Casey Pachall comes back after missing the season's final nine games after he was charged with a DWI and spent time in rehab. In the four games he played, Pachall was outstanding, compiling a 180.0 quarterback rating by completing 66 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and one interception. That makes him the best returning quarterback in the Big 12, with him throwing 35 touchdowns to eight interceptions over his last 17 games. He's the key to unlocking the TCU offense. Trevone Boykin was thrown into the fire when Pachall left, and did an admirable job, though the Horned Frogs went just 3-6 over those nine games. Still, Boykin showed some flashes, throwing 15 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and making some big plays — including several key plays against Texas on Thanksgiving — with his legs. It should be Pachall's job, but having a player with Boykin's experience is a huge plus as well.
It seems strange to say, but David Ash has the most starts of any quarterback playing in the Big 12 in 2013. And he's coming off a season where he finished in the nation's top 25 in passing efficiency, completing 67.3 percent of his passes for 2,699 yards and 19 touchdowns to eight interceptions. Statistically, his performance was a better than Colt McCoy's sophomore year in 2007. With the Longhorns going more up-tempo this season, expect to see even more of the offense in his hands. But Texas is also up this high because the Longhorns have a backup in Case McCoy who has proven that he can play the role of relief pitcher to pull out wins when needed. A co-starter in 2010, McCoy ceded the starting role to Ash a year ago, but came in to help lead the Longhorns to a win against Kansas, and nearly brought the team back against TCU when Ash played with a rib injury.
If there were a prize for most options who started multiple games a year ago, Oklahoma State would have been No. 1 with a bullet coming out of the spring. Now, Wes Lunt has transferred, but that still leaves the Cowboys with a pair of options who fared well a season ago. Senior Clint Chelf appears to be the guy after completing 60.4 percent of his passes for 1,588 yards and 15 touchdowns to six interceptions. Chelf started last year as the third-stringer, but injuries and his own strong play helped propel him to the No. 1 spot. This spring, he was accurate and operated with a steady hand. Not that J.W. Walsh is going to give it to him easily. Walsh was last year's No. 2, but the dual threat stepped up well when Lunt went down early, passing for 1,564 yards and 13 touchdowns to three interceptions. He's the best runner out of the two as well.
Some might have Oklahoma lower here, but I think Blake Bell has the potential to be a star. Lost in his role as the "Belldozer", a power runner in short-yardage packages, is the fact that Bell (6-6 263)was a pocket passer first upon arriving in Norman. Now a junior, Bell threw for a combined 5,992 yards and 69 touchdowns in his last two seasons at Wichita (Kan.) Bishop Carroll. Since coming to Oklahoma, he's thrown just 20 career passes, a number that is actually four fewer than the number or rushing touchdowns (24) he's accumulated. Former San Antonio Reagan product Trevor Knight also impressed with a nice spring and should be entrenched as the No. 2. But the key here is Bell, and how dynamic he can be when opposing teams can't buckle down against the run every time he trots on the field.
Credit this one as much to the Big 12's state at quarterback as anything. Despite sitting out last year after transferring from BYU, the former five-star quarterback still enters the 2013 season as one of the Big 12's most experienced signal callers. He was solid as a freshman, completing 57.2 percent of his passes for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions. But he regressed as a sophomore and was eventually replaced by Riley Nelson, before leaving Provo for a fresh start. He'll get it at Kansas, where the Jayhawks are just hoping he'll be better than last year's disaster at the position. Should anything happen to Heaps, Michael Cummings returns after starting the last part of last season. Cummings was generally overmatched as a redshirt freshman, and didn't show the kind of explosiveness as a runner that drew the attention of the Turner Gill staff out of high school. That's not surprising, considering he was coming off a knee injury. But it helps to have an experienced backup, and the Jayhawks have that.
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6) Baylor — If this spring is any indication, Bryce Petty could be the next star QB in Waco. He's a big guy (6-3 230) who can use his legs, though he threw just 10 passes a year ago. After Petty, things get harrier, with two freshmen in rFR Seth Russell and true FR Chris Johnson on tap. Both are very good athletes.
7) Texas Tech — Seth Doege is gone, but when have the Red Raiders ever fretted about a new quarterback? Michael Brewer is a great fit for new coach Kliff Kingsbury's Air Raid offense, having run a similar throw-everywhere spread system at Lake Travis. He was impressive in the spring. So too, was true freshman Davis Webb of Prosper. Brewer performed well in spot duty a year ago and should put up typical Red Raider numbers now that he's the guy.
8) Kansas State — Daniel Sams fits the mold of what the Wildcats do running the football, rushing for 235 yards at 7.3 yards per carry in blowouts. But can he beat out JUCO transfer Jake Waters, the NJCAA National Player of the Year, who is the better thrower? Both were in for the spring, and neither separated. Both should be decent options.
9) Iowa State — Sam Richardson returns after throwing for 541 yards and eight touchdowns to one interception in the season's final three games. But take out a poor bowl performance, and Richardson's potential comes to light. In games against Kansas and West Virginia, he was 36-of-50 (72 percent) for seven touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for another 233 yards on 31 carries and a score. After just two starts, it's his job now.
10) West Virginia — What's the saying: when you've got two quarterbacks, you don't have any? What about three? The Mountaineers had a tight battle going between Ford Childress and Paul Millard coming out of the spring, only to receive a (good) surprise when Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett announced he would transfer in. Trickett is immediately eligible, so he'll join the fight to commandeer Dana Holgorsen's version of the Air Raid.