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This Year's Quarterback Crop

Scott Haynes, College Editor

On Campus Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Last season was a banner year for college quarterbacks. Names like Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Chris Simms and Kliff Kingsbury all made highlight reels each and every Saturday with their play on the field. While 2003 may not have the quarterback depth that 2002 had, there is still plenty of talent to be had under center.

For the next several weeks, we will take a look at the nation's best talent at the skilled positions, starting with this year's finest field generals. They may not all be household names at this time, but at the end of this fall, everyone could know who these guys are.

ELI MANNING: The obvious posterchild for All-American honors this season, this installment of the Manning name is rewriting the record books with each season at his father's alma mater. He is the first Ole Miss QB to pass for 2,000+ yards in back-to-back seasons. He passed for a school record 3,401 yards last year, breaking his own record of 2,948 set in 2001. This past season, he completed 58 percent of his passes, with 21 TDs and 15 interceptions. The 6-5, 220-pound Manning finished second in the SEC in passing yards per game (261.6) and total offense (252.4) and seems to be getting better and better.

Eli Manning
Eli Mnaning is the first Ole Miss QB to pass for 2,000+ yards in back-to-back seasons.

CODY PICKETT: While USC's Carson Palmer won the Heisman, there is a loyal following in the Pacific Northwest that would argue that he wasn't even the best quarterback in the Pac-10 last year. University of Washington QB Cody Pickett's numbers were astounding in 2002. He completed almost 60 percent of his passes (365-of-612), for 4,458 yards and 28 TDs, with 14 INTs. The 6-4, 215-pounder will once again have one of the nation's premier receivers to throw to (Reggie Williams) and with a wide-open offense, the numbers are sure to be astronomical again.

PHILIP RIVERS: At 6-5, 240 pounds, the Wolfpack have a prototypic passer under center in Raleigh. Rivers is on pace to become NC State's all-time leading passer, with a shot at finishing atop the ACC annals as well. He currently ranks second in school history in career passing yards (8,993), while holding the school record for TD passes (61). Last year, the savvy signal-caller completed 62.7 percent of his passes (262-of-418), for 3,353 yards and 20 TDs, with just 10 interceptions. Not really known as a mobile QB, Rivers did enough improvising last season to score 10 TDs on the ground. A banner senior season would be a fitting end to an outstanding college career.

MATT SCHAUB: Really burst on the scene last year, leading the ACC in passing efficiency (147.46) and being named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, while picking up some All-American consideration. Another big, strong QB at 6-5, 240 pounds, Schaub has a chance to continue along the same path in 2003. Last year's totals may be hard to reach, as he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes (.689), for 2,976 yards. His 28 passing TDs led the ACC, while he threw just seven picks all year.

JOSH HARRIS: Without a doubt, the best quarterback in the country that you have never heard of. Runs the offense at Bowling Green to near perfection. A duel threat, Harris will win games with his arm and his legs. An extraordinary athlete, he finished 2002 ranked second in the country in points responsible for (21.09), while finishing fourth in scoring (11.17 ppg). Harris completed 56.1 percent of his passes last year, for 2,425 yards and 19 TDs. When teams shut down the passing lanes, he became more dangerous, amassing 737 yards rushing and a whopping 20 TDs on the ground. A real threat to pass for over 2,000 yards and run for over 1,000, those could be the kind of numbers that really make people stand up and take notice.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Craig Krenzel (Ohio State), Reggie McNeal (Texas A&M), David Greene (Georgia), Zack Mills (Penn State), Andrew Walter (Arizona State), Ben Roethlisberger (Miami-Ohio), Joshua Cribbs (Kent State), Chance Harridge (Air Force), Rod Rutherford (Pittsburgh), Timmy Chang (Hawaii).

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

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