In 2012, Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel led a field of stars at his position to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel claimed the most coveted award in college Football with over 5,100 total yards of offense.
Manziel wasn't on anyone's short list for the Heisman in the 2012 preseason. However, Johnny Football returns this year at or very near the top of every prognosticator's quarterback list.
Also joining the party are a number of talented new-comers, both up from high school and others who've been waiting their turn.
The following is a ranking of the top 30 college football quarterbacks for 2013. To increase the accuracy, analysis was conducted using more detailed information on each player. This included not only the athlete's past performance but surrounding cast, coaching and scheduled opponents for 2013 as well.
Tie #28 - #30 Tyler Russell, #17 Senior, Mississippi State Bulldogs - 6'4", 220 lb. Eight of Russell's 10 total interceptions were thrown in the season's final two games last year. Mississippi State had an inexperienced offensive line that just wore down late in the year. As a result, Russell took a lot of hits and threw under duress.
This season, four starters return. They are a year bigger, stronger and most importantly, wiser in working together. Russell will have a big senior year.
Tie #28 - #30 Logan Thomas, #3 Senior, Virginia Tech Hokies - 6'6", 260 lb. After Tech suffered their worst record in 20 years (7-6) Frank Beamer decided to make fundamental changes to the offense. Jeff Grimes is the new line coach, Aaron Moorehead is the new receivers coach and new offensive coordinator is Scot Loeffler.
Expect the changes to make a difference this year as Frank Beamer gets help from the surrounding cast for his high-caliber senior quarterback.
Tie #28 - #30 David Ash, #14 Junior,Texas Longhorns, 6'3", 223 lb. The talented Ash will be running a different offense this season. Gone is the more pro-style attack of the past four years. Back in is the spread, much like Texas ran from 04 through 09 and went to four BCS bowls with.
The new offense is being installed by Major Applewhite, a familiar name to Texas fans. Applewhite plans on running up-tempo as well. With a new play being ran every 15 seconds.
Tie #25 - #27 Devin Gardner, #12 Senior, Michigan Wolverines, 6'4", 203 lb. Brady Hoke has finally accumulated enough of the right type players to run his offense full time. Look for Gardner to have a big year.
Tie #25 - #27 Jeff Driskel, #6 Junior, Florida Gators. 6'4", 237 lb. Five specific things have improved to help Driskel this year: 1). Though still very difficult, the Gators schedule isn't quite as bad as 2012. 2). The offensive line could not hold pass blocking long enough last year. This season it is bigger, stronger and more experienced in that area. 3). In 2012, Florida's receivers simply did not get open--or stay open--as well as they needed to help their quarterback. Overall, there is some improvement in receiving talent but more is needed. 4). Driskel is a year more experienced. This makes a huge difference in ability to recognize defenses and get the ball away—to the correct person—more quickly. 5). Offensive Coordinator Brent Pease, is in his second year at Florida. He likely didn't get to do everything he wanted in year one due to time and personnel. That will change this year.
Expect the cumulative effect of all this to be a great improvement overall for Driskel.
Tie #25 - #27 Cody Fajardo, #17 Junior, Nevada Wolf Pack - 6'2", 205 lb. Fajardo may have been ranked even better if not for the head coaching change and the loss of three starting linemen. However, last season's offensive coordinator, Nick Rolovich is returning. So, expect the offense to run exactly as it did last season.
Tie #22 - #24 Keith Price, #17 Senior, Washington Huskies, 6'1", 202 lb.
Price's stats and QB rating took a dramatic down-turn last year from his sophomore season. For instance, in 2011 he threw 33 TD's vs. 11 int. for over 3,000 yards and his QB Rating was about 40 points higher than his 122.4 in 2012.
To get the senior back to performing up to his talent level several things are being done. A new QB coach / tutor was brought in to work with him on mechanics and the offense will be sped up considerably, going no-huddle next season. Also, four of five of the starting linemen return from last season.
Look for these changes—along with the additional maturity of being a senior—to pay off in big numbers for Price next season.
Tie #22 - #24 Clint Chelf, #10 Senior --OR--J.W. Walsh #4, Sophomore, Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Chelf may get the early nod as starter since the senior finished the year with the MVP award in the Heart of Dallas Bowl after directing the Cowboy's 58-14 beat-down of Purdue.
Barring injury, either QB will post incredible numbers if they play the majority of the snaps next season.
Tie #22 - #24 Terrance Broadway, #8 Junior, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns. 6'2", 205 lb. He enters the year with five of the top seven receivers returning, along with three of the top four rushers. In addition, the line returns three of last season's starters, along with a high quality junior college transfer.
Head Coach Mark Hudspeth has lead the Cajuns to back-to-back 9-4 seasons. Offensively, they ranked 24th nationally, averaging 35.5 points per game. There is plenty of evidence to suggest the offense can be even more potent this year, based primarily on the number of returning veteran skill players.
Tie #19 - #21 Blake Bortles, #5 Junior, Central Florida Knights. 6'4", 221 lb. Coach George O'Leary says UCF will be looking to air it out often this year as he expects to feature his second year starter, Bortles. Three of five starting linemen return and the two new starters have experience.
The receivers are a nightmare to cover for any amount of time on this team. If O'Leary does what he says, Blake Bortles will have a great year.
Tie #19 - #21 Brett Smith, #16 Junior, Wyoming Cowboys. 6'3", 195 lb. Smith put up amazing numbers in 2012 considering he only got to play in 10 games due to two head injuries he suffered. He is considered 100 percent health again going into this season.
If Smith stays healthy, look for him to close in on 1,000 rush yards and likely over 4,000 total for the year.
Tie #19 - #21 Connor Shaw, #14 Senior, South Carolina Gamecocks. 6'1", 207 lb. Shaw missed Spring practice healing from a foot surgery. However, he is supposed to be ready to play in the fall. He is a very tough guy QB and that hurt him a bit early in 2012. He would try to run over everyone to get just another yard, even though the situation didn't demand. This resulted in him playing hurt often. He had learned by the end of the year to hook-slide and protect his body better unless the situation was crucial—and he desperately needed to that!
This fall, four of five offensive line starters return. The receiving corps is good again. No one can really replace Lattimore as a running back or pass receiver but they have quality backs. Running back Mike Davis beat out Brandon Wilds as a starter by improving his pass-blocking in the spring.
If Spurrier allows Shaw to get most of the snaps and he stays healthy, he will have great numbers in 2013.
Tie #16 - #18 Taylor Kelly, #10 Junior, Arizona State Sun Devils. 6'1", 203 lb. Three of five offensive linemen return. Along with the top tight end and one starting receiver, five new receivers were signed, including JC transfer Strong. If just one of these pan out to be players, the offense should be super-charged again.
Tie #16 - #18 Jordan Lynch, #6 Senior, Northern Illinois Huskies. 6'-0", 216 lb. In the case of Lynch, if he should simply maintain the numbers he put up last season, he will be a legitimate Heisman candidate. There is no reason to expect less as his entire starting line returns, along with a potentially explosive run game. He did lose a couple of favorite targets but capable receivers are waiting their turn in the light.
The only real question here is he has a new head coach, Rod Carey. That can mean no real change or lots. Since this was a 10-3 bowl team last season, I don't expect the new staff to try and re-invent the wheel, though.
Tie #16 - #18 Chuckie Keeton, #16 Junior, Utah State Aggies. 6'1", 200 lb. Keeton directed his team to a 11-2 season and #16 in the national rankings last year. All five starting linemen return but all the starting wide-receivers slots must be filled. In addition, Utah State has a new coaching staff and moved up in conferences to the stronger Mountain West.
Even with the additional challenges, that full returning line, along with Keeton's talents, will keep him in the top 20 this year.
Tie #13 - #15 Taylor Martinez, #3 Senior, Nebraska Cornhuskers. 6'1", 200 lb. Martinez is a four year starter with three of his top receivers returning. Nebraska also returns the top three starting offensive linemen and replace the two lost with quality starters who have playing experience.
Lastly, the first half of the schedule—with the exception of a UCLA home game—looks very manageable. If Martinez stays healthy, 2013 will be his best year yet.
Tie #13 - #15 Casey Pachall, #4 Senior, Texas Christian Horned Frogs. 6'5", 230 lb. Pachall has prototypical NFL size and likely, NFL ability as well. He only played in the first four games in 2012—all wins—before leaving school and entering a substance abuse program.
Pachall claims to have completed his program successfully and has been given the opportunity to start again in his senior season. Even with his personal issues last year, he appeared to have picked right up from where he left off in his highly successful 2011 year (2,921 yards, 25 TD's vs. 7 int.).
Gary Patterson's team enters 2013 loaded with upper-classmen and a renewed sense of optimism throughout. Barring injury or relapse, Pachall could become one of the elite college quarterbacks this season.
Tie #13 - #15 David Fales, #10 Senior, San Jose State Spartans. 6'3", 220 lb. Four of five of last year's starting line return, including All-Wac guard Kasper. He will also be throwing to a veteran and highly competent receiver group as well.
Though the Spartans will have a difficult time duplicating last season's 11-2 record, the offense is still explosive. They move over to the Mountain west from the WAC and have a schedule that should rate similar to last year's in terms of the defenses they will face.
Fales is the real-deal as a passer. He should be in the top 15 nationally at season's end.
Tie #10 - #12 Bryn Renner, #2 Senior, North Carolina Tar Heels. 6'3", 215 lb. This is Coach Larry Fedora's second year in Chapel Hill. Last season he got his fast paced offense installed and started. Though they put up good numbers all year, it took until the second half of the season for things to really gel overall.
Look for third year starter, Renner to put up huge numbers this season. Partly due to his ability in Fedora's offense and partly due to that is what has to happen for North Carolina to be winners.
While the Tar Heel defense isn't awful, they do have a way to go yet. As they get there, slug fest offense performances will be needed for wins. North Carolina has the coach and the quarterback to produce numbers this year.
Tie #10 - #12 Kevin Hogan, #8 Sophomore, Stanford Cardinal. 6'4", 224 lb. Though Hogan only started the final five games of the year (5-0, four over top-25 programs) he also ran for 283 yards.
Stanford is a pro-set, run first team. As a result, even the best quarterback simply will not get the over-all yardage they could in a pass first, no-huddle, run four plays a minute attack.
Still, expect to hear Kevin Hogan's name this season. The Cardinal returns four out of five starting linemen from their 12-2 team of 2012. In addition, they appear to have a solid replacement for All-American tight end Zack Ertz, who left for the NFL last year.
Hogan was impressive when the pressure was on, taking the reins in the final five games as a freshman. Coach Shaw is looking for another Pac-12 title—and likely more—in 2013. His second year quarterback will figure big in those plans.
Tie #10 - #12 Stephen Morris, #17 Senior, Miami Hurricanes. 6'2", 214 lb. Morris finished very strong in 2012. Over the final four games, he threw for over 1,100 yards, 11 TD's and zero interceptions. He has his entire starting line returning, along with a bevy of talented receivers.
Al Golden has gotten this Miami team headed in the right direction. He is probably on the hot seat because he is about 500 over his first two years. But, he is building the proper way and the pay-off (pardon the expression) will start to show this season.
Morris is talented and the numbers will back that up in 2013.
Tie #7 - #9 Brett Hundley, #17 Sophomore, UCLA Bruins. 6'3", 223 lb. The most amazing stat about Hundley is he posted the numbers he had last season while being sacked 52 times! While four of the five starting offensive linemen return this year, they are still young overall. The projected starters are three sophomores and a junior. Rotating in will be some quality players, though primarily freshmen. The good news is they still should be better than last year.
The receivers are solid and have experience. The ball carriers should be solid, although young.
If Hundley gets a little more help from his blockers, the sky is the limit in 2013.
Tie #7 - #9 Derek Carr, #4 Senior, Fresno State Bulldogs. 6'3", 210 lb. Carr was the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year and ranked eighth nationally in 2012.
I would have him ranked a peg or two higher here if not for the Bulldogs bowl game against SMU. In that game, SMU sacked Carr seven times. Carr still had great stats in the game (33 of 54, 362 yards), but he threw two picks returned for touchdowns while being pressured. SMU led 22-0 at half and 43-10 at the end.
You have to figure future opponents were taking notes of that game. Fresno State just did not handle the pressure packages brought by June Jone's defense. Even though Carr still had good numbers, the Bulldogs only scored 10 total points.
Carr has all of his top receivers returning and they are good! Three of five starters return on the offensive line as well.
It will be interesting to see how opponents try to create more pressure on Carr as well as how Fresno addresses the exposed protection issue. Still, Carr is one of the best quarterbacks in college football.
Tie #7 - #9 Braxton Miller, #5 Junior, Ohio State Buckeyes. 6'2", 210 lb. Ohio State was 12-0 last year. So, my guess is they would be happy to do what they did as a team. But, expectations are that Miller won't be called on to run quite as much and may rely more on throwing and handing the football off.
The Buckeyes return four of five starting linemen and a greatly improved receiving corps. Add in the well oiled Ohio State hype machine and should Miller get off to a great start, he will be in the midst of the race.
A look at Ohio State's early schedule and it is obvious that Miller will be off and running—with great numbers—early on.
#6. Teddy Bridgewater, #5 Junior, Louisville Cardinals. 6'3", 218 lb. Three of five starters return on the line. Still, one of the new starters (Abraham Garcia) played well last year as a freshman and may be a star in the making. Louisville's receivers are described anywhere between very good and elite, so that's not an issue in 2013.
Louisville's schedule this season doesn't look too challenging. At this point, there isn't a top 25 team anywhere on it. Bridgewater will put up tremendous numbers as long as he stays healthy.
#5. Marcus Mariota, #8 Sophomore, Oregon Ducks. 6'4", 200 lb. Definitely top three dual threat QB in the nation.
For those who fret that Chip Kelly leaving will change the offense philosophy at Oregon, there is good and bad news. The good news is new head coach Mark Helfrich was the offensive coordinator for Kelly. So, don't expect big changes to the nation's number two scoring offense.
The possible bad news is Chip Kelly will no longer be calling the plays. His offensive genius was partly in when he called what play. Still, Mariota—and the Oregon offense—will be special in 2013.
#4. Tajh Boyd, #10 Senior, Clemson Tigers.6'1", 225 lb.Boyd is the number two dual threat QB in the nation. His 2012 passer rating was 165.6 and he accounted for 4,400 yards and 39 TD's.
Boyd was ACC Player of the Year and a first team All-American. Returning with him for his senior year is four of the five starting offensive linemen. The entire surrounding cast has Dabo Swinney talking about bringing the national title back to Death Valley.
#3. Aaron Murray, #11 Senior, Georgia Bulldogs. 6'1", 210 lb.The number two drop-back QB in the nation. His 2012 passer rating was 174.8 and he threw for 3,893 yards, 36 TD's vs. 10 int. and was sacked 26 times.
The Bulldogs return eight of 11 starters on their record setting offense of 2012. All five starting linemen return. The line wasn't great last year but a year of experience together makes for big improvement on the line, normally.
Georgia's running backs are special. They can turn a three yard dump-off into a 73 yard TD.
This team has a difficult schedule, especially early. If they get through September unscathed, it could be the year for Georgia—and Murray.
#2. Johnny Manziel, #2 Sophomore, Texas A&M Aggies. 6'1", 200 lb. The number one dual threat QB in the nation. His 2012 passer rating was 155.3 and he threw for 3,706 yards, 26 TD's vs. 9 int. and was sacked 22 times. He also gained 1,409 yards rushing and scored an additional 21 TD's running.
Manziel won the Heisman as a freshman last year. His over 5,100 total yards of offense help make him a great choice. Look for more of the same from Johnny Football in 2013. Barring injury, he should post great numbers again.
#1. A.J. McCarron, #10 Senior, Alabama Crimson Tide. 6'4", 210 lb. McCarron is the number one drop-back QB in the nation. His 2012 passer rating was 175.3 and he threw for 2,933 yards, 30 TD's vs. 3 int. and was sacked 22 times.
McCarron led Alabama to their second consecutive national title last season. He was featured more prominently in an offense that in the past, ran and ran some more. His increased role and the rewards it brought speaks to how he is viewed by Coach Nick Saban.
If Alabama is to win a third consecutive title, McCarron and company will have to do it with a re-built line. Only two of the five starters from last season return. Still, the new starters will have seen plenty of playing time as Alabama is tremendously deep in all their line positions.
McCarron has the prototypical size for the position. As his rating indicates, he is also accurate and makes very few mistakes overall. And yes, back-to-back national titles do deserve at least a small amount of consideration for this ranking.