In the Pac 10, this is the Year of the Quarterback

By Darrell Laurant  |   Monday, July 24, 2006  |  Comments( 0 )

College Football
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The predicted top offensive players in the Pac 10 this season.

QUARTERBACK
1. SAM KELLER, ARIZONA STATE. Senior, 6-4, 240, Danville, CA.
1A. RUDY CARPENTER, ARIZONA STATE. Sophomore, 6-2, 204, Westlake, CA.
The only thing to do here is to cobble together a two-headed monster, because Keller and Carpenter turned in one of the more remarkable tag-team seasons in quarterback history in 2005. Over the first six games, Keller threw for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns, completing 55.7 percent of his passes. Then, he got hurt. So Carpenter, then only a freshman, came in and proceeded to lead the nation in passing efficiency, hitting 156 of 225 passes for 2,276 yards, 17 touchdowns against only two interceptions, and a 68.4 completion percentage. Then, to top it off, he burned Rutgers for 467 yards and four touchdowns in the Insight.com Bowl. Nevertheless, Keller will probably retain the starting job, but there is a lively (if amiable) competition between the two. What a nice problem for a coach to have.

2. TRENT EDWARDS, STANFORD. Senior, 6-4, 220, Los Gatos, CA. For a guy who once hated Stanford, Edwards has done a lot of nice things for the Cardinal -- like throwing for 1,934 yards last season, completing 62 percent of his throws, and stacking 17 touchdown passes next to only seven interceptions. But, he says, "I grew up as a huge Cal fan -- I absolutely despised Stanford." Edwards says he likes football for "its complexity" and lists his biggest sports thrill not as being chosen the No. 1 high school quarterback in the nation, but shooting 75 on his home golf course. He set a California state record with an incredible 78 percent completion percentage as a junior at Los Gatos High, and has some outstanding receivers to work with this season..

3. JOHN DAVID BOOTY, SOUTHERN CAL. Junior, 6-3, 195, Shreveport, LA. Sure, he's had back problems. And yeah, Mark Sanchez is also eager to take his place in the recent line of star Trojan QB's behind Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. But given Booty's pedigree, track record in relief (64 percent, 327 yards, three touchdowns last season), and the receivers he has to work with, it's hard not to rank him among the best in the conference.

Honorable Mention: Willie Tuitama, Arizona; Matt Moore, Oregon State; Dennis Dixon, Oregon; Isaiah Stanback, Washington, Alex Brink, Washington State, Ben Olson, UCLA.

RUNNING BACK
1. MARSHAWN LYNCH, CAL. Junior, 5-11, 217, Oakland, CA. Not even bullets can stop this guy -- over the summer, a car in which he was riding was struck several times by random gunfire as Lynch was leaving his sister's graduation, but he didn't get a scratch. A "representative of the shooter" then went to Lynch's mother and apologized. Lynch has his own Web site now, touting him for a Heisman that isn't beyond the realm of possibility. Last season, despite missing two games with injuries, he rushed for 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns, caught 15 passes for another 125 yards, and averaged 20.8 yards on kickoffs. Most of the preseason football pundits have picked him as a first-team All-American, and he obviously has a running back's mentality -- to the standard question "What four people who you like to have dinner with," he started out with his mother and God, but then added Barry Sanders and DeShaun Foster.

2. YVENSON BERNARD, OREGON STATE. Junior, 5-9, 203, Boca Raton, FL. Bernard (his first name is pronounced "Everson") came to OSU with a chip on his shoulder, and it has paid off for the Beavers. Despite All-State status in football-crazy Florida, he was largely ignored by the Sunshine State Mafia -- Florida, Florida State and Miami. Apparently, Bernard then decided to get as far away from Florida as he could. Used sparingly as a freshman, he burst into Pac 10 prominence last season by rushing for 1,321 yards, the fifth-best single season total in school history. Sporting dreadlocks like former Beaver star Steven Jackson, Bernard likes to run between the tackles even though he has the speed to get outside. "I don't really mind contact," he says. "It's football." The only downside is that Bernard's fierce running style cost him a couple of injuries last season. If he stays healthy, he's the second-best back in the league.

Honorable mention: Jonathan Stewart, Oregon; Anthony Kimble, Stanford.

WIDE RECEIVER
1. DWAYNE JARRETT, SOUTHERN CAL. Junior, 6-5, 210, New Brunswick, NJ. Barring unforeseen circumstances this season, Jarrett should become the Pac 10's all-time touchdown reception leader -- and he's only a junior. He has 26 TD catches so far, and ranks eighth all-time at USC in receptions. Last season, as Matt Leinart's favorite target, Jarrett caught 91 passes for 1,294 yards and 16 touchdowns. A leaper who starred in high school basketball, he is all but indefensible on "jump ball" passes, as Texas found out in the Rose Bowl (10 receptions and a touchdown).

2. JASON HILL, WASHINGTON STATE. Senior, 6-2, 208, San Francisco, CA. Hill could have declared for the NFL draft and gone in at least the second round, but he decided to finish out his senior season in Pullman. A rangy target with the ability to shift into a higher gear at will, Hill has averaged 19.7 yards per catch during his career. Last year, he snagged 62 passes from batterymate Alex Brink for 1,097 yards and 13 touchdowns, and his 109.7 receiving yards per game were fourth-best nationally.

Honorable mention: Steve Smith, USC; Mark Bradford, Stanford; DeSean Jackson, Cal; Terry Richardson and Rudy Burgess, Arizona State; James Finley, Oregon; Syndric Steptoe, Arizona.

TIGHT END
1. ZACH MILLER, ARIZONA STATE. Junior, 6-5, 258, Phoenix, AZ. Miller was the No. 1 rated tight end prospect in America coming out of high school, and he's done nothing to lower expectations since. As a freshman, he broke Todd Heap's ASU record for pass receptions by a tight end, pulling in 56 for 552 yards. As a sophomore, getting lots more attention from defenses, he had 38 catches for 478 yards and four touchdowns. Miller is reminiscent of another tight end with the same last name -- the Steelers' Heath Miller, both in playing style and intelligence (Zach had a 4.0 GPA in high school).

2. JOE NEWTON, OREGON STATE. Senior, 6-7, 258, Roseburg, OR. A freak injury suffered during preseason conditioning last year kept Newton out of action all of 2005, and his quarterbacks missed him. Looming like a welcome lighthouse downfield, he caught 19 passes in the red zone in 2004, four of them for touchdowns. A prototypical tight end, Newton is a solid blocker with soft hands.

Honorable Mention: Matt Travcerso, Stanford; Craig Stevens, Cal; Cody Boyd, Washington State.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS
1. SHANNON TEVAGA, UCLA. Junior, 6-3, 210, La Mirada, CA. His high school coach called him one of the two best lineman he ever worked with, the other being NFL veteran Sam Adams. An excellent run blocker, Tevaga blasted out numerous holes for speedy Maurice Drew last season. Of Pacific Island descent, he observes: "People expect me to be stronger, run faster, do more, just because I'm Samoan." Maybe they're right.

2. JEREMY PERRY, OREGON STATE. Sophomore, 6-2, 313. Laie, Hawaii. Homesick for the Islands, Perry almost bailed out of Corvallis during his redshirt freshman year, but some of the other Hawaiians on the team talked him into staying. As the only offensive lineman ever to be named Hawaii's High School Player of the Year, Perry fully expected to start his first year. After hearing he would be held out, he burned off his frustration in the weight room, gaining 20 more pounds but losing no mobility. Last season he started all 11 games and was named a Freshman All-American by The Sporting News. Perry is so quick that he often serves as the lone lead blocker for quarterback Matt Moore on rollout plays.

Honorable Mention: Erik Robertson, Ca; Stephen Berg, Arizona State, Roy Scheuning, Oregon State, Alex Fletcher, Stanford, Stanley Daniels, Washington.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES
1. SAM BAKER, SOUTHERN CAL. Junior, 6-5, 305, Tustin, CA. This is the man who defended Leinart's left side last year, a role he also filled in 2004. An All-Pac 10 choice last year, he's listed on the Lombardi Award watch list this time around. Baker came to Southern Cal as a guard, but was shifted before his freshman season and has started ever since. If the NFL doesn't work out for him, which seems unlikely, he has an "in" with the Arena Football League -- his dad is the commissioner.

2. ANDREW CARNAHAN, ARIZONA STATE. Senior, 6-8, 287, Hereford, TX. According to his bio on the ASU Web site, this guy likes to work with his hands -- he won the state woodworking tournament twice while growing up in Hereford. Now, however, Carnahan works with his hands in a different way, trying to keep defenders off Sun Devil quarterbacks Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter. The very fact that that duo combined for over 4,000 passing yards last season says a lot about the ability of the Arizona state offensive line, and Carnahan is its leader.

Honorable Mention: Max Unger, Oregon, Bobby Byrd, Washington State, Adam Koets, Oregon State, Peter Graniello, Arizona.

CENTER
1. RYAN KALIL, SOUTHERN CAL. Senior, 6-3, 285, Corona, CA. Called "reliable and tough" by his coaches, Kalil will be starting for the third straight season. Several publications, including Sports Illustrated.com and Lindy's, list him as the top center in the country. Perhaps it's in the genes -- his father, Frank, was a center at Arizona who went on to play in the USFL. Kalil didn't allow a sack his last two years in high school, and he hasn't made many mistakes as a Trojan.

2. ENOKA LUCAS, OREGON. Junior, 6-1, 299, Honolulu, HI. The Ducks were third in the Pac 10 in sacks allowed last season, even though four starters graduated off the 2004 offensive line, and Lucas was a big part of that improvement (up from 10th a year earlier). Moreover, he's only getting better, with 20 starts already under his ample belt. With a squat of 525 pounds to his credit, Lucas has the lower body leverage to hold defenders out.

Honorable Mention: Erick Levitre, Arizona; Tim Mattran, Stanford; Kyle DeVan, Oregon State.

PLACEKICKER
1. ALEXIS SERNA, OREGON STATE. JUNIOR, 5-8, 162, Fontana, CA. The smallest guy on the OSU team, and probably the most valuable. A former walk-on, Serna won the Lou Groza Award as the top kicker in Division I-A last season, and he has two years remaining. He comes back with the second highest field goal percentage among active kickers, converting on 40-of-48 in his career with a longest of 55 yards. He also has a string of 61 straight PAT's. Against Washington in 2005, Serna accounted for all his team's points with six field goals. He looks like a soccer player, which he is.

Honorable Mention: Justin Medlock, UCLA, Paul Martinez, Oregon; Mario Danelo, Southern Cal, Nick Folk, Arizona.

- Get more Pac 10 and college football developments at Realfootball365.com
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