Building the Perfect Pac-12 QB
Although the PAC-12 has been lackluster the past few years, failing to have a team contend seriously for the college football playoff since Washington was blown out by Alabama in 2016. 2019 looks to be a promising year with high level quarterback play across the conference. Justin Herbert and Jacob Eason garner the most hype as potential first round picks but, others like KJ Costello, Khalil Tate, Steven Montez, and Tyler Huntley will look to build their own stock this coming season.
KJ Costello, Stanford
Costello lead the PAC-12 in passer rating and passing efficiency last year, while being second in passing yards and completion percentage, only behind Gardner Minshew of Washington State. In the age of one read, spread offenses, Costello regularly makes full field reads and works through his progressions. In addition to decision making, the mental aspect of quarterback play also involves poise and the ability to maneuver in a chaotic pocket. Costello regularly steps up and works open passing lanes while scanning the field. He also showed the mental toughness to stand in the pocket and take big hits while delivering the ball.
Jacob Eason, Washington
Eason hasn’t had a chance to show off his arm recently but, there’s a reason he was the top ranked quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class. Checking in at 6’5” and 230 lbs. according to the University of Washington, Eason has the arm strength you’d expect from a man of his stature.
The ball effortlessly jumps out of Eason’s hand on film, and he showcased the ability to launch the ball down field and zip in passes into tight windows over the middle. After missing the 2017 and 2018 seasons due to injury and transfer rules, Eason will finally get to show off his arm this coming season at Washington. With two years maturing and developing in a college strength and nutrition program, it stands to reason his arm strength has improved.
Justin Herbert, Oregon
The most highly touted of the PAC-12 quarterbacks going into the 2019 season, Herbert is looking to bring a PAC-12 championship to his hometown for his senior season. There is a reason Herbert is talked about as the potential number one overall pick for the 2020 NFL draft, as he could easily be the pick for multiple categories in this article.
While Herbert isn’t the most consistent passer right now, when he is on, he can put the ball anywhere he wants with ease. The difference between good and elite accuracy comes down to ball placement. A ball can be accurate but not placed in the ideal spot.
Steven Montez, Colorado
Another category where there are multiple worthy candidates, but by process of elimination we’re left with Colorado Buffalo’s quarterback Steven Montez. The team’s official website has him checking in at 6’5” and 230 lbs., and he looks every bit that size on film. Montez has made 24 consecutive starts, only missing game time once due to an ankle injury suffered in a loss to Utah in 2018.
With Montez checking all the NFL boxes for height, weight, and arm strength, while still being athletic enough to make plays with his feet, his development next year at Colorado will be fun to track as he heads into his senior year with his sights set on the NFL.
Khalil Tate, Arizona
The PAC-12 contains some quarterbacks with big play ability as runners to choose from, including the big bodied athletes Justin Herbert and Steven Montez. However, they all pale in comparison to our winner: Khalil Tate. Tate is an electric athlete who has been lighting up the PAC-12 with his legs and arm since his sophomore season at Arizona. He is constantly showcasing his outstanding ability to rip off big plays scrambling and on designed QB runs.
For a full showcase of his ability as a runner look no further than his highlight reel performance against Colorado in October 2017, where he posted a video game like stat line of 14 carries for 327 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground.
Tate showcases excellent vision for cutback lanes and feel for lanes that open up as the pass rush works up field, which when paired with his smooth acceleration allows him to rip off big plays on the ground when given space. His long strides, athleticism, and contact balance make him difficult to tackle, eliminating defenders’ angles, and shaking them in the open field.
Tate’s rushing numbers dropped significantly from 2017 to 2018, partly due to Kevin Sumlin’s new system, and partly because it looked like he was trying to focus on developing more as a passer. I think Tate will find that balance between keeping his eyes downfield to pass and hurting defenses with his legs in 2019.