|This story originally published on CollegeFootballNews.com|
Player Rankings - QBs
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2012 CFN Preseason Player Rankings
Preview 2012 | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers
Tight Ends | Offensive Tackles | Offensive Guards | Centers
1. Denard Robinson, Sr. Michigan
Robinson is what he is, and that’s one of the most electrifying players in college football running for 1,702 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010 and following it up by taking off for 1,176 yards and 16 scores last season. He’s a mediocre passer – completing 55% of his throws for 2,173 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 15 picks last season – and he seems to have a habit of throwing bad interceptions at puzzling times, but any of the negatives are offset by his phenomenal playmaking skills.
While there was some discussion by Brady Hoke and the new coaching staff to limit Robinson’s rushing attempts last year, he only carried the ball 35 fewer times than he did in 2010 and was the workhorse of sorts when the going got tough highlighted by a 26-carry, 170-yard, two-score rushing day against Ohio State. At 6-0 and 195 pounds he’s not built to take a pounding, and he makes fans hold their breath on every run – partly because he’s so dynamic and partly out of worry that he’ll get hurt - but now this is 100% totally his offense and his season after two years of phenomenal, underappreciated-by-the-Heisman-types play. He’ll be a receiver at the next level with his Florida state champion-level, 4.32 sprinter’s speed, and the coaching staff will still do what it can to make sure he won’t take more hits than he has to, but he’s the key to the season. This will be a great Michigan team, but it needs No. 16 to shine to be truly special.
2. Matt Barkley, Sr. USC
When Barkley announced his plans to put off the riches of the NFL for one more year, all of a sudden it became Game On for the Trojan program in the 2012 national championship race. The 6-2, 230-pounder returns as the most complete passer in America not currently being paid with terrific poise, smarts, and an even-keel personality – he’s not exactly Los Angeles when it comes to acting big-time. A starter since his rookie year, he peaked in 2011 by going 308-of-446 for 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. From a leadership and intangibles standpoint, he is to USC what Andrew Luck was to Stanford, an intelligent player who helps elevate those around him. More of a timing and touch passer than a power pitcher, his placement is impeccable, often putting the ball where only the receiver can access it.
And now the knocks will start coming as he’s scrutinized as a top NFL draft pick, and possibly the No. 1 overall selection if everything breaks right. He has the exact make-up and personality to be the face of a pro franchise for 15 years, but he’s not quite tall enough, doesn’t have much mobility, and has a good, but not elite, arm. It also helped that he’s been able to work behind an outstanding line that has given him time to work. However, he has grown and last year he blossomed with 468 yards and four scores against Arizona, 318 yards and six scores against Colorado, and most impressively, a 26-of-34, 323-yard, four-touchdown, one pick day in the win at Oregon. With the receiving corps he has to work with, expect more of the same and a likely trip to New York in December. If all goes according to plan, he’ll be the signature player of the 2012 college football season.
3. Tyler Wilson, Sr. Arkansas
So who missed Ryan Mallett? He left early for the NFL after throwing for 3,869 yards and 32 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, but Wilson was every bit as strong completing 63% of his passes for 3,638 yards with 24 touchdown and six picks. Far more careful with the ball than Mallett and without the same sort of gunslinger – in a bad way – mentality, he didn’t throw more than one pick in any one game and was ultra-steady throughout the year. His two mediocre games came against Alabama and LSU, but everyone had mediocre games against Alabama and LSU. Everything else worked out well with 510 yards and three scores against Texas A&M, 250 yards or more in seven of the 13 games and two touchdowns or more in nine games.
No, he doesn’t have Mallett’s jaw-dropping arm, but he’s 6-3 and 220 pounds with an NFL gun and the right mentality to be the team’s leader and steadying force. An Arkansas high school superstar, he won three state titles and threw for close to 4,000 yards and 42 touchdowns as a senior. The prep résumé is great, but that’s in the distant past now. He could’ve been a first round NFL draft pick had he left early, but if everything goes according to plan, he should be a top ten selection if he can have another excellent season.
4. Landry Jones, Sr. Oklahoma
Jones probably would’ve been a Miami Dolphin had he left a year early – taken instead of Ryan Tannehill – but instead he chose to come back for his senior year after completing 63% of his passes for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns with 15 scores. While the numbers weren’t bad, he threw for 38 touchdowns and 4,718 yards in 2010. Worse yet, Jones threw just one touchdown pass and six interceptions in the final four games of the year after star receiver Ryan Broyles went down, even though he bombed away for 447 yards in the loss to Baylor.
At 6-4 and 218 pounds, Jones has excellent size, decent enough mobility to not be a sitting duck – but he’s not a runner in any way – and has a live, NFL arm. More than anything else, though, he has great poise and he doesn’t get rattled. He might not seem like a Robert Griffin III baller or gunslinger, but he doesn’t have any problems mixing it up in shootouts. However, he has to be a quicker decision maker and he has to cut down on his picks with a whopping 41 in his three seasons. Even after three seasons as the starter he needs lots of work on his mechanics – he needs to be more consistent with his motion and his feet – but he’s about to put up another 4,000-yard season as he smashes the OU record books after already holding the honor of being the school’s all-time leading passer.
5. Collin Klein, Sr. Kansas State
Why wasn’t Klein more in the Heisman discussion? Along with actually leading his team to a win over Robert Griffin III and Baylor, the numbers were staggering on the way to winning the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year over the Heisman winner. Klein wasn’t that bad a passer completing 57% of his passes for 1,918 yards and 13 scores with six picks – highlighted by a 281-yard day against Texas A&M – but it was his rushing ability that was truly special leading the team with 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns. Unstoppable at times, he rumbled for five scores against the Aggies and had an amazing midseason stretch of six games running for 20 touchdowns. At 6-5 and 226 pounds he’s big and built like a bomber, and while he’ll do more with the passing game this season, he’ll still be a runner. A baller, he’ll do what’s needed to produce, and this season he’s going to get more national respect.
6. Logan Thomas, Jr. Virginia Tech
7. Geno Smith, Sr. West Virginia
8. EJ Manuel, Sr. Florida State
9. Aaron Murray, Jr. Georgia
10. Tyler Bray, Jr. Tennessee
11. Alex Carder, Sr. Western Michigan
12. Casey Pachall, Jr. TCU
13. Tajh Boyd, Jr. Clemson
14. Keith Price, Jr. Washington
15. Braxton Miller, Soph. Ohio State
16. Cody Fajardo, Soph. Nevada
17. Teddy Bridgewater, Soph. Louisville
18. Derek Carr, Jr. Fresno State
19. Ryan Aplin, Sr. Arkansas State
20. A.J. McCarron, Jr. Alabama
21. Bryn Renner, Jr. North Carolina
22. Mike Glennon, Sr. NC State
23. Seth Doege, Sr. Texas Tech
24. MarQueis Gray, Sr. Minnesota
25. Taylor Martinez, Jr. Nebraska
26. Nathan Scheelhaase, Jr. Illinois
27. James Vandenberg, Sr. Iowa
28. Brett Smith, Soph. Wyoming
29. Matt Scott, Sr. Arizona
30. Jordan Wynn, Jr. Utah