With spring practice in the books and preseason camp still weeks away, we’re really in the doldrums of the college football offseason.
But it’s never too early to look ahead to next season, don’t you think? Quarterback is the most important position on the field, so let’s see how things are stacking up at the position across the country.
We’ll continue with the quarterback situations for each Pac-12 team.
12. Oregon State – Jake Luton, Conor Blount
After transferring in from the junior college level, Jake Luton quickly grabbed hold of the starting job at Oregon State for Gary Andersen last August. He started the Beavers’ first four games before suffering a scary spinal injury against Washington State. Before the injury, which sidelined him for the rest of the season, the 6-foot-7 Luton threw for 853 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. Now healthy, Luton enters preseason camp, OSU’s first with Jonathan Smith as head coach, in a competition with Conor Blount and Jack Colletto. Blount played in four games in 2016 as a true freshman, but redshirted last fall. Colletto transferred in this spring from Arizona Western, a junior college.
11. Washington State – Trey Tinsley, Anthony Gordon, Gardner Minshew
The tragic death of Tyler Hilinski left Washington State with uncertainty at quarterback entering 2018, but the team has no shortage of options. Coming out of spring, Mike Leach said redshirt juniors Trey Tinsley, a former walk-on, and Anthony Gordon were leading the pack, Neither have played QB (Tinsley was the holder last year) in a regular season game, but both looked pretty good in the spring game. Tinsley was 19-of-24 for 213 yards and three scores while Gordon, starting on the other side, was 15-of-21 for 174 yards and one score. A third option, East Carolina grad transfer Gardner Minshew, has entered the equation. In 17 career games at ECU, Minshew threw for 3,487 yards and 24 touchdowns. He previously announced a commitment to Alabama, but knew WSU gave him a better chance to start.
10. UCLA – Devon Modster, Wilton Speight, Dorian Thompson-Robinson
With Josh Rosen sidelined for a few games last year, Devon Modster got his first significant college action. Overall for the season, two starts included, he completed 51-of-79 passes for 671 yards and four touchdowns, including 295 yards and two scores in the Cactus Bowl loss to Kansas State. But with Chip Kelly in the fold as head coach, he has a competition ahead. For one, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a top 50 recruit out of Las Vegas, enrolled early and seems to be an excellent fit for Kelly’s fast-paced offense. Additionally, Wilton Speight, a 16-game starter at Michigan, will arrive this summer as a graduate transfer. While not as mobile as Modster or Thompson-Robinson, the 6-foot-6 Speight has an obvious leg up in experience. Kelly had some success with immobile QBs like Sam Bradford and Nick Foles in the NFL. Speight, once he suitably learns the offense, could be a nice stopgap for the Bruins.
9. USC – Matt Fink, Jack Sears, J.T. Daniels
The race to succeed Sam Darnold is wide open. Spring practice pitted Fink, a redshirt sophomore, and Sears, a redshirt freshman, against one another. While reports on their progress have been mixed, most USC fans are anxiously awaiting the arrival of J.T. Daniels, one of the nation’s top recruits. In its class of 2018 rankings, Rivals.com ranks Daniels at No. 4 overall and as one of three five-star quarterbacks. Though he won’t enroll until June, most expect to Daniels, who already makes frequent trips to campus to break down tape with coaches, to grab hold of the job. If he doesn’t, perhaps Fink, Darnold’s backup in 2017, will get the nod.
8. Colorado – Steven Montez
With Sefo Liufau often injured, Steven Montez got plenty of playing time during Colorado’s march to the Pac-12 South title in 2016. The Buffs took a few steps back in 2017, going 5-7, but Montez had a pretty solid season on the whole. He threw for 2,975 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 338 yards and three scores, but was pretty inconsistent, especially as Pac-12 play progressed. Colorado needs Montez to progress (and cut down on turnovers) as a junior to get back into contention, but he’ll be forced to do that with a bunch of unproven faces at receiver and running back.
7. Cal – Ross Bowers, Brandon McIlwain
With Sam Darnold, Luke Falk and Josh Rosen all in the NFL, Ross Bowers is the Pac-12’s leading returning passer. That stat surprised us, too. Bowers threw for 3,039 yards in his first year as Cal’s starter, but does not have the job locked up entering 2018. Bowers, who tossed 18 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions while completing 59 percent of his passes, will have his hands full with Brandon McIlwain. McIlwain was a coveted four-star recruit out of the Philadelphia area who began his career at South Carolina. He started three games as a true freshman, but transferred after falling behind Jake Bentley on the depth chart. He redshirted after landing at Cal and has a good shot at bumping Bowers from the starting spot.
6. Stanford – K.J. Costello
It took a while, but K.J. Costello was finally given the reins to the Stanford offense last year by head coach David Shaw. He shared duties (or sometimes didn’t play at all) with Keller Chryst (now at Tennessee) for much of the year before becoming the starter and leading the Cardinal to the Pac-12 North title with wins over Washington, Cal and Notre Dame down the stretch. But Costello was up-and-down in the Pac-12 title game loss to USC and the Alamo Bowl, a game where Stanford blew an 18-point lead in a 39-37 loss. Costello also sat out the spring with a hip injury. With only freshmen and a walk-on behind him on the depth chart, Stanford is counting on Costello.
5. Utah – Tyler Huntley
As a sophomore starter in 2017, Tyler Huntley showed he has the talent to be one of the Pac-12’s better quarterbacks. But the inconsistency that plagues most young players hit Huntley. He also turned the ball over too many times, tossing 10 interceptions and fumbling six times (four lost). Still, his numbers were pretty good: 2,246 yards and 15 touchdowns on 65.4 percent throwing with 480 yards and four scores rushing in 10 games. If Huntley can cut down on the turnovers and take the necessary strides in his game, Utah could win its first Pac-12 South title. But Huntley has to stay healthy. Two freshmen — Jason Shelley (RS) and Jack Tuttle — are his backups.
4. Arizona State – Manny Wilkins
Manny Wilkins is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country. Wilkins is big, athletic and plenty experienced heading into his senior season. As a junior, Wilkins threw for 3,270 yards and 20 touchdowns while completing 63.4 percent of his passes. He can run, too, and finished the year with 282 yards and seven scores with his legs. But his legs can get him into trouble. He took way too many sacks. That’s something Herm Edwards will have to reel in — but not too much. The Sun Devils have one of the better receiving groups in the Pac-12. With Wilkins, there is always the potential to extend a play for a big gain.
3. Oregon – Justin Herbert
Justin Herbert looked like he was on his way to a breakout year until he broke his collarbone against Cal in late September. The Ducks struggled mightily without Herbert, but he eventually returned to the field in November and got his team to a bowl game. In the eight games he played, Herbert put up 1,983 yards and 15 touchdowns with a 67.5 completion percentage. He also rushed for five touchdowns. The Ducks have gone to the graduate transfer market for reinforcements at multiple positions and have the looks of a much-improved team in 2018 provided Herbert stays healthy.
2. Arizona – Khalil Tate
Khalil Tate came out of nowhere to emerge as one of college football’s breakout stars last year. When starter Brandon Dawkins was injured Week 5 against Colorado, Tate came off the bench and set an FBS record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback: 327. Tate put up massive rushing numbers — 1,353 yards and 12 TDs — and respectable passing numbers — 1,591 yards, 14 TDs, 9 INT — as the year progressed. Accuracy was an issue throughout the year, but Tate went a combined 28-of-39 for 434 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception in the Wildcats’ last two games. Arizona fans are hoping those numbers are a sign of what’s to come, especially with Kevin Sumlin now in place as head coach.
1. Washington – Jake Browning
Jake Browning enters his senior season with 38 starts under his belt. Most of them have been really good. Though last year he didn’t come anywhere near his eye popping 2016 output (3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns), Browning was extremely efficient. He finished the year with 2,544 yards, 18 touchdowns and only five interceptions while completing 68.8 percent of his passes. He also rushed for six touchdowns. The depth behind Browning, for 2018 anyway, is a bit shaky. With Georgia transfer Jacob Eason ineligible until next year and K.J. Carta-Samuels now at Colorado State, three freshmen — Jake Haener (RS), Colson Yankoff and Jacob Sirmon — will duke it out for the backup role.
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