Rob Malara

2014 Pac-12 Preview: Quarterback (Part II)

on

With ASU camp set to begin in less than two weeks, continue our comprehensive preview throughout the Pac-12, ranking the best of the best among the positions as we get closer to kickoff.  We started the top six quarterbacks on Monday and continue today with spots 7-12 in our rankings.

Previously we discussed the crème de la crème of quarterbacks in the Pac-12.  But in 2014, the conference exhibits much more depth than just the top half of players at the position.  According to some experts, this current crop of quarterbacks competing for starting positions runs at least ten deep in terms of NFL quality talent.

When analyzing the bottom half of these rankings one thing is for certain, there is a lot of potential.  The ceiling on four or five of these players is much higher than those ranked in previous years.  Among the those discussed below are two players that are still fighting to be named starters by their coach (Cyler Miles and Jesse Scroggins), two sophmores that took their lumps starting for their teams as freshmen last year, as well as one senior that lead the nation in numerous passing categories and is entering his final year in a pass happy system (Connor Halliday).  With the exception of Halliday and Scroggins, the four other members on this list represent the future of the Pac-12 and will look to take the torch from the likes of Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly, and Sean Mannion when they move on (inevitably in the case of Mariota and Hundley) after 2014 season.

7. Cyler Miles, Washington (Sophomore)

2013 Passing Stats: 37/61, 65.4% COMP, 418 YDs, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, ESPN ADJ QBR-58.6

Career starts: 1

Miles and Scroggins represent the final two spots open for competition after spring camp concluded among Pac-12 teams.  And one could argue that the only reason Washington head coach Chris Peterson still needs to think more about who his starter will be in 2014 is due to the fact he had to suspend Miles for all of spring camp due to legal issues off the field.  The decision was made even harder this week as the program finally levied Miles a one game suspension, for the home opener against Hawaii on August 30.

The good news for the re-instated back in Miles is that he is the only quarterback on the Huskies roster to have thrown a pass in college.  The bad news is that stand-out wideout Damore’ea Stringfellow was not reinstated by Peterson and has transferred while tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be playing his football in the NFL this fall.  He also will not have the services of one of the best running backs in the Pac-12 last season, Bishop Sankey, who followed Seferian-Jenkins to the NFL.  He will have the opportunity to throw to “Legion of Zoom” members Kasen Williams (5th all-time in Huskies career receptions and the next Washington skill player to move on to the NFL) and Jayden Mickens when he returns from suspension.

In terms of athletic ability, Miles is second only to Mariota and Hundley.  He’s one of those rare athletes that can run well, jump high, and throw a football a long way.  And it doesn’t hurt his potential impact on opposing defenses this fall that he will be playing behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.  And among the eight games he appeared in as a freshman,  he passed for 418 yards with four touchdown passes against cross-state rival Oregon State in his lone start.

Before his legal situation, he was considered a no-brainer to replace Keith Price as the leader of the Huskies offense.  With none of the Huskies other quarterbacks seizing the opportunity to make a good impression on Peterson in spring practice, it still seems as if this job is Miles to lose.

 

8. Connor Halliday, Washington State (Senior)

2013 Passing Stats: 449/714, 62.9% COMP, 4597 YDs, 34 TDs, 22 INTs, ESPN ADJ QBR-61.9

Career starts: 19

No Sun Devil fan will ever forget the game Halliday put in as a redshirt freshman back one snowy night in 2011 against a Dennis Erickson lead Sun Devil team.  After setting a conference record for passing yards in one game by a freshman (494) and leading his team to a rare victory in Pullman, he put himself on the map as a impact player at the position for Washington State.

Fast forward to his junior season where against the Ducks he broke the NCAA record for pass attempts in a game with 89 en route to setting the single season Pac-12 record for both completions and attempts.  Each of these stats might say more about Mike Leach’s lack of a running game than any specific accomplishment made by Halliday until you begin to appreciate the beating he took throughout the year.  Outside of slip screens to his receivers and dump screens to his running backs, Halliday really had no way to prevent opposing defenses from defending the pass on every play.  As a whole, the Cougars ran the ball an average of 18.7 times a game, throwing the ball on twice as many downs.

Cougar fans saw on more than one occasion Halliday being helped off the field after take the brunt of an opposing pass rush, and those scenes will continue to take place as long as this team fails to improve the talent along its offensive line as well as its skill level and the running back position.

As a quarterback, Halliday seemed to improve through the offenses growing pains throwing just four of his league high 22 interceptions in the final four games of the season.

With the way the talent is developing at the receiver position teamed with Hallidays increasing passer efficiency, his final year certainly has the potential of being his best yet, and should result in another season of records being broken.

 

9. Travis Wilson, Utah (Junior)

2013 Passing Stats: 133/237, 56.1% COMP, 1827 YDs, 16 TDs, 16 INTs, ESPN ADJ QBR-65.1

Career starts: 16

The good news is that Wilson has been medically cleared to get back on the football field after dealing with a potentially life threatening intracranial head injury suffered against ASU during a 20-19 loss back in November.  The bad news is that Wilson returns to an offense that has gone through offensive coordinators like they were going out of style after producing less than five yards a play during conference play in two of the three years since joining the Pac-12.

In steps offensive coordinator Dave Christensen (of former Missouri glory), who claims much like his predecessors, the desire to speed up the offense with the 6-foot-7, 240 pound Wilson at the helm.  In order to do so he’ll have to continue the development started by former offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson in getting the ball down field more for explosive plays.  He’ll also need to take the success on third down conversions he exhibited during his Missouri days to improve upon the Utes lowly rate of 34% last season.  And finally he’ll have to find some semblance of a respectable run game that averaged less than three yards a carry last season.

While Wilson lost some weapons at the tight end position, he will continue to have senior receiver Dres Anderson (83.5 yards per game in 2013, with 53 receptions for 1,002 yards) to throw to not to mention a better looking offensive line going for a fresh start with new position coach Jim Harding.

He was integral in Utah’s upset of Stanford last year and his play will once again be the main ingredient in the team’s chances of getting back into a bowl.

 

10. Jared Goff, California (Sophomore)

2013 Passing Stats: 320/531, 60.3% COMP, 3508 YDs, 18 TDs, 10 INTs, ESPN ADJ QBR-55.5

Career starts: 12

Goff’s ability to step into Tony Franklin’s Bear Raid system as a true freshman and take the on the full force of opposing defenses each and every week of the Bears twelve game schedule was admirable.  It seemed at times like Cal was playing at FCS quality, and the results showed as they never beat an FBS team all season.

He showed consistency on short to intermediate throws in the offense but struggled mightily to make splash plays down field.  And with a weak presence running the football, opposing defenses learned early on that they could play up and tight on the Bears and find success early and often.

The former four star recruit according to Rivals needs to work on his footwork, recognition of coverages in play, and ability to evade the rush.  He has the talent and the system to succeed, but it seemed to much to ask at times for a young player to succeed on a roster that was in desperate need of healthy bodies (the Bears suffered a ridiculous amount of injuries) of re-structuring to fit the new scheme instituted on both sides of the football by head coach Sonny Dykes.

 

11. Sefo Liufau, Colorado (Sophomore)

2013 Passing Stats: 149/251, 59.4% COMP, 1779 YDs, 12 TDs, 8 INTs, ESPN ADJ QBR-59.1

Career starts: 7

Let’s just get the obvious out of the way: throughout the Buffaloes three seasons in the Pac-12, they have had five different starting quarterbacks, and most have them have been mediocre at best.  But with Liufau things seemed a bit different.  Both his presence and consistency as a freshman, gives the Buffs hope that he has the ability to start in Boulder for the next three seasons and buck the trend.

Hope comes due to the fact that the 6-foot-4, 225-pounds Liufau became the first quarterback since 2011 to throw more touchdowns than interceptions in a season.

His ability to get out of the pocket and make something out of nothing will continue to help a young offense devoid of top-end talent now that Paul Richardson has moved on to the pros.  At the same time, he doesn’t rush his progressions, sits in the pocket as long as possible to make plays down field.  If Colorado can develop just league average talent at the receiver position this year, this attribute explained above could really help to make the group look better.

 

12. Jesse Scroggins, Arizona (Senior)

2013 Passing Stats: N/A

Career starts: 0

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez has gone to the well twice already with senior quarterbacks during his first two seasons in Tucson and might just do it again in 2014 with Scroggins.  Once a highly recruited quarterback (6th best in the 2010 class according to Scout.com) originally signing with the Trojans, he later moved on to the junior college ranks before joining the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Scroggins struggled to grasp the fast paced spread offense of Arizona in 2013 ultimately losing out to B.J. Denker late in fall camp in 2013.  He’s a quarterback that prefers to stay in the pocket and show off his top-flight arm strength over the more mobile quarterbacks we’ve seen during Rodriguez’s first two years with the program.  His arm and mechanics matches the potential of the Wildcats receiving group, predicted by many to be the best group top-to-bottom in the Pac-12.

About Rob Malara

Rob Malara

Rob Malara is a 2002 Sun Devil grad having spent the majority of his time in Tempe as a football, basketball, and baseball season ticket holder and front row inhabitant. A member of the Football Writers Association of America, he hosted the ASU Devils podcast and was its sub-optimal technical producer through its lifespan. Currently the president of the ASU Alumni Association's Northern Colorado Club, he is part of a family of maroon and gold residing in Fort Collins with his Sun Devil wife and nearby Sun Devil sister.

Recommended for you

You must be logged in to post a comment Login