By Max Olsen
Our best guess at a preseason ranking of the Big 12's projected starting quarterbacks:
1. Trevone Boykin, TCU: The gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is significant this season. Boykin is the Big 12’s only returning 13-game starter, and he also happens to be its most electric talent. How can he top 4,661 total yards and 42 touchdowns as a senior? The whole gang is back on offense, Boykin’s wrist is healed and he should be much more efficient in his second year under Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.
2. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State: Small sample size, sure, but what we saw from Rudolph in 2014 sure was scintillating. Against Baylor and Oklahoma, he proved he can spin it (17.3 yards per completion) and showed no fear, taking over in a tough spot and turning around his team’s fortunes. With another year of seasoning and J.W. Walsh's invaluable help, the sophomore is poised to take his game to another level.
3. Seth Russell, Baylor: Russell was ready to be handed the keys to Art Briles’ offense. He can make all the throws, is much faster than he looks and picked up a little experience along the way last season. Briles has been patient and cautious with praise this month, and the standard set by Baylor’s past few QBs is mighty high, but Russell should be a household name in no time.
4. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech: Kliff Kingsbury is keeping his cards close to his vest on this one and giving Davis Webb (and Nic Shimonek) every opportunity to keep battling Mahomes. But the true sophomore is bound to become the guy for the Red Raiders this season and his dual-threat talents should make the gunslinger a handful for opposing secondaries (just ask Baylor). He brings an edge to the job that his coaches love.
5. Sam B. Richardson, Iowa State: Don’t you dare sleep on Richardson. There is a reason Paul Rhoads believes he can be in the top three of this list by season’s end. Richardson is a sharp leader and a sneaky rusher (421 yards last season). The only problem? He’s 3-18 as a starter and has never led the Cyclones to a Big 12 victory. With the receivers at his disposal, though, the fifth-year senior ought to earn more praise this season.
6. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: The swagger prince of the Big 12 walked on and needed only one year of practice to surpass two Sooners with starting experience. He’ll have to compete day in and day out to keep the starting job -- Lincoln Riley’s loyalties will go to whomever takes care of the ball -- but few can match Mayfield’s confidence. He’ll bring some juice to this new-look offense.
7. Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: Swoopes hasn’t formally been named the starter, but Charlie Strong has had him No. 1 since spring ball and that hasn’t changed in August despite Jerrod Heard's efforts. Coaches and teammates say Swoopes has moved past his rough finish to 2014 and is throwing it around with much more confidence. Texas is hoping an upgraded offensive line makes his life much easier too.
8. Skyler Howard, West Virginia: Like Rudolph and Mahomes, Howard was another wild card whose opportunity didn’t arrive until late in the season. The former junior college transfer is a gamer, plain and simple, who overcomes his height by preparing harder. Howard will be more accurate as a junior and probably ends up moving up this list.
9. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State: The battle in The Little Apple isn’t over, but Ertz is getting the first-team scrimmage reps and seems to have pulled ahead in this four-man race. He’s yet to attempt a pass at this level, but the tiny glimpse we got of Ertz against Oklahoma State last season showed a guy who will definitely cause trouble with his feet in the zone-read game. He’s No. 9 because we simply haven’t seen enough to fairly judge him.
10. Montell Cozart, Kansas: Cozart finally won the job Monday, beating out a trio of backups who have played zero snaps for Kansas (Ryan Willis, Carter Stanley and Deondre Ford) and earning a job that most expected him to easily take after Michael Cummings was lost to a torn ACL in the spring game. Cozart won the job last season too, but was a 50 percent passer in six games. Head coach David Beaty is hoping an Air Raid attack better fits his talents.