by Ryan Isley
Sometimes, the best discussions lead to research and then discovery. This happened just a couple of weeks ago on Twitter when I tweeted about how good the sophomore class of quarterbacks in college football had played this season. I got a response from Nicholas Prokop that Heisman Trophy finalist Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M could also be in that discussion, as he was a redshirt freshman and was in that same high school class.
This led to me looking up the high school class of 2011 quarterbacks on Scout.com and looking at their rankings and the class as a whole. It was even better than I could have imagined.
Of the quarterbacks who were in the class of 2011, five of them will be starting for teams who are in BCS bowls, including one who will be starting for a team in the National Championship Game (Everett Golson – Notre Dame).
Other than Golson, Teddy Bridgewater (No.6) and Jeff Driskell (No.1) will face off against each other when Louisville and Florida meet in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Kevin Hogan (No.13) will lead the Stanford Cardinal into the Rose Bowl presented by Vizio against Wisconsin and Marcus Mariota (No.34) will take the field as the quarterback for the Oregon Ducks against Kansas State in the Tostito’s Fiesta Bowl.
Not to mention that Ohio State was quarterbacked by Braxton Miller and went 12-0, despite not being bowl eligible.
Take a look at the best of the best (so far) from that class, as they were ranked by Scouts.com:
1. Jeff Driskell (Florida)
While most college-aged males have a Playboy stashed away or a favorite porn site bookmarked on their computer, all Driskell needs is a printout of these rankings filed away. To be named as the top prospect in this class is pretty special and Driskell has not disappointed.
After limited action in 2011, Driskell came on the scene as a sophomore this season and completed 64.8% of his passes for 1,471 yards and 11 touchdown passes against just three interceptions. He also ran for 404 yards and four touchdowns this season.
He has the Gators ranked at No.3 in the BCS after compiling an 11-1 record in 2012 with their only loss at the hands of Georgia, which cost Florida a shot at the SEC Championship Game and also the National Championship Game.
2. Braxton Miller (Ohio State)
2012 All Big Ten First Team (Media)
2012 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year
2012 Davey O’Brien Award Finalist
Miller has shown why he was ranked as the second-best quarterback in this class using both his arm and his legs. After struggling in 2011 (along with the rest of the Buckeyes), Miller completed 58.3% of his passes in 2012 and tossed 15 touchdown passes to six interceptions.
While Miller improved throwing the ball, his most dynamic skill was his ability to run and elude defenders. Miller made several plays this season that you would expect to see only on video games, as he ran for 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Miller and the Buckeyes finished undefeated in their first season under head coach Urban Meyer and Miller should only get better with more time under Meyer in the system. That should be a warning for everyone on Ohio State’s schedule over the next two seasons.
3. Brett Hundley (UCLA)
Hundley was second in the Pac-12 in passing completion percentage at 68.2% and led the conference with 3,411 yards passing. He threw for 26 touchdown passes and also ran the ball in nine times on his own.
When UCLA played their rival USC – who beat the Bruins 50-0 last season – Hundley answered the bell by completing 22-of-30 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown pass and then also ran for two scores as UCLA won 38-28.
Behind Hundley, the Bruins were 6-3 in the conference and played in the Pac-12 Championship Game, losing a 27-24 thriller to Stanford.
6. Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
2012 All Big East First Team
2012 Big East Offensive Player of the Year
Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows the man-crush I have developed on Bridgewater since the beginning of the season.
Bridgewater led the Big East in completion percentage (69%), touchdown passes (25) and quarterback rating (161.62) while finishing second in the conference in yards passing (3,452).
With Bridgewater at the helm, Louisville started the season 9-0 before losing back-to-back games to Syracuse and Connecticut before bouncing back to beat Rutgers and clinch a tie for the Big East championship and eventually a berth in a BCS bowl.
His most remarkable performance came in that game against Rutgers, as he entered the game with a broken left wrist and a sore ankle. After not starting, Bridgewater entered the game and struggled some before finally pulling off the comeback by throwing two touchdown passes in the second half.
13. Kevin Hogan (Stanford)
When Josh Nunes struggled with stepping in and trying to replace the departed Andrew Luck, it was Hogan to the rescue for the Cardinal.
Over the last five games for Stanford – including the Pac-12 Championship Game – Hogan was 96-for-132 passing for 964 yards and nine touchdown passes. More importantly, he revived a Stanford offense that had been stagnant. Nunes had completed under 50% of his passes combined for the three games leading up to Hogan taking over and had throws just two touchdown passes to three interceptions.
The signature moment for Hogan may have just been the play that knocked the Pac-12 out of a shot at the national championship. Trailing by seven at No.2 Oregon, Hogan found Zach Ertz for a 10-yard touchdown pass one play after Stanford picked up a fourth down conversion to keep the drive going. On that drive, Hogan was 5-for-6 for 60 yards and the touchdown. Pretty Andrew Luck-like.
15. Everett Golson (Notre Dame)
Coming into the season, it seemed that Tommy Rees would be the starting quarterback for the Irish when Notre Dame kicked off the season in Ireland against Navy. Instead, Golson stepped in after Rees was suspended.
Golson completed 58.9% of his passes for 2,135 yards and 11 touchdown passes. He also scored five times on the ground and rushed for 305 yards.
Despite being replaced at certain times throughout the season by Rees, Golson was the main quarterback for an Irish team who surprised most – if not all – of the experts by finishing the season 12-0 and earning a spot in the National Championship Game.
22. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
2012 All SEC First Team
2012 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
2012 Heisman Trophy Finalist
2012 Davey O’Brien Award Finalist
2012 Maxwell Award Finalist
2012 Walter Camp Award Finalist
He has been nicknamed Johnny Football. That about says it all, doesn’t it? Manziel is the Heisman Trophy frontrunner for most people as a redshirt freshman and would be the first freshman to ever win college football’s most prestigious hardware.
Manziel threw for 3,219 yards while completing 68.3% of his passes. He tossed 24 touchdown passes against eight interceptions. He also ran for 1,181 yards and scored 19 rushing touchdowns.
Manziel led Texas A&M to a 10-2 record and a 6-2 record in the SEC in the team’s first season in the conference. Mixed into those six conference wins was possibly the win of the year for any school, as Manziel led the Aggies to an upset over the defending national Champion (and then-No.1) Alabama. AT ALABAMA.
34. Marcus Mariota (Oregon)
2012 All Pac-12 First Team
You have to give Oregon head coach Chip Kelly credit – he finds guys to plug into his offensive system that fit seamlessly and run the fast offense the Ducks like to go to without many issues. Mariota is just another one of those guys.
Mariota was named the starter before the season began and made a name for himself by leading the Pac-12 in completion percentage (69.9%) and quarterback ranking 165.35), while finishing second in touchdown passes (30) behind only Matt Barkley of USC (36). Mariota also rushed for 690 yards and four touchdowns.
Oregon finished 11-1 – their only loss coming to Pac-12 champion Stanford – and earned a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Not bad for a redshirt freshman taking the reins on Chip Kelly’s offense.
Now if we can just come to a consensus on how to pronounce his last name.
126. Rakeem Cato (Marshall)
2012 All Conference USA First Team
2012 Conference USA MVP
While all of the other quarterbacks received national notoriety, it was Cato who led the country in passing yards, throwing for 4,201 yards for the Thundering Herd. He also finished third in the country in touchdown passes (37) and fifth in the country in completion percentage (69.5). He led Conference USA in all of those categories, plus quarterback rating (147.08).
Despite all of these numbers, Marshall finished the season 5-7 and was not bowl eligible.
Along with these nine players, there are several other quarterbacks from the class who either have made an impact or figure to do so next season, such as Kiehl Frazier (No.4 – Auburn), J.W. Walsh (No. 5 – Oklahoma State), Max Wittek (No. 11 – USC), David Ash (No.21 – Texas), Chuck Keeton (No.64 – Utah State) and Gary Nova (No.69 – Rutgers). It is pretty safe to say that we will be hearing plenty from this class for the next two seasons.
If you were a college coach who was recruiting the high school class of 2011 and you came out of that recruiting period without a quarterback, you have only yourself to blame.
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