Over the course of its existence, the Big 12 has been arguably the best quarterback conference in the country. Every school has produced at least one, and sometimes multiple elite college quarterbacks. And that's what makes this year's crop of Big 12 quarterbacks so shocking—it appears to be an incredibly weak group. With one possible exception, there are simply no Big 12 quarterbacks who are on All America, let alone Heisman radars. That may well change during the season, but right now quarterback looks like a real weakness for the FBS' premier passing conference.
Below is a reverse-order ranking of the probable starting signal callers in the Big 12.
10. Sam Richardson, Iowa State: Outside of Seneca Wallace, Iowa State has produced no quarterbacks of late who really jump out at you. And Sam Richardson is unlikely to scramble that pattern. The sophomore from Florida completed 46 of 79 passes with four touchdowns and one pick last year while playing with possibly the weakest offense in the conference. At this point, there's little reason to believe he will explode onto the scene in 2013.
9. Blake Bell, Oklahoma: The Sooner faithful were not always thrilled with Landry Jones, but with glorified fullback Blake Bell pulling the trigger in 2013, they may beg the football gods to forgive them for maligning Landry. At six-foot-six and 265 pounds, Bell is a monster, and he's plenty tough. But Bell threw a grand total of 20 passes his first two seasons in Norman, and it's not because he never played. Bell played plenty, but was little more than a short-yardage/goal line running specialist. Unless he pulls a Colin Klein, look for Bell to be fighting for his job by mid-season.
8. Jake Heaps, Kansas: Where have we heard this before? Charlie Weis brings in a gold-plated transfer from a prominent football program to save his own. First it was Dayne Crist from Notre Dame; now it is Jake Heaps from BYU. Both quarterbacks were All Everything in high school, struggled mightily at the D1 level, and sought refuge in Lawrence. Pending evidence to the contrary, I'm not buying the Heaps hype.
7. Bryce Petty, Baylor: Speaking of hype, the circus surrounding the entirely unknown, unproven and obscure Bryce Petty, is ridiculous. Various pundits are hyperventilating over a grayshirt from Baylor's 2009 recruiting class who has thrown all of 14 passes at the collegiate level. His lack of a pedigree is the antithesis of Jake Heaps, but the results on the field could be pretty similar.
6. Michael Brewer, Texas Tech: I personally believe Michael Brewer will be an exceptional college quarterback. He will certainly develop into Tech's best since Graham Harrell. But looked at objectively, Brewer is one of the more unproven quarterbacks in a conference where almost everybody's quarterback is a question mark. Like most of the guys rated below him, Brewer has much to prove.
5. David Ash, Texas: The Longhorns will benefit from having the most experienced quarterback in the conference. Unfortunately for Mack Brown's bunch, David Ash has just never really taken charge of the Texas offense. Ash is a caretaker quarterback who has been heavily challenged and occasionally replaced by backup Case McCoy. No quarterback who's constantly vulnerable to the hook can qualify as remotely elite.
4. Trevone Boykin, TCU: Trevone Boykin is competing with Casey Pachall for the starting spot, but the reality is that the Horned Frog offense was much more dangerous last season with Boykin under center. Boykin was only an average passer last season, but with a year of experience under his belt, should improve in that area. And he's a legitimate dual-threat guy.
3. Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Christmas came early for Dana Holgorsen when Clint Trickett decided to transfer from Florida State to West Virginia. When Trickett got the chance to spell E. J. Manuel with the Seminoles, he looked very good indeed. In fact, Trickett plays a lot like a certain Kliff Kingsbury. Now he has his work cut out for him learning the WVU offense on short notice, but Trickett is a graduate student and a coach's son. He will assimilate the offense in time, and when he does, look out.
2. Daniel Sams, Kansas State: Colin Klein was a poor man's Tim Tebow. Daniel Sams will be a poor man's Robert Griffin III. Sams got very little opportunity to show what he could do last season with Klein running the show, but when he did, the results were pretty spectacular. In short, Sams is an absolute jet. There may not be a faster quarterback in college football. If he can throw the pill just passably well, Sams and the KSU offense will be strong medicine.
1. J. W. Walsh, Oklahoma State: When Wes Lunt was still in the fold, Mike Gundy may have had the three best quarterbacks in the conference in Lunt, Clint Chelf and J. W. Walsh. Now that Lunt has transferred to Illinois, he's down to the two best. Walsh is the only quarterback in the conference who has legitimate All Big 12 credentials. As a freshman, he put up the best pass efficiency rating in the conference, and he's also a threat to run the football. Walsh looks like a future All American.