Big 12's Best: Quarterbacks

Teams will take their first steps towards the 2012 football season over the next few months when spring practices get in full swing.

How does sophomore-to-be David Ash stack up against the rest of the expected 2012 Big 12 quarterbacks?

There will be a lot of new names and faces around the Big 12 next season with the addition of West Virginia and TCU, as well as the departure of high-profile players to the NFL, graduation…or the SEC. will go through the new-look Big 12 and find the best players at each position as the long road to the 2012 BCS National Championship begins on practice fields around the conference in the coming weeks.


Our positional looks start with the most visible position on the football field.

The top performers from last year are gone. Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden will no longer keep Big 12 defensive coordinators up at night, and Missouri’s James Franklin is the problem of Will Muschamp and Mark Richt in the SEC East now.

There are a few guys coming back in 2012 that have the potential to put up the typically big numbers in the pass-happy conference, and West Virginia and TCU both bring quarterbacks with experience under their belt. With all that in mind, here is our pre-spring look at the best quarterbacks in the Big 12 for 2012.

10. Nick Florence, Sr. – Baylor
2011 stats: 75% comp., 151 yards, 2/0 TD/Int

Florence didn’t get much work behind the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, but he actually has a fair amount of experience in his pocket. Due to injuries Florence was forced to start seven games as a freshman in 2009, throwing for 1,786 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions. Will that experience pay dividends in his senior year? Who knows. But with the loss of RG3, running back Terrance Ganaway and wide receiver Kendall Wright, the Baylor offense stands to take a big step back from what it accomplished in 2011, putting even more pressure on Florence in 2012.

Baylor's Nick Florence threw three interceptions and one touchdown in a 47-14 loss to Colt McCoy and the Longhorns in 2009.

9. J.W. Walsh, RS Fr. – Oklahoma State
2011 stats: None - redshirted

Going into last year we would have had Oklahoma State’s quarterback No. 1 on our list, but with Weeden gone and the uncertainty that’s behind him, the Pokes are headed into spring with a huge question mark under center. Clint Chelf was Weedens’ backup last season, but we believe the job will go to Walsh in 2012. Walsh was a four-star recruit out of Denton Guyer in 2011, and reports out of Stillwater are that the coaching staff really likes what they have in the youngster. If he does in fact move past Chelf in the pecking order this spring, he’ll have huge shoes to fill after Weeden’s unbelievably successful run over the past two seasons.

8. Jared Barnett, So. – Iowa State
2011 stats: 50% comp., 1,201 yards, 6/6 TD/Int; 104 rush attempts, 437 yards 1 TD

Iowa State's quarterback situation is about as murky as OSU's as we head into spring. Barnett played fairly well for a freshman over the final six games of the regular season before being yanked in the bowl game for junior transfer Steele Jantz. Barnett went 3-3 to end the regular season with wins over Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma State while Jantz’s three wins came against Northern Iowa, Iowa and Connecticut to start 2011. We’re assuming Barnett did enough right to earn the job in 2012, but even if Jantz emerges as the starter in the fall, given the situations at Nos. 9 and 10, No. 8 is probably right in the hierarchy for either.

7. Dayne Crist, Sr. – Kansas
2010 stats: 59.2% comp., 2,033 yards, 15/7 TD/Int

We used Crist’s 2010 stats because he was rarely used by Notre Dame in 2011. He won’t have to sit out a year before playing for Charlie Weis at Kansas because of the rule that lets graduates play immediately. Crist never won over his coach or the fans in South Bend, but will have an opportunity to start over with Weis, the guy that originally recruited him to Notre Dame. Will the self-proclaimed offensive genius be able to resurrect the career of the once heralded recruit out of California? As our No. 7 ranking may suggest, we’re not believers.

6. David Ash, So. – Texas
2011 stats: 56.9% comp., 1,079 yards, 4/8 TD/Int; 73 rush attempts, 103 yards, 1 TD

David Ash is the last of the unknowns on this list. He had a roller coaster of a freshman year starting off as the No. 3 quarterback, then moving to No. 2 and then finishing the season as the starter heading into 2012. His 2011 stats look bad, but he improved as his freshman year went along, culminating in a Holiday Bowl performance where he threw for 142 yards and a touchdown, but more importantly, no interceptions. He won’t win any awards in 2012 with his play at quarterback, but if he can continue to take care of the football he’ll be the exact quarterback Texas will need with its talented stable of running backs.

Landry Jones comes in at No. 3 in our quarterback ranking because of his penchant for throwing untimely interceptions in big games.

5. Seth Doege, Jr. – Texas Tech
2011 stats: 68.5% comp., 4,004 yards, 28/10 TD/Int

Doege threw it more times than any other quarterback in college football last season with 581 attempts. His rating of 138.85 (5th in Big 12) prevents him from being any higher on this list at this point, but as a sophomore in 2011 he showed he can hang with the big boys in a conference that loves throwing the football. Many will remember the collapse of the Red Raiders in 2011 after their surprising upset of then undefeated Oklahoma. Tech lost the next five games, a stretch in which Doege threw six touchdowns and seven interceptions. Doege did a good job against the weaker teams in 2011, but he’ll have to prove he can have similar success against the quality conference teams to be able to claim a spot higher on this list.

4. Casey Pachall, Jr. – TCU
2011 stats: 66.5% comp., 2,921 yards, 25/7 TD/Int

One of two newcomers to the Big 12 comes in at No. 4 after leading TCU to an 11-2 record, a Mountain West title and a Poinsettia Bowl win over Louisiana Tech in 2011. Pachall proved to be solid in the biggest games of the season in 2011 with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions total in games against Baylor, BYU and Boise State. He finished the season with a 157.97 quarterback rating which would have been good for third in the Big 12 behind only Griffin and Weeden. His competition will obviously take a big step up from the likes of Colorado State and UNLV in the MWC to Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12, but his numbers are solid and in a down year for quarterbacks in the Big 12, he belongs near the top.

3. Landry Jones, Sr. - Oklahoma
2011 stats: 63.2% comp., 4,463 yards, 29/15 TD/Int

Jones may have the best arm of the top quarterbacks in the conference, but his 15 interceptions in 2011 was tied for the most in the Big 12 (Ryan Tannehill). The senior has continued to struggle in the bigger games. He threw seven interceptions in the four games against the conference's best teams and two more against Florida State early in the year. Don't be mistaken, Jones is a solid quarterback that can put up numbers in a hurry (505 yards, 5 TDs vs. Kansas State; 448 yards, 3 TD vs. Missouri), but his penchant for the untimely interception prevents him from claiming the top two spots on our list, and will likely prevent him from being as high of an NFL draft pick as he was once projected.

2. Collin Klein, Sr. - Kansas State
2011 stats: 57.3% comp., 1,918 yards, 13/6 TD/Int; 317 rush attempts, 1141 yards, 27 TD 

There may be better throwers of the football around the conference, but when it comes to doing what needs to be done to get wins, Collin Klein vaults up the list of best quarterbacks in the Big 12. K-State head coach Bill Snyder knows what he has in Klein, and lets him do what he does best. Klein is a punishing runner for a quarterback, has a high football IQ and doesn't put his team in bad spots. A Tebow-esque type player, he won't wow you with his arm, but in the end he'll do what he needs to to put a W on the board for the Wildcats.

1. Geno Smith, Sr. - West Virginia
2011 stats: 65.8% comp., 4,385 yards, 31/7 TD/Int

The top quarterback on our list is the senior on Big 12 newcomer West Virginia. Smith had a marvelous season in the Big East last year with 31 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions, including nine out of 13 games in which he didn't throw any picks. His last time out he threw for 407 yards and 6 touchdowns against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. He has the ability to run the ball, but under new head coach and offensive guru Dana Holgorsen, Smith wasn't asked to do nearly as much with his legs. In 2010 (before Holgorsen) Smith ran over 100 times, compared to just 56 in 2011. He may not be another RG3, but with his great physical abilities combined with Holgorsen's scheme, Smith is well deserving of the top spot on our list.

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