers Chelf has, it’ll be tough for him not be right near the top if not No. 1.

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