For a few college football programs, starting a freshman quarterback has not been a liability this season. Four of them – Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh (4th), Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (11th), Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (31st) and UCLA’s Brett Hundley (33rd) – rank in the Top 35 nationally in passer rating, while averaging 20 or more pass attempts per game. Finishing there as a freshman is a rare feat for college quarterbacks. Accomplishing that puts one in quite rarified air.
No freshman finished in the Top 35 with 20 attempts last season. The only four quarterbacks to do it since 2008 are Aaron Murray (2010), Andrew Luck (2009), Kellen Moore (2008) and Robert Griffin (2008). You know it is a prime group when the least accomplished of the four is a Heisman candidate and the best quarterback in the nation’s best conference. The last true invasion of freshman was in 2007, when Sam Bradford (1st), Colin Kaepernick (10th) and Case Keeum (16th) finished in the top 20. UTEP’s Trevor Vittatoe, who finished 32nd that year, never quite developed as an upperclassman.
Obviously, it is early. A potpourri of crappy opponents is not the same as a conference slate. The Johnny Manziel playing SMU, South Carolina State and Arkansas will look different from the one who faces LSU and Alabama. J.W. Walsh has not even won the starting job on his own team. It will be interesting to see whether and when their inner novice might emerge, especially with Marcus Mariota, who holds the tiller of Oregon’s BCS title campaign.
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