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Athlon is releasing its own set of preseason watch lists. Today, we analyze the top two-way QBs.
Dual-Threat feels like a relatively modern term used to define college quarterbacks. Certainly, the proliferation of zone read options and Mike Leach spreads has created greater dychotomy within the offensive playbook than ever before.
This trend of electric athletes who really aren't quarterbacks in the truest NFL sense of the word excelling in college is nothing new. Charlie Ward and Tommie Frazier made the quarterback position incredibly dynamic 20 years ago. And the triple option, wing-T offense has been churning across the college landscape for nearly a century.
However, when Michael Vick burst onto the scene with a rocket right arm packaged with an initial burst that would make Usain Bolt jealous, the game changed forever. The ability to be an efficient, consistent, down the field passer as well as an explosive running back has stretched the defense both vertically and horizontally. Since Vick, names like Vince Young and Tim Tebow have led teams to championships based on the ability to throw and run with equal effectiveness.
So who are the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation for 2012:
1. Denard Robinson, Michigan (SR)
Certainly, Shoelace has some holes in his throwing game — and has missed some key snaps in key games. Yet, there is no better pass-run combination in the game today than Mr. Robinson. And as he proved at Big Ten Media Days, he is a true leader and role model for us all. The numbers very plainly speak for themselves: 4,931 yards passing, 3,229 yards rushing and 75 total touchdowns. He is the only player in history to be a part of the 2,500/1,500-yard club and returned Michigan to a BCS bowl last year. If he can stay healthy in 2012, he should be in New York come December.
2. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (JR)
From an NFL perspective, there is no better dual-threat talent in the nation than Thomas. At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, few defensive ends are as big as Thomas, much less guys under center. He may be the most powerful QB sneak-er in history (did you see the Georgia Tech game last year?). In his first season as a starter, he set a Virginia Tech single-season total yards record with his 3,482 yards of offense. This at a school with an incredible track record with dual-threats — Michael Vick, Marcus Vick, Bryan Randall, Tyrod Taylor. With question marks at offensive line and running back, Thomas will be called upon to carry even more of the offensive load in 2012.
3. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (SO)
Urban Meyer isn't mixing words about his sophomore signal caller. He referred to Miller as the best athlete he has ever coached at quarterback, and this, obviously, includes names like Tim Tebow and Alex Smith. The game slowed down for Miller in the second half of 2011 and he nearly pulled-off a huge upset of Michigan in the Big House. As a true freshman, he threw only four interceptions (1,159 yards, 13 TD) and led the Buckeyes in rushing (715 yards, 7 TD). He has an electric first step and down the field potential that will remind people of Robert Griffin III.
4. Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State (SR)
Gus Malzahn couldn't not have asked for a better quarterback to be ready and waiting when he arrived in Jonesboro. And Aplin couldn't have asked for a better scheme for his dual skillset. En route to a Sun Belt championship, Aplin threw for 3,588 yards and 19 scores while leading his team in rushing (588 yards, 10 TD). Now, the power speed spread will only futher enhance Aplin's ability to punish defenses both on the ground and through the air.
5. Collin Klein, Kansas State (SR)
Klein clearly lacks the true pocket passing ability to be any higher on this list. That said, he might be the best running back on this list. His gritty, toughness and hard-nosed style is a pleasure to watch each Saturday. And it led to an NCAA record-tying 27 rushing touchdowns (by a quarterback) and Cotton Bowl berth last season. He completed only 57.3% of his passes for 1,918 yards, 13 TD and six INTs. Should he improve his ability to stretch the field with his arm, he could end up as the nation's top dual-threat QB.
6. James Franklin, Missouri (JR)
In his first season under center, Franklin didn't disappoint. From a yardage standpoint, few players posted bigger numbers than his 2,865 yards passing and 981 yards rushing. He scored 15 times on the ground and 21 times through the air. The key, as Mizzou transitions into the SEC, will be his health. His throwing shoulder was badly injured in the spring, and while he is healthy now, will be facing some of the top defensive fronts in the nation this fall.
7. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (JR)
Martinez needed to show mental toughness and maturity last season and it appears that he has finally mastered the huddle. The final step in his development will be the ability to complete passes accurately and consistently down the field in key situations. Otherwise, the raw talent is obvious. His first 10 yards go by as quickly as any runner in the nation as his 874 yards and 9 TD indicate. He managed 2,089 yards through the air, and with what could be the best receiving corps in the Big Ten, Martinez needs to show improvement in efficiency — i.e., a 13:8 TD:INT ratio and 56.3% passing clip. The upside is painfully obvious for Huskers fans.
8. Tyler Tettleton, Ohio (JR)
Fantasy players know all about the Bobcats quarterback, but the rest of the nation is only just now catching on. As only a sophomore, Tettleton threw 3,306 yards and 28 scores against only 10 interceptions while adding 10 more scores on the ground and 666 yards rushing. On a team that could be the MAC frontrunner in 2012, Tettleton is the star.
9. Kain Colter, Northwestern (JR)
Few players have ever had the statistical season that Colter produced last fall. No one number stands out, but his diversity and versatitlity were extremely rare. He led the Wildcats in rushing with 654 yards and nine touchdowns, finished with 43 receptions for 466 yards and three more scores as a receiver and completed over 67% of his passes for 673 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception. In an offense known for overachieving signal callers, Colter has a chance to be the most talented and productive of the bunch.
10. Brett Smith, Wyoming (SO)
Dave Christensen has been known for his work with quarterbacks both at Missouri and Wyoming. And Smith could be his best pupil yet. As only a freshman, Smith lit-up boxscores to the tune of 2,622 yards passing and 710 yards rushing. He added 30 total touchdowns (20 pass, 10 rush) as he led the Cowboys to an eight-win season and bowl bid. He works hard and should only be that much better in his second season.
The Best of the Rest:
11. Cody Fajardo, Nevada (SO)
The WAC Freshman of the Year posted 694 yards rushing and 1,707 passing and 17 total TDs.
12. Bryan Bennett/Marcus Mariota, Oregon (SO/FR)
Mariota has drawn Dennis Dixon comparisons and Bennett averaged over 10 yards per carry with six passing TDs and no INTs in spot duty last year. Both have electric dual-threat skills in a system perfectly suited for both.
13. B.J. Daniels, USF (SR)
Four years of starting should produce best season yet. 2011 featured 2,604/601 yardage splits.
14. Matt Scott, Arizona (SR)
Rich Rodriguez' zone-read scheme is a perfect fit for 6-3, 200-pounder.
15. Connor Shaw, South Carolina (JR)
Posted 1,448/525 yardage split to go with 22 TDs — and that was with Stephen Garcia hanging around.
16. Blaine Gautier, UL Lafayette (SR)
Awesome 2,958-23-6 passing line to go with 486 yards and three more scores on the ground.
17. Alex Gillett, Eastern Michigan (SR)
Led the improved Eagles in rushing (736) while adding 1,504 yards and 14 TDs through the air.
18. Riley Nelson, BYU (SR)
Threw 19 TDs and got 88 rushing attempts in first year as the starter. Forced Jake Heaps to Kansas.
19. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois (JR)
Takes over for Chandler Harnish in elite dual-threat scheme. Rushed for 246-3 in back-up duty last fall.
20. MarQueis Gray, Minnesota (SR)
Elite athlete (966 yards rushing last year) who is finally starting to develop as a passer.
Others to consider:
21. Nathan Scheehaase, Illinois (JR)
22. C.J. Brown, Maryland (JR)
23. Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech (SR)
24. Tre Roberson, Indiana (SO)
25. Kolton Browning, UL Monroe (JR)
- by Braden Gall