LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 2: Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans throws a pass against the Washington Huskies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 2 2010 in Los Angeles California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Four likely Pac-12 starting quarterbacks got invites to the Manning Passing Academy this offseason, and all of them stepped up to the plate. If all of them play as well as their evaluations, we could have a strong year of football ahead of us.
All eyes were on Matt Barkley, and he was clearly the class of the academy along with Tyler Bray of Tennessee. Daniel Jeremiah fills us in on how Barkley performed.
Barkley is right around 6-foot-2 and has a very thick build. I've seen Barkley play live several times during his college career and I noticed one big difference last week: His arm has gotten much stronger. He was able to drive the ball with more authority than he has in the past three years. He has always had great footwork and touch as a passer, but there were concerns about his ability to squeeze the ball into tight windows down the field. I was pleasantly surprised to watch him crank up the velocity on the deep comebacks during the workout on Saturday.
Barkley's physical command is a scary thing to imagine, because he was still developing the last three seasons. Now that he seems to be more self-assured, it should be easier for him to hit the sidelines and make him practically undefendable from the pocket if he gets the protection he needs. Looks like if you want to beat USC, you'll need to find a way to make Barkley uncomfortable when he steps up to pass.
Keith Price is an intriguing talent who performed exceptionally well in his first year of starting duty. Now he looks to take the next step, and it's looking like he's headed the right way.
Price is smaller than I expected. He's about the same height as Murray, but isn't nearly as thick. He doesn't have any characteristics as a thrower that wow you, but he's above average in all areas. Entering his junior campaign, Price has enough arm strength to make all the throws and can change ball speeds for underneath routes. It was very easy to like this guy after spending some time with him on Saturday afternoon. He has a fun personality and is very passionate about the game.
Price has proven to be an effective game-manager at Washington along with occasional playmaking when things break down. If he can continue to make good decisions, he should keep the Huskies competitive on a regular basis.
Jeff Tuel has shown flashes of being a great QB at WSU, although injuries have cut short some of his stints. Now in a system that'll be conducive to quick passes that should minimize health concerns, Tuel is ready to break out.
Tuel is going to be a perfect fit in new coach Mike Leach's offense. He is around 6-3 with a thick frame. He doesn't have a powerful arm, but he possesses excellent touch and accuracy. Tuel will thrive in a timing offense during his senior season.
The accuracy issue is so important for a WSU team that needs the offense to score points to stay competitive. If the Cougars can move the football with Tuel's ability to move the chains, then Washington State is bound to improve.
Finally, Bryan Bennett. If Oregon is to stay on top of the Pac-12 North, he will likely have to break out. Is he ready to handle that load? The scouting report offers a lot of promise.
Bennett is around 6-2 with a very lean, muscular frame. The group did a conditioning run after Thursday's throwing session and it was easy to spot Bennett; he was about 15 yards ahead of everyone else. He has a long stride and can gain ground very quickly with minimal effort. During throwing sessions, the sophomore showcased one of the strongest arms in camp. His footwork is raw and his delivery can get a little long, but the ball just explodes out of his hand. Bennett has a lot of tools to work with and I'm anxious to see how the position battle shakes out in Eugene.
The deep ball might very well convince Kelly to stick with Bennett, as a QB who can make big plays is probably more crucial to Oregon's offense than a guy who can hit regular routes. However, the rawness could also be the factor that holds him from keeping the starting job, since the battle with Marcus Mariota also possesses some solid upside.