Blake Bell is one of many Big 12 quarterbacks looking to break out in 2013.
With no clear No. 1 quarterback returning for 2013, the Big 12 has an intriguing blend of potential and uncertainty surrounding the most important position on the field.
Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf ranks as Athlon’s No. 1 quarterback for 2013, but TCU’s Casey Pachall and Oklahoma’s Blake Bell could make a run at the top spot. Pachall missed most of last season due to a suspension, but if he picks up where he left off, the Horned Frogs will have one of the Big 12’s top passing attacks.
Texas Tech’s Michael Brewer, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Kansas State’s Daniel Sams are three players looking to break out in 2013. Brewer should shine under the direction of coach Kliff Kingsbury, while Sams showed potential in limited work last year.
College football’s 2013 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about some of the top players in the nation. With spring practice coming to a close around the nation, Athlon will rank the top quarterbacks in each conference. One important note: This is just a ranking of starters and backups weren’t included for this article.
Ranking the Big 12 Starting Quarterbacks for 2013
1. Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State (SR)
With the departure of Seth Doege, Geno Smith, Landry Jones, Nick Florence and Collin Klein, picking the No. 1 quarterback in the Big 12 for 2013 is no easy task. Chelf gets the early edge over TCU’s Casey Pachall and Oklahoma’s Blake Bell as the No. 1 passer, as the senior has pulled ahead of Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh in Oklahoma State’s quarterback battle this spring. Chelf was a third-stringer until injuries forced Lunt and Walsh out of the lineup. In the final six games of last season, Chelf threw for 1,537 yards and 14 touchdowns and led the Cowboys to a 58-14 bowl victory over Purdue. He also finished the year with 162 rushing yards, including 63 in the 51-48 loss to Oklahoma. New coordinator Mike Yurcich was an excellent hire by coach Mike Gundy, and the Cowboys’ offense should remain among the best in the Big 12. If Chelf picks up where he left off in 2012, he should be the favorite to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors this fall.
2. Casey Pachall, TCU (SR)
Where to begin? The Brownwood, Texas, native was a highly touted dual-threat prospect coming out of high school in 2009. He took over for Andy Dalton in 2011 and showed fans in Fort Worth why he was such a coveted prospect by finishing second in the Mountain West (to Kellen Moore) in passing efficiency and leading the Frogs to a conference championship. Yet, one month into the 2012 season, Pachall was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and had failed a team-administered drug test. Gary Patterson was forced to suspend his signal caller indefinitely. But the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder’s difficult journey back into the starting lineup is nearly complete after successful substance abuse rehabilitation this offseason. He is a special athlete who will easily reclaim his starting job should he remain on the straight and narrow.
3. Blake Bell, Oklahoma (JR)
Not many quarterbacks check in at 6-foot-6 and more than 260 pounds, but that is exactly what the “Bell-dozer” brings to the Oklahoma offense. Certainly, the Wichita (Kan.) Bishop Carroll monstrosity has much to learn about being an effective passer — he has completed just 10 career passes — but he has a strong nose for the goal line. In his short two-year career backing up Landry Jones, Bell has scored more rushing touchdowns (24) than he has pass attempts (20). With an excellent offensive line and loads of typically talented Sooner skill talent, the stage is set for Bell to take Norman, and the nation, by storm in 2013.
4. David Ash, Texas (JR)
Many have pointed to issues under center as Texas’ biggest concern since Colt McCoy left town. Plain and simple, Ash, the former Belton (Texas) High star, wasn’t very good as a freshman in 2011. He ranked last among starters in the Big 12 in passing efficiency (108.00) while throwing for more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (4). Yet, Ash showed signs of growth last season as a sophomore, finishing fifth in the QB-rich Big 12 in passing efficiency (153.28). He threw eight more interceptions but, this time, accounted for 21 total touchdowns and more than 2,800 yards of offense. The critics have been hard on Ash for good reason, but he is just now entering his first season as an upperclassman and he should be able to take another step in his development this fall. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound quarterback has plenty of ability, he just needs to mature into a leader who holds his huddle accountable.
5. Michael Brewer, Texas Tech (SO)
If you are looking for one of college football’s top breakout players for 2013, look no further than Brewer. The sophomore signal caller takes over for Seth Doege, and high expectations surround the Lake Travis native. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris tutored Brewer at Lake Travis High School, so stepping into a spread attack like the one new head coach Kliff Kingsbury is installing won’t be much of an adjustment. Brewer only played in mop-up duty last season, throwing for 375 yards and four touchdowns. With Kingsbury calling the plays, along with a solid group of receivers coming back in 2013, look for Brewer to have a monster year in his first as the starter for Texas Tech.
6. Daniel Sams, Kansas State (SO)
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder isn’t revealing much about the quarterback battle between sophomore Daniel Sams and junior college recruit Jake Waters. However, one thing is pretty clear: The Wildcats have two options that could start in 2013. Sams played sparingly as a backup to Collin Klein last season, throwing for 55 yards on six completions. He also added 235 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, averaging 7.3 yards per rush. Waters was the NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year in 2012, throwing for 3,501 yards and 39 touchdowns. Sams likely has an edge for the starting job, and his dual-threat ability makes him a dangerous weapon for Kansas State to unleash in 2013.
7. Bryce Petty, Baylor (JR)
The junior-to-be from Midlothian (Texas) High hasn’t gotten a lot of in-game experience as his 14 career pass attempts will attest. However, he is extremely familiar with Art Briles' system as he just completed his fourth spring practice with the Bears. Both Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence led the Big 12 in total offense each of the last two seasons, so expectations are high for Petty in his campaign as the starter. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder isn’t the same type of athlete that his predecessors were, but he has a big arm and plays in an offensive system that is as QB-friendly as any in the nation. If he can efficiently distribute the football to a host of elite playmakers, Baylor can go bowling once again in 2013.
8. Ford Childress, West Virginia (FR)
Like many of the teams in the Big 12, West Virginia has a lot of uncertainty surrounding its quarterback situation. Geno Smith departs after a standout senior year, leaving Paul Millard and Ford Childress to battle for the No. 1 spot. Millard has the edge in experience, as he has thrown 34 passes over the last two years. However, the edge in talent is on Childress’ side, as the 6-foot-5 passer was one of the top 150 recruits in the nation in 2012 according to ESPN. The Houston native is the son of former NFL defensive lineman Ray Childress and has all of the physical tools to shine in Dana Holgorsen’s spread attack. There’s a good chance Millard starts 2013 as West Virginia’s No. 1 quarterback. However, Childress is the Mountaineers’ long-term answer and should take over at some point in 2013.
9. Jake Heaps, Kansas (JR)
The Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline product is far removed from his recruiting days when he was touted as the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation (2010). He originally signed with BYU, but after spotty play in two years, Heaps decided he needed a change of scenery and landed in Lawrence with Charlie Weis. There is plenty of ability in his 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame as he played in all 13 games as a true freshman, throwing for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Cougars. But Heaps has to convince the Jayhawks — and Big 12 defenses — that he is capable of completing passes in big-time situations against big-time competition. Improving his career 57.1-percent completion rate will go a long way to ensuring KU is competitive on the field.
10. Sam Richardson, Iowa State (SO)
Three quarterbacks made starts for Iowa State last season, but the offense heads into the offseason with some clarity atop the depth chart. With Steele Jantz finishing his eligibility and Jared Barnett transferring, the No. 1 job clearly belongs to Richardson. He saw action in only four games last year and started the final two contests against West Virginia and Tulsa. Richardson’s best performance came against Kansas, throwing for 250 yards and four touchdowns. Against the Mountaineers, he threw for three touchdowns and rushed for 119 yards. Richardson is an intriguing prospect, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding him in 2013. Putting up numbers against Kansas and West Virginia wasn’t a problem for most quarterbacks last year, and Richardson struggled in the bowl game. With a full offseason to work as the starter, expect the sophomore to turn in a solid performance this fall.
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