Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt is returning for another season.
Tommy Birch/The Register
If Will Grier doesn’t finish 2018 as the Big 12 Conference’s top quarterback, then he either became injured, his receivers dropped balls, West Virginia has what would be a surprisingly bad season, or…
Baker Mayfield’s replacement at Oklahoma is better than advertised.
While it’s not the Year of the Quarterback (for a change) in this league of offenses that still freely flow, guys at the position won’t exactly be horrible.
Grier already is mentioned as a high 2019 NFL Draft pick. There’s so much buzz around Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray that you wonder if he’s the second-coming of last season’s Heisman Trophy winner and 2018’s No. 1 draft selection.
Iowa State didn’t spend lots of time and energy to convince the NCAA that Kyle Kempt deserves an additional senior season just so he could signal in plays to Zeb Noland.
That Grier-Murray-Kempt trifecta — it rules the Big 12’s 2018 Top of the Quarterback Class.
As we enter another off-season devoid of expansion speculation and all the stuff misinformed outsiders use to incorrectly claim the Big 12 is a troubled league — what else is there to talk about?
For our purposes, it started a couple weeks ago with the Des Moines Register forecasting Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill and Iowa State’s David Montgomery to be the Big 12’s top three running backs.
Now, our occasional series on position rankings focuses on Big 12 quarterback.
1. WILL GRIER: The Big 12’s 2018 MVP?
Strong-armed. Mobile. Wonderful receivers. A rushing attack that’s not expected to set the conference afire…
There’s a reason Grier’s team follows Oklahoma in most 2018 rankings that are starting to hit the Internet.
At 6-foot-2 by 214 pounds, he’s a bit on the slight end of prototypical quarterbacks, but he makes up for it with mobility that allows him to pass outside the pocket.
He’s got Gary Jennings and David Sills staring at him on every passing play, and oh by the way, both were Top 10 Big 12 receivers last season. The Mountaineers are the only team with returning receivers like that — Jennings led the league in receptions and was fifth in yards, while Sills was ninth and eighth.
Therefore, something crazy must happen for Grier not to be the Big 12’s best.
2. KYLER MURRAY: Oklahoma’s heir to Baker Mayfield
This guy’s not only versatile in what he does on the football field, he hit two home runs on the same day of Oklahoma’s spring football game.
The Texas A&M transfer didn’t get a lot of time last season while playing behind Mayfield, but when Murray saw the field, he was good.
He completed 18 of his 21 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns. He’s a solid runner, too, and expect a smooth transition after studying under coach Lincoln Riley and Mayfield the past two seasons.
What if Kyler Murray, an outfield power-hitter, is selected in a seductive round of the June 4-6 Major League Baseball Draft?
Riley told reporters at the spring game that he’s talked to Murray about his sports future. He was quoted as saying they’re “comfortable about where we’re at.”
What’s that mean?
Reporters close to the situation expect Murray to be OU’s starting quarterback in the season-opening game against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 1.
3. KYLE KEMPT: Iowa State’s giant killer
He’s 5-3 as a Big 12 Conference starter since being thrust to the top of the depth chart before last season’s game against Oklahoma. His 66.3 percent completion rate last season was a school season record. He had at least one touchdown pass in every game he started.
And this forever will be etched in Cyclones football history: ISU 38, OU 31.
After throwing just two passes before that game, Kempt led Iowa State to what many considered the biggest win in school history — given the circumstances of the week and that the game was played at Oklahoma.
He doesn’t have the strongest arm in America. With big-play receivers like Hakeem Butler, Matthew Eaton and Deshaunte Jones, you don’t have to heave a 60-yarder in the air. Get the ball to those guys, and then let their quickness and athleticism take over.
4. SAM EHLINGER: Texas’ hulking quarterback
He’s one of the sturdiest in the conference — and the 6-3, 230-pounder has the ability to use every bit of that while either passing or running. That size especially makes him a threat in the red zone.
His deal, however, is a stern early-season schedule that includes games at Maryland, at home against Southern Cal and TCU, at Kansas State and against Oklahoma in Dallas.
He wasn’t the most accurate passer in college football last season, connecting just 57.5 percent of his attempts. He threw seven interceptions, 11 touchdowns — and that’s not exactly a desirable ratio.
However, Ehlinger offset that by rushing 114 times for almost 400 yards — and there’s every reason to believe that he has improved significantly from 2017.
5. CHARLIE BREWER: Baylor sneaky-good sophomore
The 2017 true freshman was a highlight — probably the team’s highlight — during Baylor’s 1-11 season. He completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,152 yards and 11 touchdowns. He threw just four interceptions — and that’s not bad for anyone, and especially a rookie who many thought would redshirt.
He shared the postseason award given to the Big 12’s top freshman offensive player, so there’s also that.
Denzel Mims leads a solid bunch of receivers after catching 61 passes for 1,087 yards and eight touchdowns last season, so there’s that, as well.
Skyler Thompson, Kansas State; Shawn Robinson, TCU; Dru Brown, Oklahoma State; McLane Carter, Texas Tech; Peyton Bender, Kansas.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @RandyPete.