The senior member of the group is Dennis Erickson, who piloted Montana State in the late-'60s under legendary coach Jim Sweeney. Young enough to have played an overtime game for BYU, Steve Sarkisian represents a more youthful generation. He began as a baseball player at USC, disappeared for a while into the junior college ranks, then led the Cougars to 21 wins in 25 starts.
Sarkisian became one of three current Pac-10 bosses who won New Year's bowl games as players, joining and Rick Neuheisel and Jim Harbaugh. Jeff Tedford took Fresno State to its first postseason glory. Chip Kelly led New Hampshire's offense in the late-'80s. Lane Kiffin's father-in-law is John Reaves, who played quarterback for Florida. Kiffin backed up as a, you guessed it, quarterback with Fresno State.
Now, we zero in on the Pac-10 schools who have established signal-callers in place. Their career starts are in parentheses. Maybe their head coaches won't overshadow them.
Nick Foles (10) went from riding the bench until the third game of the season to setting school records. He enlisted at Michigan State three years ago, after taking an eraser to Drew Brees' career marks at Westlake High in Austin, Tex. He transferred to Tuscon, sat out a year and then was slated behind Matt Scott (3) when 2009 began.
Foles completed 63 percent of his throws, totaling 2,486 yards and 19 touchdowns against only nine interceptions. Nowhere was he more dominant in the ball-control scheme than against Stanford. His 415 aerial yards included a school record for completion percentage (78.4) in a game, when he made good on 41 of 50 attempts. On the backup front, Scott ran for 309 yards a year ago.
For you history buffs, Cal has a passing tradition going back a few years. Paul Larson and Craig Morton each held the conference record for season passing yards until Jim Plunkett broke it – twice.
As for the present, Kevin Riley (23) fans believe he's poised for the same kind of breakout seasons Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers enjoyed as seniors. He boasts solid touchdown-to-interception numbers (37-15) for his career. He's 15-8 in his career as a starter. A familiar surname is listed immediately behind him. Beau Sweeney is the son of former Fresno State quarterback great Kevin Sweeney, who played for his dad and the aforementioned Jim Sweeney with the Bulldogs.
Heresy it is not. For Andrew Luck (12), comparisons to a certain quarterback born on Washington's Olympic peninsula are totally appropriate. No quarterback has tallied the kind of individual honors after only two years in the program since John Elway. Luck was sensational as a redshirt freshman, showing the kind of poise and stats of a proven veteran. He faltered in his first Big Game, just like you-know-who. For the record, Elway's Memorial Stadium missteps in 1980 kept his team out of a bowl.
Alex Loukas has never started. The junior who sat out all of 2009 with an injury is the lone member of the back-up corps to actually appear in a game. He threw a touchdown pass in garbage time against USC two years ago. Slender Josh Nunes was a jewel in Harbaugh's 2009 recruiting class. Both Robbie Picazo and David Olson are walk-ons. Freshman Darren Daniel was a dual threat in high school in Alabama. Classmate Brett Nottingham should someday duel with Nunes for the starting role.
Kevin Prince (11) beat out two challengers last August as a redshirt freshman, then threw for 300 or more yards three times and added a 68-yard touchdown run. But the offensive braintrust felt compelled to find a new offense from…Reno?
Enter the pistol, a scheme employed for years by Nevada's Chris Ault and his coaching disciples. Norm Chow's group will now operate out of a relative of the spread, with Prince setting up in the shotgun with a single back trailing him. The Wolf Pack featured three 1,000-yard rushers last season while the Bruins once again spun their metallic gold wheels. No Chow-led offense has ever produced fewer points in consecutive seasons. Behind Prince sits sophomore Richard Brehaut, a former hotshot recruit from the High Desert who played in six games last season as a true freshman.
Overlooked amidst USC's offseason drama is the Trojans returning one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-10 – and he's only getting better.
Sure, Matt Barkley (12) threw 14 interceptions. No Trojan quarterback since 2001 lost as many games in one season. But he threw for 2,700 yards. He became the first USC true freshman quarterback to begin the season as a starter, rendering former prep stars Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain mere afterthoughts. Corp transferred to Richmond in January. Mustain has appeared in 10 games in two years, with zero meaningful minutes under center. Kiffin's coaching ability may be questionable, but the potential of his starting quarterback is anything but.
Beware of the bark. Washington is poised to build on its five-game improvement in 2009, with Jake Locker (28) leading the charge. He started 12 games in his redshirt freshman season and would bring even more starting experience into the new decade were it not for a broken thumb suffered against Stanford two years ago. It sidelined him for the remainder of the 2008 season. Poor Ronnie Fouch (8) was under center as the 0-12 season progressed.
Locker's career totals of 5,374 passing and 1,554 rushing are Tebow-esque. He wisely put his NFL dreams on hold, much to the chagrin of the Pac-10. Remember when Marques Tuiasasopo ran for 200 yards and threw for another 300 in one game against Stanford? Locker is the type who could repeat such an effort.
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