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Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys

Athlon Ranks All 130 Starting Quarterbacks For 2018…Here’s Our Problem(s) With It

M. Hofeld

matthofeld

Ahh, its the time of the year for preseason rankings, best of, and position rankings. One of the most recent publications to come out is The Sporting News ranking all 130 starting quarterbacks for 2018.

As with every other preseason list, of just about anything, there’s plenty of holes to pick in this list by TSN, particularly when it comes to the signal callers from the Big 12. Most notably, more than half of the conference teams will go into their fall camps with their starting quarterback unnamed.

Still though, you’ve got to make some assumptions in order to compile a list of all 130 quarterbacks…and that’s the danger zone that you enter in to.

  1. Will Grier, West Virginia

The Big 12’s unquestioned No. 1 quarterback resides in Morgantown this season. Grier, a Heisman candidate and a likely All-America pick, is at the controls of one of the nation’s top offenses. After sitting out 2016 due to transfer rules, Grier threw for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns in 11 appearances for West Virginia last fall. Additionally, the North Carolina native’s eight completions of 60 yards or more ranked third nationally among all FBS quarterbacks. Grier missed two full games due to a finger injury suffered against Texas on Nov. 18 but will be back at full strength for 2018. – The Sporting News

I agree wholeheartedly that Grier is the top returning quarterback in the Big 12. He should be First Team on every preseason All Conference list, and even unanimous at that. Best quarterback in the country though? I feel like that’s a huge stretch.

32. Charlie Brewer, Baylor

Baylor should show significant improvement in coach Matt Rhule’s second year. Brewer is one of the main reasons for optimism in Waco, as the Texas native appears poised to build off a promising 2017 season. As a true freshman, Brewer completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,562 yards and 11 touchdowns to just four picks. He also added 166 yards on the ground, including 49 against TCU in the season finale. With a loaded receiving corps in place, Brewer is likely to push for All-Big 12 honors in 2018. – The Sporting News

And here lies the big rub. It isn’t necessarily with Brewer, although I’m positive he’s not the second best quarterback in the Big 12. The biggest issue for me is the Grand Canyon sized gap between ranking the Big 12’s top quarterback and the number two…regardless of who it is. TSN has Grier at #1 overall and then a clump of Big 12 quarterbacks at 32-35.

What this means, in a conference dominated by quarterbacks, is that 2018 belongs to West Virginia and then everyone else is just along for the ride. It also means that a conference that has been super competitive for the last several years should be a runaway this year. Or, it means that The Sporting News is way off on the rankings.

33. Kyle Kempt, Iowa State

Kempt stepped up in a big way last season. He assumed the starting job after Jacob Park left the team in early October and made his first start on the road at Oklahoma. The big moment didn’t rattle Kempt, as he connected on 18 of 24 throws for 343 yards and three touchdowns in an upset over the Sooners. Kempt finished 2017 with 1,787 yards and 15 passing scores and completed 66.3 percent of his passes. He also tossed only three picks on 243 attempts. – The Sporting News

Here’s your number two quarterback in the conference in my opinion. If Kempt gets a decent supporting cast then I would expect the rise of Iowa State Football to continue. Without such a cast I would still take him over Brewer, but it’s a lot closer.

34. Sam Ehlinger, Texas

Just like Kyler Murray, don’t be surprised if Ehlinger climbs this list by the time fall practice starts. All signs point to Ehlinger holding off Shane Buechele for the starting job, and coach Tom Herman is counting on the sophomore to jumpstart an offense that averaged only 25.4 points a game in Big 12 contests last year. As a true freshman last fall, Ehlinger led the team with 1,915 passing yards and tossed 11 scores. He also paced the team in rushing yards (381) and scored twice on the ground. With a full offseason to work as the starter and develop under Herman’s watch, Ehlinger is poised for a big jump in his second year in Austin. – The Sporting News

Here’s our first, “You’ve got to be kidding me” moment on the list. I get it. Texas is a brand that pulls in a lot of eyeballs. That’s why they’re always on someone’s preseason Top 25 list, and that’s why Ehlinger pops up right here on this list.

Ehlinger had a completion percentage of only 53% and had a 10-7 touchdown to interception ratio. We’re supposed to believe that he’s really the fourth best quarterback in the Big 12? Especially when he hasn’t even won he starting job yet.

35. Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

Murray ranks as the No. 5 Big 12 quarterback on this list, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Texas A&M transfer finish 2018 among the top three signal-callers in the conference. The former five-star recruit started three games with the Aggies in 2015, completing 59.5 percent of his throws for 686 yards and five scores. He also added 335 yards on the ground. Murray played in seven games as Baker Mayfield’s backup last year and connected on 18 of 21 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns. The Texas native is a dynamic runner but is far from a finished product as a passer. The upside is there for a monster season under coach Lincoln Riley. How quickly will Murray settle into the starting job? – The Sporting News

I’m not a fan of Murray being ranked here but I understand it for two reasons. 1) Like Ehlinger, Murray hasn’t won the starting job yet. 2) The body of work is limited when it comes to evaluating him. He only made one start last season for the Sooners and you have to go back to his true freshman season at Texas A&M (2015) to find the bulk of  his film.

That said, whoever win’s Oklahoma’s starting job will be better than Ehlinger.

54. Skylar Thompson, Kansas State

Kansas State closed spring practice with Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton locked into a tight battle for the top spot under center. While a clear starter didn’t emerge, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Wildcats. Both players showed promise last season and are more than capable of leading the K-State offense. Thompson threw for 689 yards and five touchdowns, while Delton recorded 637. Both players were a threat on the ground, but Delton outrushed Thompson (500 yards to 267). – The Sporting News

Kansas State isn’t even close to naming a starting quarterback.

70. Shawn Robinson, TCU

Robinson is a former four-star recruit and is the heavy favorite to replace Kenny Hill as TCU’s starting quarterback in 2018. The Texas native played in six contests last year and made a start in relief of Hill against Texas Tech. Robinson completed 6 of 17 passes for 85 yards and added 84 yards on the ground versus the Red Raiders. The sophomore isn’t short on talent and should benefit from a full offseason to work as the starter. – The Sporting News

Still not a settled quarterback race but Robinson is the odds on favorite and a whole lot better than the 70th ranked quarterback in the country.

77. Dru Brown, Oklahoma State

Mason Rudolph leaves big shoes to fill in Stillwater, and the Cowboys left spring practice with former walk-on Taylor Cornelius in front of the quarterback battle. Cornelius completed 6 of 10 passes for 148 yards as Rudolph’s backup in 2017. However, the competition is far from over. Hawaii transfer Dru Brown will join the team this summer after throwing for 2,785 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. Sophomore Keondre Wudtee and true freshman Spencer Sanders (likely the team’s most-talented option) are also in the mix. – The Sporting News

Another wide open quarterback race and not only is Brown not the front runner at this point, he’s not even on campus. Cornelius had a fantastic spring and is in the clubhouse as the leader in the competition.

97. McLane Carter, Texas Tech

Uncertainty surrounds Texas Tech’s quarterback situation for 2018. Carter, Jett Duffey and true freshman Alan Bowman are all in the mix to replace Nic Shimonek. While the spring didn’t provide a clear answer at quarterback, the Red Raiders have a strong track record of finding the right quarterback. Carter played in four games (with one start) and threw for 359 yards and two touchdowns. Duffey received playing time in just one contest, completing both of his passes for 16 yards. Carter is listed here, but Duffey has more upside. – The Sporting News

Texas Tech’s offense was outscored by the defense in the spring game. That’s totally different than the recent trends we’ve seen in Waco. More than once we’ve doubted Kliff Kingsbury and he’s always proved us wrong. This legitimately could be the year he doesn’t though.

108. Peyton Bender, Kansas

The Jayhawks have finished last in the Big 12 in scoring offense for eight consecutive seasons. Without better play under center in 2018, that streak is likely to extend to nine. Bender led the team with 1,609 yards and 10 scores but only completed 54.2 percent of his passes. Carter Stanley replaced Bender as the starter late in the 2017 season but didn’t fare much better. He finished the year with 1,108 yards and four touchdowns to seven interceptions. Junior college transfer Miles Kendrick is also in the mix for the starting job. – The Sporting News

OK…I really can’t argue with this ranking because…well…Kansas.

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