College Football Predictions: First-Year Quarterbacks
by Trevor Whenham - 7/28/2011
One of the best parts of college football is that things are always changing. Players graduate or turn pro and teams constantly have to adjust and reinvent themselves. For college football handicappers that can also be one of the most frustrating parts of the sport. It can be particularly challenging when the departing player is a successful quarterback that has been the face of his program. The typical reaction in these cases is to assume that the team is going to take a big step backwards.
While that is often the case it doesn’t always have to be. Sometimes a team has a player waiting in the wings that has a chance to be quite good. Here’s my college football predictions for six guys filling some big shoes that could do an adequate job — or even better — this year:
Braxton Miller, Ohio State - Miller has not yet been installed as the starter, but it’s just a matter of time. This season is going to be an uphill battle for the Buckeyes, so they would be best served getting their QB of the Future the experience he needs to shine down the road.
Miller is a very highly-touted player that is going to be a star. He enrolled early, and what really stood out in spring was how quickly he progressed. At the start of practices he looked rough, but by the time the Spring Game rolled around he was marching down the field like a veteran.
He has much more upside than any other options they have, and the coaching staff needs to have something to distract fans with this year.
Miller as a freshman will be better than Terrelle Pryor was as a freshman. Hopefully he’s a better guy as well.
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas - Ryan Mallett fell like a rock in the draft, but he was widely praised for the way he ran the offense at Arkansas while he was there. Now Wilson has to step in and fill those shoes.
Casual fans may think that is a scary thought, but Wilson has shown he is more than capable of success. He had to step in against Arkansas last year when Mallett was injured. All he did in three quarters was throw for 332 yards and four touchdowns.
He obviously has game, and he’s far more mobile than Mallett ever dreamed of being. Wilson is destined to have a good year.
Casey Pachall, TCU - Andy Dalton is an all-time legend at TCU, so filling his shoes is going to be a very tough job. By all accounts, though, Pachall looks to be up to the challenge.
The sophomore saw spot action last year and didn’t look out of place. He is better than Dalton at both running and throwing. Of course, it was his presence and not his physical tools that made Dalton special.
Pachall reportedly works extremely hard and is well liked, so if he can command the respect of his teammates then the transition could be smooth, and teams in the Big East could have a nightmare on their hands next year.
James Vandenberg, Iowa — I watched a lot of Ricky Stanzi over the years, and I never thought he got enough credit. He’ll be tough to replace at Iowa, but Vandenberg should do a solid job of it.
What makes me most optimistic about him is that he has actually seen the field a fair bit. When Stanzi was injured for the last three games of 2009 Vandenberg stepped in and carried most of the load. He was rough at the start, but he got significantly better as time progressed.
Now he has that experience to build on, and he is older and wiser. I think he’ll be a good one in a conference that has an embarrassment of QB riches emerging right now.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech — The electric Tyrod Taylor is gone, and Thomas has to take over for him.
He saw limited action last year, and he didn’t look terrible. What is most encouraging about him, though, is the reports of his mental game. Frank Beamer — a guy who has seen some quarterbacks over the years — raves about how smart he is and how well he grasps the game. That will make the transition to starter much easier.
In a conference that is sorely lacking in proven QB talent this year Thomas has a chance to step up early and shine. He will be helped by a soft Virginia Tech Hokies football schedule.
Keith Price, Washington - Jake Locker didn’t have much of a year last year, but he finished strong, and he was a strong leader and a popular guy. Scouts obviously thought a lot of him given where he was drafted. Now Price has to step up.
In three separate places I have seen coach Steve Sarkisian compare him to Charlie Ward. That means that Sarkisian likes to repeat himself, but it is also high praise.
If Price has the point guard mentality that Ward so effectively brought to the field then Washington could be in good hands. He saw a bit of action last year — including a start against Oregon when Locker was hurt — and he had a very strong spring, so he should be able to hit the ground running.
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