*In the weeks leading up to the 2008 NFL Draft (April 26-27), BR.com will offer a look into the top prospects by position. This week, we had three quarterbacks to watch. Here's a snapshot of the best of the rest in alphabetical order. *
Eric Ainge, QB, Tennessee (6-5, 225)- Ainge, the son of NBA great Danny, enjoyed a successful, but injury-marred career in Knoxville. As a senior, he completed 325 of 519 passes for 3,522 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, all despite suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee (which required surgery) in the spring and breaking the pinky finger on his throwing hand in August. Ainge still managed to play in 14 contests in 2007. He's got the mental ability and physical attributes, but scouts question his durability and mobility.
In his own words:(Ainge on his improvement throughout college) "I threw a lot more touchdowns last year. I threw 10 interceptions and only had one game where I threw more than one. Until the Kentucky game - the last regular season game of the year - the most I ever threw in a game was one. I didn't have a game where I threw three or four picks and lost the game for us. I think decision making in general [has gotten better]."
Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii (6-3, 207)- There hasn't been a prolific gunslinger like Brennan in a while. In just two years at Hawaii, he set 18 NCAA records, including an eye-popping 58 touchdowns against only 12 interceptions. Scouts have expressed concern over the spread offense that former Hawaii coach June Jones employs, which simplifies reads and relies mainly on the pass, but Brennan was still a model of consistency. The 207 pounds he weighed at the NFL Combine may be misleading, however, considering he played at around 185 pounds for his senior campaign.
In his own words:(Brennan on how teams view a spread offense quarterback) "Obviously, there's going to be those criticisms. As I get involved in the interview process people get a better understanding. I think those types of criticisms come from the media and other people, but when I do the interview process, coaches have a lot of respect for Coach Jones and the offense he ran and what we did there. They just want to make sure I can take what I learned there and transition it into a new offense, and that I'm not one minded in the way I play the football game, which I'm not."
Josh Johnson, QB, San Diego (6-3, 213) - A raw prospect, the rail-thin Johnson is a well-kept West Coast secret. He is an electrifying athlete that is smart with the football - throwing a whopping 43 touchdowns compared to only one interception in 2007 - and can burn defenses with his feet - totaling 726 yards and two scores on the ground. He came into college at 145 pounds, but worked with then-head coach Jim Harbaugh to build strength. Johnson finished his career for the Division I-AA Toreros leading the nation in total offense, passing efficiency and points responsible for.
In own words:(Johnson on his decision not to transfer in college) "I really felt like there was a reason why I ended up there. My story is crazy. I'm small, not recruited, a former NFL quarterback recruits me to a school a lot of people think is San Diego State once I say San Diego. It was a non-scholarship program, and as he changed the program around, my life began to change on and off the field. My mom always raised me to be loyal. I felt like, my life changed a lot here, so why leave? Why mess up a good situation. I just felt like God would have wanted me to be there and that's why I ended up there and it all worked out for the better."
Chad Henne, QB, Michigan (6-2, 230)- One of the toughest and most experienced signal-callers in the draft, Henne started every game in which he played during his four years at Michigan, 47 in all. While the Wolverines may have not annually contended for the BCS Championship, Henne set school records for completions (828), attempts (1,387), passing yards (9,715) and passing touchdowns (87). He was sidelined for three games with leg and shoulder injuries in 2007, but still earned an All-Big Ten Conference bid from league coaches and passed for 1,938 yards and 17 touchdowns in just 10 games. Henne is more of a classic pocket passer.
In his own words:(Henne on his maturation from his freshman season) "I'm definitely more knowledgeable of the game. Just being a smarter person, being a smarter quarterback, being able to take the leadership skills you need at the quarterback position, go out on the field and lead the team down the field. [I'm better] able to identify coverages."
Andre Woodson, QB, Kentucky (6-4, 229) - The main knock on Woodson is a perceived hitch in his delivery, but aside from that, he is a proven winner with excellent arm strength and prototypical size. Woodson was a key part in Kentucky's surprising rise in the ranking last season, setting school and SEC records as a senior with 40 touchdown passes. He finished his final campaign completing 63 percent of his passes (327-of-518) for 3,709 yards and only 11 interceptions. Woodson was once thought to be a first-round talent, but an inconsistent showing at the Senior Bowl set him back a few spots.
In his own words:(Woodson on his lack of interceptions) "I never find myself trying to rush a pass or trying to fit it in too tight. That way I'm making better decisions, and so far it's worked out great for me, and hopefully it will continue to do that. Obviously, we didn't have a lot of turnovers because of that."