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Ranking the Pac-12's returning quarterbacks

The Pac-12 will lose a lot of quality quarterbacks after this season. Where do things stack up among those who are returning?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning Cougar fans. I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful one. If you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you at least enjoyed the day off. One thing that many coaches in the Pac-12 likely found in their stockings is a new quarterback. Here are the veteran signal callers who will not be back next season: Marcus Mariota (in all likelihood), Connor Halliday, Sean Mannion, Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly. I don't think it's a stretch to say that every one of those guys was in the top half of conference quarterbacks this season, though it's arguable that Kelly and Mannion could be replaced by Cody Kessler and Jared Goff.

Our friends over at the ESPN Pac-12 Blog assessed the quarterback situation at every school for 2015, and it isn't looking as barren as I first would have thought. While ASU and WSU lose their best guy, their backups saw significant playing time. There are also some young players who could be primed for even bigger seasons, particularly at Arizona and Colorado.

I decided to devise my own non-scientific, completely arbitrary ranking of the quarterback situations at every school next season. Surprisingly, I have the Cougs a good bit higher than I would have guessed at the beginning of the year. Fire away with your own rankings in the Comments Section. Away we go...

1) USC - Cody Kessler is without question the top returning quarterback in the conference. I don't care who you're playing, 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions is outstanding. There's also some guy named Max Browne behind him.

2) Cal - Like Mike Leach, Sonny Dykes is very adept at developing quarterbacks, as we've seen with Jared Goff. He put up huge numbers this year, and nearly every one of his weapons is back.

3) ASU - Mike Bercovici gained a ton of starting experience in 2014 when Taylor Kelly injured his foot. When Kelly returned, and didn't play so well, there were pretty loud calls for Bercovici to come back. He will be hurt a bit by the loss of Jaelen Strong, but I still expect ASU to have a prolific offense regardless.

4) Colorado - I went back-and-forth between Colorado and Arizona here, but I went with Sefo Liufau, based on experience, and the fact that he has far less help. He can be a bit mistake-prone but I think he has a really big season, as 2015 will be his third year in the current system.

5) Arizona - Rich Rodriguez went with the untested Anu Solomon in 2014, and ended up in the Fiesta Bowl. Not too shabby. Like Bercovici, Solomon benefited from a strong group of skill position players, and he also had a very solid line. Arizona loses a significant amount of experience on the line next year, so Solomon will be tested quite a bit more.

6) WSU - Luke Falk started the final three games of the season, and the results were mixed. There was the high of the OSU game, when we all thought we had our guy for the future. However, there was also the turnover-fest at ASU, followed by the Apple Cup in which Falk made some poor decisions, but was given little help by his receivers dropping passes and fumbling the ball. I'll be curious to see how much of a push he gets from Peyton Bender in the spring.

7-9) Any mixture of Utah, Stanford and Washington - All three teams return quarterbacks with significant experience. All three teams return quarterbacks who aren't very good, in my opinion.

10) UCLA - With Brett Hundley departing, the logical choice would be Jerry Neuheisel. I think he'll get the majority of the reps in the spring, but the younger players will get every opportunity to unseat him. In particular, the highly-touted Josh Rosen will be a spring participant, and I get the feeling that it he can master Noel Mazzone's horizontal swing/screen pass offense quickly, he'll be the guy.

11) Oregon - This is more about who Oregon loses. Marcus Mariota was a once-in-a-generation player, especially in that system. There is very little experience returning, as would be expected, but whomever takes the reins will have solid skill players around him. Plus, Oregon's system seems to bring out the best in its quarterbacks. I expect a significant drop in production though.

12) Oregon State - While Sean Mannion didn't exactly set the conference on fire in 2014, he was a four-year starter who finished among the most productive quarterbacks in Pac-10/12 history. The returning players have next to no game experience. There is also the fact that these players will be transitioning from Mike Riley's system to Gary Andersen's.

That's my (admittedly way-too-early) assessment. Feel free to chime in.


Mike Bercovici among a strong crew of Pac-12 QBs for 2015 - Pac-12 Blog - ESPN
The skinny: Falk started fast then faded a bit after coming off the bench to replace the injured Connor Halliday, but he is the overwhelming favorite here.

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