In a little more than three months the nation’s 123 FBS programs will commence preseason practice in preparation for the 2012 season. While there is a little ways to go, it is not too soon to look at the top quarterback in each conference.
Class indicates what each quarterback will be when the season starts.
Mike Glennon, North Carolina State, SR
For most of 2011 Clemson’s Tajh Boyd was the conference’s headline-making quarterback, something he may very well be again in 2012. However, Glennon surged late in his first year as a starter and he should produce a better overall body of work in his senior year. In a late-season head-to-head matchup with Boyd, Glennon and the Wolfpack buried the Tigers. Granted, that was only one game. But for the 6-foot-6 Glennon it was a season-ending stretch of three games in which he threw for more than 800 yards with 10 touchdowns and only a single pick. He was clearly growing more and more comfortable as Tom O’Brien’s starting QB and he should be all the more comfortable and confident his second time around as the No. 1.
B.J. Daniels, USF, SR
It has been an up-and-down career for Daniels at USF. There are many things to like heading into his senior season, however. There is continuity with the offensive scheme (OC is Todd Fitch), which was not case earlier in his career with the Bulls, and there are a number of key returning players on offense. The Bulls were this close to really clicking last year and, as it was, Daniels threw only 7 INTs in 365 attempts. The feeling here is that continuity and maturation of the offense as a whole could make 2012 a special year for Daniels in an even weaker Big East. (Keep an eye on Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. He’s for real.)
Denard Robinson, Michigan, SR
Perhaps the most exciting player in college football now that Robert Griffin is in the NFL, Robinson has already made his mark on the Michigan and NCAA record books. Among the achievements is an all-time NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,702 in 2010. Thanks to the emergence of tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint, Robinson did not have to take off as much last year. While he still has plenty of work to do in the passing game, being surrounded by more playmakers such as Toussaint can only help his and the Wolverines’ cause as they drive toward a Big Ten title. Robinson, who looked much better in the passing game late last season, will be one of the leading Heisman candidates heading into 2012.
Landry Jones, Oklahoma, SR
This was a tough call with Geno Smith and West Virginia joining the conference for 2012 and Collin Klein starring at Kansas State. Jones did not finish last season on a high note by any stretch. In the final three regular season games after losing top receiver Ryan Broyles to injury, Jones did not throw a touchdown pass and was picked five times. Prior to that stretch he was 28/9. Jones slimmed down this spring, attended a quarterback camp and worked on his mobility. He will continue in the preseason to work with what is still a very talented cast of receivers, one of which should emerge as his new go-to guy. With more than 12,000 passing yards and 93 TDs, Jones certainly has the career numbers. Now, he wants to lead the Sooners back into national title contention.
Garret Gilbert, SMU, JR
Gilbert has not thrown one pass on the Hilltop and isn’t even attending the Dallas school. He is on his way, though. Gilbert is finishing his undergrad work at Texas so he can transfer to SMU and have two years of eligibility remaining starting this fall. His appearance in relief of an injured Colt McCoy in the 2009 BCS title game against Alabama seems ages ago. He was the Longhorns’ starter in 2010 before a shoulder separation contributed to a lost 2011. Gilbert may only have 13 career TD passes against 23 picks, but he should be a very nice fit in June Jones’ offense. He is one of the most experienced QBs in a conference that has very little returning experience.
Tyler Tettleton, Ohio, JR
The Bobcats signal-caller compiled just under 4,000 total yards last season and his average per game was good for 20th nationally. Tettleton also accounted for 39 touchdowns – 11 with his feet – during a season in which he led Frank Solich’s squad to the MAC title game and a bowl. The goal for 2012 is to get over the hump and win the conference and, if so, it will likely be thanks in large part to Tettleton’s productivity.
Brett Smith, Wyoming, SO
The MWC’s freshman of the year for 2011 was 33rd nationally in total offense with an average of 256 yards per game. He also totaled 30 touchdowns, 10 of which came on the ground. Though Smith struggled a bit down the stretch with 6 INTs in the Cowboys’ final three games, he accounted for at least two touchdowns in 10 of 13 games. He should be one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks in 2012. It won’t be easy at the start, though, with a trip to Texas to kickoff the season.
Matt Barkley, USC, SR
From USC’s national title prospects to Barkley’s Heisman chances, the hype machine will be out of control heading into the season. Barkley decided to return for his senior year so that he can tend to some unfinished business. Thanks to NCAA sanctions, the Trojans were prohibited from postseason play a year ago. Playing two fewer games than he otherwise would have, Barkley still threw 39 touchdown passes. His top receivers – Robert Woods and Marqise Lee – and most of the O-line also return to SoCal. Commence hype.
Aaron Murray, Georgia, JR
Murray is mentally tough, has a strong arm and already boasts quite a resume (59 TD passes) after only two seasons. Last year he helped lead Georgia to its first SEC championship game appearance since 2005. Murray will be gunning for more in 2012, but he needs a couple of horses to step in and step up on an offensive line that is in need of some repair. Murray, who needs to cut down on 14 interceptions, does have a strong group of receivers which should allow him to continue to post an overall set of impressive numbers.
Blaine Gautier, La.-Lafayette, SR
Gautier got some nice national exposure in a New Orleans Bowl win over San Diego State last season. He didn’t become the Ragin’ Cajuns starter until mid-season and still compiled more than 3,500 yards of total offense. On top of that, he threw only 6 interceptions in 344 attempts and his pass efficiency rating is sixth-best among the nation’s returning quarterbacks. His talents will be on display in an early-season test at Oklahoma State.
Derek Carr, Fresno State, JR
David’s little brother ranked 33rd nationally in pass efficiency rating last season, two spots ahead of Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and three in front of Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. Last season was his first as a starter and he got stronger as the schedule unraveled, throwing 16 touchdown passes against 4 interceptions in the final seven games. It will be interesting to see how Carr fares in a no-huddle, spread scheme under new coach Tim DeRuyter. The QB also lost playmaker receiver Jalen Saunders to a transfer.