With all of the teams coming and going in the Big East, the conference is clearly one in transition for 2013.
Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is clearly the No. 1 quarterback in the Big East for 2013 and should be one of college football’s top 10 Heisman contenders. After Bridgewater, there’s a drop-off to the No. 2 option.
UCF’s Blake Bortles and Cincinnati’s Brendon Kay are solid No. 2 and No. 3 options, respectively. And Rutgers’ Gary Nova looks to get back on track after a rough finish to 2012.
The rest of the conference is filled with uncertainty under center, as SMU’s Garrett Gilbert, UConn’s Chandler Whitmer, Memphis’ Jacob Karam, and Houston’s David Piland still have plenty to prove. South Florida’s Bobby Eveld and Temple’s Connor Reilly enter their first year as the full-time starter for their team.
Ranking the Big East's Starting Quarterbacks for 2013
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (JR)
After throwing for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2012, Bridgewater has his sights set high for 2013. Louisville should be a top-10 team this season, and the Florida native is one of the top Heisman contenders. Despite injuries to his arm and ankle, Bridgewater came off of the bench against Rutgers to throw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, which clinched the Big East title for Louisville. In the Sugar Bowl victory over Florida, he threw for 266 yards and one touchdown. With one of the nation’s top receiving corps coming back for the Cardinals, Bridgewater could record 4,000 passing yards in 2013.
2. Blake Bortles, UCF (JR)
In his first full season as UCF’s quarterback, Bortles earned All-Conference USA second-team honors and won MVP honors in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. He threw for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns last year, while rushing for 285 yards and eight scores. Bortles tossed only three picks in 2012 and completed 62.9 percent of his throws. Coming off of a strong sophomore campaign, Bortles can only get better in 2013. With a solid supporting cast around him, the junior could contend for American Athletic all-conference honors this fall.
3. Brendon Kay, Cincinnati (SR)
Before the 2012 season, the two-star recruit from Marine City (Mich.) High had attempted eight career passes. But two-thirds of the way through last season, the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder got the call to lead the 'Cats offense and he didn’t disappoint. He started the last five games of the season, winning four of them, including the Belk Bowl win over Duke. He finished the season with 1,298 yards passing, 10 touchdowns, just two interceptions, a sneaky good 306 yards rushing and two more scores on the ground. Switching head coaches from Butch Jones to Tommy Tuberville likely won’t help his dual-threat statistics, but Kay is still plenty capable of efficiently running the new pro-style system to put Cincinnati in Big East — or AAC — contention. Another factor potentially in Kay's favor: Tuberville showed the ability to adapt to his roster by allowing Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege to air it out last season.
4. Gary Nova, Rutgers (JR)
The heady pro-style passer from famed Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., showed strong growth in 2012 in his first full season as the starter. After getting some starting experience under his belt in 2011, Nova threw for 2,651 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading Rutgers to a Big East co-championship last season. He also lit up an SEC team on the road when he threw for 397 yards and five scores in a win over Arkansas. However, Nova also struggled at times, tossing six interceptions against Kent State and losing the final two starts of the regular season — costing the Knights a BCS bowl berth. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound signal caller should take the next step in his development process in his second season under center in Piscataway.
5. Garrett Gilbert, SMU (SR)
The Austin (Texas) Lake Travis product was the No. 3-rated quarterback prospect and No. 9-rated overall recruit in the 2009 class for the Texas Longhorns. And he showed flashes of elite upside when he filled in as a true freshman for Colt McCoy in the BCS National Championship game. However, his career never materialized for the Burnt Orange and he eventually transferred to SMU. Playing right away after graduating in Austin, Gilbert was solid on the Hilltop in his first year. He threw for 2,932 yards, rushed for 346 yards and accounted for 23 touchdowns. He led the Mustangs to a winning record and a bowl game and should be in for bigger things under QB guru June Jones in 2013.
6. Chandler Whitmer, UConn (JR)
The redshirt senior-to-be came to Storrs from Downers Grove (Ill.) South via Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. He eventually signed with UConn in 2012 and won the starting job a year ago. He got out of the gate extremely slowly — try no touchdowns and five interceptions in his first three games — but showed positive signs down the stretch by leading his team to wins over Pitt and Louisville in November. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder isn’t overly talented and won’t have the same staunch defense at his disposal in 2013 so he will have to take on a bigger and more efficient role if the Huskies expect to return to the postseason.
7. David Piland, Houston (JR)
The Cougars quarterback from famed Southlake (Texas) Carroll has dealt with loads of turnover in his Houston career. After working with three different offensive coordinators in three years, Piland enters 2013 with some stability around him. The coaching staff is the same and the offense returns entirely intact (10 starters), so the 6-foot-3, 196-pounder should be able to improve on his 2012 stat line of 2,929 yards, 16 TD, 12 INT, a completion percentage of 57.1, along with 190 rush yards a 2 TD. The key for Piland in 2013, according to head coach Tony Levine, will be playing with more consistency.
8. Jacob Karam, Memphis (SR)
Karam was a key pickup for Memphis last season, as he was immediately eligible following a transfer from Texas Tech. In his first year as a starter on the college level, Karam threw for 1,895 yards and 14 touchdowns. He tossed just three picks and rushed for 221 yards and one score. Karam threw for more than 275 yards just once, but he didn’t make many mistakes and was an upgrade for Memphis’ passing attack. The senior faced competition from redshirt freshman Paxton Lynch and junior Eric Mathews in the spring, but managed to hold on to the job. If Karam can take the next step in his development this offseason, Memphis could make a run at six wins in 2013.
9. Bobby Eveld, South Florida (SR)
South Florida’s starting quarterback spot is up for grabs this offseason. Eveld and sophomore Matt Floyd were neck-and-neck in the spring, with Eveld finishing with a slight edge. The senior has played in 13 games in his career and has thrown for 837 yards and three touchdowns. However, Eveld has thrown seven picks and has completed just 54.7 percent of his throws. The Tampa native isn’t going to wow anyone with his physical ability, but he is a good fit under new coach Willie Taggart’s offense.
10. Connor Reilly, Temple (JR)
The Owls struggled to find the right mix at quarterback last season, as Chris Coyer and Juice Granger both received significant playing time. Reilly has yet to attempt a pass in his first two seasons on campus but enters the summer as Temple’s No. 1 quarterback. The 6-foot-3 passer is a good fit in new coach Matt Rhule’s offense but his lack of experience is concerning for a team that also lacks proven weapons at running back and receiver.
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