Landry Jones, OU
With two weeks of college football already behind us the Horn takes a look at the top quarterbacks in the Big 12.
With two weeks of college football in the books we are starting to get a better picture of the FBS landscape. Big 12 conference play will begin this week when #16 TCU travels to Kansas, so the time has come to start taking a closer look at teams across the conference starting with the quarterbacks.
The Big 12 has some impressive players under center, but which school has the best Field General on offense and can that player help carry them to a conference championship? We’ll begin our romp through the Big 12’s Top 5 QBs right where you probably expected us to.
Landry Jones, Senior, Oklahoma
Landry Jones was expected to be a first round pick in last spring’s NFL draft but he gave the Sooners a pleasant surprise when he decided to return for his senior season. He improved his mechanics in the offseason and should be better than ever in 2012.
Jones’ production dropped off last year in comparison to his 2010 season, which can arguably be attributed to the loss of OU wide receiver Ryan Broyles due to injury during the 2011 campaign.
The Artesia, NM native tallied 4,718 yards, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a completion percentage of 65.6 in 2010. He followed that up with 4,463 yards, 29 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 63.2 completion percentage in 2011. Not a huge dip, but a dip none the less.
So far this season Landry Jones has completed 40-64 passes for 474 yards, four TDs and one INT over two games. Most people, me included, expected those numbers to be much more impressive considering that OU opened the year by playing UTEP and Florida A&M. Don’t read too much into it though. As the season goes on and the Sooners figure things out on offense Landry Jones will show that he can fling the pig skin with the best of them.
Jones is an NFL level talent who can manage the game and lead his team on a march down the field in any given situation. He is the best QB the Big 12 has to offer and could be a Heisman contender.
Geno Smith, Senior, West Virginia
Geno Smith is one of the most dynamic and explosive players in the NCAA. Listed at 6’3”, 214 pounds Smith is smaller than some of the other QBs we’ll be looking at but he can make amazing things happen with the football which normally leads to a big number on the WVU half of the scoreboard.
Smith is an excellent passer who is finding his comfort zone as a dual threat, even though he ran considerably less in 2011 than in 2010. Smith put up 4,385 yards and 31 touchdownslast season while only throwing seven interceptions. His completion percentage for the year was 65.8.
In their first, and thus far only, game of the season on Sept. 1 against Marshall, Smith went 32-36 for 323 yards and four touchdowns in the air. That’s an 88.9 completion percentage, which is insane when you throw the ball nearly 40 times in a game. He added a fifth touchdown in the running game where he racked up 65 yards on just eight carries.
Smith has weapons galore in the receiving and running back corps to help him march down the field and light up the scoreboard this season. If Geno Smith and West Virginia find their groove this season expect a gaudy amount of points and a run at the Big 12 title.
Collin Klein, Senior, Kansas State
Collin Klein is a monster. At 6’5”, 226 pounds he is tied with the #4 player for the biggest QB on this list. The thing that gives Klein the advantage over that player however is his running ability.
In 2011, Klein had 64 more rushing attempts than any other player in the Big 12, and in K-State’s overtime win against Texas A&M he carried the ball 35 times. The Wildcats’ head coach Bill Snyder doesn’t want Klein to have to run that much this year, and thanks to what appears to be a vastly improved passing attack the coach should get his wish.
Overall in 2011 Klein threw for 1,918 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 57.3% of his passes. He rushed 317 times for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns, an FBS record for QBs. That’s right; Collin Klein rushed for more TDs in a season than former Florida Gator golden boy Tim Tebow.
Kansas State has scored over 50 points in both of their games this season, including last week’s impressive 52-13 flogging of the Miami Hurricanes, and Klein has been a big reason why. He has completed 71.8% of his passes while accounting for 379 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. On the ground Klein has carried the ball 35 times for 125 yards and three more TDs.
Collin Klein is a gritty, competitive player who leads his smash mouth team by example. If the passing game in Manhattan, KS really has improved the wildcats will continue to be a force this season.
Casey Pachall, Junior, TCU
When Andy Dalton went to the NFL after the 2010 season there was some concern amongst TCU fans. However, Casey Pachall stepped into the starting QB role in stride and led the Horned Frogs to an 11-2 record including a bowl victory in 2011.
Last season the 6’5”, 226 pound Brownwood, TX native threw for 2,921 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 66.5 completion percentage. Those numbers aren’t as big as some of the guys on this list but his natural leadership abilities were the real factor. He was able to take over the task of leading the offense without missing a beat for TCU.
In their only game so far this season against Grambling State, Pachall was 9-9 with 201 yards and three TDs. While I don’t expect Pachall to maintain his perfect completion percentage I do think he will continue to be a dominant passer and a great leader this season.
TCU has stepped up into the big league of BCS conferences and with Pachall at the helm they should be able to keep doing what they have been doing for the past several years: winning games and competing for conference championships.
David Ash, Sophomore, Texas
You might be thinking that I’m nothing but a giant homer for putting Texas quarterback David Ash on this list, and if I had written this article before the start of the season you would have been right. However after what I’ve seen from Ash in the first two games of the season I believe he fits right in with the top tier of QBs in the Big 12.
Last season during the yearlong quarterback competition with Case McCoy, David Ash completed 56.9% of his passes for 1,079 yards, four TDs and eight INTs. He rushed 73 times for 105 yards and one additional touchdown. His decision making was the thing that got him in trouble the most and at times it looked like he may well have forgotten what color jersey he was wearing. Ash wrapped up the year with an impressive showing in the Holiday Bowl against Cal, however, and had Longhorn fans cautiously optimistic for 2012.
Ash won the starting job and in two games has quietly thrown for 377 yards and three touchdowns while completing 73.5% of his passes.
The biggest improvement in Ash’s game has been exactly where it had to be made: his decision making.
During the first game of the year against Wyoming, the two David Ash plays that impressed the most were the two times he threw the ball away in the red zone. Last season I believe we would have seen Ash try to force those throws and likely get them picked off, but this year a more mature and savvy Ash made the right call and threw them away.
With the seemingly bottomless stable of running backs and the tough defense that Texas is packing this year Ash doesn’t have to be Vince Young or Colt McCoy in order for the Longhorns to be successful. All he has to do is continue to play smart and manage the game while taking some pressure off the run and stretching the field from time to time. If he continues to avoid making mistakes the Longhorns should return to the top of the stack in the Big 12 and Ash’s stock should continue to rise.
All five of these players currently have their teams in the AP top 25 and that is no surprise. To be successful in college football today you have to have a great player under center and these five schools have found the right guy for the job.