2013 Preseason All-American Projections: Quarterbacks

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2014 NFL Draft.

First-Team Quarterback: Tajh Boyd, Clemson

The coaches of college football selected Boyd as the 2012 First-Team All-American quarterback. It was a bit of a surprise as he was selected over Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Kansas State’s Collin Klein, West Virginia’s Geno Smith and many other good quarterbacks. While it shocked some that Boyd was the pick, it made a lot of sense. He carried Clemson to an 11-2 record despite an awful defense and a suspect offensive line. The junior was excellent.

Boyd dominated the ACC and put up huge totals on a weekly basis. The second-year starter completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,896 yards with 36 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also ran well with 769 yards (514 net) and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Boyd took a pounding from LSU’s defensive front seven to finish out the season, but led Clemson to a fourth-quarter comeback win in the final seconds.

Boyd is a well-developed passer who has a strong, accurate NFL-level arm. He has good field vision and ball security, too. Boyd made a lot of improvements last year from over his 2011 performance.

The Tigers lost No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the 2013 NFL Draft, but they still have good talent at the skill positions led by speedy play-maker Sammy Watkins. Boyd plays in a weak conference and should have no problems lighting up weak ACC defenses in 2013. I think there is a good chance that he repeats with another impressive season that carries his team to a good record. I think Boyd’s numbers will be more impressive than Manziel’s or Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. Thus, Boyd is my projection as the First-Team All-American.

Second-Team Quarterback: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

No defenses are going to be taken by surprise by Manziel in 2013 after he burst onto the scene as a prolific dual-threat quarterback last year. The redshirt freshman had huge production as a runner and passer to win the Heisman Trophy. It was the first time the award was ever bestowed on a freshman.

Manziel completed 68 percent of his passes in 2012 for 3,706 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for 1,410 yards (1,571 net) with 21 touchdowns on the ground. Defenses really struggled with how to defend him considering his ability to burn them for big plays with his arm or feet.

Still the off-the-field distractions around Manziel have to be a concern. There are questions about his focus on football, too. Manziel has spent time this offseason working with a quarterback guru in California, but he also has indulged in his celebrity status in the months since winning the Heisman.

The entire SEC will be gunning to stop Manziel this year, plus he plays in the toughest division of the hardest conference in college football. The sophomore has a good supporting cast coming back, but the Aggies did lose a lot of talent from last season’s team. Left tackle Luke Joeckel, No. 2 receiver Ryan Swope and running back Christine Michael have all moved on to the pros.

I think Manziel is going to have a good season, but I think his numbers could be down from last year. That was the case for Tim Tebow and other Heisman winners who returned to school the next season. Manziel could continue that trend and fall short of First-Team All-American status like he did last year.

Third-Team Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

Bridgewater is the top NFL quarterback prospect in the nation at the moment. While The junior is a polished passer with good physical tools, he may not produce a massive 2013 season in terms of numbers. Louisville has an easy schedule with its toughest regular-season opponents are Rutgers and Cincinnati, so Bridgewater may only be passing the ball for half the game or three quarters in most contests. The Cardinals could have a lot of comfortable leads during their Big East conference schedule and that could reduce Bridgewater’s passing opportunities.

Bridgewater completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year. He ran for 237 yards (211 net) and a touchdown, too. The sophomore was highly efficient and made good decisions.

Defenses will be aiming to stop Bridgewater, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they play their safeties deep to try and take away his ability to burn them downfield. That could open up a lot of running room and Louisville likes to run the ball. As a result, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bridgewater’s passing totals are lower than some might expect. He may not receive the accolades of other quarterbacks this year, but he looks likely to be picked ahead of any of them when he enters the NFL Draft.

Honorable Mentions: San Jose State quarterback David Fales, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Washington quarterback Keith Price.

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