The Top 6
A look at BuffZone.com's top 6 quarterbacks in the Pac-12 going into the 2016 season:
1. Josh Rosen, So., UCLA — He's the best pocket passer in the conference and has a load of talent around him.
2. Luke Falk, Jr., Washington State — In his first season as the full-time starter last fall, Falk shined and he should be even better.
3. Jake Browning, So., Washington — As a true freshman, he threw for nearly 3,000 yards. He will need to improve his TD-to-INT rate (16-10) this fall, however.
4. Davis Webb, Sr., California — Texas Tech transfer has a new home, but is already viewed as one of the top senior quarterbacks in the country.
5. Anu Solomon, Jr., Arizona — He's got some work to do to keep his job, but has been very efficient in two years as a starter and has a stellar TD-to-INT rate of 48-14.
6. Sefo Liufau, Sr., Colorado — We stretched the list to six to get Liufau in here. He's only 8-21 as a starter, but has the most experience of anyone in the conference and if healthy could be in line for his best season.
No position in football gets more attention than quarterback, and with good reason.
It's the most important position in football. A good one can make a big difference for a team, while a bad one can ruin a season.
In the Pac-12 this season, quarterback will be especially intriguing, because there are so many teams with uncertainty at the position. At least seven teams — and as many as nine — could open the season with a new starter.
UCLA, Washington and Washington State are the three teams settled behind center. Josh Rosen (UCLA), Jake Browning (Washington) and Luke Falk (Washington State) are three of the nation's better quarterbacks and they figure to be the front-runners for All-Pac-12 honors at season's end.
Arizona's Anu Solomon and Colorado's Sefo Liufau are incumbent starters and the two most experienced quarterbacks in the conference, but neither one is guaranteed to start. Solomon is in a fight for his job with rising sophomore Brandon Dawkins and Liufau is still recovering from a foot injury and may or may not be ready for the start of the season.
Four teams — Cal, Oregon, Oregon State and Utah — may hand the keys of the offense to a transfer, while three other teams — Arizona State, Stanford and USC — are depending on talented, but inexperienced, players to lead the way.
With that, here's a look at the quarterback situations for each team in the Pac-12 going into the 2016 season:
Projected starter: Anu Solomon, Jr., 6-2, 215 (Last year: 2,667 yards, 20 TD, 5 INT; 198 rushing yards, 3 TD)
Others to watch: Brandon Dawkins, So., 6-3, 201 (LY: 338 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT; 179 rushing yards, 2 TD; Khalil Tate, Fr., 6-2, 206
Outlook: Solomon would seem to be a lock to start, given that he's thrown for 6,460 yards, 48 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions in starting the bulk of the previous two seasons. However, head coach Rich Rodriguez said that Dawkins is very much in the running to start. A talented dual-threat athlete, Dawkins was third-string last year, but has made a big leap. Tate, rated by Rivals.com as the No. 4 dual-threat QB in the 2016 class, arrived on campus this spring, got a jump-start on his career and impressed Rodriguez with his play. This will be a battle between Solomon and Dawkins this fall, though.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Projected starter: Manny Wilkins, So., 6-3, 190
Others to watch: Bryce Perkins, R-Fr., 6-3, 215; Brady White, R-Fr., 6-2, 200
Newcomers: Dillon Sterling-Cole, Fr., 6-3, 200
Outlook: ASU has less experience at QB than any team in the Pac-12, as none of the four has thrown a pass in college. There's plenty of talent, though, as the Sun Devils search for Mike Bercovici's successor. Wilkins is a pro-style quarterback who enters his third year in the program. White was rated the No. 2 pro-style prospect in the country in the 2015 class — just below UCLA's Josh Rosen and just ahead of Washington's Jake Browning. Perkins is the biggest of the bunch and one of the country's top dual-threat QBs in the 2015 class. Sterling-Cole was a top-20 dual-threat prospect this year and could be in the mix, too.
California Golden Bears
Projected starter: Davis Webb, Sr., 6-5, 225 (LY: 300 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT at Texas Tech)
Others to watch: Chase Forrest, So., 6-2, 205 (LY: 162 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 9 rushing yards); Ross Bowers, R-Fr., 6-2, 190
Newcomers: Webb (transfer from Texas Tech); Max Gilliam, Fr., 6-2, 205; Victor Viramontes, Fr., 6-1, 240
Outlook: Cal has to replace the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL Draft (Jared Goff), and was able to steal Webb away from Colorado last month. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. lists Webb as the top senior quarterback in the country. Webb hasn't started a game since 2014, but should go into the season as the sure-fire starter. He threw for 5,557 yards and 46 touchdowns in three seasons at Texas Tech. Forrest and Bowers give the Bears two more solid options if needed. The future looks bright, with Gilliam and Viramontes, both rated among the top-15 dual threat QBs in the 2016 class.
Projected starter: Sefo Liufau, Sr., 6-4, 230 (LY: 2,418 yards, 9 TD, 6 INT; 266 rushing yards, 5 TD)
Others to watch: Jordan Gehrke, Sr., 6-1, 200 (LY: 116 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT); Steven Montez, R-Fr., 6-5, 230
Newcomers: Sam Noyer, Fr., 6-4, 205
Outlook: No quarterback in the Pac-12 has more career starts (29) or passing yards (7,397) than Liufau, but he's trying to rebound from a foot injury that knocked him out of the final two games of the 2015 season. That's a big reason why the Buffs went after Webb. Without Webb, the Buffs are hoping Liufau's foot is healed (all signs are good to this point) and that he can put together his best season in Boulder. Montez is likely to start the year as the primary backup. He's got great size and athleticism and earned a lot of respect in the spring. Gehrke is a veteran who provides some depth.
Projected starter: Dakota Prukop, Sr., 6-2, 200 (LY: 3,025 yards, 28 TD, 10 INT; 797 rushing yards, 11 TD at Montana State)
Others to watch: Travis Jonsen, R-Fr., 6-3, 194; Terry Wilson, Fr., 6-3, 195; Taylor Alie, Jr., 6-0, 185; Jeff Lockie, Sr., 6-2, 205
Newcomers: Prukop (transfer from Montana State); Wilson; Justin Herbert, Fr., 6-6, 215
Outlook: For the second year in a row, the Ducks could lean on a fifth-year transfer to start. Prukop was stellar at Montana State, but still needs to prove himself in Eugene. He had a solid spring, but Jonsen is very much in the running for the starting job. The No. 3 dual-threat QB recruit in the 2015 class, Jonsen has the ability to be a long-term starter. Alie and Lockie both played last year, but they're now also practicing at receiver. Wilson, a true freshman and early enrollee, goes into fall at No. 3.
Oregon State Beavers
Projected starter: Darell Garretson, Jr., 6-0, 208
Others to watch: Marcus McMaryion, So., 6-1, 206 (LY: 403 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT); Mason Moran, Fr., 6-3, 200
Newcomers: Moran; Daniel Prieto, So., 6-0, 173 (transfer from Compton CC)
Outlook: Garretson, a transfer from Utah State, won the starting job in the spring. He was the scout team QB for the Beavers last year as he sat out the season due to the NCAA transfer rule. At Utah State, he threw for 2,586 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 13 games, but missed most of 2014 with an injury. He should settle what was a revolving door at QB last year. McMaryion is a solid No. 2 after playing a bit last year. Moran, a top-20 dual threat QB in the 2016 class, enrolled in January and goes into the season at No. 3.
Projected starter: Keller Chryst, So., 6-5, 237 (LY: 59 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT)
Others to watch: Ryan Burns, Jr., 6-5, 233
Newcomers: K.J. Costello, Fr., 6-5, 220
Outlook: Replacing four-year starter Kevin Hogan, who won more games than any QB in Stanford history (a history that includes John Elway, Andrew Luck and Jim Plunkett), will be tough. Chryst figured to be the heir apparent, but he and Burns waged a pretty good battle in the spring. They'll go into the fall battling for the No. 1 job. Costello may be the QB of the future. Rivals.com rated Costello as the nation's No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class (Chryst was No. 2 in the 2014 class).
Projected starter: Josh Rosen, So., 6-4, 210 (LY: 3,669 yards, 23 TD, 11 INT)
Others to watch: Mike Fafaul, Jr., 6-2, 210; Craig Myers, So., 6-0, 180; Nick Nezami, R-Fr., 6-2, 195
Newcomers: Dymond Lee, Fr., 6-2, 180; Matt Lynch, Fr., 6-5, 185; Devon Modster, Fr., 6-2, 205
Outlook: Rosen is arguably the best QB in the conference. He had a sensational season as a true freshman and only figures to get better. Behind Rosen, the most experience passer is Fafaul, who has thrown six career passes (completing all six). The three incoming freshmen are intriguing. Lynch, from Legacy High School, enrolled in January and took part in spring ball. Modster is the highest rated, a four-star recruit and one of the top-10 dual threat QBs in the 2016 class. Lee, the brother of CU running back Donovan Lee, is a dynamic athlete.
Projected starter: Max Browne, Jr., 6-5, 220 (LY: 113 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT)
Others to watch: Sam Darnold, R-Fr., 6-4, 215
Newcomers: Matt Fink, Fr., 6-3, 180
Outlook: Browne has thrown just 19 career passes, but that's 19 more than USC's other quarterbacks. The Trojans are looking to replace three-year starter and NFL third-round draft pick Cody Kessler. Browne is the veteran, but he has yet to win the job. Darnold, a top-10 dual threat QB recruit in the 2015 class came out of spring very much in the running for the job. USC likely won't name a starter until the fall. Fink was a three-star recruit who enrolled early.
Projected starter: Troy Williams, Jr., 6-2, 200 (LY: 2,750 yards, 31 TD, 4 INT at Santa Monica College)
Others to watch: Brandon Cox, Jr., 6-2, 205; Tyler Huntley, Fr., 6-1, 180
Newcomers: Williams (JUCO transfer); Huntley
Outlook: Williams played two years at Washington (starting one game in 2014) before going to Santa Monica last year. He's hardly a lock to start, though. He missed most of spring practice with an injury. That allowed Cox and Huntley — a true freshman early enrollee — to play more. Cox has been with the Utes for three years, but had played in just one game, in 2014. He had a solid spring, however. Huntley turned some heads in spring and could be in the mix.
Projected starter: Jake Browning, So., 6-2, 206 (LY: 2,955 yards, 16 TD, 10 INT; 35 rushing yards, 1 TD)
Others to watch: K.J. Carta-Samuels, So., 6-2, 219 (LY: 124 yards, 1 INT); Tony Rodriguez, Jr., 6-3, 191
Newcomers: Daniel Bridge-Gadd, Fr., 6-2, 195
Outlook: Get used to hearing about Browning, because he's just getting started. One of the nation's top young quarterbacks, he had a solid true freshman season last fall. The Huskies need him to improve upon his TD-to-INT rate, but he's got the tools to be a star. Carta-Samuels is an experienced backup who was a four-star recruit in 2014 (he's also the older brother of CU volleyball player Gabby Carta-Samuels). Bridge-Gadd was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Arizona last fall.
Washington State Cougars
Projected starter: Luke Falk, Jr., 6-4, 214 (LY: 4,561 yards, 38 TD, 8 INT)
Others to watch: Peyton Bender, So., 6-0, 190 (LY: 498 yards, 3 TD, 4 INT); Tyler Hilinski, R-Fr., 6-3, 191
Newcomers: Anthony Gordon, So., 6-3, 185 (transfer from City College of San Francisco); Justus Rogers, Fr., 6-2, 220
Outlook: If Rosen isn't the best QB in the Pac-12, it's Falk. He was exceptional during his first full year as a starter and the former walk-on has already thrown for 6,420 yards in Pullman. Bender is a quality backup who has some game experience, while Hilinski is a former four-star recruit who provides some added quality depth. Gordon was a late signee after throwing for 3,864 yards and 37 touchdowns last season in junior college.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.
Leaders of the Pac
Active career leaders in passing yards and starts among Pac-12 quarterbacks:
Career passing yards
7,397 — Sefo Liufau, Colorado
6,460 — Anu Solomon, Arizona
6,420 — Luke Falk, Washington State
5,584 — Dakota Prukop, Oregon (Stats from Montana State)
5,557 — Davis Webb, California (Stats from Texas Tech)
29 — Liufau
25 — Solomon
22 — Prukop (Montana State)
15 — Falk
14 — Webb (Texas Tech)