Three of the league's quarterback groups — Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State — would probably be ranked in the top five in the country. And Texas A&M has to be excited for what quarterback Ryan Tannehill can do in his second year as a starter.
But after that, things get murky. After that top four, only Texas and Kansas return their starting quarterbacks from a year ago, and both Garrett Gilbert and Jordan Webb ranked at or near the bottom of the league in pass efficiency rating. Furthermore, there's no guarantee that either will have his job by the season opener or keep it through the end of the year.
So it's a huge gap between the haves at the top of the list and the have nots that rank lower. Still, it's worth noting that at least two schools, Missouri and Texas Tech, appear to have found their heirs apparent to the position and could move up the list.
Other league quarterbacks may get more pub, but Robert Griffin III is probably the best signal caller in the Big 12. He put up more than 4,100 total yards a year ago and 30 combined scores. Even better, he doesn't turn the ball over much, throwing just 11 interceptions in two full seasons as a starter. And he's mobile, rushing for nearly 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns in those two years. But the league's best quarterback situation is more than just Griffin. No other team in the league can boast a passing record holder on their bench, but that's precisely what the Bears have in junior Nick Florence. Filling in for an injured Griffin, Florence threw for 427 yards in leading the Bears to a road win over Missouri two years ago. The Bears also like what they see out of redshirt freshman Bryce Petty.
With the talent surrounding him, Landry Jones could make a run for the Heisman. He made a great leap as a sophomore, throwing for 1,520 more yards and 12 more touchdowns than he did as a redshirt freshman, while upping his completion percentage 7.5 percent. He also drastically reduced his interception percentage. As a freshman, he threw an interception once every 32.1 attempts. Last year, that rate dropped to once every 51.4 attempts. And now the word out of Norman is that he's made another exponential leap. There's a lot to like about mammoth backups Drew Allen (6-foot-5, 236 pounds) and Blake Bell (6-6 241), though true freshman Kendal Thompson made it in for the spring and impressed everyone with his high level of play.
3) Oklahoma State
It's a testament to the talent in the Big 12 that Oklahoma State is this low. After all, Cowboy starter Brandon Weeden did throw for 4,227 yards and 34 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions a year ago. The 27-year-old has the Big 12's biggest arm and great touch on his deep ball. Now, he'll try to captain the Cowboys past the rival Sooners, without the help of offensive guru Dana Holgorsen. Sophomores Clint Chelf and Johnny Deaton are positioning themselves for the race after Weeden graduates, though they'll find it tough to fight off promising true freshman J.W. Walsh, a dual-threat playmaker.
4) Texas A&MThe Aggies return Ryan Tannehill, a capable game manager who helped the Aggies to a share of the Big 12 South title a year ago. Tannehill is a good athlete who led Texas A&M in receptions as a freshman and sophomore, though his best attribute seems to be his steady demeanor. The Aggies turned the ball over too often prior to his taking over, and Tannehill passed for 13 touchdowns to six interceptions. Still, it remains to be seen whether he can do that over a full season, or whether he can up his game to that of his peers listed higher on this list. The Aggies seem to be transitioning toward more of a dual-threat quarterback, with redshirt freshman Jameill Showers and true freshman Johnny Manziel looking like players to watch in the future. Redshirt freshman Matt Joeckel is also in that mix.
The Longhorns occupy this spot largely because they return what the others don't: a full-time starting quarterback from a year ago. Garrett Gilbert threw 17 interceptions last year, but he was just one problem on an offense full of them. This year, with a deeper group, and a year's more experience, he has a chance to improve his standing. If not, he'll have to fight off Case McCoy and Connor Wood to keep his job. And don't forget true freshman David Ash, who is probably the most talented quarterback on the 40 Acres. If Gilbert struggles, don't be shocked if Ash sees the field.
Best of the Rest
7) Texas Tech — Junior Seth Doege had a big spring to claim the job over sophomore Jacob Karam. Doege is accurate and can move in the pocket. Watch Lake Travis standout Michael Brewer as a potential quarterback of the future.
8) Kansas — Jordan Webb struggled a year ago, but like Gilbert, didn't have the best situation. Now the talent will be better around him, but Webb might not keep his job. Keep an eye on true freshmen Brock Berglund and Michael Cummings.
9) Kansas State — Collin Klein played well at times last year. Like his primary competition in Justin Tuggle, Klein is a run-first player who struggles to throw the ball. But all Bill Snyder typically needs is a heady player who can run the option and not make mistakes.
10) Iowa State — The Cyclone job will go to one of two juniors: Jerome Tiller or JUCO transfer Steele Jantz. Both players can run, but the head of offensive coordinator Tom Herman's offense needs to make good decisions with the ball.