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College Football: Breaking Down the QBs of the 2011 Recruiting Class

College football welcomes in new stars every season. That is the beauty of a game in which players get four years to leave their mark.

The 2011 recruiting class has only had two years, yet the quarterbacks in this class have already made huge impacts on the college football world.

Last season quarterbacks from the 2011 class won the Heisman, started in five BCS bowls—had a 3-2 record—and another led his team to the only undefeated record in 2012.

Winning a national title is seemingly the only thing this crop of quarterbacks hasn’t accomplished in their first two seasons on college campuses.

With two or three years of eligibility left, there are two big questions surrounding this great quarterback class.

Which member will end up having the best collegiate career?

And where will this class rank among quarterback classes of all time?

The Freshest Heisman Winner

Johnny Manziel was ranked the 13th best dual-threat quarterback in the class. Scout had him as the 22nd best quarterback in the class overall.

He redshirted his first season at Texas A&M behind Ryan Tannehill. Then Kevin Sumlin took over as the Aggies new coach and inserted the freshman into the lineup in week one.

From there, the legend of Johnny Football became a runaway train. Week after week he dominated defenses in Sumlin‘s high-powered offense.

After Manziel won the Heisman there was talk of the Heisman letdown. But in the Cotton Bowl he and the Aggies crushed Oklahoma.

I’ve heard people say Manziel will struggle in 2013 because he won’t surprise anyone or he’s living it up too much off the field. I don’t put too much stock into that. Texas A&M beat Alabama in November, Alabama had plenty of time to prepare for Manziel and he still beat them.

Besides not all the credit goes to Manziel, he has great weapons around him and a great offensive coach in Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin was the architect of Case Keenum‘s record-setting career at Houston.

By winning the Heisman Manziel has already etched his name in the college football record books forever. Despite being a 3-star recruit, he has become the leader in the clubhouse. But with the other talents he will need to keep producing at a high level to solidify himself as the best of the 2011 quarterbacks.

Urban’s Next Star

Braxton Miller isn’t Urban Meyer‘s first star quarterback. Miller isn’t just chasing Manziel to be the best quarterback in the 2011 class, he is also chasing Alex Smith and Tim Tebow to be the best Meyer has coached.

Miller was a 5-star and No. 2 rated dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school. He was supposed to come to Ohio State and learn for a year behind Terrelle Pryor.

Those plans fell apart and Miller took over as a starter in his fourth career game. The team was a shell of what it should have been and struggled to a 6-7 finish. However, Miller showed flashes and was the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year.

In 2012 under the tutelage of Meyer, Miller led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season and finished fifth in the Heisman voting.

Heading into Miller’s third season as the Buckeyes’ starter, expectations for him are higher than ever. The Buckeyes are widely considered the No. 2 team in the country heading into 2013 and Miller is supposed to be one of the top Heisman contenders.

While Miller is still behind Manziel, he has put himself into a position to eclipse the Aggies‘ star if he and his Buckeyes can end the SEC national championship streak.

The Accurate Cardinal

Teddy Bridgewater completed 68.5 percent of his passes and led Louisville to a BCS bowl victory in his sophomore season. That completion percentage was the second-highest among quarterbacks from the 2011 class—Rakeem Cato of Marshall was better.

Bridgewater was No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the class and has lived up to the billing for the Cardinals.

His success in college has not turned him into a house-hold name in the college football world. It has also set Louisville up to possibly make a run at a national title in 2013.

But the biggest dividends of Bridgewater‘s pocket passing ability could come at the next level. He is now considered the top quarterback prospect for the 2014 NFL draft.

Being a No. 1 pick could certainly help Bridgewater‘s case of being the best in this class. But looking strictly at success in college, he’s still behind Manziel, Miller and possibly Marcus Mariota.

The PAC 12 Rivals

Marcus Mariota, the 19th rated dual-threat quarterback, had a similar start to his career as Manziel. He redshirted his first year, won the starting job in fall camp and then burst onto the national stage.

Mariota didn’t get the Heisman votes that Manziel or even Miller received, probably because voters have become numb to Oregon’s huge offensive numbers. However, Mariota led his team to a win in a BCS bowl, something neither Manziel nor Miller pulled off.

Mariota and the Oregon program will have to adjust to new leadership without Chip Kelly, but I would be shocked if Mariota doesn’t continue to put up huge numbers.

If Mark Helfrich can take this program to a national title, something Kelly came close to doing, Mariota could surpass Miller and Manziel.

But Mariota isn’t alone out west and despite his success it was two other 2011 class members that played for the conference crown.

As redshirt freshmen Kevin Hogan and Brett Hundley, the No. 8 pro-style and No. 4 dual-threat respectively, led Stanford and UCLA to the PAC 12 Championship Game.

Hogan led his team to victory in that game and again over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Hundley 4,000-yard season helped Jim Mora Jr.’s Bruins in their quest to overtake USC as the premier program in L.A.

That may not be easy if the big-armed No. 2 pro-style quarterback Max Wittek can get the Trojans pointed in the right direction.

All in all, the quarterback play in the PAC 12 will be fun to watch for the next two or three years, with the best possible becoming the best in the class.

The No. 1 Recruit

Jeff Driskel was widely considered the top quarterback in the 2011 class. While he certainly hasn’t been a bust, he has been outperformed by a handful of classmates.

Despite not having eye-popping stats, Driskel did lead his team to a BCS bowl as a sophomore. But in that game he was once again outplayed by a 2011 class member.

But I’m not ready to take Driskel out of this conversation yet. He still has two more years and in a second year with Brent Pease I expect a step forward, maybe a step into stardom.

The Dark Horses

Everett Golson, the No. 5 pro-style quarterback, led his Notre Dame squad to the BCS National Championship Game in his redshirt freshman season.

However, his career has been derailed, at least for a season, by academic difficulties.

If he can get back into college football and return to form, he could make a run to the top of the class.

Christian Lemay, the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2011 class, is currently waiting his turn behind Aaron Murray at Georgia. When given the chance Lemay could make a huge impact.

In the pass-happy Big 12 J.W. Walsh and David Ash will look to take control of Oklahoma State’s and Texas’ offenses respectively.

While Kiehl Frazier will try to live up to his No. 3 dual threat ranking under new Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.

The Crystal Ball

The book on this class of quarterbacks is only half written.

Will it surpass the 2006 high school class that produced Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford and Jake Locker?

It’s hard to imagine this crop catching the 1979 high school class that produced John Elway, Dan Marino, Steve Young and Todd Blackledge, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. If you only consider college careers, that is.

I think the 2011 class will surpass the 2006 class. However, it’s hard to imagine a high school class at any position passing that 1979 class.

Manziel‘s great 2012 clearly put him up at the top of the list right now. My head says he stays there, my heart says Miller eclipses him. If that’s going to happen, Miller will have to be a more consistent passer.

However, I can’t count out Bridgewater, Mariota and the rest of the class either.

Really, I just look forward to seeing this incredible bunch of quarterbacks out on the field making plays. Enjoy these guys, because classes like this don’t come around every year.

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