Who is the best quarterback in the Big 12 this season?
Debate: Who is the best quarterback in the Big 12?
Athlon editors Braden Gall and Patrick Snow debate who is the best signal-caller in the Big 12. The three candidates:
Landry Jones, Oklahoma: 4,718 yards, 38 TDs, 12 INTs, 65.6%, minus-128 rush yards, 1 TD
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma St: 4,277 yards, 34 TDs, 13 INTs, 66.9%, minus-68 rush yds
Robert Griffin, Baylor: 3,501 yards, 22 TDs, 8 INT, 66.9%, 635 rush yards, 8 TDs
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): This is a difficult choice in such a quarterback-strong league, but I have to go with Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. Obviously his numbers – 4,718 yards and 38 touchdown passes – were impressive last season, but he also showed much improvement in his poise and confidence as a leader. I think he is ready for a 2008-Sam Bradford-like season where he and his talented teammates make it look easy to light up scoreboards at times.
Jones struggled a little during his 2009 freshman year when he was thrown into the Big 12 fire, but he had a great leap in production as a sophomore. His touchdown passes rose from 26 to 38, and his interceptions decreased (14 to 12) despite throwing 168 more passes. Jones still has his favorite target in All-America receiver Ryan Broyles, and sophomore Kenny Stills looks ready for a breakout season on the other side. Add in tight end James Hanna (seven touchdowns a year ago) and a stable of talented runners, and you see how dangerous Jones and the Oklahoma offense can be in 2011.
Even though they lost DeMarco Murray to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, I believe the Sooners can run the ball better overall as a team this season. Bob Stoops’ bunch only had nine rushes of 20+ yards last season, which tied for 103rd in the country. With four offensive line starters returning and a little more balance on offense, Jones could put up even bigger numbers this season.
Both Robert Griffin of Baylor and Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State are great candidates as well. Griffin is a ton of fun to watch on every play, but the Bears faded down the stretch last year. The Bears’ receiver corps is excellent, but I’m not sure how well they’ll run the ball this season. Weeden still has the uber-athletic Justin Blackmon and a solid offensive line, but I see Oklahoma State having a tough adjustment without Dana Holgorsen coordinating the offense.
In the end, I’ll take Landry Jones of Oklahoma to be the best signal-caller in the Big 12 and lead his team to a league title, top-five ranking and a possible national title.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden): First off, all three of these players — Brandon Weeden, Landry Jones and Robert Griffin — are amazing talents who would start at nearly every other program in the nation. There was a knock-down, drag-out fight in the Athlon Sports office as to who should be the preseason first-team All-Big-12 quarterback. And we likely won't know the answer until mid-December.
That said, how I define the term "best" matters in this case. Jones will likely post the best passing statistics and has the best chance at playing for not only a Big 12 title but also a National Championship. Weeden might be the best passer of the football and, in my opinion, might be the best NFL prospect of the group. He is certainly the most stable of the group as he is turning 28 in October and is married. The scratch golfer who was also a former high draft pick in the MLB draft led the conference in QB efficiency (154.1) a year ago as well. He also has the best wideout in the nation at his disposal in Justin Blackmon.
But there may not be a more valuable player in America than Baylor's Robert Griffin III. He also might be the best pure athlete playing quarterback in the nation as well. Baylor had not been to a bowl game since 1994 until Griffin showed up and led Baylor to its first .500 conference record since 1995. He also helped Baylor beat Texas — albeit a down Longhorns team — for the first time since 1997. There is no doubting his importance to his team. Over the last two seasons, the Bears are 9-7 with Griffin as the starter and 2-7 without him.
Additionally, Griffin is not surrounded by elite athletes like the two Oklahoma schools provide — especially on defense. There are no Travis Lewises or Markelle Martins running around in Waco. There is no question he has dramatically less to work with at Baylor, regardless of the great job Art Briles has done on the recruiting trail. All three of these quarterbacks finished in the top six nationally in total offense, so each produced roughly equal yardage totals a year ago. Imagine what "Bob's" numbers would be if he played behind the Pokes offensive line or with the unbelievable skill talent in Norman.
Jones has thrown 26 interceptions in two years as the starter and has argubaly the best roster in America surrounding him. And Weeden has lost offensive genius play-caller Dana Holgorsen. So my vote goes to the fourth-year dynamo running wild in Waco, Robert Griffin III.
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