While record-setting quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck, Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden, Kellen Moore and a few others prepare for April’s NFL draft, the college programs they from which they came have very big shoes to fill. While much will be determined during spring and fall drills, here is a look at who could follow in the footsteps of these campus kings. The player’s listed class is what he will be in the 2012.
Gone: Nick Foles
Next up: Matt Scott | Senior | 6-3, 195
With two quarterbacks having departed the program in December, including Tom Savage, who had transferred to the desert from Rutgers, new coach Rich Rodriguez is left with Scott as the only scholarship quarterback to run his spread-option offense. While the coach will likely have to fill the depth chart in part with a junior college transfer, Scott has some seasoning. He redshirted this past year after throwing for 776 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in 2010, Included was a start for the injured Foles against UCLA and he delivered 390 total yards with 319 coming through the air in a victory. The week before, when he relieved Foles against Washington, Scott threw for 223 yards, 2 TDs and ran for 65 yards.
Gone: Robert Griffin III
Next up: Nick Florence | Senior | 6-1, 205
Florence is no stranger in Waco. While his only appearance last season was in relief (151 yards, 2 TDs) of Griffin after the Heisman winner banged his head on the Cowboys Stadium turf during a win over Texas Tech, Florence started seven games as a freshman in 2009 when RGIII was sidelined with a knee injury. Florence threw for 1,786 yards and 6 touchdowns with 9 interceptions. His 427-yard effort in a win against Missouri was Baylor’s single-game mark until Griffin eclipsed it this season.
Gone: Kellen Moore
Next up: Joe Southwick | Junior | 6-1, 197
Southwick has the edgeheading into the spring. However, coach Chris Petersen has some nice talent to work with as he looks to replace Moore. Dating to last spring, Southwick has had a lot of reps with the first teamers and he was Moore’s primary backup last season throwing for 198 yards in 30 attempts. Sophomore-to be Grant Hedrick was used in the wildcat formation and attempted only three passes while rushing for 70 yards with a TD. Nick Patti is a star recruit out or Orlando that has similar size as Moore, and it is by no means a long shot that he could be the starter at some point in 2012.
Gone: Zach Collaros
Next up: Munchie Legaux | Junior | 6-5, 203
When Collaros went out with an ankle injury against West Virginia in November, it was the dual-threat Legaux that took over and started the next three games. Legaux struggled mightily at times, but also showed his considerable skill set and heads into the spring with the upper hand as Butch Jones’ next QB. Legaux completed only 47.4 percent of his passes for 749 yards and 5/4. He added 185 yards rushing with 2 TDs.
Gone: Case Keenum
Next up: David Piland | Junior | 6-3, 200
Keenum had such a spectacular career that it might be easy to forget what Piland did when Keenum was injured for much of 2010. Granted there were a couple of forgettable performances such as 5 interceptions in a loss to Tulsa, but Piland was a freshman thrown into the fire who threw for 2,641 yards and 24 touchdowns in eight games. After the Tulsa debacle, he rebounded in a huge way by throwing for 467 yards and 4 TDs at Southern Miss. With Keenum back strong in 2011, Piland took a redshirt and has three years of eligibility ahead of him. It’s a nice situation for him and first-year coach Tony Levine, who spent the last four years on former coach Kevin Sumlin’s staff.
Gone: Kirk Cousins
Next Up: Andrew Maxwell | Junior | 6-3, 208
Maxwell had just 51 attempts and 294 yards passing playing behind the Spartans’ all-time passing leader the last two seasons. There is no question among coach Mark Dantonio and the MSU staff that Maxwell is ready to compete to be the No. 1 signal caller. There will be plenty of competition, including highly-regarded recruit Tyler O’Connor. But Maxwell’s experience and familiarity with the schemes provides an edge, at least for the time being.
Gone: Brandon Weeden
Next up: Clint Chelf | Junior | 6-1, 192
Chelf is the only rostered QB to have thrown a pass at the major college level in 2011. At that, he threw only 30 passes in relief of Weeden, with 21 of them coming in a rout of Kansas. He completed 14 of them for 206 yards and 2 TDs for the bulk of his two year-stats. Illinois high school sensation Wes Lunt is an early enrollee who will be available for spring practice. Many feel the 6-5, 205-pound Lunt will ultimately win the job sooner than later. Sophomore J.W. Walsh will also be in the mix.
Gone: Darron Thomas
Next up: Bryan Bennett | Sophomore | 6-2, 193
Thomas’ surprising departure opened the door for Bennett a year sooner than anybody had a right to expect. Ducks fans got a good look at Bennett in October when he took over for a banged up Thomas in the second half against Arizona State and started the following week at Colorado. He went a combined 13-of-25 for 178 yards and 2 touchdowns passing and no turnovers. Bennett also ran for 134 yards on only 11 attempts that included two runs of more than 35 yards. He saw little action after the Colorado game and finished the season with 369 yards and 6 TDs through the air with 200 yards rushing. Bennett has a very strong arm, but needs to work on his accuracy. Marcus Mariota, who was a redshirt freshman this past season, will be Bennett’s primary competition.
Gone: Andrew Luck
Next up: Brett Nottingham | Sophomore | 6-4, 210
Being Luck’s backup was akin to being in a witness protection program. After all, the player with that job description was rarely seen. That’ll change. Nottingham threw only eight passes in 2011, but starting in the spring he will be given every chance to win – or lose – the top job. He redshirted in 2010 following a remarkable high school career in the Bay Area. Coach David Shaw has numbers at the position. Robbie Picazzo will be a senior who could also vie for reps after throwing three passes last season, all in the season opener. Kevin Hogan and Evan Crower redshirted as freshmen this past season and are expected to push Nottingham.
Gone: Ryan Tannehill
Next up: Four will compete
A new coach will have a new starting quarterback in a new conference. Welcome to the SEC, Aggies. It could be rough ride in their maiden season in the best conference in the land. The four candidates that will vie to open the 2012 season under center have a combined five career pass attempts. Each came of those came from the arm of Jameill Showers last season. During fall drills, Showers was tabbed by former coach Mike Sherman to be Tannehill’s backup. He should receive plenty of consideration from new coach Kevin Sumlin, especially since his mobility will be an asset against SEC defenses. Among a trio of other candidates is Johnny Maziel, who redshirted last season after being named the National High School Coaches Association Player of the Year. Matt Joeckel, who will be a redshirt sophomore, and recruit Mike Davis will also compete. Davis is an early enrollee who will participate in spring practice. Ultimately, one will get the job, one will be the backup with starting prospects, one will redshirt (likely Davis) and one will probably transfer.
Gone: Russell Wilson
Next Up: Jon Budmayr/Curt Phillips
Budmayr missed last season with a nerve problem in his right elbow and Phillips is recovering from a torn ACL. The 6-1, 195-pound Budmayr, who is reported to be recovering nicely, will be a junior. Phillips, a 6-3 and 225-pounder, will be a senior next season. Both could be ready for spring drills. While Budmayr’s injury prevented him from taking the field, he was expected to be the starter last season before Wilson transferred to Madison. He was 8-of-10 for 134 yards and a TD in 2010. Phillips has not seen action since 2009 when had nine pass attempts.