Starting this week, we are going to be ranking the top Pac-12 players at every position, or at least unit beginning with quarterbacks this week.
1. Marcus Mariota So. Oregon
Very close here between Mariota and Brett Hundley, but Mariota has a better passer rating, more passing touchdowns with fewer interceptions, ran for far more yards and gets sacked a fraction of what Hundley does and plays for the better team. Mariota had one of the best seasons a freshman quarterback has ever had in college football, is fast, savvy and perfect in Oregon's offense. If all goes right in 2013, Mariota could easily be a serious Heisman and Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate.
2. Brett Hundley So. UCLA
If it weren't for Mariota, Hundley easily would have had the best freshman season for a quarterback in Pac-12 history in 2012. Hundley led the conference in passing yards, threw for nearly 30 touchdowns and ran for nine while leading UCLA to their best season in years and a South Division championship. Hundley has far and away the best physical tool set of any quarterback in the conference and maybe of any in the country with his arm, speed and size and could easily be a Top 10 draft pick in the coming years.
3. Taylor Kelly Jr. Arizona State
Kelly quietly had a huge season and was a big part of the reason why the Sun Devils competed for the South Division title. Kelly threw for more than 3,000 yards and nearly 30 touchdowns in 2012, but was also a deceptively adept runner as he racked up more than 500 yards on the ground. Kelly loses most of his best receivers from 2012, but his crafty style and playmaking abilities should easily keep him among the best quarterbacks in the conference.
4. Kevin Hogan So. Stanford
It took Hogan a while to beat out Josh Nunes last year, but when he did, it took the Cardinal to another level. It's strange that it took Hogan so long to beat out Nunes because he has all of the tools to be an All-American type quarterback with size, speed and nerves of steel that were present last year in their upset of Oregon, the Pac-12 Championship Game and the Rose Bowl. There are other returning quarterbacks in the conference who might have more experience and stats than Hogan, but I think he has a huge ceiling and has a great system around him.
5. Keith Price Sr. Washington
This seems very high for a quarterback who seems to be hated by most of his team's fanbase, but this is where Price belongs, though I would say that there is a large chasm between him and Hogan. Price had a decent statistical season in 2012, but didn't perform well when the Huskies needed him to and suffered from an abysmal pass-blocking offensive line and a thin receiving corp. However, if the Husky line can stabilize and a couple young receivers develop, Price could return to being one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.
6. Sean Mannion Jr. Oregon State
Okay, Mannion hasn't won the starting job yet, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that Cody Vaz is a good quarterback too. Mannion was actually one of the hottest quarterbacks at the beginning of 2012, but started to struggle with interceptions even before he got hurt and then started to develop a loose cannon. I expect Mannion to ultimately beat out Vaz and if he can get his interceptions under control, he could go back to being considered one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.
7. Connor Halliday Jr. Washington State
Halliday is kind of like a more lanky Mannion. When hot, he can rack up yards and touchdowns as well as anyone in the conference but he is very prone to throwing wild picks and got beat out last year by a guy who was a little bit more consistent. Halliday looks to have the reins to Mike Leach's offense all to himself now with Jeff Tuel gone and he assuredly will put up lots of yards and touchdowns, but the big question will be whether or not he can shave off some of the interceptions.
8. Cody Vaz Sr. Oregon State
Vaz was very good in filling in for Mannion when he was injured last season and then when he became erratic and he still very well could win the starting job or at least see significant time in 2013. Vaz isn't as flashy, but is more consistent than Mannion as he threw only three interceptions to 11 touchdowns in 2012 though he did struggle in the Alamo Bowl.
9. B.J. Denker Sr. Arizona
Denker is another guy who hasn't quite solidified his starting spot, but it sounded like he somewhat surprisingly outplayed junior college transfer Jesse Scroggins in Arizona's spring practices. Denker had a huge game last season when filling in for Matt Scott against Colorado, but keep in mind that it was Colorado. However, I think that Rich Rodriguez' system makes it easy for quarterbacks to succeed, especially when they can hand the ball off to a guy like Ka'Deem Carey.
- Cody Kessler So. USC
Like a lot of others guys in this vicinity, he hasn't grabbed the starting job yet, but looks to have the inside track. It was a tight race this spring between Kessler, Max Wittek and Max Browne, but Kessler had the best spring game, so I imagine that he is the leader for the meantime. Wittek was far from great in limited duty in 2012, but if Kessler is in fact a little bit better than him then this is probably where he belongs, though he has a huge chance to excel because he can throw to Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholar.
- Max Wittek So. USC
I could easily see Kessler, Wittek or even Browne end up starting and if Kessler gets it, then Wittek is still right at his heels. Wittek has a big arm and if he can improve his mid and short game, he might have the most potential of any of the USC quarterbacks.
- Travis Wilson So. Utah
Yes, Wilson has started a lot more games than a lot of the guys ahead of him on this list and he has some good potential, but he was mainly ineffective in the time that he had last season and has very, very limited tools to work with on offense in 2013. I really like Wilson's potential, size and athleticism, but I think it will at least be another year or two before he is a good Pac-12 quarterback.
Zach Kline Fr. Cal
Max Browne Fr. USC
Jesse Scroggins Jr. Arizona
Connor Wood Jr. Colorado