Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech (6-4, 230): Driskel started 20 games at Florida from 2011 through 2014. After leading the Gators to a BCS bowl in 2012, Driskel played only three games in 2013 due to a broken leg, which meant an extra year of eligibility. Driskel took advantage of it by transferring to Louisiana Tech. Because he had graduated, he didn’t have to sit out a season. Driskel put up monster numbers with 4,033 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. He ranked ninth in yards per attempt, 11th in passing yards and 16th in passer rating. For his career, he went 23-9 as a starter. Why did he leave Florida? "I think down at Florida, it got very toxic for him. He became the scapegoat," Tech coach Skip Holtz said. It became so bad that his mom, Mary, watched games with music blaring from headphones so she didn’t have to listen to fans complain about her son. He almost quit football altogether. “Going into Florida, I thought I was going to play for three years and be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft,” he said. “That’s how you draw it up, but you never know how things are going to play out. You just have to trust the process and enjoy it. I’m happy it ended up this way.”
Jared Goff, California (6-4, 210): Underclassman. Goff started all 36 possible games at Cal and became the only quarterback in school history to start his first game as a true freshman. He departs having set school career records for passing yards (11,733), touchdown passes (90), total offense (11,635) and completions (952). He’s one of only six players in Pac-12 history to throw for 3,000-plus yards in three seasons and the second to throw for 3,000-plus yards in each of his first three seasons. Among active FBS quarterbacks, Goff ranked second in touchdown passes, passing yards, passing yards per game (325.9) and completions (952). In 2015, he became the school’s first first-team all-conference quarterback since Aaron Rodgers in 2004. He completed 316-of-492 passes for 4,252 yards with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, breaking his own school records in passing yards, touchdown passes, total touchdowns and total offense. He finished 10th in the nation in passer rating. Goff performed with countless eyeballs on him throughout his career. Also watching was No. 12 emblazoned in the stadium. Goff is about the same age as that No. 12, former Cal quarterback Joe Roth, when he passed away from metastatic melanoma. Cal was in Goff’s blood. His father, Jerry, played third base for the Bears on the baseball diamond, punted for the football team and enjoyed a lengthy career with the Expos, Pirates and Tigers in the 1990s. His mother, Nancy, also went to Cal, as did his paternal grandfather. Goff didn’t just blossom as a passer at Cal. He blossomed as a leader as a two-year captain. “He’s gone from, two years ago, not knowing what’s up and what’s down to now teaching the younger guys,” Jerry Goff says. “He’s really comfortable with his surroundings. … You’re going to see some really special things from this kid.” He emerged as a quarterback when he was 7.
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State (6-4, 236): Underclassman. Hackenberg might be the most polarizing quarterback in the draft. In three years at Penn State, he started all 38 games and rewrote the school record book. He ranks first in Penn State history in career passing yards (8,457), touchdowns (48), 300-yard passing games (9), 200-yard passing games (21), attempts (1,235), completions (693) and total offense (8,215). Hackenberg is the only quarterback in program history with 8,000 yards passing and three 2,000-yard passing seasons. In 2015, he completed 53.5 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns with only six interceptions. Of 124 qualifying quarterbacks, Hackenberg ranked 85th in passer rating. He got worse, not better, as his career progressed. It should be noted that Hackenberg took over a program ravaged by NCAA sanctions. That’s one reason why he got sacked more than 100 times during his career. For every time he got knocked down, he got back up. “Teammates, my personal pride," he said. "It's a part of playing this game. You've got to get back up. Guys are looking at you, and you've got to leave everything you have on the field, no matter the circumstances.”
Kevin Hogan, Stanford (6-3, 217): The fifth-year senior was named a finalist for the Manning Award and earned second-team all-Pac-12 accolades after throwing for 2,867 yards with 27 touchdowns. He ranked fifth nationally in yards per attempt, completion percentage and passer rating. He added 336 rushing yards and six more touchdowns. It was a big-time season for Hogan compared to 2014, when he was impacted by his father’s losing battle with cancer. “I wasn't the one suffering,” he said. “I tried to be strong for him. He wanted to keep everything normal.” So, Hogan kept it all bottled up inside. "He's my best friend on the team, and I didn't know,” center Graham Shuler said. "I found out from a third party. He showed up ready to work every day, but I can't imagine the pressure it put on him.” For his career, he had a 36-10 record, including an impressive 16-6 vs. ranked opponents. In 51 games, he threw for 9,385 yards with 75 touchdowns vs. 29 interceptions. He burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman, winning MVP honors of the Pac-12 Championship Game and leading the Cardinal to victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Hogan’s grandfather played at Navy, tweo uncles played at Notre Dame and a cousin played at Arizona.
Cardale Jones, Ohio State (6-5, 250): Underclassman. In 2014, Jones went from third-string quarterback to piloting the Buckeyes to the national championship. In his first collegiate start, he threw for 257 yards, including three long touchdowns, in a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. He then led Ohio State to 500-plus-yard outputs in playoff victories over Alabama and Oregon. In those three games, he threw for 742 yards and rushed for 90 more while accounting for six touchdowns. He opened this season as the co-starter and completed 110-of-176 passes (62.5 percent) for 1,460 yards with eight touchdowns vs. five interceptions in 10 games (eight starts). Just shy of getting his degree, Jones entered the draft with one year of eligibility remaining. While redshirting in 2012, Jones set off a Twitter firestorm: “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL. We ain't come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS.” Jones’ Tweet found its way into a what-not-to-do section of an Ole Miss social media class. Jones said his comments came without proper context — disappointment over getting a “B” on a sociology exam. "It was just a dumb-ass thing to do. I definitely didn't think that would happen. It was just a stupid thing to do at that time. It was something where I just got pissed because I studied my ass off." At one point, coach Urban Meyer said Jones had “one foot out the door.” A meeting with Meyer, Jones, Jones’ high school coach (Ted Ginn Sr.) and Jones’ guardian and surrogate mother helped clear the air. Not that there weren’t bumps in the road. Jones had to wear a dunce cap in a quarterback meeting when he wasn’t meeting expectations.
Cody Kessler, Southern California (6-1, 224): As a senior, Kessler completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,536 yards with 29 touchdown and seven interceptions. Those are good numbers but a disappointment in light of what he did as a junior. In 2014, Kessler completed 69.7 percent for 3,826 yards with 39 touchdowns and five interceptions. The three-year starter finished his career with 10,339 yards, 88 touchdowns, 19 interceptions and a 67.5 percent completion rate. In Pac-12 history, Kessler ranks second in completion percentage, fourth in passer rating, sixth in touchdown passes and sixth in total touchdowns (95). A native of Bakersfield, Calif., Kessler never got caught up in the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. Just ask the singing cowboy along the Third Street Promenade. “I looked up to him,” Kessler says, “partly because he is such a cool guy but also because he reminded me of home. I wanted him to remember me.” Accuracy, efficiency and limiting mistakes are what Kessler’s game is all about. He played that way even through four coaching changes.
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Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.