One man’s humble attempt to rank the QBs in the Sky based on how I think they will fair in their respective 2008 campaigns.
1.Â Cameron Higgins, Weber State – Newcomer of the year in 2007, this freshman averaged 340 yards per game of total offense in the last 4 games of the season.Â He has a strong running game to support him, a solid WR corp, and he can run the ball effectively himself.Â This season will decide whether his freshman campaign was a fluke, or he is the real deal, and I am a believer.
2.Â Matt Nichols, Eastern Washington – It was a tough decision between Nichols and Higgins, but I gave Higgins the nod because his coaching staff remains intact.Â Nichols may be the best pure passer in the league, but the BSC is leaning towards QBs with more mobility than in years past, and Higgins has a slight advantage in this department, though Nichols is certainly no slouch.Â He may have the best WR in the conference in fellow junior Aaron Boyce.
3.Â Cole Berquist, Montana – What I like about Berquist is his ability to create and his accuracy under pressure.Â He isn’t going to wow anyone with huge numbers (though he is capable), but he isn’t going to cost you any games.Â He is also deceptively mobile as well, and is a very smart player.Â I was tempted to put him below Kriesien, because I think the Griz WR corp is going to have a drop off from last year, but I think the new guys will step up and Berquist will have a great senior campaign.
4.Â Lance Kriesien, Northern Arizona – Kriesien may be the worst pure passer on this list (not that he is a bad passer), but he may be the most athletic.Â He averaged 15 carries a game last year, and might have to increase that total with the loss of Alex Watson to graduation.Â He is a legitimate threat to pass or throw every play, and the turf of the NAU Skydome suits his style of play.Â He could be near the top of the Sky in total offense output next season.
5.Â Drew Hubel, Portland State – Returning for his sophomore campaign after replacing injured starter Brian White halfway through the season last year, Hubel showed flashes of brilliance in that crazy run and shoot offense that Glanville’s Vikings run.Â He also showed flashes of why he is a freshman, tossing 9 picks in his final two games of the season.Â Unlike the top 4 ranked QBs on the list, Hubel is zero threat to run the ball, as he is a pure pocket passer.Â Another year in Glanville’s system could do wonders for this newcomer.
6.Â Russel Hill, Idaho State – Another immobile QB, this freshman had a pretty good first season on a team with a first-year head coach.Â He threw for over 2300 yards, but finished with 15 INTs to 14 TDs, for a rating of 128.8, good for fifth in the league last year.Â Â This is another case of a freshman working out kinds in a situation with a new coaching staff.Â I’m not sold on the WRs, or his OL, however.
7. Â Jordan Rasmussen/Mark Iddins/Mark Desin, Montana State – What was originally thought to be a 2 person race, ex-WR Mark Desin has been impressing so far this spring. Â Rasmussen is a sophomore, prototypical NFL-style QB with good size (6’4 222). Â Iddins is a JC transfer, will be a junior, and is very mobile and has a good arm. Â He was rated a 3 star JC recruit by scout. Â Desin threw for over 9300 yards in his high school career in Montana, and will be a sophomore. Â He is the most mobile of all, but is only 5’11 tops. Â One of these three will probably finish in the top 5 but no one knows who will be starting yet.
8. Â Bryan Waggener/Mike Vlahogeorge, Northern Colorado – Big things are expected of Waggener, who used his redshirt season at the University of Florida, after being a 4 star recruit out of Citrus JC. He has good size and good speed, and could be a real sleeper in a year that should be chalk full of good QBs in the Big Sky. Vlahogeorge saw time under center last season for the Bears, and looks to have the most game experience of the group of QBs vying for the starting position in Greeley.
9. Jason Smith/McLeod Bethel-Thompson – Bethel-Thompson is another big name drop-down, and has a pretty good resume, having started the Las Vegas Bowl for UCLA last season. He has good size and had a great high school in not only football, but basketball and baseball as well. Coach Sperbeck also brought in some JC WRs to help, and if everything clicks Bethel-Thompson could be looking a newcomer of the year award. He will have to get past Smith, who started every game for the Hornets last year as a freshman, though it was not an impressive season.
It should be noted that numbers 1-5 were very close, and could almost be interchanged. Numbers 7-9 are all about unknowns, I gave the nod to the Cats because of previous experience and depth of competition. But again, these could pretty much be interchanged with each other as well.