EAST LANSING - Michigan State senior quarterback Brian Hoyer is among 26 preseason candidates for the Johnny Unitas award emblematic of the nation's top collegiate quarterback.
The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Hoyer ranked among the Big Ten leaders in passing efficiency (fifth with his 131.9 rating), passing yards (fifth at 209.62 ypg.) and total offense (seventh at 201.5 ypg.) as a junior.
He completed 223-of-376 throws (.593) for 2,725 yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
His 223 completions (third), 376 pass attempts (second), 2,725 passing yards (third) and 20 TD passes (tied for fourth) all rank among the top single-season totals in Spartan history. Hoyer recorded six 200-yard passing games last season.
"Brian Hoyer had a very productive junior year," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said. "As a first-year starter, Brian played with confidence, displayed good vision, had very good retention and was very coachable. He learned an awful lot as Drew Stanton’s understudy for two years and that transferred onto the field last fall.
"Brian is an outstanding leader, who has a great presence in the huddle, and I know that he’s looking forward to having a special senior year."
He connected on 16-of-21 passes for 257 yards and a career-best four TDs in MSU’s 35-31 victory over Penn State in the regular-season finale.
The North Olmsted, Ohio, native already ranks among MSU’s career leaders in TD passes (No. 7 with 26), pass completions (No. 8 at 320), pass attempts (No. 9 at 543), completion percentage (No. 9 at .589) and passing efficiency rating (No. 10 at 127.7). Hoyer needs just 82 passing yards to crack MSU’s all-time Top 10 in that category. The three-year letterman has compiled a 7-7 record in 14 career starts.
Hoyer is expected to team with senior running back Javon Ringer and sophomore wide receiver Mark Dell to provide MSU with a potent offensive attack.
The award is named in honor of National Football League legend Johnny Unitas, who threw for 40,239 yards and 290 TDs during his 18-year pro career (Baltimore Colts, 1956-72; San Diego Chargers, 1973). He threw a TD pass in an NFL-record 47 consecutive games. Unitas, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, made 10 Pro Bowl appearances, earned All-Pro honors nine times and was selected league MVP on three occasions (1959, 1964 and 1967).
A four-year letterman at Louisville from 1951-54, Unitas passed for more than 3,000 yards and 27 TDs during his collegiate career. He ranks as the only player in Louisville football history to have his jersey number (No. 16) retired.
The 2008 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award will be presented on Dec. 5 at the Tremont Grand in Baltimore, Md.
Source: Michigan State University press release.