NOTE: This is the ninth (and final) installment of our series in which we project the Top 10 players at each position for the 2012 Big Sky Conference football season.
One week from tomorrow we'll be ready to start the 2012 Big Sky Conference football season. But before we do that, let's wrap up our position rankings. We finish today with the quarterbacks, a list made up of veteran stars and new faces.
Holdovers like Montana State's DeNarius McGhee and Weber State's Mike Hoke are on the list, obviously. But it also includes a handful of newcomers, including two transfers joining the Big Sky from the Bowl subdivision -- one of which was voted the league's top quarterback in the preseason.
Noticeably absent is Montana's Jordan Johnson, who will not be with the Grizzlies in 2012. Johnson's status had been in question since May, and the Griz learned they'd be without their signal-caller at the end of June due to a messy off-the-field situation. If active, Johnson would have been near the top of this list.
But everyone must press on. So here it is -- our ranking of the Top 10 quarterbacks for the 2012 Big Sky Conference football season.
TOP 10 QUARTERBACKS FOR 2012
1. KYLE PADRON, JR., EASTERN WASHINGTON 2011 (at Southern Methodist): 45.0% 152 yds, 0 TD, 3 INT, 78.8 efficiency. THE BUZZ FOR 2012: Can the Eagles strike gold twice? Padron is transferring to EWU from Southern Methodist, just like last year's Walter Payton Award winner (Bo Levi Mitchell) did a couple years back. Padron has already proven he can play. In 24 starts at SMU. Padron threw for 5,902 yards and 41 touchdowns. But he was benched last year, and his transfer to EWU was held up until late April as he awaited an eligibility ruling by the NCAA. Padron has since been cleared and Eagles coach Beau Baldwin is licking his chops to mold the same results he got from Mitchell in what is a very QB-friendly offense. The formula worked once before, and there's no reason to think it won't again.
2. DENARIUS MCGHEE, JR., MONTANA STATE 2011: 61.1%, 2,799 yds, 24 TD, 14 INT, 147.4 efficiency, 340 rush yds, 5 rush TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2012: McGhee's quick release and presence in the pocket have allowed him to craft one of the most impressive streaks for a quarterback: He's thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his 25 career games. McGhee threw for 5,962 yards and 47 TDs combined in his first two seasons, and is in line to have another monster year with new offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven on board. McGhee is on record saying he wants to "dominate" the opposition this year. With McGhee pulling the trigger, the Bobcats will compete for the league title yet again.
3. BRAD SORENSEN, SR., SOUTHERN UTAH 2011: 67.8%, 3,143 yds, 17 TD, 11 INT, 137.9 efficiency. THE BUZZ FOR 2012: Sorensen comes into the season with a big chip on his shoulder; he's out to prove to his new league that winning the Great West Conference's offensive player of the year award in 2011 was no fluke. Several pundits have him tabbed as the No. 1 quarterback in the FCS. The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder is incredibly accurate and can put up big-time numbers. The 3,143 yards he threw for last year were the second most in school history, ranking only behind his own record of 3,163 in 2010. Sorensen, a former BYU transfer, is on the verge of setting loads of SUU's career passing records this season.
4. MIKE HOKE, SR., WEBER STATE 2011: 62.6%, 2,080 yds, 19 TD, 4 INT, 150.2 efficiency, 6 rush TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2012: It's never easy replacing a record-setter, but Hoke filled Cameron Higgins' shoes quite well last season. Hoke had a great touchdown to interception ratio (19 to 4) while breaking in a new crop of wideouts. He has many of the same attributes Higgins did, all the way down to a similar throwing motion. Hoke missed spring practice but should be healthy after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. The only question is whether he can adjust on the fly to interim head coach Jody Sears after John L. Smith bolted Ogden for Arkansas without coaching a game.
5. CARY GROSSART, SR. NORTHERN ARIZONA 2011: 65.9%, 2745 yds, 16 TD, 7 INT, 155.9 efficiency. THE BUZZ FOR 2012: After winning the starting job in a tight competition last spring, Grossart went out and led the Big Sky in pass-efficiency rating, while his completion percentage of nearly 66 percent also topped the league. Grossart benefited from having the Big Sky's leading rusher, Zach Bauman, in the backfield with him, and will again this year. Grossart is adjusting to a new offensive coordinator but says it's been a smooth transition. He should be in for another effective season in 2012 and might be the darkhorse of this list.
6. ANDRE BROADOUS, SR., CAL POLY 2011: 59.4%, 1,235 yds, 9 TD, 1 INT, 646 rush yds, 18 rush TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2012: Broadous is the linchpin of coach Tim Walsh's elaborate, run-heavy offense. Broadous accounted for 27 touchdowns last season (18 on the ground) and was responsible for only seven turnovers, including just one interception. He is as fast and shifty as any quarterback in the league and can beat you in any number of ways. Look for Broadous to at least match his touchdown total(s) from last season. That'll give the Mustangs the boost they need to compete against a schedule that includes road games at Weber State, Sacramento State and Eastern Washington.
7. BRADEN HANSON, SR., NORTH DAKOTA 2011 (at North Carolina): 56.2%, 185 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT, 140.9 efficiency. THE BUZZ FOR 2012: Hanson dropped down to North Dakota from North Carolina and has performed well in camp. Hanson never quite got an opportunity in Chapel Hill, but he was very highly touted as a prep. Hanson was the North Carolina high school player of the year in '07 (the No. 18 ranked QB in the country) and had offers from Michigan State, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and others. He threw for 5,600 yards and 81 TDs in his last two high school seasons. The lanky left-hander could be in for a big year in Grand Forks.
8. SETH LOBATO, JR. NORTHERN COLORADO 2011: 54.5%, 2,448 yds, 17 TD, 10 INT, 120.8 efficiency. THE BUZZ FOR 2012: Lobato was initially a preferred walk-on at Colorado but transferred to UNC before ever seeing the field with the Buffs. A 6-foot-5, 225-pound prototype, Lobato has a strong arm and showed flashes of prominence in his first season with the Bears. Still, UNC went winless last year, and Lobato will be counted on to help turn the tide under second-year coach Earnest Collins Jr. Look for Lobato to improve in the Bears' no-huddle, spread offense.
9. KEVIN YOST, SR., IDAHO STATE 2011: 60.8%, 2,973 yds, 15 TD, 12 INT, 116.7 efficiency. THE BUZZ FOR 2012: When he has time to throw, Yost is as prolific as they come in the Big Sky. But can the Bengals consistently keep him upright? Yost was sacked a staggering 55 times last season, which forced ISU coach Mike Kramer to make a number of changes on the offensive front this offseason. Yost has star wideout Rodrick Rumble at his disposal, and the duo had a great connection last season. The Bengals were one of the top passing teams in the league last year, and Yost delivers results when he's on his game.
10. COLLIN RAMIREZ, JR., PORTLAND STATE 2011: (at Butte JC) 60.7%, 2,218 yds, 30 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2012: What stands out about Ramirez is that he broke Aaron Rodgers' touchdown-pass record at Butte JC last season (yes, THAT Aaron Rodgers), but Portland State coach Nigel Burton says there's much more to the equation. "Everything has been said about how he broke Aaron Rodgers’ records but the thing that really sets him apart is, he has very good athleticism, but he is also very accurate." The Vikings aren't short on depth at QB, but Ramirez has the talent and ability to set himself apart from the pack.