We're ranking Southland QBs because why the hell not.
These fall out into a few groupings. We've got some cream at the top with Bennett, Berry and Sams. After that we fall into a group of question marks. SFA, UCA, and SHSU are all trying to figure out who'll take snaps this fall. That's a tough thing for those of us who make arbitrary lists.
We did our best.
There's a pretty significant gap between numbers 1-3 and numbers 4-7. Then we have another pretty nice gap between 4-7 and 8-11. If there are movers and shakers in this list, look to the 4-7 range. We fear and underrate the unknown here. It's a character flaw.
1. Bryan Bennett - Southeastern
Bryan Bennett showed up in Hammond and turned the Southland on its ear last season. He's back for more and could lead the Lions to places they've never been able to go.
Bennett threw for over 3,000 yards and added another 1,000 plus on the ground. Not surprising for a guy who was in position battle at Oregon with Marcus Mariota. Bennett was effective with his arm but his most dangerous asset is his ability to make plays with his legs.
The Lions averaged almost 40 points a game, up from 18 a year before.
2. Caleb Berry - Lamar
This one isn't really all that tough, Berry is in the cream of this crop after his 2013 season. Lamar returns a ton of skill position talent for Berry to throw to. If he can improve on last season's numbers it'll be huge for the Cardinals.
Berry isn't afraid to throw downfield and he's got the horses to run 'em down. He's also getting some recognition for his efforts, Berry was named 2nd team all Southland behind Southeastern's Bennett.
Bear in mind that last season Berry wasn't even the starter heading into the fall. He took over and took off. Lamar as a team isn't quite in the up echelon of the Southland, but they are a contender to knock anyone off on any given night because of Berry and the offense.
3. Daniel Sams
McNeese caught a whopper with the transfer of Daniel Sams from K-State. Sams initially split time with Jake Walter for the Wildcats before he was relegated to change of pace duty later in the year.
Sams' package at K-State was fairly limited to designed quarterback runs and one-read pass plays but no one doubts his athletic ability.
Mike Viator has been open to using a two quarterback system at McNeese with junior Tyler Bolfing splitting time, however, the Bud thinks that while that may work initially, Sams will be the guy in Lake Charles. He could be a difference maker.
Circle the Sams/Bennett matchup on November 25th. The game could be for the Southland title and it will be fun.
4. Zach Adkins - Northwestern State
Adkins was a JC transfer in 2013 for the Demons and and was named offensive newcomer of the year for the Southland. He'll have a new offensive coordinator in 2014, but not a new scheme.
Adkins' greatest asset may be his ability to protect the football. His TD to Int ratio was great in 2013.
He now holds seven single season offensive records including passing yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage.
The Demons will continue to go fast and spread people out, playing into Adkins skill set. Adkins also found the endzone three times with his legs last season.
5. Zach Conque or Joe Minden - SFA
The Bud is taking a flyer on one of these two guys for SFA. We have a sneaking suspicion that Conque will get the start for his old man, but the fact that Minden has made this a competition is impressive.
Conque has all the tools to be real special; a plus arm, size, intelligence, and a system that racks up numbers. If there was a constant among Clint Conque's teams at UCA it was quarterback play and explosive offensive production. Since joining the league in 2006 the Bears finished in the top 3 in total offense in 6 of their 8 seasons.
Whoever starts will have Gus Johnson to hand the ball to. Johnson rushed for over a 1,000 yards last season and may be the most dangerous back in the Southland.
6. Ryan Howard, Taylor Reed, or Hayden Hildebrand - UCA
Someone is going to win the quarterback battle at UCA but the coaching staff has been quiet on who that guy might be. We aren't above speculation at the Bud. Ryan Howard filled in well for the injured Wynrick Smothers, looked good this spring and odds are he'll be given the first look this fall.
Taylor Reed played as well and looked pretty good and given his spring, he'll be right in the mix. He's a little bigger than Howard and transferred in last season from Arkansas.
Another name to keep an eye on, either now or down the road is redshirt freshman Hayden Hildebrand. Conque's staff loved him and the new staff raved about him this spring.
7. Jared Johnson, Don King III, or John Rodrique - SHSU
|Don King III||7||81.1||3-8-1||37.5||26||1||13||3.7|
|John Rodrique||Redshirted 2013|
Another quarterback battle comes is being waged at Sam. Whoever starts for SHSU will get the keys to offense that wants to go fast, run a lot of plays, and throw the ball. We say a battle, it's tough to say battle when injury stifled development in the spring, but whatever.
The Bud has NO idea who starts out of these three guys, or if a true freshman might come in and take over. Johnson missed the spring with an injury along with everyone else. Only 4 spring starters project to start in the fall, so the coaches will need to get fresh look at everyone in a few weeks. Still, Johnson played quite a bit last fall, even starting in place of the injured Brian Bell. The results weren't exactly earth shattering but hey, he's got experience.
King looked good in spots this spring and having spent time in the offense will help. A lot of folks think Rodrique might be the best of the bunch. He looks to be the most polished passer and has good size.
8. Tuskani Figaro - Nicholls State
Figaro will get the nod for Nicholls State, though the matter may be far from settled. Kalen Henderson started the season as the starter in 2013 before a broken fibula ended his season a couple of games in.
Figaro came in and did some real damage with his legs in 2013 and is the more polished passer of the two. Head coach Charlie Stubbs will use both, possibly at the same time. “We’re going to play a two-quarterback system if I have to in order to get Tuskani and Kalen on the field at the same time,” Stubbs said. “The thing about coaching is that you have to get the best 11 guys on the field, so I’m going to find a way to create some touches.”
9. Trent Brittain - UIW
UIW has needed a signal caller since the program's inception. They have one in Trent Brittain. Brittain is a hard nosed kid from Eastland who is a danger to run as well as a threat to throw it. He'll be unique among Southland quarterbacks because he'll run as close as their is to a pro-style offense and won't put it up 50 times a game.
Brittain could move up this list if he can improve his completion percentage and his TD/INT ratio. As he grows into the position, he'll be asked to do more with his arm.
10. Parker McKenzie - ACU
Somebody has to replace John David Baker and his PS4 production. Odds are that guy is McKenzie. McKenzie started for three years at Smithson Valley, a historic feat, so he's no stranger to high expectations or the spotlight. He's also never thrown a collegiate incompletion, so you know, he's got that going for him.
McKenzie battled Malcolm Ruben in the spring for the chance to start. It appears that Ruben is no longer on campus, possibly heading to HBU. Kade Munden looks to be the backup heading into fall camp. Ken Collums is on record saying that he would like his quarterback to be more mobile in the pocket which may point to McKenzie who isn't a bad athlete.
There's also a chance that the Cats can land a transfer quarterback and then all this would have been for nothing. Baker returns as a GA to guide the young Jedi's into the starting role and Collums offense will ask whoever starts to put the ball up. A lot.
11. Ka'Darius Baker - HBU
The Bud loves Ka'Darius Baker. We loved him at Navasota and we loved him as a true freshman getting his first start against Sam Houston. We still love him, but our love is conditional and right now the condition of HBU's program and Baker's experience level leave him at the bottom of the bin.
Baker has upside. He's smart, talented and has the chance to grow into the system. However it may be a sign of progress for HBU if Baker gets a little pressure from one of the other quarterbacks on campus in the fall.
HBU goes full Southland schedule next year, they return everyone, but they're still real young at every position. Baker will feel those shortcomings this fall.