Ranking the top 5 returning QBs in the Pac-12
Jared Goff, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan were all drafted this past spring. Mike Bercovici, Vernon Adams Jr. and Travis Wilson moved on from their schools as well. Oregon State’s fluid quarterback situation should now be solidified with the addition of Utah State-transfer Darell Garretson. All of those changes leave the Pac-12 with only five teams returning their starting quarterbacks.
Two of the five returning starting quarterbacks — Luke Falk and Jake Browning — are from the Pac-12 North, and three are from the Pac-12 South in Anu Solomon, Sefo Liufau and Josh Rosen. All five of the passers graded positively in 2015 and are listed here in order of their 2015 overall grades:
- Jake Browning, Washington (+21.6 overall)
The first of two true sophomores on this list, Browning was one of the more impressive freshmen quarterbacks in the country and was named the PFF All-Freshman team starter. He completed 233 of 370 passes (63 percent) for 2,955 yards with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Browning’s +17.5 passing grade ranks No. 3 among returning Pac-12 quarterbacks and No. 8 among returning Power-5 quarterbacks.
Browning’s 75.2 adjusted completion percentage ranks No. 5 among returning Power-5 quarterbacks. Browning was most effective in 2015 over the middle and throwing to his left, with only one of this touchdowns coming on a pass targeted to his right. Browning’s 50.0 percent accuracy on passes targeted 20 yards or more downfield ranks No. 6 among returning FBS quarterbacks.Browning was also very impressive with pass rushers in his face as his 66.7 accuracy percentage when under pressure ranks No. 2 among returning FBS quarterbacks. If Browning continues to play like a much more experienced quarterback the Huskies will have a serious chance at winning the Pac-12 North.
- Luke Falk, Washington State (+18.7 overall)
2015 was Luke Falk’s first season as a starter and he was very productive and successful. The Cougars finished 9-3 in games that Falk started and he completed 447 of 649 passes (68.9 percent) for 4580 yards and 38 touchdowns. Luke Falk helped the Cougars pull off some major Pac-12 upset road wins in 2015 including with victories coming at UCLA and Oregon. Washington State hadn’t beaten Oregon since 2006 but Luke Falk completed 50 of 76 passes for 513 yards and five touchdowns to help his team beat the Ducks.
Falk has demonstrated good accuracy to all parts of the field and was highly effective throwing intermediate and deep routes in 2015. Falk’s 78.7 adjusted completion percentage ranks No. 1 among all returning FBS quarterbacks. Additionally, Falk’s 69.1 accuracy percentage under pressure also ranks No. 1 among returning FBS quarterbacks. Falk completed 50 of 99 passes under pressure in 2015 with six touchdowns and zero interceptions.
2016 will be the third-straight season that Falk has started games in Coach Leach’s offense and he returns with talented wide receivers Gabe Marks and River Cracraft. With weapons around him and an increasing familiarity with the system Falk could best his 2015 numbers. If Luke Falk and the Cougars can build on their successful 2015 campaign they, like their cross-state rival Washington Huskies, could have the potential to win the Pac-12 North and play in the Pac-12 title game.
- Josh Rosen, UCLA (+16.9 overall)
The highly-touted Rosen stepped onto the field as a true freshman in 2015 and looked like a veteran in his first game completing 28 of 35 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns in a road victory at Virginia. For the season, Rosen completed 292 of 490 passes (59.6 percent) for 3,671 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Rosen was most effective targeting receivers at intermediate depth (passes throw 10-19 yards downfield) where he completed 63 of 102 passes for 1115 yards and 8 touchdowns.
While Rosen has more national name recognition that his other Pac-12 counterparts his numbers didn’t quite stack up to theirs in several categories. Rosen’s 84.97 PFF QB rating, 39.5 deep passing accuracy percentage, 70.0 adjusted completion percentage, and 51.1 adjusted completion percentage under pressure all rank No. 5 out of the five quarterbacks returning to the Pac-12. He also graded negatively as a passer in five games last year.
Rosen has a ton of natural talent and tools to work with and the Bruins are changing their offense to protect Rosen and to help prepare him for the NFL. New offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu’s offense will more closely resemble an NFL offense than a college offense. There will be an increase in running plays, two-back formations, and play-action passes from last season with a large increase in plays with Rosen lined-up under center. This new offense will better suit Rosen’s skill-set as he excelled on play-action passes last season completing 61.3 percent of them with 10 touchdowns and only one interception.
- Anu Solomon, Arizona (+25.0 overall)
Solomon is one of the more seasoned and consistent of the returning Pac-12 passers. Solomon has 25 starts to date and his steady play gives Arizona a chance to win every week. His 95.17 PFF QB rating ranks No. 3 among returning Power-5 quarterbacks and he is the only returning Pac-12 quarterback to grade positively as a passer in every game in 2015.
Last season Solomon completed 205 of 337 passes (60.8 percent) for 2679 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. Solomon’s +25.0 passing grade ranks No.1 among returning Pac-12 quarterbacks and No. 4 among returning Power-5 quarterbacks. Solomon did his best work at the intermediate level (passes targeted between 10 and 19 yards downfield) where he completed 36 of 57 passes for 601 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception.
Solomon boasts an adjusted completion percentage of 72.0 which ranks No. 9 among returning Power-5 quarterbacks but there is no question that the Wildcats’ Offense helps Solomon’s completion numbers as they use play-action passes to help create bigger throwing lanes. This is evident in that Solomon’s completion percentage dropped 20 percent on passes that didn’t involve play-action last season.
- Sefo Liufau, Colorado (+13.5 overall)
The direction of the Colorado Buffaloes season hinges on whether or not senior QB Sefo Liufau’s left foot will be healthy in time to play. Liufau missed all of Colorado’s Spring practices as he recovered from Lisfranc surgery. The team desperately hopes he can play but Liufau does have a redshirt available to him if his foot has not healed adequately by the fall.
In 2015 Liufau completed 214 of 348 passes (61.5 percent) for 2433 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Liufau’s adjusted completion percentage of 74.1 ranks No. 7 among returning Power-5 quarterbacks and his PFF QB rating of 87.72 ranks No. 11.
He threw the ball well to all parts of the field in 2015 and had positive passing grades to every intermediate and deep area of the field. Liufau is an efficient deep passer and completed 50 percent of passes targeted 20 yards or more downfield, which ties him for No.7 among returning Power-5 quarterbacks.
Liufau was effective when pressured and his 60.5 percent accuracy when under pressure ranks No. 13 among returning Power-5 quarterbacks. Sefo Liufau has 29 Pac-12 starts under his belt so having him healthy for the season would give the Buffaloes a tremendous opportunity to gain ground on the 7 teams in the conference that will be adjusting to new starting quarterbacks.