Let me preface this article by stating this is one of the worst quarterback classes in Big 12 history. I mean, this is just ugly. There’s really only one player with a future in the NFL.
That said, there are still some signal-callers on this list who have a chance to redeem themselves and establish their position as quality starting quarterbacks. Although uncertainty abounds in this group, there’s still some potential in each player. Enjoy the list.
10. Peyton Bender/Carter Stanley, Kansas
Bender is actually not a bad quarterback, and has a chance to lead Kansas out from the bottom of the conference for the first time in years. He was a three-star quarterback coming out of high school, and originally went to play for our friend Mike Leach at Washington State before transferring to a community college and eventually to Kansas. Stanley started the last three games of the season for KU and led the Jayhawks to a victory against Texas in overtime. Neither quarterback is going to turn Kansas into conference contenders, but there are certainly worse signal-callers on other Power-5 teams.
9. Jacob Park, Iowa State
The Iowa State coaching staff is very high on Park, who was a prized four-star recruit out of South Carolina. As a sophomore last year, Park threw for 1,791 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He seems capable of more, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some better playmakers around him.
Why Park is better than Bender/Stanley:
He’s a more proven QB than both Kansas quarterbacks with better arm talent.
8. Nic Shimonek, Texas Tech
In limited playing time last year, Shimonek looked perfectly capable of operating the Texas Tech offense. But the only games where he played a significant amount of time were against Stephen F. Austin and Kansas, both at home. He put up some nice numbers, but it’s not enough of a sample size - especially against such inferior competition. This will be Shimonek’s first and last season as a starting quarterback for Tech, and all Red Raider fans can hope for is consistency. They don’t need him to be Patrick Mahomes. He just needs to run Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and get the ball in the hands of his playmakers.
Why Shimonek is better than Park:
Shimonek can make all the throws Kingsbury asks of him, and that will turn into a 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown season. He’s not going to shred any defenses off the strength of his own ability but he will keep Tech in games. I think he’s going to be the 2011 version of Seth Doege. Throw for 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, win five games. That’s more than I can say Park will accomplish.
7. Anu Solomon/Zach Smith, Baylor
This is going to be an interesting development as we approach fall. Solomon is the transfer from Arizona who threw for 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions his freshman year, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions his sophomore year, and one touchdown and two interceptions his junior year. It’s one of the rare cases where someone gets worse with every year of experience. A change of scenery at Baylor may be just what Solomon needed, but if he continues to struggle, the Bears have a very competent replacement in Zach Smith, who threw for 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions in limited playing time as a freshman last year. Smith is a big kid at 6’4 and was highly recruited as a four-star quarterback out of high school. With a season of experience at the D1 level and another offseason to develop and get stronger, Smith may very well earn the starting job over Solomon this fall.
Why Solomon/Smith are better than Shimonek:
Smith seems to have better raw talent and more potential than Shimonek. Solomon has shown he’s capable of being an excellent Power-5 quarterback, and in the Baylor system he may thrive once again.
6. Shane Buechele, Texas
I live in Austin, and the general consensus on Buechele is that he’s OK, but not worthy of starting for UT. This doesn’t make sense to me. As a true freshman, he threw for 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also threw 11 interceptions, but that’s not terrible for a kid who never played a down of college football. Under Tom Herman, I expect Buechele to thrive. The Longhorn offense will not be centered on handing the ball to D’onta Foreman 35 times per game. Herman is actually going to use the gifted receivers like Colin Johnson, John Burt and Armanti Foreman. Look for Lil’Jordan Humphrey to get involved, too. With an improved offensvie strategy and a bounce-back year for the defense, Buechele could very possibly lead the Horns to a top-3 finish in the conference.
Why Buechele is better than Solomon/Smith:
Buechele has a nice arm and displays excellent precision in his passes. He’s more consistent than Solomon and more experienced than Smith. Under the instruction of offensive guru Tom Herman, I think Buechele is really going to flourish.
5. Kenny Hill, TCU
Ah, yes. Kenny Trill. The kid with all the tools in the world who hasn’t quite reached his potential. This is a career-defining year for Hill. We’re going to find out how hard he worked in the offseason. I’ve been waiting for Sonny Cumbie to do with Hill what he did with Trevone Boykin, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Granted, most of Hill’s weapons last year were injured for a moderate amount of time, and he keeps losing his star wideouts to the NFL (Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee come to mind). But things are setting up nicely for Hill to finally have the breakout season we’ve been waiting for. Receivers Emmanuel Porter and Kavonte Turpin return, which is huge, and the Frogs’ stud running back Kyle Hicks is back after rushing for 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. The defense should be improved, too, with everyone healthy. As long as TCU can rid itself of the injury bug, Hill will be out of excuses. It’s time for him to blow up.
Why Hill is better than Buchele:
Hill is a more dynamic athlete that can make all the throws Buchele can while also picking up first downs with his feet. He ran for 600 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Buchele’s TD/INT ratio is slightly better, but I expect Hill to improve on that significantly after another offseason of work.
4. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
How can Mayfield not be the No. 1 quarterback in the conference, he’s a Heisman candidate! I’ll tell you how: I could wheel my grandmother out onto the field behind that OU offensive line and she can hand the ball off to Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine all day and toss screens to Dede Westbrook and Sterling Shepard. Those of us who watched Mayfield at Texas Tech know the real version of him. Surround the kid with future NFL players and he looks like a Dan Marino. Put him behind the Tech offensive line with virtually no running game to support him and he’s good for two things: incompletions and interceptions. If you don’t believe me now, wait until he goes undrafted next year and signs with the Edmonton Eskimos.
Why Mayfield is better than Hill:
More consistent passer. Threw for 40 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Again, he was surrounded by NFL players, so the numbers are inflated. I think Hill would put up similar stats if he played for Oklahoma. But I’ll give Mayfield the edge because he keeps his interception totals down.
3. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Ertz is a fascinating player to watch because he attacks the defense in so many different ways. The 6’3 quarterback was one of eight 1,000-yard rushers in the Big 12 last year and he scored as many touchdowns on the ground (12) as he did through the air. He’s not going to torch a defense for 5,000 yards through the air, but his legs make him just as dangerous a quarterback as anyone in the conference. We can expect a huge year from Ertz in his senior season.
Why Ertz is better than Mayfield:
Ertz is not as refined a passer as Mayfield, but is a significantly better runner and does a lot more on offense with a lot less. Name one playmaker on Kansas State last year that belongs on the same field as Dede Westbrook, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Exactly. Again, put Ertz under center at Oklahoma and watch the first Power 5 team in NCAA Football history to have three 1,000 yard rushers.
2. Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier was lighting up the SEC during his freshman year at Florida before testing positive for PEDs. He hasn’t played in a real game since October of 2015, so expect some rust in the early part of the season. But if Grier can play up to his potential, he would be a major upgrade from Skylar Howard, who led the Mountaineers to one of their more successful campaigns in recent memory. While at Florida, Grier went 5-0, completing 66 percent of his passes for 1,200 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Imagine what he can do in Dana Holgorsen’s high-powered offense.
Why Grier is better than Ertz:
Grier was 6-0 with three wins against SEC opponents before getting suspended. The kid is a winner who can beat you with his arm and his legs. He’s a significantly better passer than Ertz while still holding on to his ability to extend plays outside of the pocket. We are going to see a magnificent performance out of Grier at West Virginia.
1. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Rudolph is the best quarterback in the Big 12 and it’s not even close. He doesn’t have the weapons Mayfield has at OU but he still puts up ridiculous numbers. Last year, he threw for more than 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He’s also the best NFL quarterback prospect in the conference. At 6’5, 235 pounds, Rudolph has a Ben Roethlisberger-type frame NFL scouts swoon over, and he has excellent arm strength and accuracy. Most NFL Draft experts have Rudolph ranked just behind west coast prodigies Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold.
Why Rudolph is better than Grier:
Rudolph is the only legitimate NFL prospect at the quarterback position in the Big 12. He has a huge arm and can throw the ball through tight windows. Quarterback is the most important position in the game, and Oklahoma State has the best one in the conference. Watch out for the Pokes this year.