The Big 12 is going through some changes starting this year, and after doing a Cincinnati-based podcast this week, I learned that I don’t know a ton about the history of the incoming four teams.
In an attempt to learn, I went down a rabbit hole that led me here: every Big 12 team’s all-time leading passer.
Houston — Case Keenum — 19,217 Yards
Case Keenum is the NCAA’s all-time leading passer, and it isn’t particularly close. Hawaii’s Timmy Chang is second all-time but is 2,145 yards behind Keenum.
Keenum did technically play five seasons with the Cougars, but played just three games in 2010. His best seasons came in 2009 and 2011, throwing for 5,671 yards and 5,631 yards, respectively. He was Conference-USA’s Most Valuable Player in 2009 and 2011 and was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2008. He came in seventh in Heisman Trophy voting in 2011.
Despite all that, Keenum went undrafted in 2012, but he is still in the NFL, a career that has seen him throw for 14,884 yards and 78 touchdowns.
Oklahoma — Landry Jones — 16,646 Yards
Landry Jones is just two spots behind Keenum on the NCAA’s all-time list, as the former Sooner ranks third.
At OU from 2009 to 2012, Jones was steady throughout his career, but his best season came as a sophomore in 2010. That season, he threw for 4,718 yards and led the Sooners to a 12-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl win against UConn.
The Pittsburgh Steelers took Jones in the fourth round in 2013. Playing in 18 NFL games, Jones threw for 1,310 yards and eight touchdowns.
Texas Tech — Graham Harrell — 15,793 Yards
Graham Harrell’s tally of 15,793 passing yards ranks fourth in NCAA history.
In Lubbock from 2005 to 2008, Harrell’s best year came in 2007 where he threw for 5,705 yards, as he and Michael Crabtree led Tech to a 9-4 record.
The Red Raiders went 11-2 in 2008, Harrell’s senior season, a year that included that win against No. 1 Texas in Lubbock. Tech got up to No. 2 in the country and 10-0 before falling to OU, beating Baylor and falling to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl.
Harrell went undrafted in 2009 but spent time with the Green Bay Packers, throwing four passes for 20 yards in the 2012 season.
He is also on track to have a successful coaching career. At 38 years old, Harrell has been an OC at North Texas, USC, West Virginia and now Purdue.
BYU — Ty Detmer — 15,031 Yards
The 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, Ty Detmer was putting up gaudy passing numbers before it was commonplace.
He threw for 5,188 yards in 1990 to lead the Cougars to a 10-3 record, falling to Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl. Detmer’s yardage total ranks fifth in NCAA history, which is made all the more impressive by the fact that he is the only player in the top 24 who played before 2000 (OSU QB coach Tim Rattay is No. 25).
The Packers took Detmer in the ninth round of the 1992 NFL Draft. In his NFL career, Detmer threw for 6,351 yards.
Oklahoma State — Mason Rudolph — 13,618 Yards
No. 12 on the NCAA’s career list, Mason Rudolph played in Stillwater from 2014 to 2017 with his yardage increasing each season.
He threw for 4,904 yards as a senior, about 800 more yards than he threw the year before. That 2017 team went 10-3, the third year in a row the Cowboys finished with that mark.
The Steelers took Rudolph in the third round in 2018, where he has been ever since. As a pro, Rudolph has thrown for 2,366 yards.
Texas — Colt McCoy — 13,253 Yards
Ranking 17th in NCAA history, Colt McCoy represents the most recent glory years for the proud program of Texas.
At UT from 2006 to 2009, McCoy came in second in Heisman voting in 2008 and third in 2009. His best year came in 2008, where he threw for 3,859 yards and led Texas to a 12-1 record (see Graham Harrell) and a win against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. The Longhorns went 13-1 in 2009, falling to Alabama in the national championship game, where McCoy was injured.
The Cleveland Browns took McCoy in the third round in 2010. He is still in the league, playing for Arizona. He has throw for 7,975 yards as a professional.
Iowa State — Brock Purdy — 12,170 Yards
The most recent addition of this list, Purdy only recently wrapped up his career in Ames in 2021.
His best season with the Cyclones came as a sophomore in 2019 where he threw for 3,982 yards, but ISU went just 7-6 that year. He led his team to a 9-3 record and Fiesta Bowl win in 2020, throwing for 2,750 yards in 12 games.
Purdy burst onto the national scene with the 49ers this past season. He was the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but a slew of injuries threw him into the fire. Purdy played well. In nine games (five starts), Purdy threw for 1,374 yards and 13 touchdowns and looks to have flipped San Francisco’s quarterback depth chart on its head entering 2023.
West Virginia — Geno Smith — 11,662 Yards
Another quarterback who has made West Coast waves in the NFL this season, Geno Smith played with the Mountaineers from 2009 to 2012, transitioning West Virginia from the Big East to the Big 12.
His best passing season came in 2011, WVU’s final year in the Big East, where he threw for 4,385 yards. The Mountaineers went 10-3 that season under Dana Holgorsen and beat Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
The New York Jets took Smith in the second round in 2013. He started 29 games in his first two seasons before spending most of his career as a backup … until this past season. Russell Wilson’s move to Denver saw the Seahawks hand Smith the keys. He led Seattle to a 9-8 record, throwing for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns, both season highs for him. In his NFL career, he has thrown for 11,199 yards.
Cincinnati — Gino Guidugli — 11,453 Yards
From Geno to Gino, Gino Guidugli was with the Bearcats from 2001 to 2004, and though it wasn’t as extreme as Detmer, Guidugli was a bit ahead of his time in slinging the pigskin around a football field.
His best year came as a sophomore in 2002, where he threw for 3,543 yards and led Cincy to a 7-7 record. Despite being Cincinnati’s all-time passing leader, the Bearcats never won more than seven games while Guidugli was on campus. He did, though, leave on a high, earning MVP at the Fort Worth Bowl in 2004. It was the Bearcats’ first bowl win since 1997 and just their second in program history.
Guidugli is also a successful college coach. He was an assistant at Cincy from 2017 to 2022. He was the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach on the Bearcats’ College Football Playoff team before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2022. He is set to be Notre Dame’s quarterbacks coach in 2023.
UCF — Dante Culpepper — 11,412 Yards
The most decorated pro on this list, Dante Culpepper played in Orlando from 1995 to 1998.
In 1998 Culpepper threw for 3,690 yards while completing 74% of his passes. The independent UCF went 9-2 that season.
The Minnesota Vikings took Culpepper 11th overall in 1999. He threw for 24,153 yards in the NFL, making three Pro Bowls.
Kansas — Todd Reesing — 11,194 Yards
From 2010 to 2021, Kansas won 23 games. In his Todd Reesing’s final three years in Lawrence, the Jayhawks won 25 games. There isn’t much more to say.
Reesing played in Lawrence from 2006 to 2009. His most passing yards were the 3,888 he threw in 2008, but the Jayhawks’ banner year came in 2007. That year, Reesing threw 3,486 and led KU to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl win, something that seems straight out of a fairytale in 2023.
Despite doing the unimaginable, Reesing never played in the NFL.
TCU — Trevone Boykin — 10,727 Yards
With the Horned Frogs from 2012 to 2015, Trevone Boykin came fourth in Heisman voting in 2014.
That season, he led TCU to a 12-1 record and a Peach Bowl win against Ole Miss. TCU finished third in the preseason poll that year. The Horned Frogs went 11-2 in 2015, a year that saw Boykin throw for 3,574 yards. One of those losses was a 49-29 pasting from Oklahoma State in Boone Pickens Stadium.
Boykin went undrafted in 2016, but did play in five NFL games with the Seattle Seahawks, throwing for 145 yards.
Baylor — Robert Griffin III — 10,366 Yards
Just the second Heisman Trophy winner on this list, RGIII was in Waco from 2008 to 2011.
In that 2011 season, Griffin threw for 4,283 yards, as Baylor went 10-3 (including a 59-24 loss to OSU in Stillwater) and beat Washington in the Alamo Bowl. That was just the second time in program history Baylor had double-digit wins.
Griffin was the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but injuries plagued his pro career. Still, he finished his NFL career having thrown for 9,271 yards.
Kansas State — Josh Freeman — 8,078
Here’s your random fact of the day — Kansas State is the only Big 12 program without a 10,000-yard passer.
Playing just three seasons with the Wildcats (2006-08), Josh Freeman threw for 3,353 yards as a sophomore in 2007. He was the quarterback of the Ron Prince era in Manhattan, playing in the three-year gap between Bill Snyder tenures. K-State went 17-20 in that time.
Freeman went 17th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft to the Buccaneers. In 62 career games (61 starts), Freeman threw for 13,873 yards.