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Berry Tramel

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Big 12 football: Where have all the quarterbacks gone?

by Berry Tramel Published: August 13, 2014
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Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters tries to elude the Michigan defense during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last December. Waters is one of the few proven QBs in the Big 12 in 2014. (AP Photo)
Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters tries to elude the Michigan defense during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last December. Waters is one of the few proven QBs in the Big 12 in 2014. (AP Photo)

Big 12 quarterbacking fell a rung or three last season.

While Baylor’s Bryce Petty played at the league’s established level of excellence, few others did.

Most teams ended up using multiple quarterbacks, either out of injury or frustration.

Texas Tech got good performances out of freshmen Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield. Kansas State’s Jake Waters emerged after sharing time with Daniel Sams. OSU’s Clint Chelf played great after winning back the job at mid-season from J.W. Walsh. OU’s Trevor Knight and Blake Bell took turns. And, well, you get the idea.

Chelf ended up as the QB on the all-Big 12 second team. Few others even got votes.

That’s a far cry from 2012. K-State’s Collin Klein and West Virginia’s Geno Smith were stars, OU’s Landry Jones and Texas Tech’s Seth Doege were established veterans, Baylor’s Nick Florence was Baylor-like productive.

2011 was even better. Baylor’s Robert Griffin won the Heisman. OSU’s Brandon Weeden and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill were first-round draft pick. Jones, Klein, Doege and Missouri’s James Franklin were solid.

2010 was great, too. Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert was a first-round draft pick. Weeden, Jones and Grffin were excellent. Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts was effective.

2009 gets you back to the days of Texas’ Colt McCoy, OSU’s Zac Robinson, Kansas’ Todd Reesing and A&M’s Jerrod Johnson.

Go back to 2008, and OU’s Sam Bradford won the Heisman, with McCoy, Robinson, Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell, Missouri’s Chase Daniel and Kansas State’s Josh Freeman on his heels.

So 2013 looks rather dubious compared to those seasons.

Will 2014 be any better? Petty is back and stands clearly above the pack.

KSU’s Waters should be solid. Same with Tech’s Webb. OU’s Trevor Knight was great in the Sugar Bowl but is largely unproven. Texas’ David Ash has been injured and so-so. OSU’s Walsh lost the job last year.

It’s not a great collection of quarterbacks.

“I feel like the defenses in the league got a little more respect last year than in the several years before,” said OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. “One reason is that we didn’t have five NFL quarterbacks that everybody was facing in the league, so that’s a big difference.

“Secondly, every year we kind of learn to catch up with what we’ve seen. I think defenses are like that all across the nation, and I think that the league is recruiting some pretty good defensive players right now. I don’t think you can broad-stroke it and say it’s one thing, but I do believe it could change again this year. Right now, I think you’ve got to give it a better reputation than it has had in the past several years.”

Spencer also believes that many observers better understand the numbers they’re reading.

“I think people are becoming more educated on what really is a good defense and what kind of defense works against a spread offense,” Spencer said. “It’s not about yardage, it’s about winning the game and knowing how to win the game. The fact is, they’re going to get the ball. We’ve had a lot more possessions to defend than a lot of the teams across the nation. You have to defend the whole field when you’re facing playmakers, so you’re going to give up yardage, but as a defense, you’ve got to get yourself off the field and let your offense score points.”

That’s easier to do when the league isn’t full of pro-caliber quarterbacks. Which the Big 12 wasn’t last year and might not be again this year.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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