August 10, 2006

Familiar names start season atop QB rankings

The top two teams in the preseason college football poll also feature the top two players in our rankings of the nation's best quarterbacks.

Notre Dame's Brady Quinn and Ohio State's Troy Smith head the list of QBs as we kick off our analysis of the top 25 players at each position.

Smith's Buckeyes beat Quinn's Fighting Irish in the Fiesta Bowl last season and hold the top spot over Notre Dame in our preseason Top 25, but Quinn has the upper hand on this list.

Quinn earned the top spot after setting single-season school records last year in pass attempts (450), completions (292), passing yards (3,919), yards per game (326.6), touchdown passes (32) and completion percentage (64.9).

Our ratings also confirm that the Big Ten's reputation as a run-oriented conference is a thing of the past.

Smith ranks second on the list and is immediately followed by and Michigan's Chad Henne and Michigan State's Drew Stanton. Iowa's Drew Tate and Wisconsin's John Stocco also earned spots on the list.

No other conference put five quarterbacks on the list, though the SEC and Pac-10 each had four representatives. 2006 Preseason Top Quarterbacks
1. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame, Sr., 6-4, 231
Quinn already owns almost every major Notre Dame single-season and career passing record as he prepares to begin his fourth year as a starter. The Heisman Trophy candidate completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 3,919 yards and 32 touchdowns last year in one of the greatest seasons ever for a Notre Dame quarterback. He is the likely top pick in next year's NFL Draft.
2. Troy Smith, Ohio State, Sr., 6-1, 215
Smith's Buckeyes defeated Quinn's Fighting Irish in last year's Fiesta Bowl, and these two quarterbacks could spend this fall dueling for the Heisman Trophy. Smith provided 2,893 yards in total offense, threw for 16 touchdowns and ran for 11 more last year even though he didn't open the season as the starter. This dual threat rushed for 611 yards in 2005 while also leading the Big Ten in passing efficiency.
3. Chad Henne, Michigan, Jr., 6-2, 226
How talented is this guy? He threw for 2,526 yards with 23 touchdowns and only eight interceptions last fall in what was generally considered a down year. The third-year starter already ranks third in school history in career pass attempts (781) and completions (463). He reached the 5,000-yard career plateau faster than any previous Wolverine quarterback.
4. Drew Stanton, Michigan State, Sr., 6-3, 222
Perhaps no quarterback means more to his team than Stanton does to the Spartans. His blistering start last year helped Michigan State win its first four games. The Spartans then collapsed down the stretch while Stanton played with an injured throwing hand. He still rushed for 338 yards while completing two-thirds of his passes. Stanton threw for 3,077 yards and 22 touchdowns.
5. Brian Brohm, Louisville, Jr., 6-4, 224
Louisville's hopes of winning the Big East could depend on how well Brohm recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. When Brohm is healthy, Louisville can move the ball as well as anyone in the country. The reigning Big East player of the year reached the 300-yard mark five times last season, ranked second in the nation in passing efficiency and threw 19 touchdown passes with only five interceptions.
6. Chris Leak, Florida, Sr., 6-0, 207
Florida's late-season surge last year coincided with Leak's adjustment to the spread offense installed by Gators coach Urban Meyer. Leak completed 68 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns with only two interceptions in Florida's last five games of the season. Leak's relative lack of speed makes him less than an ideal fit for Meyer's offense, but the fourth-year starter provides the Gators with plenty of experience and throwing ability.
7. Brandon Cox, Auburn, Jr., 6-2, 201
Cox improved as much as any quarterback in the nation over the course of last season. He began his first year as a starter by throwing four interceptions in an upset loss to Georgia Tech. He ended the regular season by directing the Tigers to back-to-back victories over Georgia and Alabama. After the Georgia Tech game, Cox was picked off only four times the rest of the season.
8. Sam Keller, Arizona State, Sr., 6-4, 230
Keller could become the best quarterback in the Pac-10 as long as he can prove he's the best quarterback on his team. He threw for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns last year before breaking his thumb. In his absence, Rudy Carpenter filled in and led the nation in passing efficiency. Keller enters the season as Arizona State's No. 1 quarterback, but he can't afford a slow start.
9. Pat White, West Virginia, So., 6-2, 190
Any tailback from a BCS conference who gained 508 yards in his last three regular-season games would enter the following year as an All-America candidate. White posted those statistics as a quarterback. White is such a dangerous runner that he averaged 12.7 yards per carry his last three regular-season games. He also is an adequate passer. White, who didn't start until midway through the season, completed 58 percent of his attempts a year ago for eight touchdowns with five interceptions.
10. JaMarcus Russell, LSU, Jr., 6-5, 248
The Comeback Kid directed the Tigers to six fourth-quarter or overtime victories in the last two years. Russell's outstanding arm strength causes him to make the occasional ill-advised pass, but it also has produced plenty of big plays. He now must overcome a challenge from teammate Matt Flynn, who directed the Tigers to a Peach Bowl rout of Miami after Russell sat out the game with an injured left shoulder and right wrist.
Best of the rest
11. Trent Edwards, Stanford, Sr., 6-4, 220
12. Drew Tate, Iowa, Sr., 6-0, 192
13. Tyler Palko, Pittsburgh, Sr., 6-2, 220
14. Matt Flynn, Louisiana State, Jr., 6-2, 228
15. Kyle Wright, Miami, Jr., 6-4, 220
16. Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State, So., 6-2, 207
17. Bret Meyer, Iowa State, Jr., 6-3, 208
18. John Stocco, Wisconsin, Sr., 6-2, 204
19. Drew Weatherford, Florida State, So., 6-3, 220
20. Matt Ryan, Boston College, Jr., 6-5, 221
21. John Beck, Brigham Young, Sr., 6-2, 212
22. Willie Tuitama, Arizona, So., 6-3, 218
23. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech, So., 6-3, 197
24. Colton Brennan, Hawaii, Jr., 6-3, 190
25. Luke Getsy, Akron, Sr., 6-2, 220

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