Posted: 11:00 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013
By Wescott Eberts
After a truly remarkable run in the Big 12 at quarterback that featured Robert Griffin III's Heisman-winning campaign in 2011 and a host of longtime starters putting up ridiculous numbers last season, the fact that only two schools -- Texas and Kansas -- took their starters at the position to the Big 12 Media Days last week speaks to the conference's high turnover at the most important position on the field.
It's one reason why the conference is expected to be so wide open this year, not to mention one of the advantages Texas holds as possessing perhaps the most proven and reliable quarterback in the conference, an odd phrase to throw at David Ash following a 2012 season that saw some high peaks and low valleys.
Let's look around the league to assess the quarterback situations at each school.
Starter/likely starter: Jake Waters, Daniel Sams
Background: Perhaps the most truly open of the numerous Big 12 quarterback races (with the possible exception of West Virginia), the Wildcat battle pits junior college transfer Jake Waters against sophomore Daniel Sams.
Fresh off a stop at Iowa Western CC, where he stayed for junior college after growing up in Council Bluffs, Waters set passing records in his home town after he fully qualified out of high school, but received no interest. By the time he was done at Iowa Western, Penn State and Kansas battled for his services, joined by North Carolina State and several other schools.
Sams, meanwhile, is a running quarterback who saw spot action last season as a redshirt freshman, running for 235 yards and completing 6-of-8 passes while subbing in for Collin Klein at the end of blowouts.
Looking ahead: Assessing expectations quickly gets more difficult when the quarterback competition remains legitimately open, in no small part because both quarterbacks performed well in the spring game as neither gained separation.
Sams has the reputation as a run-first guy, but he threw for 391 yards in the spring game on top of continued efficient performance -- as a passer, if he's behind where Klein was at the start of his junior season, the gap probably isn't that great.
With 27 rushing yards, Waters basically equalled Sams' rushing production that day, perhaps providing some hint of an upside as a runner, even if he's not going to be running the zone read 15 times a game if he wins the job. In fact, though he was listed as a pro-style quarterback by 247Sports, Rivals had him as a dual-threat prospect after he did some damage at Iowa Western on the ground.
The two small, explosive Kansas State wide receivers Tramaine Thopmson and Tyler Lockett may be the two best offensive playmakers for the Wildcats, so the starting quarterback has to be able to get them the ball to maximize the Kansas State offense.
Because of that fact, the odds-on favorite is probably Waters since he's relatively more proven as a passer, but Sams hasn't done anything in live action to hurt his odds and even if he doesn't win the job . Neither one is likely to end up New York in December with a shot to win the Heisman, but there are some reasons right now for Wildcat fans to be optimistic about getting good play from the position.
Starter/likely starter: Blake Bell
Experience: Longhorn fans who haven't blocked last fall's Red River Rivalry from their memories surely remember the Belldozer rumbling for four touchdowns on 11 carries. The problem for Oklahoma is that Bell is completely unproven as a college passer, having attempted only 20 passes during his college career.
The take from Stoops:
We've got a number of guys in there in competition with him that are doing really well, Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight to go along with Blake Bell. We've never been real excited about naming a guy too early. So they're working hard as well.
In the rest of your question, Blake is a guy that does throw the football well. We have a history in my going on 15 years of having guys in quarterbacks that are really excellent throwers, and Blake fits that mold. We would never recruit a guy that we didn't feel would be a great passer.
So he works hard at it. He throws a great deep ball. So to go along with his big physical presence and ability to run it, we're excited about the way he throws it too, yes.
Expectations: Despite the proclamation that the competition is still open from Stoops, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Bell doesn't start the season as the guy. Now listed at 263 pounds, Bell will probably continue in his role as a short-yardage bludgeon, though the Oklahoma head coach did say that he is aware of and wary about his potential starter taking too many hits.
The Sooners have a history of smooth quarterback transitions over the last decade, with the exception of the Rhett Bomar era and average play from Paul Thompson after him, but it's also worth remembering that Bell was recruited as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback out of high school and is known as a guy with a big arm, even though he hasn't really shown it yet.
Is he going to be better than David Ash this season? That seems like a stretch at this point since he hasn't even won the job yet. However, it's not hard to envision him stepping in and having success as his running ability aids the efforts of Damien Williams and his passing efforts benefit from a talent if not entirely proven wide receiver corps.
Starter/likely starter: Clint Chelf, JW Walsh
I think that we'll continue to work like we have. We've got two young men that we feel very comfortable with, and they've worked, and they're extremely dedicated to our program. They're great team players. They'll get equal reps.
The one advantage we have in our offense is in practice and even in games we get a number of reps because of our tempo. We expect to play very fast this year. So we'll work both guys. We feel very comfortable with them.
Won't say much until after the first game. We play a very quality opponent the first game. So we'll need to use every advantage we have to give ourselves the best opportunity to win that game.
Looking forward: In most conferences, for most teams, heading into fall camp without a starter at quarterback is typically considered a problem. But not many quarterback races feature two experienced and talented passers like Chelf and Walsh -- it seems that no matter who wins out, the Cowboys should be able to count on efficient and productive play from their most important player on offense. And if they don't for a stretch, there's always a replacement ready for their shot.
Ideal? Not in most perspectives, no. So what? Mike Gundy is that good of a quarterback coach and offensive mastermind.
The likely scenario is that Chelf wins the job after he started with the first team during the spring game, then Walsh comes in as a short-yardage specialist and change of pace, just as he did late last season. And if Chelf struggles, the Denton Guyer product will get another chance of regaining his starter spot lost due to injury.