Football season is fast approaching, so for the next few weeks the BTD staff will be previewing the best players at each position that are on Oregon State’s schedule in 2018.
Today we’re going to run down the toughest quarterbacks the Beavers will face.
#5 - K.J. Costello - Stanford
Stanford is going to be the Bryce Love show for most of it’s season, but it’s ability to provide a second dimension to it’s offense will determine how far they can go this year. Keller Chryst was supposed to provide that spark last year, but he struggled, losing his starting job first to injury and then to poor play. Costello stepped up, and led the Cardinal to an upset win over Washington.
Costello may have his own problems going forward; he injured his hip and missed spring football. If he’s ready, and can return to his late 2017 form (a 151.8 passer rating in his last four games), the Stanford offense is going to be rough to deal with. Costello finished the season, in which he shared duties with a struggling Chryst before winning the starting job outright, with 1573 yards, 14 touchdowns, and a 58.8 completion percentage.
Costello and the passing game are not going to be the ones putting most of the Cardinal’s points on the board, that’d be Heisman candidate Love, but Costello does the most important thing he can; not turn the ball over. Costello’s TD to INT ratio was 14-4 last season, though two of those interceptions were in the Alamo Bowl, raising some concerns.
Stanford has perhaps the best Running Back in the nation, an offensive line filled with all conference players, and a strong, versatile receiving corps. If Costello turns out to be the missing piece they’ve needed, it will be one of the most dangerous offenses in the PAC-12. The Beavers will get a chance to see that when they travel to Stanford on November 10th.
#4 - Dwayne Haskins - Ohio State
J.T. Barrett led the Buckeyes to consistent Big 10 championships and BCS appearances over his career, with an incredible 49-6 overall record. The battle to replace him in Columbus was fierce, but Dwayne Haskins has emerged as the clear winner.
Haskins served as Barrett’s backup last season, beating out redshirt Junior Joe Burrow, who elected to transfer after it was clear Haskins had won the starting job. Haskins saw plenty of time as a backup, mostly after the Buckeyes had built up an insurmountable lead, but we have some idea of what the Haskins offense is going to look like.
Haskins biggest moment came in last year’s game against Michigan. With the Buckeyes down 20-14, Barrett was injured and had to leave the game. Haskins then led the team downfield to set up the go ahead touchdown. He finished that game 6 out of 7 on completions to attempts and 94 yards passing, and 24 yards rushing.
Haskins is the most pass-focused Quarterback Ohio State has seen in some time. Haskins has an absolute cannon for an arm, making throws with a power and precision that Ohio State hasn’t seen since Troy Smith. This was most notable in OSU’s win over UNLV, where Haskins saw his most game time. He went 15 for 23 in that game, with 2 touchdowns, including this beauty, his first as a college player.
Haskins has plenty of athletic skill, so the question for 2018 is whether those skills will show up with games, and seasons, on the line. He’s shown up for moments so far in his career, but now he’s a full-time starter, and that’s a big leap. The Beavers will be the first team to see how he’s developed, when they take on Ohio State in their season opener, September 1st in Columbus.
#3 - Jake Browning - Washington
Washington has been the best team in the Pac 12 for the past couple years. Had they not had a bizarre meltdown against Arizona State, they’d likely have made the BCS playoffs for the second year in a row. The Huskies are thought of as a defense first team, but Browning and the offense have been rock steady about giving Washington enough to win.
Browning exploded in his sophomore year, with 43 touchdowns and 3430 yards, leading Washington to the BCS playoffs. His junior year wasn’t as strong, only 19 touchdowns and only 2719 yards. This has led some to worry that the Washington offense has been found out; that elite defenses can rush Browning on passing downs and stifle passing game production.
Browning will also have to contend with a lot of questions in his receiving corps. Dante Pettis and Will Dissly, two reliable targets, both left for the NFL. Chico McClatcher is coming back from a broken ankle. There’s talent in that unit, but they’ll need to prove they can execute on a season long basis.
The good news for the Huskies is that it takes an elite defense to stop their offense, and the only elite defense in the conference is Washington’s. They’ve also got Myles Gaskin ready to break the Huskies all time rushing record.
If all of this clicks together, then the Huskies should be back on top of the Pac 12, and contending for a BCS playoff spot once again. The Beavers will get a chance to test them when they travel to Seattle on November 17th.
#2 - Justin Herbert - Oregon
There’s a lot of turmoil down in Eugene. With Willie Taggart bolting after one season, the future of Oregon is once again in question. Quarterback Justin Herbert is going to be at the center of a lot of those questions.
Herbert exploded at the start of last year, and established himself as potentially one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. For the first four games of the year, he threw 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, for 1,178 yards. Unfortunately, a broken collarbone in the game against California derailed not just Herbert’s season, but Oregon’s.
After going 4-1 with Herbert starting, the Ducks went 1-4 before Herbert could return to the lineup. After Herbert returned, the Ducks righted the ship enough to earn a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl, but after seeing their early potential that had to be a disappointment.
If he’s healthy, all the tools are in place for Herbert to have a huge season. That includes last year’s leading receiver, Dillon Mitchell, and tight end Jacob Breeland, who caught 12 touchdowns. Three starters on the line return, including two All Conference Honorable Mentions. The Ducks also managed to pick up a couple strong graduate transfers, including Wide Receiver Tabari Hines, and Guard Dallas Warmack.
Everything is in place for Herbert to repeat his big start to 2017. If he can, the sky’s the limit for the Ducks. Herbert is already being mentioned as a first round draft pick, and a good year will secure that position. The Ducks could challenge the Huskies for the top of the Pac 12 North. Heisman trophies and BCS Bowls will still be hard to come by, but aren’t completely out of the question.
We’ll know for sure where Oregon stands when they come to Corvallis for this year’s Civil War on November 23rd
#1 - Khalil Tate - Arizona
Here’s the star of the show. Khalil Tate is one of the most explosive players in college football. After originally being recruited as a Wide Receiver, Tate looked unimpressive in his first starts at the QB position in 2016. The next year, after a couple early starts, he was forced to the sidelines by injury.
He returned in October, against Colorado, and rushed for 327 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also threw for 154 yards and another touchdown. Tate wasn’t finished. He ran for at least 100 yards against his next five opponents. Against UCLA and Oregon State, he broke 200. His passing was drastically improved. He would regularly hit 150 yards most games, and threw 275 against Washington State, and 302 against Purdue in the San Francisco Bowl.
Tate finished the season with 1591 passing yards and 1411 rushing yards. He threw 14 touchdowns and ran for another 12. He could probably stand to cut down his interceptions, but at the moment, he looks like potentially the best quarterback in college football. If Arizona had any sort of defense, he’d be a Heisman front runner.
There’s bound to be some concerns over Tate transitioning to a new coach, with Rich Rodriguez being replaced by Kevin Sumlin. Tate apparently had some say in the coaching search, When rumors abounded that Arizona was going to hire Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo, Tate tweeted out that he had no interest in running a triple option. That was enough to alter Arizona’s search, and eventually Sumlin was hired.
Sumlin has experience with top tier quarterbacks. He shepherded Johnny Manziel to a Heisman Trophy in 2012. The Wildcats are returning enough players that Tate’s performance should not drop off. His two top receivers, Tony Ellison and Shun Brown, are back, as are his tight ends Bryce Wolma and Jamie Nunley. That’s barely even scratching the surface of a receiving unit that’s one of the deepest in the conference.
This is perhaps the most explosive offense in the Pac 12, and the Beavers will get a chance to take it on on September 22nd, in Corvallis.
So there you have it. If there’s anyone I’ve missed, or if you want to shout at me about how overrated Justin Herbert is, take it to the comments, and then check back with Building the Dam as we’ll be doing previews like this for all position groups.