Preseason series on the best players in America at each position. Obviously, somebody else will have a differing opinion. All ratings are subject to change.
1. Jameis Winston- Florida State. Winston is having a terrible off season and his stock is falling faster than Wall Street in 1929. That’s a bit of a stretch, but his reputation has taken a huge hit. He was fairly average in the Seminoles Spring Game, but that was written off as his being over worked from baseball pitching. He had to travel home just for the Spring Game and the Seminole baseball
team had a game on the road. Of course, Jameis Winston is the Heisman Winner off of the defending national champion Florida State Seminole team. What more needs be said about him other than he needs to get his act together or he may lose a chance at repeating as national champion or Heisman winner. The talent hasn’t left him and he is a natural team leader. He just needs to lead in a different direction right now.
2. Marcus Mariota-Oregon Waiting in the wings for the 3rd year in a row and putting up huge numbers once again is Marcus Mariota from Oregon. Johnny Manziel caught heat for his off field behavior last season and did not repeat as Heisman and if the same happens to Winston, Mariota is right there waiting. Mariota could have declared early for the NFL but decided to return for his 3rd
year as a starter. Unfinished business and look for him to have another huge year. Mariota lost his top receiver and his other top receiver tore up his knee, but there is still plenty of talent and look for Devon Allen and others to step up there. If Oregon gets past Stanford for a change, look for Mariota to push for national honors and the Heisman. Mariota is 6-4, 210 and supposedly has sprinter’s speed. Look forward to tests which show the true speed. He’s definitely fast having rushed for around 1500 yards the last two years combined.
3. Brett Hundley-UCLA. Hundley has kind of been forgotten in the mix, but that is a huge mistake. Hundley threw for over 3000 yards in 2013 and ran for over 700. He is an elite QB and at 6-3,225 look for Hundley to go high in next year’s NFL draft. Right now, I would almost expect Mariota to go first and then Winston and then Hundley. There’s a lot of time between this off season and the next.
Hundley and UCLA had Offensive Line problems a year ago but return everyone from injury and have some new additions that should provide better protection for Hundley. He should have more production out of his Running Backs and his Wide Receivers as well. UCLA, both offensively and defensively, should be a force to be reckoned with and Hundley is their leader. Look for Hundley to challenge Mariota for Pac 12 player of the year.
4. Bryce Petty- Baylor. How good is Petty? Is he a system player or a legit college QB and potential NFL star? Petty put up numbers that are as impressive as anyone else but one area where he
absolutely dominated the other Quarterbacks is lack of Interceptions. He only threw 3 Interceptions all season in 403 attempts. Very impressive stat. Petty is a big guy at 6-3,230, making him possibly popular with NFL scouts next season and he will be a senior in 2014. Baylor’s offense was practically unstoppable last season other than the Oklahoma State game and they won their first Big 12 title ever. Any QB that Art Briles trouts out there will have success under his system, but Petty has the size and arm strength to possibly go a bit further.
5. Nick Marshall- Auburn. Marshall’s story is well known by now, but he came out of nowhere to lead the Auburn Tigers to the SEC Championship and the National Championship game. Marshall was an excellent runner turning out 1,068 yards on the ground. He also put up decent numbers
through the air with 1,976 yards. Even with that success, Marshall was still a bit rough around the edges. Marshall has worked long and hard on his passing and did look better in the Auburn Spring game. He has the rest of the summer to improve and the good news for him and Auburn and the bad news for Auburn haters is that Auburn returns most of their players from last year’s top notch offense, plus has a seriously gifted new Wide Receiver in Duke Williams. If you have not heard of Duke Williams yet you will when the season gets started. He is outstanding. The Tigers lost Tre Mason, but have a bunch of talented RBs returning, plus most of possibly one of the best offensive Lines in the country. Expect Marshall’s rushing numbers to decline somewhat in 2014, but his passing to vastly improve as Nick Marshall and the Tigers have another big season.
6. Braxton Miller- Ohio State. It’s a good year for QB’s when Braxton Miller is the 6th rated guy. Miller will be in his 4th season as the buckeye signal caller. Miller missed a couple of games last season, but he still managed to throw for over 2000 yards and run for over a 1000 yards for the second year in a row. Look for Miller to repeat yet again and lead the Buckeyes to another great season. The Buckeyes will have to get past the Spartans to win the Big 12 Title, but they have the coaching staff and the talent to win the conference. Miller should be in the running for the Heisman Trophy, All American and All Big 10. Offense was not a problem for Ohio State last season. Miller also is borderline NFL size at 6-2,220 and obviously is a tremendous athlete. Biggest problem looming for Miller is the loss of Hyde at RB for the Buckeyes. That might put more pressure on Miller.
7 Sean Mannion- Oregon State. Don’t underestimate Sean Mannion. Mannion had an incredible season in 2013 throwing for 4,662 and 37 TDs. For his career at Oregon State, Mannion already has 10,436 yards and 68 TDs with another season to go. He won’t get the attention that in state rival Mariota will get even though he will probably have more passing yards. Mannion will never be confused with a mobile QB, but he does have that almost ideal size at 6-5,220. He is currently a bit on the thin side for the next level but he has the room to grow. He should be drafted after the first group like Winston, Mariota and Hundley. Optimism is high at Oregon State in 2014 with Sean Mannion returning at QB.
8. Taylor Kelly-Arizona State. Make no mistake about it, I am a Taylor Kelly fan. Kelly threw for 3,635 last season and ran for 608 yards and 37 TDs total. Kelly is a smooth operator and runs his offense to perfection. Arizona State won the Southern Division of the Pac 12 in 2013. Kelly is the classic example of small town boy makes good and at 6-2,200 his NFL options are possibly limited, but he is a really slick college QB. 6 of the top 14 QBs on this list are from the Pac 12 so it will be difficult for Kelly to win many honors. Also, the Pac 12 teams are pretty much improved across the board and it will be a tough schedule and season for the Sun Devils. If anyone can overcome the conflicts it will be Head Coach Todd Graham and his Sun Devils led by Taylor Kelly.
9. Bo Wallace- Ole Miss. Wallace was a JC transfer that turned into a real steal for the Ole Miss Rebels. Bo is another fairly big QB at 6-4,210 that might have a future at the next level. Wallace threw for 3,346 yards against some of the toughest competition in college football. He struggled later on in the season with arm problems, but he should be back and healthy in 2014 and should put up similar numbers or better.
Wallace should have an improved Offensive Line as the Rebels were playing true freshmen up front a season ago, and his team is expected to do really well in 2014. This will be Wallace’s 3rd year to start for Ole Miss.
10. Jeff Driskel- Florida. Make no mistake about it, the Gator’s season went in the tank when Driskel went down last season. Driskel is back and he is a talented guy. At 6-4,235, Driskel has a great arm and is a surprisingly gifted athlete. Playing in one of the most conservative offenses in the nation, Driskel hasn’t put up huge numbers but all of that should change this season. Florida Head Coach Will Muschamp, in desperation to save his own job hired the former Duke Offensive Coordinator, Kurt Roper and should open up their offense which should work in Driskel’s favor. Driskel broke his leg in the 3rd game last season and had only passed for 477 yards at that time.
11. Christian Hackenburg- Penn State. What Hackenburg did as an 18 year old true freshman last season was nearly amazing. He definitely has a bright future at QB. Penn State has been slightly held back by the sanctions imposed on them by the NCAA, but Hackenburg has been a really bright spot for them. Throwing for just a shade under 3000 yards and leading his team to a 7-5 record was an admirable job considering how little depth and talent remained at State College. Hackenburg was rated as the top Pro Style Passer coming out of high school by some recruiting services for the rankings don’t matter crowd and he certainly lived up to the hype.
He won’t get the media attention this season that the other QBs will receive, but look for Hackenburg to have a great season under new Penn State coach James Franklin and be the leading Heisman candidate in 2015 before declaring early for the NFL draft. At about 6-4, 220-230, expect Hackenburg to be a high draft choice after his junior season.
12. Maty Mauk- Missouri. When Missouri senior QB James Franklin went down last season, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk entered the game and played like a seasoned veteran. There was some talk that Mauk was as good as Franklin already, but either way Missouri enters the 2014 with an
experienced sophomore QB that is very talented. Mauk led the Tigers as the starting QB in several games last season and Missouri did not skip a beat. Expectations are high in Columbia in spite of the loss of super talented WR Green-Beckham who couldn’t seem to wait another year to become one of the highest paid Receivers around.
Expect Mauk and the Tigers to have a good season in the SEC East but don’t expect them to win it again. Mauk was Mr Everything coming out of Ohio his senior year, and chose Missouri over many other options. He’s not a big QB at about 6-0, 200, but he can get the job done.
13. Jared Goff- California. Goff had a sensational freshman year if you can call going 1-11 great. The team was awful, but Goff threw for 3,488 yards.
Goff looks the part of the 19 year old freshman type. Listed at 6-4,205, don’t be surprised if the 205 is a bit of a stretch. But, Goff has the height that NFL scouts love which they are calling length these days. Goff is fortunate to play for Sonny Dykes who goes way back to the Hal Mumme system and learned under the best at wide open offenses. Maybe Dykes will be one of the rare ones from the Mumme days that will realize he can’t win it all without defense. Goff threw for 3,488 yards a season ago and has a great cast of receivers coming back. Cal coaches believe they have the best receiving group in the country. Whether their belief system is accurate or not, look for Goff to have a huge year in 2014.
14. Connor Halliday- Washington State. Halliday had a decent season a year ago. He did throw for a ton of yardage at 4,597 yards. But, he also threw 22 Interceptions and threw a bunch of them in the Spring Game. Speaking of Hal Mumme, Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach has been the most successful of all the Mumme disciples over the years.
Halliday has the length, at 6-4, but he is rail thin at around 190 pounds. Like Goff, he has a lot of quality WRs returning and because of that and another year of experience, look for Halliday to have a huge season and even topping the 5,000 yard passing mark.
Others to keep an eye on:
Connor Cook-Michigan State
Trevor Knight- Oklahoma
Jacob Coker- Alabama
Dylan Thompson-South Carolina
Devin Gardner- Michigan
Cody Kessler- USC
Kevin Hogan- Stanford