Blake Bortles, Central Florida: Junior entry. Bortles threw for 3,581 yards with 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a senior, capped by winning American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors and winning MVP of the Fiesta Bowl with four total touchdowns vs. Baylor. Bortles and Daunte Culpepper are the only quarterbacks in UCF history to top 3,000 passing yards twice. Not bad for a former three-star recruit. Do a Google search for Bortles and most of the top hits are of his girlfriend. "Apparently, she is more of a household name than I am,' Bortles told ESPN. "She's more famous than me and there's nothing I can do about that." Akron coach Terry Bowden, who coached Auburn to an undefeated season, said Bortles is "just as good a quarterback as I've seen in the country."
Tajh Boyd, Clemson: In 47 career games (40 starts), Boyd threw for 11,904 yards and 107 touchdowns, plus added 1,165 rushing yards and 26 scores. Added together, that's 13,069 total yards and an ACC-record 133 touchdowns. As a senior, he was responsible for 4,251 total yards and 44 touchdowns. Not only is he first in school history in practically every career and single-season passing stat, but he's No. 1 with eight victories over Top 25 teams. As a senior, he was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas and Peyton Manning awards. In beating Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, he piled up 505 total yards — second-most in a BCS game. His storied career — one that led Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris to label him as "the face of the program" — didn't get off to the best start. When Boyd arrived at Clemson, he struggled so much with catching shotgun snaps that the Tigers coaching staff sent him to an eye doctor thinking that perhaps his vision needed to be corrected. Boyd, who has earned his degree in sociology, showed his footwork during country western dance class at Clemson.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: Junior entry. After throwing for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2012, Bridgewater improved to 3,970 yards with 31 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2013. He ended his career with a bang by lighting up Miami — his hometown team and the school he dreamed of playing for — for 447 yards and three scores in a bowl game. Bridgewater is mature. While technically an early entrant, Bridgewater earned his degree in just three years. When he was 14, his mom told Bridgewater and his three siblings that she had breast cancer. "He put something on Facebook about his mom losing her hair,'' said his mom, Rose Murphy, "and it hit me like a ton of bricks. All I kept thinking was, ‘I have to find a way to beat this.'" Bridgewater salutes his mom before every game. "In the cycle of life, people lose loved ones,'' Bridgewater said. "I just cherish my mom because of everything she's been through and the way she raised me. Most people should be thankful to still have their mother. I know I am."
Derek Carr, Fresno State: Carr left Fresno State in possession of 25 school records and 21 Mountain West records. As a senior, he became the fourth quarterback in FBS history to throw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. Carr is the brother of the 2002 draft's No. 1 overall pick, David Carr, who bombed as quarterback of the expansion Texans. "Someone asked me (at the Senior Bowl), ‘Why are you always happy?' and it was 11 p.m. and we had meetings and interviews," Carr said. "It's because I've been dreaming about this since I was little. Why be upset? I could be doing a lot worse things than being here and being tired. I'm going to continue to enjoy this process. This truly is a blessing to just be invited here and be here." Carr isn't lacking for intelligence. He was one of 16 National Football Foundation scholar-athletes and was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which also is known as the Academic Heisman. With the $18,000 NFF scholarship, he plans to go to seminary school.
David Fales, San Jose State: Fales found a home at San Jose State after starting his career at Nevada — he left because Colin Kaepernick was the starter — and spending two seasons at Monterey Peninsula Community College. At San Jose State in 2012, he was the most accurate passer in FBS with 72.5 percent marksmanship with 4,193 yards and 33 touchdowns. In 2013, he set a Mountain West record with five consecutive 300-yard games and tied his own school record with 33 touchdown passes. In upsetting Fresno State, Fales threw for 547 yards. Fales and Carr were the only quarterbacks to throw for 4,000 yards in 2012 and 2013. At the Quicken Loans All-Star Football Challenge, Fales beat Boyd and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas in an accuracy competition. No surprise there. During an Elite 11 high school quarterback camp during the offseason, Fales beat fellow instructors Johnny Manziel, Bridgewater and Boyd in an accuracy contest.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois: Garoppolo won the Walter Payton Award as the top player in FCS as a senior. He joined Tony Romo as the only Payton winners in school history. Saints coach Sean Payton also played quarterback for the school. "I want to live up to that. I want to surpass that, really," Garoppolo said at the Senior Bowl. "Every quarterback should have that mind-set. You want to be the best. You want to go win Super Bowls." In regular-season play, Garoppolo led FCS in passing yards and touchdown passes. Including the Panthers' run to the FCS quarterfinals, he posted a 14-game total of 5,050 passing yards with 53 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He threw for at least 300 yards in 11 of 14 games, including 361 yards and three scores against San Diego State in the opener. Facing stronger competition at the East-West Shrine Game, Garoppolo was named MVP after completing 9-of-14 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. A week later, he went 6-of-12 for 32 yards at the Senior Bowl. Garoppolo's coach at Eastern Illinois was Dino Babers, who was an assistant at Baylor when Robert Griffin III was its quarterback. "I've been around RGIII but Jimmy has the fastest release I've ever seen,'' Babers told the Chicago Tribune in September.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois: In two seasons as the starter, Lynch went 24-4, including three wins over BCS teams and a trip to the Orange Bowl. During those seasons, he threw for 6,030 yards and 51 touchdowns and rushed for 3,735 yards and 42 touchdowns. As a senior, he finished third in Heisman Trophy voting. That was the best for a MAC player since Randy Moss, who placed fourth in 1997. He also was the finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, which considers on- and off-the-field excellence. Lynch, Manziel, Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow are the only quarterbacks with 20 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns in a season. He's also one of five players with 6,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards, joining Kaepernick, Brad Smith, Denard Robinson and Pat White. About 15 minutes before each game, Lynch takes a shower, brushes his teeth and listens to the likes of Shania Twain and Adele. "I remember when I used to go out there for games all jacked up, trying to run over and hit somebody," he said. "But I play quarterback. I need to be mellow, and I need to be in control."
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Sophomore entry. There wasn't much more for Manziel to accomplish after two years in College Station. In 2012, he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. His encore wasn't too shabby, with 4,114 passing yards, 69.1 percent accuracy 759 rushing yards and 46 total touchdowns in 2013. His two-year total was 9,564 total yards and 88 touchdowns. He's a magician on the football field but there are major concerns about his character and whether he can be a leader in the NFL. Before playing for the Aggies, he had almost 5,300 total yards and 75 total touchdowns as a senior at Tivy High School near San Antonio. He was headed to Oregon but stayed close to home, with some persuasion from coach Mike Sherman (the former Packers coach) and quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley (Sherman's offensive coordinator in Green Bay).
Jeff Mathews, Cornell: In nine games as a senior, Mathews completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 2,953 yards, with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He's a three-time all-Ivy League selection and the conference's career passing leader by more than 2,000 yards — one of 17 Ivy records in his possession. He also was a finalist for the Academic Heisman. Back in 2011, a scout watching a Cornell game said Mathews was "better right now than the guy we're starting tomorrow." His sister is an advocate for distracted driving and a motivational speaker. Mathews played alongside Packers rookie lineman J.C. Tretter.
A.J. McCarron, Alabama: As a senior, McCarron was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy behind the first 3,000-yard passing season in school history. He won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Maxwell Award. Jay Barker, a fifth-round pick by Green Bay in 1995, was the only other Alabama quarterback to win the Unitas, and McCarron became the first Alabama player to capture the Maxwell, which goes to college football's top player. Until the Crimson Tide lost this year's Sugar Bowl, McCarron was part of as many national championship teams (three) as career losses with a 36-3 record as Alabama's quarterback, which is the most wins in school history and the third most in SEC annals. McCarron's brother, Corey, is a tight end for the Tide. Before becoming the second quarterback in 56 years to win back-to-back championships, McCarron almost died. The situation was so dire that his mother had decided to bury McCarron in his Little League uniform.
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.