SPRING FOOTBALL BASH: Top Ten Quarterbacks
 
 

April 5, 2006

By Rob Rang, Senior Analyst, NFLDraftScout.com

Special to CSTV.com

 

Before college football fans can even say their final goodbyes to the players soon to be drafted into the NFL, a new batch of exciting prospects is already on the horizon. With spring football upon us, CSTV.com and  NFLDraftScout.com kick off a series analyzing the top collegiate talent by examining the 2006 crop of quarterbacks.

 

Much like last year with Southern California's Matt Leinart, Notre Dame's Brady Quinn enters the year entrenched as the top quarterback in the land. Some scouts are already touting him as the early favorite to be the top overall pick in 2007.

 

What follows after him, however, is a hodge-podge of arm strength, production, pedigree, and, unfortunately, inconsistency. While not all of the quarterbacks listed below will be highly-rated NFL prospects, the position is as deep and talented as ever.

 

More offenses are returning to the athletic quarterback capable of beating teams with their arm or their legs. Texas certainly achieved the ultimate goal in winning a national championship with just such a player in Vince Young. Ohio State senior Troy Smith and West Virginia sophomore Pat White will now carry the torch for multi-dimensional signal callers.

 

Choose your flavor of styles, and you will likely find a handful of intriguing quarterbacks to follow in 2006.

 

1. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame, 6-4, 230, SR:

Quinn was already considered one of the nation's more gifted quarterbacks before coach Charlie Weis was hired in 2005 to resurrect Notre Dame's proud tradition. The combination of Weis' tutelage and Quinn's natural talents made for a good fit from the start. In 12 starts in 2004, Quinn threw for 2,586 yards and a respectable 17-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Last year, however, Quinn was arguably the best quarterback in the country, passing for 3,919 yards and 32 touchdowns compared to only seven interceptions.

 

Quinn has the classic blend of size, arm strength and tenacity pro scouts are looking for in a franchise quarterback. His ability to adapt so quickly to Weis' complicated offensive scheme speaks volumes about his work ethic and understanding of the game. Quinn enters next season not only as the top-ranked quarterback in the country, but the odds-on favorite to be the first player selected in the 2007 NFL Draft.

 

2. Drew Stanton, Michigan State, 6-3, 222, SR:

Michigan State failed to qualify for a bowl game last season, but quarterback Drew Stanton certainly wasn't to blame for the team's mediocrity. Ohio State's Troy Smith and Michigan's Chad Henne will earn the bulk of the Big Ten headlines, but pro scouts are more intrigued by Stanton, who emerged onto the scene two years ago as a sophomore. He was named Team MVP despite starting only seven games. He ranked among the Big Ten leaders in total offense (third, 228.8 yards per game), passing efficiency (third, 131.8 rating), rushing (eighth, 68.7 ypg.) and passing (10th, 160.1 ypg.).

 

In 2005, Stanton showed great improvement. His passing numbers swelled to 3,077 yards and a very respectable 22-12 TD-to-INT ratio. Stanton's rushing numbers dropped to 338 yards and four touchdowns, down from 687 and five in 2005, but that was due more to coach John L. Smith's hesitancy to place Stanton in the way of big hits.

 

Stanton toyed with the idea of leaving school after his junior season. He certainly has shown the NFL combination of size, athleticism, toughness and arm strength. Scouts would like to see him develop a little more consistency to his game. A likely second-round pick had he entered the 2006 draft, a little refining this next season could bump his stock into the high first round.

  

3. Pat White, West Virginia, 6-2, 185, rSO:

West Virginia was supposed to struggle last season as it tried to overcome the loss of veteran quarterback Rasheed Marshall. Instead, redshirt freshman Pat White quickly emerged as one of the nation's most dangerous quarterbacks. He led the Mountaineers to a shocking victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and a No. 5 ranking in the final Associated Press poll. White rushed for 952 yards and seven touchdowns, and his 8.75 yards per rushing attempt was second only behind Reggie Bush. He also passed for 825 yards and another eight touchdowns.

 

White is the ideal quarterback for coach Rich Rodriguez's option attack. Slim and slippery, White is a great decision-maker. He knows when to attack the defense, when to pitch, or when to pull back and pass over the top of defenders.

 

4. Jordan Palmer, Texas El-Paso, 6-5, 232, SR:

As the MAC has proven in recent years, top quarterbacks are more and more frequently hailing from conferences not recognized by the BCS. UTEP's Jordan Palmer could be the next senior quarterback to emerge from a relatively small conference to become a high round NFL prospect. The younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick Carson Palmer, Jordan Palmer has the prototypical size, arm strength and coaching pro teams seek.

 

Head coach Mike Price has turned around the UTEP program. A virtual laughing-stock only a few years ago, the Miners finished 8-4 last season and were ranked among the Top 25 at various points throughout the season. With all due respect to Coach Price, Palmer is the key to UTEP's fortunes. In 18 starts over his first two seasons, Palmer passed for 3,986 yards and 33 touchdowns. Palmer virtually matched his previous two years' numbers in 2005, passing for 3,503 yards and 29 scores.

 

Unfortunately, the interceptions that haunted him in both 2003 (13) and 2004 (18) again were an eye-sore in 2005 (19). After establishing himself early, Palmer struggled down the stretch, turning the ball over ten times in UTEP's final three games, all losses. Taking the next step could be difficult as a fractured ankle and torn ligament in the GMAC Bowl could limit Palmer's playing time this spring.

 

5. Brian Brohm, Louisville, 6-4, 224, JR:

Louisville has produced some great quarterbacks in recent years, including NFL draft picks Chris Redman (2000), Dave Ragone (2003) and Stefan Lefors (2005). Brohm signed on with the Cardinals ranked by some as the top prep quarterback in the country, and appears poised to continue the spectacular Louisville run at quarterback. All he did in his first season as the starter was finish third in the country in passing efficiency (166.7), complete 68.7 percent of his passes and threw for a 19-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Only a sophomore, Brohm was recognized as the Big East's Offensive Player of the Year.

 

Unfortunately, as impressive as Brohm's numbers were, they were completed in two fewer games than hoped after he was lost for the season due to a torn ACL. Reports out of Louisville have Brohm's recovery going as planned, though he is not expected to fully participate in spring drills.

 

Brohm has the tools and the system to vault toward the top of the quarterback totem poll if he can return to near full strength in time for the start of the 2006 season.

 

6. Troy Smith, Ohio State, 6-1, 205, SR:

When healthy, there might not be a more dangerous quarterback in the country than Smith. Entering the 2005 season, Smith had only started six games. During that span, he had passed for only 896 yards and though he had a respectable 8-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, teams were considerably more worried about his running ability than his passing. With each touchdown pass in 2005, however, Smith's confidence (and opponents' respect for his arm) soared. The versatile athlete scored 27 total touchdowns for Ohio State last season, with 16 coming through the air and 11 on the ground.

 

What separates Smith from many of the other athletic quarterbacks across the country is his leadership skills. The Buckeyes are certainly one of the nation's more talented teams, but with Smith on the field they seem like a more cohesive, focused unit. Smith is already 13-2 as a starter and appears poised to have another strong effort in 2006.

 

7. Chad Henne, Michigan, 6-2, 225, JR:

Entering his third season as the starter, Henne could be ready for a breakout season. He burst onto the scene as a true freshman, starting all 12 games and posting spectacular numbers (2,743 yards, 25-12 TD-to-INT ratio). However, the loss of superstar wideout Braylon Edwards to the NFL robbed Henne of his security blanket in 2005. Though Henne actually produced better numbers (2,526 yards, 23-8 TD-to-INT ratio) this past season, his overall play wasn't as consistent.

 

Rather than blame Henne's play on a sophomore slump, much of his struggles can be attributed to the loss of Edwards and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year David Baas (second-round pick by San Francisco) and the lack of durability of star runner Mike Hart. Henne lacks the prototype size, but has the arm strength, accuracy, and above all else, toughness to bring the Maize and Blue back among the elite of the Big Ten. Those who question Henne's ability to step up under pressure should note his seven touchdown passes in two bowl games.

 

8. Kevin Kolb, Houston, 6-3, 224, SR:

Astute collegiate fans have known about Kolb since his sparkling debut season in which he led all NCAA freshmen in completions (220), attempts (360), passing yards (3131), touchdowns (25) and, most important, wins (seven). The excitement generated by Kolb's (pronounced "Cobb") play is eerily similar to that which pervaded the Houston campus during the David Klinger and Andre Ware years. Over 36 consecutive starts, Kolb has passed for 9,155 yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 55-27. Though he is more recognized as a passer, Kolb is also quite dangerous with his feet, rushing for 597 yards and 17 touchdowns over his career.

 

Fans looking for one of the top-ranked prospects at the position would be wise to scout Kolb this upcoming season. Scouts are impressed with Kolb's combination of size, athleticism, durability and short- to medium-range accuracy. Kolb is accustomed to passing on the move, something that teams utilizing the West Coast Offense like in their young developmental passers.

 

9. Chris Leak, Florida, 6-0, 210, SR:

Based on the previous success achieved by Leak and coach Urban Meyer, many expected the two to instantly click and produce dominant numbers last season. While Leak's 2005 production wasn't bad (2,639 yards, 20 TDs, 6 INTs), one wouldn't know it from the negative press he and Meyer received throughout the season. Though he lacks the size and arm strength NFL teams are ideally looking for, Leak is considered a very accurate quarterback whose decision-making and ability to read defenses has led to a great deal of success in the SEC. Another season to learn Meyer's complicated offense could be all it takes for Leak to respond with a monster senior campaign.

 

10. JaMarcus Russell, LSU, 6-5, 252, JR:

Listing Russell among the top 10 quarterbacks to watch is as much a statement about the talent and depth at LSU as it is a reflection on Russell's individual ability. For those unfortunate enough to have missed Daunte Culpepper while he played at the University of Central Florida, Russell is about as close a replica as you'll likely get. Blessed with similar size, Russell also is comparable to Culpepper in terms of his arm strength, leadership ability and flair for the dramatic. As a redshirt freshman playing under then LSU coach Nick Saban, Russell started four games, passing for 1,053 yards and an impressive 9-4 TD-to-INT ratio. Russell improved this past season, throwing for 2,435 yards and 16 touchdowns. However, his consistency lagged as the season progressed and when fellow underclassman Matt Flynn took over for an injured Russell to lead LSU to a 40-3 victory over Miami in the Peach Bowl, a quarterback controversy developed.

 

Russell is not only battling Flynn, but also highly-ranked sophomore quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who signed with the Tigers as the elite prep signal-caller in the country. At this point, Russell is the most intriguing due to his incredible physical potential. Regardless of who ultimately leads LSU onto the field in 2006, Russell bears watching.

 

 

Others to Watch:

 

Kyle Wright, Miami, 6-4, 220, JR: For the Hurricanes to rebound from an embarrassing loss to LSU in the Peach Bowl, Wright will have to continue his development. Despite play to play inconsistencies that need ironing out, Wright's 2005 numbers (2,403 passing yards, 18 TDs, 10 INTs) are an indication of his talent. To take the next step, he must get better protection from his offensive line.

 

John David Booty, USC, 6-3, 198, JR: The next in line at USC. Signed with the Trojans a full year earlier than his class. Brother, Josh, played for LSU and later for the Cleveland Browns. The big concern is back spasms that popped up in spring practice and could result in surgery if they don't go subside.

 

Rhett Bomar, Oklahoma, 6-4, 208, rSO: Struggled early in 2005 as a redshirt freshman, but began to figure things out as the season progressed. Led Oklahoma to an impressive come-from-behind victory over Oregon in the Holiday Bowl by passing for 229 yards and running for another 110.

 

Trent Edwards, Stanford, 6-4, 210, SR: Talented senior, but not surrounded by a great deal of talent. Could surprise in his second season under coach Walt Harris. A favorite of those looking for a "diamond in the rough."

 

Joe Ayoob, California, 6-3, 218, SR: The latest "Tedford Talent" struggled, mightily at times, as a JUCO transfer last year, but is capable of enjoying a monster senior season and boosting his stock enormously.

 

Rob Rang is a Sr. Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, which is distributed by The Sports Xchange.


 

 


 
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