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Oct 26, 2012; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo (17) scrambles away from the defense of the Air Force Falcons in the second quarter of the game at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Which Conference Has The Best Quarterbacks?

Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo is entering his third year running the show for the Wolf Pack. In a spin through the Mountain West Conference, he’s become acquainted with his signal calling counterparts.

Fajardo has also had the opportunity to compete alongside quarterbacks from other leagues, and at July’s Mountain West media day in Las Vegas, he said he had a takeaway from those experiences.

“In my biased opinion, I believe this is one of the top quarterback conferences in the nation,” he said.

Fajardo had the opportunity to compare his skill set against such as Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson’ Tajh Boyd, Miami’s Stephen Morris and Alabama’s AJ McCarron.

“I went to the Manning [Passing Academy], and seeing the competition [from] the ACC and the SEC, stacking up my skills to their skills, I thought ‘OK, I can compete with guys,'” Fajardo explained. “And I know the guys in [the Mountain West] Conference can compete with me.”

His appearance there this July marked the second time Fajardo has been a Manning Academy participant. He returned from his 2012 stint to register 2786 yards and 20 touchdowns passing, with another 1121 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.

After finishing second in the Manning camp skills competition, the bar is raised for what Fajardo can accomplish with Nevada this season.

He wasn’t the only Mountain West standout to represent well at the Thibodaux, La. camp Wyoming’s Brett Smith also had a chance to show off his game, as he preps for his third season running the Cowboys offense.

Look around the Mountain West, and there is one outstanding quarterback after another.

Fresno State’s Derek Carr is coming off a 2012 in which he threw for 4104 yards and 37 touchdowns.

The conference also welcomes into two outstanding newcomers in Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton and San Jose State’s David Fales.

Fales and Carr are leading candidates to make the transition from MWC to NFL, continuing a recent tradition of programs currently in the league sending their signal callers to the pros.

Current MWC member Fresno State produced a No. 1 overall pick in 2002, David Carr. Then-member Utah had the top draft choice in 2005, Alex Smith.

Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to February’s Super Bowl, and is one of the young, breakout stars in the league.

Kaepernick’s success brings attention not only to the MWC, but to the success dual-threat quarterbacks can have at the next level. That’s a huge positive for Fajardo, Smith and Keeton, all three of whom excel making plays both with their arms and feet.

“It’s put a spotlight on us for sure…[because] people understand Colin Kaepernick is from the University of Nevada.

“A lot of people are like, ‘so, the Pistol offense can work in the NFL,'” Fajardo added. “It’s only helped me out to enhance my performance and give me a better chance to play in the NFL.”

Is the Mountain West home to the best overall class of quarterbacks in 2013? Take a look at some of the other leagues around the nation and decide.

ACC

Few quarterbacks had a season as impressive as Tajh Boyd‘s in 2012. The Clemson snap taker passed for nearly 3900 yards and scored 36 touchdowns.

Buzz around Stephen Morris is reaching a crescendo, after the Miami senior won the Manning Academy skills competition. He is a potential first rounder in next spring’s NFL draft, and driving force behind excitement in the Hurricane program.

AMERICAN

The first quarterback taken in next spring’s NFL draft could very well be Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. He is a great centerpiece for any conference’s quarterback class. UCF’s Blake Bortles, the man unafraid of Jadeveon Clowney, had a breakout campaign while leading the Knights to 10 wins in 2012.

BIG TEN

January 01, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Taylor Martinez (3) at the line against Georgia Bulldogs during the first half of the Capital One Bowl at The Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports


Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is one of the nation’s top dual-threat play makers and a preseason Heisman frontrunner. Miller might overshadow the rest of the conference, which features some notable names. Michigan’s Devin Gardner exceeded expectations after taking over the offense for the final month, and an off-season improving his game should translate to big things this fall.

Nebraska Cornhuskers four-year starter Taylor Martinez made a tremendous leap from his sophomore to junior year, and could achieve even more should he air it out more in 2013.

BIG 12

There is a lot of turnover at quarterback in the Big 12 this season. Collin Klein, Geno Smith, Landry Jones, Nick Florence and Seth Doege are all gone.

The most proven quarterback in the Big 12 might actually be Casey Pachall, the embattled TCU starter who missed much of 2012 because of off-field issues. He returns in 2013 to lead an unpredictable class. Other noteworthy names include Texas’ David Ash (up-and-down in his two years at UT), Oklahoma’s Blake Bell (first year starter), Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf (in a heated competition) and West Virginia’s Clint Trickett (transfer from Florida State).

Baylor’s Bryce Petty might be the new starter to break out, but right now assessment of the Big 12 is left largely to speculation.

C-USA

Conference USA was home to the nation’s leading passer in 2012, Marshall’s Rakeem Cato. He returns after passing for 4201 yards and 37 touchdowns, with a completion percentage near 70.

Nebraska transfer Cody Green was consistent leading C-USA champion Tulsa, and Rice’s dual-threat Taylor McHargue had a breakout season while leading the Owls to a bowl appearance.

MAC

Jordan Lynch was one of the best quarterbacks in the nation last year, leading Northern Illinois to 12 wins, the MAC championship and the conference’s first ever BCS bid. He was also the second ever recipient of the SaturdayBlitz.com Detmer Ward.

The explosive offenses of the MAC are founded on great quarterback play, and this year’s crop is no exception. Terrance Owens is back to run Toledo’s offense, and gets the show all to himself with Austin Dantin gone. Keith Wenning powered Ball State to its surprising 8-win season, and Tyler Tettleton is a dynamic dual-threat play maker.

PAC-12

A recurring theme at last year’s Pac-12 media day was “Year of the Quarterback.” Similar rhetoric was tempered this season — most because Matt Barkley is gone — but the quarterback class in the Pac might actually be better from top-to-bottom.

Marcus Mariota was amazing in his debut campaign. Had it not been for Johnny Manziel, Mariota’s freshman season would set a gold standard for newbie play callers.

Were it not for Mariota, first year UCLA Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley may have been that guy. A third youngster entering his second season is yet another Pac QB to watch, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan.

But the most intriguing of the Pac-12 quarterbacks is a veteran, Washington Huskies captain Keith Price. He had a disappointing 2012, but was outstanding in 2011. A rebound season from Price could spell a dramatic power shift in the conference.

SEC

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel calls the SEC home, and college football’s most prestigious individual honor could very well remain in the sport’s most recognized conference.

That’s because A.J. McCarron and Aaron Murray are top preseason contenders for the award, both captaining national championship caliber teams.

Other SEC programs welcome back experienced starters capable of breakout years: Ole Miss Rebels snap taker Bo Wallace; Mississippi State veteran Tyler Russell; Florida’s Jeff Driskel; South Carolina’s Connor Shaw. If Missouri’s James Franklin is back to 100 percent health, he could return to his 2011 form, which means some of the most dynamic two-way play of any quarterback in the country.

SUN BELT

Louisiana-Monroe dual-threat quarterback Kolton Browning generated some modest Heisman buzz early in the 2012 season. He went big with 3049 yards passing and 29 touchdowns, and another 488 yards and seven touchdowns via the rush.

Louisiana-Lafayette’s Terrance Broadway showed flashes of brilliance spelling departed Blaine Gautier. Mark Hudspeth’s uptempo offense now belongs exclusive to Broadway, who should put up big numbers in 2013.

Which conference has the best group of quarterbacks in 2013?

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