Today we turn our attention to the quarterbacks and project which ones could break 3,000 yards in the air.
First, here are the players who did it last season:
Jared Goff, California, 4,719
Luke Falk, Washington State, 4,561
Mike Bercovici, Arizona State, 3,861
Josh Rosen, UCLA, 3,670
Cody Kessler, USC, 3,536
From this group, Falk and Rosen are back. Goff, of course, was the No. 1 pick in the draft. Kessler was drafted by Cleveland and Bercovici is in San Diego as an undrafted free agent.
The majority of the league has questions at quarterback, with as many as eight programs still looking for their starter. Like our position group reviews, we’ll assign each team as being in “great shape,” “good shape,” or “we’ll see” when it comes to having a 3,000-yard passer in 2016.
We’re also working under the assumption all players mentioned stay healthy.
California: If you were surprised to learn Wednesday that the Bear Raid hasn’t produced a 1,000-yard receiver (and admittedly, I was) it should come as zero surprise that it’s produced a 3,000-yard passer in all three seasons at Cal. Of course, that passer was Goff. But even as a true freshman starter, he had 3,508 yards. They aren’t afraid to run, but this offense is built to move the ball through the air.
UCLA: Rosen did it as a true freshman. But he also had experienced wide receivers at his disposal. This year he’s got talented, but mostly unproven guys to work with (Darren Andrews had 443 yards last year, which is why we said mostly). Still, the offense has been tweaked to accentuate what he does best, which is throw the football.
Washington: Jake Browning was one or two dropped passes away from getting there last season (2,955) as a freshman. If he evolves in the offense the way he’s expected to from Year 1 to Year 2, then 3,000 yards should easily be in his grasp.
Washington State: Luke Falk plus Mike Leach. That is all.
Arizona: The potential is certainly there for Anu Solomon, who threw for 3,793 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2014. But injuries hampered him last season, when he totaled 2,667. Plus he still has to fend off redshirt sophomore Brandon Dawkins after he’s “closed the gap,” according to quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith. Might just be coach-posturing. Might be legit.
Arizona State: In his two seasons as offensive coordinator at Southern Miss, Chip Lindsey’s quarterback, Nick Mullens, went from 2,470 yards in 2014 to 4,476 last year. Now at ASU – where the Sun Devils have had a 3,000-yard passer in three of Todd Graham’s four seasons, he starts from scratch with a new quarterback. It might not happen this year. But Lindsey has proved his system gets results.
USC: Whoever wins the gig has one of the best wide receivers in the country in JuJu Smith-Schuster – who can turn an 8-yard out into an 87-yard touchdown. He’ll have solid receivers, an outstanding offensive line to protect him and running backs who will pitch in on receiving yards. Working against him, however, is inexperience and a brutal schedule.
Colorado: Sefo Liufau broke 3,000 yards in 2014 (3,200) but came up short last season (2,418). Had he not missed the final two-and-a-half games, he would have been close. But his status is up in the air and the Buffs no longer have Nelson Spruce as a 1,000-yard security blanket. Too many question marks to feel good about slotting the Buffs anywhere but in the “we'll see” category.
Oregon: Marcus Mariota cracked 3,000 yards in two of his three seasons (and 4,000 in his final). Vernon Adams Jr. was close last year (2,643) and if he’d stayed healthy, he probably would have gotten there. Graduate transfer and presumptive starter Dakota Prukop has some talented receivers at his disposal. But how much he’s able to air it out – and how often the Ducks choose not to hand the ball to Royce Freeman – will determine if he gets there.
Oregon State: The Beavers struggled mightily to move the ball through the air last season. Three quarterbacks combined for just 1,909 passing yards. Head coach Gary Andersen has already declared Darell Garretson as his starter. At Utah State, he threw for 1,140 yards on 135 attempts in 2014. But with so many question marks on offense, milestones are probably the least of Oregon State's worries.
Stanford: Andrew Luck was the last Stanford quarterback to break 3K yards, doing it in two of his three seasons on The Farm. But even he didn’t do it in his first season as a starter. So it’s unlikely the TBD quarterback hits the mark. Stanford’s offense lends itself more to the ground game, anyway.
Utah: You have to go all the way back to Mike McCoy in 1994 (3,035) to find Utah’s last 3,000-yard passer (four years before freshman quarterback hopeful Tyler Huntley was born!) The Utes have yet to throw for 3,000 yards as a team since joining the Pac-12. With a quarterback still to be determined and an unproven group of receivers, here’s guessing this isn’t the year it happens.