By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
(Sports Network) - The Year of the Quarterback is a phrase thrown around often, but usually fails to live up to the hype. Last season saw some strong QB play, highlighted by a superior Heisman Trophy campaign by Auburn's Cam Newton. We may not see that kind of dominance on the field in 2011 from the quarterback position, but make no mistake about it, this is a quarterback crop that could prove to be as deep as any in recent memory.
With that, here are what appears to be the top signal-callers heading into 2011.
ANDREW LUCK - Stanford's savvy field general would have been the top pick in the recent NFL Draft. Instead, the Cardinal QB decided to return to the Farm and get his degree. New head coach David Shaw had to be thrilled to find out he would get the nation's top trigger man to begin his tenure in Palo Alto. Last season, Luck threw for 3,338 yards and 32 TDs, leading Stanford to an unforgettable 12-1 season and BCS Bowl win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. It is hard to imagine anything less than a stellar encore performance in 2011, providing Luck remains healthy.
LANDRY JONES - Oklahoma has produced some serious talent at the quarterback position, and the current Sooner gunslinger has certainly delivered in his two seasons in Norman. Forced into action as a freshman with injuries to former Heisman Trophy winner and current St. Louis Ram Sam Bradford, Jones has put up huge numbers. He threw for a whopping 4,718 yards last season, returning the Sooners to the top of the Big 12 with a 12-2 overall record and BCS Bowl victory over Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl). Jones already owns numerous school records and is only starting his junior campaign.
KELLEN MOORE - It wasn't Cam Newton or Andrew Luck that led the nation in passing efficiency last season, but rather Boise State's veteran quarterback. It was another highly successful season for the Broncos, who went 12-1 overall, topping Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. Moore has certainly been the driving force behind BSU football becoming nationally relevant. Last season saw Moore throw for a career-high 3,845 yards and 35 TDs, while posting a passer rating of 182.63. He loses a pair of NFL caliber receivers this year, and while that may cause a dip in production in 2011, the numbers won't fall off that much.
BRANDON WEEDEN - Burst on the scene last season as a 27-year old junior, throwing for just over 4,200 yards and 34 TDs. He orchestrated an Oklahoma State offense that ranked third in the nation in scoring (44.2 ppg) and second in passing (345.9 ypg). A second-round pick of the New York Yankees in 2002, Weeden found his way back to the gridiron in 2007, redshirting at OSU. He saw limited time in 2008 and 2009, but made up for lost time last season. Oklahoma State's All-American tailback has moved on, but an All-American candidate at wide receiver returns to Stillwater and it looks like we can all expect huge numbers once again from the OSU offense.
DENARD ROBINSON - Last year's ultra-early frontrunner for the Heisman, Michigan's dynamic QB cooled off considerably, wearing down as the season dragged on. The Wolverines finished the year a mere 7-6 overall, but Robinson certainly did his part, rushing for just over 1,700 yards and 14 TDs, while throwing for 2,570 and an additional 18 scores. If Michigan is to become relevant again in the Big Ten, it will be thanks to the arm and (more importantly) legs of the nation's premier dual-threat in 2011.
CASE KEENUM - This Houston Cougar was poised to break Timmy Chang's career NCAA passing record in 2010, but a torn ACL put that on hold. He did get a waiver and a sixth year of elgibility and will take his shot at the milestone in 2011. Keenum has already thrown for 14,448 yards and 107 TDs and should pick up right where he left off. In a completely healthy 2009, Keenum amassed 5,671 yards passing and 44 TDs. Barring another injury, expect Keenum to surplant Hawaii's former gunslinger atop the NCAA annals.
ROBERT GRIFFIN - This Baylor Bear nearly reached 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing as a freshman in 2008. His 2009 campaign was cut short by injury, but Griffin was back at it in 2010, becoming more of a passer, throwing for 3,501 yards and 22 TDs. He still showed signs of being an elusive runner, rumbling for 635 yards and eight scores. Almost two years removed from his knee injury, Griffin could put up career numbers in 2011.
G.J. KINNE - The state of Oklahoma clearly has cornered the market on the quarterback position, as Tulsa's productive signal-caller is the third from the state on this list. Kinne doesn't get as much national attention as Jones or Weeden, but he plays second-fiddle to no one. The former Texas Longhorn has found a home in Tulsa, connecting on nearly 60 percent of his passes in 2010, amassing 3,650 yards and 31 TDs. Last year's Conference USA Player of the Year also led the Golden Hurricane in rushing (561 yards and seven scores), showing a bit of versatility.
BRYANT MONIZ - Hawaii is known for throwing the football all over the field, and signal-caller Bryant Moniz is just the next in a long line of productive Rainbow Warriors. Last season, the junior completed 65 percent of his throws, for a whopping 5,040 yards and 39 TDs, leading the nation in passing at 360.0 ypg. While those numbers are staggering, they are par for the course at Hawaii. He loses a couple of very good receivers this year, but there seems to always be someone on the outside to fill the void. Expect yet another monster season off the mainland for Moniz.
DOMINQUE DAVIS - The offense that head coach Ruffin McNeil installed at East Carolina certainly has one advocate in Davis. The former Boston College QB returned to the FBS ranks this past season and threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 37 TDs, as the Pirates finished eighth in the nation in passing (318.7 yards per game). Davis epitomizes the term "journeyman", as his collegiate travels have taken him from the ACC, to a junior college title game appearance, to resurrecting his career in Conference USA. The "Air Raid" offense at ECU will once again be clicking on all cylinders in 2011, as Davis seeks to finish up his collegiate career on a strong note.
HONORABLE MENTION: Taylor Martinez (Nebraska), Darron Thomas (Oregon), Matt Barkley (USC), Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois), Ryan Lindley (San Diego State).