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Pac-12 Football Positional Previews: Quarterbacks

We take a look at the Pac-12's quarterbacks in the first part of our preseason look at the conference.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As we move closer to the start of the college football season, House of Sparky will begin its look at the Pac-12 conference as we preview each position leading up to the start of the 2016 season. We begin with the most important position in sports: the quarterback.

Best Returning Player: Luke Falk, Washington State

Mike Leach has produced his fair share of quarterbacks during his time in college football, so perhaps it should not have been a surprise when the redshirts sophomore Falk had a breakout campagin in 2015. He completed 69 percent of his passes, threw for 4,556 yards and 38 touchdowns last season.

Under Falk's guidence, the Cougars beat Oregon and UCLA on the road and nearly beat Stanford at home. They were in the race for the division title most of the season in what was the best season under Leach.

UCLA's Josh Rosen certainly has an argument for the league's top returning signal caller, but Falk has done more in his college career and narrowly edges out the star sophomore from Southern California.

Most Underappreciated Player: Jake Browning, Washington

Rosen was the true freshman that caught most of the headlines in 2015 as he lit up Virginia in Week 1 and continued the pace in route to throwing 3,668 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2015. However, Browning quietly has most college football analysts buzzing. It is why some predict Washington will top Stanford and Oregon in the North in 2016.

Browning passed for 2,955 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 starts a season ago. He is joined in the Washington backfield by  one of the best running backs in the conference in sophomore Myles Gaskins and six other starters on the offensive side of the ball. Browning, along with Rosen, will likely be the two top signals callers heading into the 2017 season.

Player With the Most to Prove: Dakota Prukop, Oregon

For the second consecutive season, the Oregon Ducks brought in perhaps the best FCS quarterback to compete for its starting job. Unlike Vernon Adams, however, Prukop was in for spring practice and is the favorite to start for the Ducks on Sept. 3 against UC Davis (though he is getting pushed by Travis Jonsen).

Last season for Montana State, Prukop completed 63 percent of his passes, tossing 3,025 yards and 28 touchdowns in college football's second classification.

The Ducks bring back Royce Freeman and Taj Griffin on what should be an excellent offense. Prukop -- or whoever starts at quarterback -- is the key for the Ducks if they hope to compete in the Pac-12 North.

Position Battles to Watch

Arizona State: Obviously with this being an Arizona State site, we will discuss the ASU situation where Manny Wilkins, Bryce Perkins and Brady White are in contention to start the 2016 season.

Todd Graham stated he likely won't name a starter until September 2, which is the day before the Sun Devils open their season against Northern Arizona.

With Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage returning, Graham has stated the quarterback that makes the fewest mistakes and manages the game best will start and he did not rule out using two quarterbacks during the season.

Stanford: Since 2009, Stanford has had incredible quarterback stability, with Andrew Luck and Kevin Hogan handling the duties in Palo Alto for the past seven seasons.

With Hogan gone -- after starting four seasons -- redshirt sophomore Kelly Chryst  and junior Ryan Burns are locked into a competition that could run into the regular season, according to David Shaw.

Chyrst, the former five-star recruit who stands 6-foot-5, looks to be the favorite and whoever starts under center will hand the ball off to Christian McCaffrey a lot.

USC: No school in the conference has the history of producing NFL quarterbacks like USC does. With Cody Kessler gone, the Trojans will look to Max Browne or redshirt freshman Sam Darnold to replace his production, which includes over 3,000 yards passing in 2015.

Browne was the 2012 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year but he failed to win the job outright in the spring. Darnold is more athletic and presents more of a weapon with his legs so it will be interesting to see which direction Clay Helton and the Trojans go.

Impact Transfers

Davis Webb, Cal: The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Webb comes to Berkeley from Texas Tech where he threw for over 5,000 yards and 46 touchdowns in three seasons with the Red Raiders. Webb is expected to take over for Jared Goff and lead a Cal offense that averaged 376 yards through the air last season and made their first bowl game since 2011.

Darrell Garretson, Oregon State: Garretson earned some playing time for Utah State a few seasons ago including in their 2013 Peinsettia Bowl victory over Northern Illinois. Garretson stands just 6-foot but threw for 1,446 yards and 10 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2013.

Garretson was named the starter for the Beavers after a strong spring practice.

Power Rankings (Teams ranked solely by their situation at quarterback)

1. Washington State
3. Washington
4. Colorado
5. Arizona
6. USC
7. Oregon
8. Stanford
9. Oregon State
10. California
11. Arizona State
12. Utah