2014 Preseason All-American Projections: Quarterbacks

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2014 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 May for the 2015 NFL Draft.

First-Team Quarterback: Jameis Winston, Florida State

As long as off-the-field issues and distractions don’t derail Winston, he should dominate in 2014. The Seminoles play in a weak conference that Winston destroyed last year. Florida State, once again, has a massive talent advantage over its ACC competition, so there is no reason for Winston not to produce a massive season.

Winston took college football by storm in 2013 as the Heisman Trophy winner while leading Florida State to a National Championship. The redshirt freshman demonstrated a quality arm with well-developed passing ability. Winston completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 219 yards with four touchdowns.

The 6-foot-4, 228-pound Winston is a rare athlete who is a natural passer. His field vision and decision-making were phenomenal in 2013. It was extremely impressive for a first-year starter, and it is scary to think how good his field vision could be in the future as he gains more experience. Winston should lead Florida State into the postseason tournament, where the Seminoles could easily win a second straight National Championship.

Second-Team Quarterback: Marcus Mariota, Oregon

The Ducks’ point-machine has been led by Mariota the past two seasons, and there is no reason to think that he will slow down at all in 2014. Mariota (6-4, 218) has a good arm, passing skills and running ability. He should produce another prolific season for Oregon.

In 2013, Mariota completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,665 yards with 31 touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, the redshirt sophomore ran for 715 yards with nine touchdowns. While Mariota did a great job of avoiding throwing picks, he had some issues with fumbles. Mariota did a good job of running Oregon’s offense in 2012, too. The redshirt freshman completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 898 yards (752 net) with five touchdowns.

The reason I have Mariota finishing behind Winston is because of the schedule. Mariota will see a lot better defenses and talent in the Pac-12 than what Winston will go against in the ACC. The ACC is weak and Florida State should cruise. No team will sleep on Oregon, and as a result, I could see Mariota being rated behind Winston.

Third-Team Quarterback: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

Hackenberg was the star recruit for Bill O’Brien and proved the hype legit during an impressive freshman season that saw him named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Hackenberg completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,955 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for four touchdowns. Hackenberg has great size, a strong arm, pocket presence and is very advanced in his field vision. While losing O’Brien hurts, James Franklin is an astute offensive coach who should develop Hackenberg well.

WalterFootball.com has heard from sources in the NFL that Hackenberg could end up being an elite quarterback prospect and worthy of going first overall. Some feel he could be the best signal-caller in college football as soon as 2015 and end up being a better prospect than either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota.

The 6-foot-4, 234-pound Hackenberg has the skill set to dominate. If his receivers play well and Penn State finds a replacement for Allen Robinson, Hackenberg should have a huge season.

Honorable Mentions: Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Auburn’s Nick Marshall, Michigan’s Devin Gardner, Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Michigan State’s Connor Cook, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, USC’s Cody Kessler, Notre Dame’s Everett Golson, Missouri’s Maty Mauk, BYU’s Taysom Hill and Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh.

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