The Big 12 has consistently been the nations premier conference when it comes to developing and producing quarterbacks that put up big numbers. The 2012 season should be no different with many returning starters and a few that could rack up post-season awards.
1. Geno Smith (West Virginia) The senior quarterback showed that he will be an early Heisman trophy candidate in 2012 last year as he led his team to an Orange Bowl rout of Clemson. Smith threw for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns while leading the Mountaineers to ten wins. Although Smith isn't a true dual threat quarterback, he has enough speed and agility to move out of the pocket and create plays downfield. With a legitimate shot at winning the Big 12 conference title as a senior and an outside shot at a national championship appearance, Smith's play will be vital to the Mountaineers success in 2012.
2. Collin Klein (Kansas State) It would be easy to drop Klein further down this list because his 2011 campaign wasn't pretty in terms of passing offense and he looked like he wasn't going to be able to last the whole season because of all the hits he took. None of this matters when you win like Klein did last year. The senior quarterback won ten games and put Kansas State back on the map. Klein rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 27 touchdowns. If Klein can withstand all the hits that he did last year and can improve his passing game, they could win ten games again if things fall their way in 2012.
3. Landry Jones (Oklahoma) It looked like Jones was going to be a top NFL quarterback pick going into the 2011 season, but a disappointing season for the Sooners dropped his stock. The senior quarterback will be back in 2012 and will be looking to lead to the Sooners to a Big 12 title. After throwing 15 interceptions and struggling down the stretch, Jones will be hungry for a better 2012 campaign. Look for Jones to return to his 2010 form when he passed for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns while throwing only 12 interceptions.
4. Seth Doege (Texas Tech) Doege put up good numbers in 2011, throwing for 4004 yards and 28 touchdowns. The senior quarterback showed flashes of excellence, but also showed signs of being inexperienced with strings of interceptions and turnovers. Doege will be counted on to lead the Red Raiders back to a bowl game and to have a more consistent offense. Look for Doege to improve his passing numbers in 2012 and if the Red Raiders can improve on defense, Doege could lead the Red Raiders to a big season next year.
5. Casey Pachall (TCU) When the Horned Frogs won the Rose Bowl in 2010, quarterback Andy Dalton was drafted and many people wondered how far the offense would fall in 2011. It turns out that Pachall and the Horned Frog offense didn't skip a beat. The redshirt junior won 11 games last year and will be looking to prove himself against tougher competition as TCU heads to the Big 12. Pachall and the Horned Frogs have a much tougher schedule in 2012 so I can't see them winning 11 games next year, but I do see Pachall having another good year in terms of offensive numbers. He will be the leader of the team and TCU's success depends on his performance in the second half of the season.
6. Dayne Crist (Kansas) Crist was somewhat of a disappointment during his three seasons at Notre Dame. The senior quarterback threw for 2,033 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010, but lost his starting spot and played very few snaps in 2011. Crist was highly touted out of high school as the No. 2 ranked quarterback in the 2008 class and has the ability to be a standout player in 2012. With just one year to play, Crist will need to come out and be the leader of the Jayhawks team. Crist was recruited by new Kansas head coach Charlie Weis so the two already are familiar with each other and know Weis' offensive scheme. Crist could help the Jayhawks get back on track as a football program in 2012.
7. Nick Florence (Baylor) The loss of Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III will hurt the Bears offense, but Florence has looked good in the spring and played well in the one game he saw action last season, against Texas Tech. The senior quarterback threw for 1,786 yards and six touchdowns in 2009. Florence has big shoes to fill next year and will probably struggle with a tough schedule, including road games at West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma. Despite having little experience as a backup to RGIII, Florence could surprise people with a good offensive season next year.
8. Jared Barnett/Steele Jantz (Iowa State) Jantz started out the 2011 season as the starter for the Cyclones and played well for the first five games. Jantz threw for ten touchdowns but also threw 11 interceptions before being benched. Barnett took over as the starter for the second half of the season and was also very unsteady as a starter with six touchdowns and six interceptions. Neither quarterback proved to be the sure starter for the 2012 season and will be decided as the season approaches.
9. David Ash/ Case McCoy (Texas) It was no secret that the Longhorns couldn't find their offense, especially through the air last year. Both Ash and McCoy struggled throwing the ball as Ash threw for 1079 yards and four touchdowns with eight interceptions while McCoy threw for 1034 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions. Texas will have a stout defense next year which should help quarterback play, but there are still many question marks about how Texas will improve their offense. Whichever quarterback gets the start; they will have to improve tremendously for Texas to contend for the Big 12 title in 2012.
10. Wes Lunt (Oklahoma State) The Cowboys are in the last position of these rankings more by default than anything else. True freshman Lunt will be tossed into the starting role without playing a single snap in college football. Lunt will be learning the ins and outs of Big 12 football immediately and this will probably pay off in dividends in years to come, but the 2012 quarterback play for Oklahoma State will almost certainly be rocky with a true freshman. I would look for redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh to be a viable backup to Lunt if he really struggles early in the season.