Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Last season was a banner year for college
quarterbacks. Names like Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Chris
Simms and Kliff Kingsbury all made highlight reels each and every Saturday
with their play on the field. While 2003 may not have the quarterback depth
that 2002 had, there is still plenty of talent to be had under center.
For the next several weeks, we will take a look at the nation's best talent at
the skilled positions, starting with this year's finest field generals. They
may not all be household names at this time, but at the end of this fall,
everyone could know who these guys are.
ELI MANNING: The obvious posterchild for All-American honors this season, this
installment of the Manning name is rewriting the record books with each season
at his father's alma mater. He is the first Ole Miss QB to pass for 2,000+
yards in back-to-back seasons. He passed for a school record 3,401 yards last
year, breaking his own record of 2,948 set in 2001. This past season, he
completed 58 percent of his passes, with 21 TDs and 15 interceptions. The 6-5,
220-pound Manning finished second in the SEC in passing yards per game (261.6)
and total offense (252.4) and seems to be getting better and better.
Eli Mnaning is the first Ole Miss QB to pass for 2,000+
yards in back-to-back seasons.
CODY PICKETT: While USC's Carson Palmer won the Heisman, there is a loyal
following in the Pacific Northwest that would argue that he wasn't even the
best quarterback in the Pac-10 last year. University of Washington QB Cody
Pickett's numbers were astounding in 2002. He completed almost 60 percent of
his passes (365-of-612), for 4,458 yards and 28 TDs, with 14 INTs. The 6-4,
215-pounder will once again have one of the nation's premier receivers to
throw to (Reggie Williams) and with a wide-open offense, the numbers are sure
to be astronomical again.
PHILIP RIVERS: At 6-5, 240 pounds, the Wolfpack have a prototypic passer under
center in Raleigh. Rivers is on pace to become NC State's all-time leading
passer, with a shot at finishing atop the ACC annals as well. He currently
ranks second in school history in career passing yards (8,993), while holding
the school record for TD passes (61). Last year, the savvy signal-caller
completed 62.7 percent of his passes (262-of-418), for 3,353 yards and 20 TDs,
with just 10 interceptions. Not really known as a mobile QB, Rivers did enough
improvising last season to score 10 TDs on the ground. A banner senior season
would be a fitting end to an outstanding college career.
MATT SCHAUB: Really burst on the scene last year, leading the ACC in passing
efficiency (147.46) and being named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year,
while picking up some All-American consideration. Another big, strong QB at
6-5, 240 pounds, Schaub has a chance to continue along the same path in 2003.
Last year's totals may be hard to reach, as he completed nearly 70 percent of
his passes (.689), for 2,976 yards. His 28 passing TDs led the ACC, while he
threw just seven picks all year.
JOSH HARRIS: Without a doubt, the best quarterback in the country that you
have never heard of. Runs the offense at Bowling Green to near perfection. A
duel threat, Harris will win games with his arm and his legs. An extraordinary
athlete, he finished 2002 ranked second in the country in points responsible
for (21.09), while finishing fourth in scoring (11.17 ppg). Harris completed
56.1 percent of his passes last year, for 2,425 yards and 19 TDs. When teams
shut down the passing lanes, he became more dangerous, amassing 737 yards
rushing and a whopping 20 TDs on the ground. A real threat to pass for over
2,000 yards and run for over 1,000, those could be the kind of numbers that
really make people stand up and take notice.
PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Craig Krenzel (Ohio State), Reggie McNeal (Texas
A&M), David Greene (Georgia), Zack Mills (Penn State), Andrew Walter (Arizona
State), Ben Roethlisberger (Miami-Ohio), Joshua Cribbs (Kent State), Chance
Harridge (Air Force), Rod Rutherford (Pittsburgh), Timmy Chang (Hawaii).