The group featured 8 players who made immediate impacts on some of the best teams in college football. 2 undefeated regular seasons, 4 more 11+ win seasons, some of the most prolific offenses in college football, and the Heisman Trophy winner highlight the successes of this group.
Note: recruiting rankings according to 24/7's Composite Rankings
Jeff Driskel – Florida
The story: The top rated dual threat QB, and #16 national recruit, Driskel appeared sparsely as a true freshman before beating out fellow top recruit (#3 pro-style QB, #116 overall in 2011) Jacoby Brissett in 2012.
The resume: While his 63.7% completion percentage (40th nationally), 6.7 yards per attempt (80th nationally), and 132.18 passer rating (63rd nationally) weren't stellar numbers, his running ability helped him to be 2nd rushing for Florida behind star RB Mike Gillislee, even after sack yardage is taken out (716 yards gained, 413 yards net).
As a first year starter, Driskel didn't light the world on fire. However, he took over the Florida job, held off fellow star recruit Jacoby Brissett with his ability to limit mistakes (5 INTs on 245 attempts) and make plays with his feet. The low risk Florida offense helped the Gators to an 11-1 regular season record, the only loss coming to eventual SEC East champion Georgia. A loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl had Florida finishing 9th in the final AP poll.
Braxton Miller – Ohio State
The story: The second rated dual threat QB, and #30 national recruit, the Dayton, OH native chose the in-state Buckeyes and has led the team in their two seasons of sanctions following the Jim Tressel tenure.
The resume: After leading the team in rushing and passing as a freshman for the struggling Buckeyes under Luke Fickell, the sophomore QB blew up under new HC Urban Meyer. His 140.48 passer rating (43rd nationally) and 8.0 yards per attempt (25th nationally) are solid numbers, but his running ability set him apart. At 105.92 yards per game (4th among QBs, 25th overall), Miller led the nation's 10th best rushing attack in yards.
When news broke of Urban Meyer being hired at Ohio State, the marriage of Miller and Meyer immediately became a one of the more exciting stories entering the 2012 season. The results were immediate. Ohio State became one of the best rushing offenses in the country on the way to an undefeated season. The postseason ban on Ohio State prevented the Buckeyes from playing in the Big Ten Championship Game and a bowl, but the ban is gone in 2013 and Ohio State could find itself in the national championship discussion with Miller at the helm, who could be a Heisman finalist come year end.
Brett Hundley – UCLA
The story: The 4th rated dual threat QB, and #69 national recruit, the Chandler, AZ product redshirted his 1st year at UCLA. Following Rick Neuheisel's departure from UCLA, Hundley became the starting QB for the Bruins under new HC Jim Mora Jr.
The resume: Hundley made an immediate impact as a redshirt freshman for the Bruins. His 3,740 passing yards (13th nationally), 66.5% completion percentage (22nd nationally), 7.8 yards per attempt (38th nationally), and 147.67 passer rating (26th nationally) were very strong passing numbers, and his 702 yards gained/355 yards net rushing were second on the team.
Because of USC's sanctions in 2011, UCLA was able to struggle to a 6-6 record and still make the Pac-12 Championship Game, before losing to Oregon in that game and Illinois in their bowl game. The season got Rick Neuheisel shipped out for Jim Mora Jr., who immediately improved the Bruins. Hundley took over the job and UCLA's new spread offense, led by offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, and in his first year set school records for single-season passing yards, single-season completions, and single-season total offense. The turn-around improved the Bruins' 2011 6-6 regular season record to a 9-3 regular season and Pac-12 South championship, before dropping the Pac-12 Championship Game to Stanford and the Holiday Bowl to Baylor.
Teddy Bridgewater – Louisville
The story: The 5th rated dual threat QB, and #100 national recruit, was originally committed to his hometown Miami Hurricanes before HC Randy Shannon was let go. The change led Bridgewater to commit to Charlie Strong's Louisville Cardinals.
The resume: Bridgewater took over the starting job at Louisville as a freshman and led the Cardinals to a respectable 7-5 record while posting solid numbers. However, Bridgewater's sophomore campaign led him to be one of the most effective passers in the country while leading Louisville to a Big East Championship: 68.5% completion percentage (tied for 6th nationally), 160.49 passer rating (8th nationally), 8.9 yards per attempt (8th nationally), and 3,718 passing yards (14th nationally).
Bridgewater's sophomore campaign cemented his place among the best quarterbacks in the country. Despite coming in rated as a dual-threat QB, Bridgewater ran sparsely and used an incredibly accurate and effective arm to lead the Cardinals to a 10-2 regular season record and a share of the Big East Championship. If you didn't know Bridgewater before, his performance in an upset win over the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl made sure you did. After going 20-32 for 266 yards, 2 TDs-1 INT, Bridgewater immediately made himself a favorite for the 2013 Heisman race and an NFL Draft darling who could be one of the top picks in 2014 if he leaves early.
Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M
The story: The 13th rated dual threat QB, and #393 national recruit, the Kerrville, TX prospect won the starting job for the Aggies in the summer before the initial SEC campaign.
The resume: After redshirting his initial year in College Station, Manziel took over Kevin Sumlin's Air Raid offense and put together the most visible individual season in 2012. He used the wide open passing attack to post 3,706 passing yards (15th nationally), 68.0% completion percentage (tied for 8th nationally), 8.5 yards per attempt (tied for 13th nationally), and 155.32 passer rating (16th nationally). Where he made a name for himself was his running ability: 108.46 rushing yards per game (3rd among QBs, 22nd overall), 7.01 yards per carry (3rd among QBs, 14th overall), and posted 22 carries of 20+ yards (2nd nationally) and 12 carries of 30+ yards (2nd nationally).
Manziel went from an unknown commodity in a QB battle for a team coming of a 6-6 regular season, to the star of college football in just one season. He led the Aggies to a 10-2 regular season mark and a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma, a season highlighted by the win over eventual national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The electric running ability in the Aggies' prolific offense (4th nationally in scoring at 44.5 points per game, 14th in passing and 11th in rushing), mixed with some off the field visibility, made Manziel one of the biggest names in college football. The season led Manziel to a Heisman trophy, and has the Aggies as one of the most discussed teams headed into the 2013 season.
Marcus Mariota – Oregon
The story: The 19th rated dual threat QB, and #517 national recruit, the Hawaiian Mariota won the starting job for the Ducks as a redshirt freshman and was next in line to lead the Ducks prolific offense.
The resume: As a freshman, he was an effective passer: 68.5% completion percentage (tied for 6th nationally), 8.0 yards per attempt (25th nationally), and 163.23 passer rating (7th nationally). But where the Oregon offense is most dangerous is in the rushing attack, where Mariota's 898 rushing yards gained/752 yards net were 2nd on the Ducks 3rd rated rushing attack, and his 7.09 yards per carry were 12th nationally and 2nd among QBs.
Taking over as a redshirt freshman, Mariota continued the long line of success for the Oregon offense, leading the 3rd rated rushing offense and 2nd rated scoring offense in 2012 to an 11-1 regular season mark. The Ducks looked poised to enter the national title game again before dropping an overtime thriller against Stanford, in what is shaping up to be a strong Pac-12 North rivalry. It will be a question if the offensive success can be continued after Chip Kelly's departure to the NFL, with former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich taking over head coaching duties, but Mariota has proven an effective trigger-man for the Oregon spread attack.
Everett Golson – Notre Dame
The story: The 5th rated pro-style QB, and #275 national recruit, the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina prospect became the starting QB for the Irish after 2011 starter Tommy Rees began 2012 season suspended, and held on to the job throughout the year.
The resume: Golson posted solid, if unspectacular numbers, for the Irish: 58.8% completion percentage for 2,405 yards, 12 TDs-6 INTs, and 415 rushing yards gained/298 yards net.
As a spot playmaker for the Irish, Golson led the Notre Dame offense to complement the strong defense led by Heisman finalist Manti Te'o. The 12-0 regular season record culminated in an appearance in the national championship game against Alabama. Unfortunately for Golson, he found some academic trouble at Notre Dame in the 2013 offseason and was dismissed from the team.
David Ash – Texas
The story: The 6th rated pro-style QB, and #310 national recruit, Ash won the starting job as a sophomore after some starting experience as a true freshman.
The resume: Ash posted efficient numbers in the Texas offense's efficient attack, being an accurate thrower underneath and taking advantage of play-action passing for Bryan Harsin's offense. His 153.28 passer rating (20th nationally), 67.3% completion percentage (13th nationally), and 8.5 yards per attempt (tied for 13th nationally) were effective numbers for Texas.
After struggling through a true freshman season where he split time with Case McCoy, Ash took over the starting job for Texas before the team's 2011 Holiday Bowl against Cal and never looked back. His improvement was key in improving the 2011 Texas offense's 55th national 28.1 points per game to a 23rd national 35.7 points per game. Additionally, Texas went from 70th nationally at 5.39 yards per game to 22nd nationally at 6.34 yards per game. Its an improvement Texas fans hope to see continue into his junior year, and Major Applewhite taking over the offense and moving it to an up-tempo attack gives them reason to believe is possible.
The group looks poised to continue to dominate the college football landscape for several years to come, and 2013 can be a special year for QB play. Who are some of your favorites from the group?