Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
They probably get too much credit when things are going good, and too much blame when things aren't. But that's the nature of the quarterback position at every level, and the FBS is certainly no exception.
With that said, here are the top signal-callers heading into the 2010 college football season.
JAKE LOCKER, WASHINGTON
There was a real chance that Locker would have been an early pick in this year's NFL Draft, as the St. Louis Rams, among others, were reported to be extremely high on him. Locker has everything needed to be a cornerstone of a NFL organization for a decade or so, including prototypical size (6-3, 225) and experience in a pro-style offense at WU. He has a quick release and strong arm, with the ability to make things happen with his legs as well. Locker just missed out on a 2,000-yard passing, 1,000-yard rushing campaign in 2007, then rushed for just under 400 yards in 2009, while upping his passing number to the 2,800 range. If he continues to improve as a passer (completed 47.3 percent in 2007, 53.8 percent in abbreviated 2008 campaign and 58.4 percent in 2009), his status in the eyes of scouts will only improve.
RYAN MALLETT, ARKANSAS
He won't run away from anyone, but at 6-7, 238 pounds, Mallett doesn't need to. Mallett transferred from Michigan, where he started as a freshman before exiting after Rich Rodriguez's offense made him obsolete. After sitting out 2008, Mallett earned the starting job last spring and never looked back. He completed a modest 55.8 percent of his passes, but did throw for 3,624 yards, with 30 TDs and just seven interceptions in head coach Bobby Petrino's system. A strong-armed pocket-passer that the pros covet, the junior could certainly feel the gravitational pull of the NFL by mid-season if all goes well.
TERRELLE PRYOR, OHIO STATE
Pryor has been on this list since the day he stepped on the field in Columbus, and perhaps even before. The expectations were so high that it was almost impossible for Pryor to live up to the hype, but the 6-6, 233-pound junior has continued the maturation process within the OSU offense. During the 2009 campaign, the former blue-chipper threw for just over 2,000 yards and 18 TDs, while rushing for 779 yards and seven more scores. Expect more of the same in 2010. He won't lead the nation with gaudy passing numbers, but should be a regular on highlight reels week-in and week-out, as Ohio State will once again be in the hunt for the Big Ten title and factor in the big BCS picture as the season nears a conclusion.
KELLEN MOORE, BOISE STATE
Perhaps the best quarterback in the country, with the least amount of hype. Moore has been a model of consistency since stepping onto the blue turf in Boise a couple of years ago, and has been a major factor in his program crashing the BCS party of late. He lacks ideal size (6-0, 187), but makes up for it with great football instincts, competitive nature and superb leadership skills. In two seasons, Moore has completed over 66 percent of his passes with over 7,000 passing yards, 64 TDs and a mere 13 INTs. With the heightened national profile afforded Boise State this season (the Broncos should be a preseason top-five program), expect to hear plenty from Moore in 2010.
CASE KEENUM, HOUSTON
A product of the system in Houston? Probably, though there is still no denying the impressive nature of the numbers Keenum has put up with the Cougars. The 6-2, 210-pound All-American has led the nation in total offense the last two years, throwing for over 10,000 yards in his sophomore and junior campaigns combined, with 88 TD passes over that span. Keenum threw for a jaw-dropping 5,671 yards a year ago, with a 70 percent completion rate. It's hard to imagine his numbers plummeting this year.
ROBERT GRIFFIN, BAYLOR
The face of Baylor football, there may not be a more athletic QB in this group than Griffin, and that includes Pryor. As a freshman in 2008, the 6-2, 210- pounder threw for 2,091 yards, with 15 TDs and just three INTs, while rushing for 843 yards and 13 more scores, en route to All-American honors. He lasted just two-plus games into his sophomore season before being lost for the year with a knee injury, and will have to prove that he can recover his reputation as one of the fastest QBs in college football history. A hardship waiver got Griffin's sophomore year back, and in even better news, he participated in all non-contact drills in the spring.
JACORY HARRIS, MIAMI-FLORIDA
After showing flashes of brilliance as a freshman in 2008, Harris took it to another level as a sophomore last year, his first as the full-time starter. Harris completed around 60 percent of his passes, for 3,352 yards and 24 TDs, emerging as the face of the Hurricanes offense. Harris and the Canes will try to take another step forward this season in their hoped-for return to college football elite status. For his part, you can expect another jump in terms of production from the athletic Harris, as Miami pursues an ACC title in 2010.
COLIN KAEPERNICK, NEVADA
Yet another quarterback from a non-BCS program that can do a little bit of everything. With great size (6-6, 220) and extreme athleticism, Kaepernick has been a big fish in the small pond that is the WAC. Last season, the Wolf Pack's field-general passed for over 2,000 yards with 20 TD passes, while eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing (1,183), with an additional 16 scores. There isn't a whole lot of national attention lavished on the Nevada program, but Kaepernick may change that in 2010. Expect to see plenty of good things from the signal-caller in Reno this season.
LANDRY JONES, OKLAHOMA
Thrown into the toughest of situations a year ago, when Heisman-winner Sam Bradford went down with a shoulder injury, Jones actually performed admirably as a freshman in Norman. Named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, the 6-2, 210-pounder completed almost 60 percent of his passes, for 3,198 yards, with 26 TDs. The Sooners struggled to an 8-5 record, but it was difficult to pin those struggles on Jones, who seemed to improve with each passing week. With a strong arm and a nice feel for the game, expect inflated numbers from Jones this season, as OU becomes relevant in the big picture again.
JERROD JOHNSON, TEXAS A&M
Johnson already holds numerous single-season passing records at Texas A&M, and heads into his senior season looking to climb the career charts as well. With attention-grabbing 6-5, 243-pound size, Johnson is coming off a stellar season in which he completed almost 60 percent of his passes, for 3,579 yards and 30 TDs, while adding another 500 yards on the ground and eight more TDs. If the Aggies are going to make a move in the Big 12 this year, the talented Johnson will be the main reason why.
OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: John Brantley (Florida), Cameron Newton (Auburn), Zach Collaros (Cincinnati), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Andy Dalton (TCU), Matt Barkley (USC), Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech).