Editor's note: Don't miss out on winners all year long in Phil Steele's season pack!
Top Individual Units: QUARTERBACKS
1. USC -For the second straight year I rate USC at the top of this list and they have last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinhart still at the controls after he turned down being the first pick overall in the draft. This unit also has great depth with PS#1 John David Booty, PS#11 Rocky Hinds and true frosh Mark Sanchez (PS#2).
2. Texas -That Rose Bowl game was quite a show for Vince Young and he has worked hard in the offseason to improve his passing. Last year he had just a 12-11 ratio but hit 59% while rushing for over 1,100 yards and 14 more TD’s. He is worth the price of admission and should have a much better year passing the ball.
3. Texas A&M -Reggie McNeal was mistake free for most of the 2004 season throwing for 2,791 yards (58%) with a 14-4 ratio while rushing for 932 gross yds and 8 TD’s. He has bulked up this year and has a solid backup in Stephen McGee (PS#7). If he stays healthy I will project over 3,000 passing and he could flirt with 1,000 rushing yards.
4. Florida -Chris Leak was good enough to start and excel as a true frosh and now enters his 3rd year as a starter. Last year he threw for 3,197 yds (59.6%) with a 29-12 ratio. Urban Meyer’s offense focuses on the QB and if he can handle his new option duties well, it could mean a huge season.
5. Bowling Green -Omar Jacobs is 6-4 224, and has a powerful arm. In his first year as a starter, he threw for 4,002 yards, hitting 66.9% with an amazing 41-4 ratio. NFL scouts will be frequent visitors to BG games this year. Anthony Turner (PS#36) lends solid support.
6. Missouri -Brad Smith was just the 2nd player in NCAA history to pass for over 2,000 and rush for over 1,000 yards in a season in 2002 and almost did it again in 2003. It seemed like he was told to stay in the pocket more last year (only 553 rush) but the new offense will have him returning to 2003’s form.
7. Michigan -Expected to be a back up Chad Henne (PS#1) started the opener last year and improved each week. He threw for 2,743 yards (60.2%) with a 25-12 ratio as a TRUE frosh. He is now a seasoned vet.
8. Toledo -Bruce Gradkowski has thrown for 3,210 and 3,518 yards in his 2 years as a starter hitting over 70% comp with a 56-15 ratio and 907 gross yards rushing. Now add in his gutsy performance in the MAC Title game where he played the 2H with a broken right hand leading them to the win, showing he is a Top 10 QB.
9. Iowa -Drew Tate (PS#18) was given a shaky and inexperienced O-line and a RB corps that was decimated by injuries last year. He put the offense on his back, threw for 2,786 yards (62%) and led them to a Jan 1 bowl win. Now with an improved O-line and skill players he should have an even better year.
10. UAB -One of my favorite QB’s to watch is Darrell Hackney of the Blazers. This guy is built like a LB but makes some great throws especially under pressure and on the run. Last year he threw for 3,070 yards with a 26-8 ratio and should have a big senior season.
11. Michigan St -When Drew Stanton is healthy, the Spartans have a high octane offense. Unfortunately that was not often last year and remember they led Michigan 27-10 when he separated his shoulder. A dangerous runner and passer who if he can stay healthy, should put up some huge stats this year.
12. Pittsburgh -Tyler Palko lived up to his VHT (PS#10) billing and improved as the season went on last year. He even became the first ever QB to toss 5 TD passes vs ND. He led Pitt to a BCS bowl even though they avg’d less than 100 ypg rushing. A 24-7 ratio last year shows he makes good decisions.
13. Oregon -Kellen Clemens (PS#7) has completed 59.9% of his passes in each of his first two years (talk about consistent). He has a career ratio of 42-20 and over 5,000 yards. Provided he adapts well to the new offense of the Ducks, he should have a big year (my projection is 3,720 yards passing).
14. Clemson -Charlie Whitehurst threw for 3,561 yards (62%) in 2003. Let’s not talk about last year. He is an NFL caliber QB and should revert to 2003’s form.
15. Louisville -No matter who QB’s Petrino’s offense, they will put up big numbers, Brian Brohm (PS#8) is 6-4 224 and got plenty of action as a frosh.
16. Alabama -Brodie Croyle has had a injury plagued career but when healthy he is an NFL caliber QB. Hopefully he will get to show that this year.
The rest of the Top 25:
18. Fresno St
20. Texas Tech
22. Miami, Oh
24. Notre Dame