Philadelphia, PA – Give Football Championship Subdivision head coaches some credit. When they have a promising young quarterback, they're not reluctant to turn the keys of the offense over to him.
Some of the best FCS quarterbacks, such as Illinois State's Matt Brown, Old Dominion's Taylor Heinicke, Youngstown State's Kurt Hess, Cornell's Jeff Mathews, Montana State's DeNarius McGhee and South Dakota State's Austin Sumner, gained their team's top job as a true or redshirt freshman.
Seniors Casey Brockman of Murray State and Brad Sorensen of Southern Utah are 2011 Walter Payton Award finalists who became QB1's as sophomore and now are entering their third season as starters.
No, a good coach won't deny talent.
Following are 10 FCS quarterbacks to watch this season:
Casey Brockman, Murray State, Sr., 6-2, 215 - That Brockman has thrown for 497, 570 and 600 yards in games the last two seasons - with a pair of seven- touchdown performances - is a scary proposition for opponents. He's smart and poised in the pocket with the ability to move around. He finished last season with 3,276 passing yards and an impressive 25 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He's entering his third season as the Racers' starting QB.
Matt Brown, Illinois State, Sr., 6-4, 215 - The most accurate passer in Redbirds history (64.5 percent) is big, tough and has the arm to make every throw on the field. He was sacked only six times last season, as he also moves well in the pocket. Brown has thrown for at least 2,000 yards in each of his first three seasons and 7,226 over his career, along with 51 touchdowns.
Derek Carr, UT Martin, Sr., 6-1, 196 - A third-year starter, Carr is ready to take a big step as a senior. He is a drop-back passer who finds a receiver with little trouble and can get the ball downfield. He cut down on interceptions last season, throwing just 10 while passing for 2,482 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion, So., 6-1, 190 - There may not have been a more impressive statistic in the FCS last year than Heinicke's 25 touchdown passes against one interception. After his redshirt was lifted, he played the season's final nine games and completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 2,385 yards ,while rushing for another 363 yards and four touchdowns. Those statistics reflect how well he moves around in the pocket and makes plays happen. He was the runner-up for the inaugural Jerry Rice Award as a freshman.
Kurt Hess, Youngstown State, Jr., 6-3, 235 - The Missouri Valley Football Conference's 2010 freshman of the year climbed to a higher level last year, including a season-ending flourish that yielded FCS champion North Dakota State's only loss. Hess, a poised signal-caller who makes the big throws, has passed for 4,585 yards and 38 touchdowns through his first two seasons. The Penguins had their most prolific offense ever in 2011 and seem headed to even greater heights this year.
Jeff Mathews, Cornell, Jr., 6-4, 210 - A two-year starter, the Californian has been a steal for what had been a struggling Ivy League program. He ended his sophomore season in incredible fashion, throwing back-to-back 500-yard games with a combined 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Mathews set the Ivy record for passing yards in a season (3,412) in 2011 and became its first sophomore to be named offensive player of the year. He has a strong arm and doesn't shy from contact.
DeNarius McGhee, Montana State, Jr., 6-0, 213 - A Walter Payton Award finalist in each of his first two seasons, McGhee moves around in the pocket until he can make a play. He's strong in the upper body despite being just 6 feet tall and is capable of picking up yards on the ground. His statistics were down last season from his redshirt freshman campaign, although combined he has thrown for 6,483 yards and 47 touchdowns already.
Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah, Sr., 6-5, 225 - One of the FCS' top offensive prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft has pro-ready size, accuracy and decision- making skills. A pure pocket passer, he has thrown for over 3,100 yards in each of his two seasons. The Brigham Young transfer, now in his third year as Southern Utah's starter, will have more of a showcase as the Thunderbirds move from the disbanded Great West Conference into the Big Sky Conference.
Austin Sumner, South Dakota State, So., 6-5, 230 - The Missouri Valley freshman of the year cemented himself as a leader and producer in starting the final eight games of last season. He went on to lead all FCS freshman quarterbacks in passing average (238.2 yards per game), total passing yards (2,382) and touchdown passes (16). He's a drop-back passer who excels in a no- huddle, quick-rhythm type of offense. He completed 37 passes, which tied a school record, in a game against nationally ranked Northern Iowa.
Thomas Wilson, Elon, Sr., 6-4, 216 - Wilson must cut down on interceptions this season - he had 21 in 2011 - but he had already started doing that as the year wound down. He relies on the FCS' top receiver, Aaron Mellette, to help him in that regard. Wilson is primarily a pocket passer with a strong arm, but can make plays with his feet. He threw for 3,057 yards and 23 touchdowns last season while succeeding Scott Riddle, the Southern Conference's all-time passing yardage leader.
It's worth noting former SMU quarterback Kyle Padron is expected to enroll at Eastern Washington and win the No. 1 job after the Eagles lost 2011 Walter Payton Award winner Bo Levi Mitchell. Ironically, Padron replaced Mitchell as SMU's starter in 2009, prompting Mitchell to transfer to EWU. Padron could become one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS.