Ranking Big 12 quarterbacks
Athlon Sports ranks all 130 projected starting quarterbacks at various stages of the offseason. Heading into spring football, the magazine ranked two Big 12 quarterbacks in the top 10 and all 10 projected starters in the top 100.
Here’s how I rank Big 12 projected starting quarterbacks with Athlon’s ranking in parentheses:
1 - Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma, 3): The Heisman Trophy candidate who finished fourth in the voting in 2015 and third in 2016 will make his third trip to Memorial Stadium to face Kansas and second trip wearing an Oklahoma helmet. He also competed against the Jayhawks for Texas Tech in 2013. In his two seasons for Oklahoma, Mayfield has thrown 76 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions.
2 - Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State, 7): When I first heard of him I wondered why the name seemed so familiar. Then it hit me: There used to be a PGA tour pro by the same name. It turns out it’s not a coincidence. The quarterback was named after the golfer, even though they aren’t related. The golfer, a five-time winner on the PGA tour, died in 2011 at the age of 76. The quarterback has represented the name well, especially during a terrific junior season. Rudolph averaged 9.1 yards per pass attempt, threw 28 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
3 - Jesse Ertz (Kansas State, 25): He rushed for 1,012 yards and 12 touchdowns and passed for 1,755 yards and nine touchdowns. Bill Snyder really knows how to make use of a dual-threat QB and Ertz will play behind an outstanding offensive line.
4 - Will Grier (West Virginia, 32): The Ole Miss coaching staff must have been happy to see him transfer from Florida. As a redshirt freshman, Grier completed 24 of 29 passes for 271 yards and four touchdowns, all of the TD passes coming in the first half, against the Rebels.
5 - Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech, 59): He looked terrific in relief of injured Patrick Mahomes Jr. in Lubbock against Kansas, throwing four touchdown passes. He completed 65.5 percent of his passes on the season, threw six touchdown passes and was intercepted once.
6 - Peyton Bender (Kansas, 91): Athlon ranks Luke Falk, the QB who beat out Bender at Washington State, No. 8 in the nation on the strength of back-to-back 4,000-yard passing seasons. Just because Bender couldn’t beat out the nation’s eighth-ranked quarterback doesn’t mean he can’t be the Big 12’s sixth-best quarterback. Bender threw 21 touchdowns and four interceptions and averaged 303.7 yards passing per game in his one season at Itawamba Community College. He looked accurate and decisive in the spring exhibition.
7 - Shane Buechele (Texas, 34): Kansas picked him off three times and Buechele didn’t look like the same quarterback late in the season as he did early. If he falters, freshman Sam Ehlinger could push him for playing time.
8 - Kenny Hill (TCU, 40): Hill threw 17 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in a disappointing first season of game action for TCU after transferring from Texas A&M. He started his career by throwing for a school-record 511 years in A&M’s 2014 season-opener, creating wild expectations.
9 - Zach Smith (Baylor, 50): He went 1-3 as a starter but did look terrific in a loss at Texas Tech (30 for 46, 377 yards, three touchdowns, one pick) and a Cactus Bowl victory vs. Boise State (28 for 39, 375 yards, three touchdowns, one pick).
10 - Jacob Park (Iowa State, 61): After earning the distinction of being named Mr. Football in football-rich South Carolina, Park went to Georgia, spent a year there as a redshirt, then spent a semester at Trident Technical College in South Carolina, which did not have a football program. He kept his arm in shape playing flag football, then transferred to Northeast Oklahoma A&M, spent one semester there and was recruited to Iowa State. In a late-season two-week stretch against Kansas and Texas Tech, Park completed 34 of 44 passes for 490 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.