This quarterback-rich state keeps getting stronger. Every class, it seems, has special talent ready to emerge. Some already have. More colleges are coming in to see the latest climbing the charts.
Let’s take a look at my top 10 quarterbacks, regardless of class, for the 2015 football season:
No. 10 Austin Nuessle, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, 6-3, 190, Jr.
Nuessle was on the rise before former NFL MVP Kurt Warner took over as offensive coordinator in the spring. Nuessle is a sponge, soaking up every bit of information and making the most out of his talents. Warner has been working doggedly to improve Nuessle’s technique and understanding of the offense. The game will slow down immensely this year with Warner in his ear. He passed for 2,429 yards and 25 touchdowns on varsity as a sophomore. Those numbers could double.
No. 9 Grayson Barry, Scottsdale Chaparral, 6-2, 170, Jr.
Barry showed tremendous poise and leadership abilities late last season when he made a few starts on varsity. His confidence and poise have taken off since then. He commands the huddle. His calmness should help Chaparral make a smooth transition from Division II to I. He has a lot of playmakers around him, and he’ll utilize each of them with his ability to read the defense and find the open targets. His ceiling is extremely high. He is just now starting to tap into his full potential.
No. 8 Bailin Markridge, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, 6-2, 180, Sr.
He broke out last year with a huge season, leading SDO to the Division I playoffs. A dual threat, Markridge is very cool under pressure. His accuracy and arm strength separates him. He puts a lot of zip on the ball and he can do it on the run. He is very good at throwing the out pass and plays the vertical game really well. He passed for 2,327 yards and 23 TDs with 279 rushing yards, leading O’Connor to seven wins last season. He passed for three TDs against Desert Ridge and four against Pinnacle. Both of those teams made the playoffs.
No. 7 Chase Cord, Peoria Sunrise Mountain, 6-3, 190, Jr.
The only shocker is that he has yet to get a scholarship offer. What are colleges waiting for? He is bound to start getting some this season. He is way too skilled a passer and runner. Sunrise Mountain likes to roll Cord out and let him make plays with his legs and arm. He may be as good as any quarterback in the state at making plays with his legs. Watch for Cord to continue his rise since he began starting on varsity as a freshman. His work ethic is second to none.
No. 6 Jack Smith, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 6-1, 185, Sr.
The Pride will be able to open up the offense like never before under coach Norris Vaughan, who has been singing this kid’s praises since he moved in last winter from Indiana, following his father, Tracy, after he became Arizona State’s baseball coach. Smith is full of swagger and has a big arm and the speed and moves to make him tough to sack. He’ll extend plays, run for big gains, and get the ball into the hands of Mountain Pointe’s speedy, athletic, big-play receivers. This could be one of the more entertaining offenses to watch.
No. 5 Mason Moran, Chandler, 6-3, 195, Sr.
He has yet to make a varsity start at quarterback, but wait and see what he does this season, passing and running. People aren’t going to be longing for Bryce Perkins, who set school passing record on his way to leading the Wolves to the Division I title last season. Moran was so impressive in the spring that Oregon State offered him as a quarterback. Moran committed to the Beavers, taking the recruiting pressure off so he can try to lead Chandler to a repeat title.
No. 4 Daniel Bridge-Gadd, Paradise Valley, 6-2, 201, Sr.
He added 15 pounds of muscle since a tremendous junior season in which he passed for 2,740 yards and 41 touchdowns, leading the Trojans to the Division II playoffs. He can also take off and run with it. He had 587 rushing yards with five TDs. Bridge-Gadd’s recruiting heated up in the spring, showing college coaches how much bigger, faster and stronger he has become. A true leader with star quality. He’ll become a college star.
No. 3 Cade Knox, Phoenix Brophy Prep, 6-4, 200, Sr.
Another quarterback who is rising fast, Knox has the size, speed and arm strength to make him an attractive prospect. His leadership abilities should make Brophy Prep one of the teams to beat in Division I. He has it all, not only a rocket arm but a touch passer who can extend plays with his feet. He has four scholarship offers, not bad for someone who missed most of spring football because he was playing baseball.
No. 2 Kare’ Lyles, Scottsdale Saguaro, 6-2, 210, Sr.
A sleeker, more athletic Lyles emerged in the spring when he committed to his dad’s alma mater, Wisconsin. Lyles has climbed the charts faster than anybody in the state since he passed for 3,420 yards and 40 TDs, leading the Sabercats to a 14-0 season and the Division III championship. He has never lost a varsity game in which he has started. He worked twice as hard in the off-season, and even more so since committing to Wisconsin. Watch for an even better all-around quarterback to emerge this season.
No. 1 Ryan Kelley, Chandler Basha, 6-3, 185, Jr.
Kelley showed how special he was his sophomore season when he passed for 3,108 yards and 30 touchdowns, leading Basha to seven wins in Division I. He picked up an Arizona State offer during his breakout season. But it was this spring when he really took off, showing how much more he has progressed, picking up offers from UCLA, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas A&M and Washington. He has a big-time arm and possesses the poise and polish that makes him the next big pro-style QB in this state since Kyle Allen left Scottsdale Desert Mountain two years ago.