Kyler Murray’s 2018 season at Oklahoma was one for the record books. Stepping in for No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, Murray led the highest-scoring offense in the nation (48.4 PPG), and led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff before falling to Alabama. Murray’s 4,361 passing yards and 42 passing touchdowns were both the third-most in 2018, and helped Murray win the Heisman Trophy.
His meteoric rise up draft boards and to the top overall pick was hard to fathom at this time last year. That shows the unpredictable nature of college football and the value of the position. Murray also has Konami Code appeal, having rushed for over 900 yards in 2018 at as well. He was one of only two quarterbacks to eclipse that mark and to pass for at least 2,600 yards. The other?
Virginia’s Bryce Perkins.
A Fork in the Road
Perkins’ journey to the University of Virginia has been a long one. At Chandler High School, Perkins led them to the state championship in 2014; passing for over 3,000 yards and completing almost 75% of his attempts with 46 touchdowns. He was named the 2014 American Family Insurance All-USA Arizona Division I Player of the Year. A three-star prospect, Perkins had offers from Arizona, Northwestern, and UCLA, but followed in his father’s footsteps and signed with Arizona State.
2015 was a redshirt year for Perkins, with his focus on competing for the starting job the following spring. However, due to his athleticism, the coaches hoped to utilize him more in a hybrid role. Perkins was contemplating a transfer when he suffered a neck injury in practice, fracturing his C4 and C5 vertebrae. He opted to save his playing career and avoid surgery, which led to a five-month rehab in a brace.
After regaining his health, Perkins was behind on the depth chart at spring practice with returning starter Manny Wilkins and Alabama transfer Blake Barnett ahead. Feeling his chances slipping away, Perkins hoped to revive his career by signing with Arizona Western at the junior college level. He led the Matadors to the national championship game, falling to East Mississippi of Last Chance U, 31-28.
Despite the championship game loss, Perkins did enough to attract the University of Virginia, who was in need of a dual-threat quarterback to fit coach Bronco Mendenhall’s offense. Perkins enrolled in January of 2018, allowing him to participate in spring practices where he established himself as the top quarterback on the roster and never looked back.
Bryce Perkins is a true dual-threat at quarterback and is primed for a huge season. pic.twitter.com/AXO4vn9Z7Y— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 17, 2019
Perkins led the Cavaliers to an 8-5 record and a win against South Carolina in the Belk Bowl. Along the way, he completed 64.5% of his passes for 2,680 yards and 25 touchdowns. From PFF, his adjusted completion percentage jumps to 76.5%. That’s even more impressive considering he suffered an injury to the pinky on his throwing hand early in the season that required corrective surgery after the bowl game. On the ground, Perkins tallied over 900 yards and nine additional scores from 212 carries. His 3,603 total yards and 34 touchdowns are both Virginia single-season records.
Perkins will be counted on to drive the Cavaliers offense once again, and could put up bigger numbers in 2019. With the graduation of leading receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, over 100 targets are vacated. Senior Hasise Dubois returns his 52 receptions from last year and fellow senior Joe Reed caught fire in the final three games with eight receptions for 217 yards and five touchdowns. Perkins will also have a familiar face at receiver with former ASU teammate/roommate and graduate transfer Terrell Chatman. Leading rusher Jordan Ellis also graduated, handing the reigns over to junior PK Kier.
A 2018 All-ACC Honorable Mention selection, Perkins finds himself on Phil Steele’s and Athalon Sports preseason All-ACC 2nd team. The electric playmaker also picked up watchlist nominations for the Davey O’Brien (best QB) and Maxwell (college player of the year) awards. For Perkins to be a serious contender for either, the Cavaliers, who were picked to win the Coastal division, must follow through. A matchup against Clemson in the ACC Championship game would be just the stage for him to showcase his ability.
Perkins is cheap to acquire in devy drafts and one to keep an eye on during the 2019 season. He’s an explosive athlete and in Year 2 at the helm of UVA’s offense, could ascend. His range of outcomes as it stands currently are broad, and he faces an uphill battle to stand out against the projected top QBs in the 2020 draft like Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, and Jake Fromm. Perhaps he’s just an NFL caliber athlete and not an NFL capable quarterback like Quinton Flowers or former Mendenhall QB Taysom Hill. However, on the outside chance he can ascend to a Day 2 draft selection, he’s worth monitoring or acquiring for cheap.
Virginia opens it’s 2019 season at Pittsburgh on August 31st.