Goff, Kessler and youth lead 2015 Pac-12's QB class

Cal veteran Jared Goff advises younger quarterbacks to be "confident in every play you make." Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

One of the established college quarterbacks at the Manning Camp this summer queried Peyton Manning about how he watched game film, and California's Jared Goff's ears pricked up. This was a graduate-level question.

Goff is expected to join Manning in the NFL after he is selected in the first round of the draft next spring. The true junior has seen a lot -- a lot of losing as a wide-eyed freshman and a bit of winning last fall -- so he's not interested in the basics. When Manning spoke of breaking down film in every conceivable way, it was meaningful to him. While a first-year QB typically is just trying to avoid mistakes, and a second-year starter might analyze down-and-distance and red zone plays, a veteran considers nuances such as the first play in the red zone and the how a defense reacts immediately following a big gain.

There is no substitute for experience. Heck, Einstein, a five-star recruit in physics, said it was "the only source of knowledge."

"You gain confidence, you gain knowledge of the game," Goff said. "Mentally, I think I'm 100 times better than I was my freshman year. I'm extremely more confident. I get up to the line of scrimmage, I know what's going on. There's no doubt in my mind I can see what the defense is doing and I know what we're doing on offense. I can change the play if I want to and feel confident with that."

Goff and USC's Cody Kessler, both heading into a third season as starters, lead the Pac-12's 2015 class of quarterbacks, one that is strong if not as super-elite as last year's crew, which included the Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and three picks in the draft's first five rounds.

After those two, there is far less certainty. Arizona (Anu Solomon), Colorado (Sefo Liufau), Stanford (Kevin Hogan) and Utah (Travis Wilson) welcome back established starters but each has been inconsistent. It's easy to project forward strong improvement for any and all of this foursome, but there also are varying degrees of uncertainty. It wouldn't be shocking if one of the four earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors or, on the other side of the ledger, lost his job.

Next in the pecking order are Arizona State (Mike Bercovici) and Washington State (Luke Falk), which welcome back 2014 backups who were thrust into service last season and played well enough to suggest great potential. The big-armed Bercovici, a fifth-year senior, in fact almost feels like a veteran presence, a guy who knows his offense, knows his teammates and has plenty of ability.

Finally, there are the teams with on-going QB competitions: Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington. It's possible three of those programs -- Oregon State, UCLA and Washington -- will start true freshmen, and the Ducks could go with Vernon Adams Jr., a decorated FCS transfer who arrived late to preseason camp last week.

What's interesting about the Ducks and Bruins is both start the season as highly-ranked teams with a bevy of returning stars. They are top candidates to win the Pac-12 and earn berths in the College Football Playoff.

Uncertainty at QB, however, is always a big "if," particularly in the QB-centric Pac-12. It's rare for a team to be considered a conference favorite with questions behind center.

"I think the thing that gives me some measure of comfort is knowing that we've got a pretty veteran group around that player, whomever it may be," UCLA coach Jim Mora said of his QB competition.

The potential youth movement is most notable, and Mora's Bruins might lead that bit of intrigue with touted true freshman Josh Rosen battling junior Jerry Neuheisel. Last week's tempest in a teapot was Mora laying into Rosen at practice, while the news at Oregon State is first-year coach Gary Andersen saying he will play both true freshman Seth Collins and redshirt freshman Marcus McMaryion in the opener against Weber State. At Washington, true freshman Jake Browning might have taken the lead in the Huskies competition.

Goff knows how difficult it can be to jump from high school to Pac-12 competition. While he flashed promise as a surprise winner of the Bears' QB competition in 2013, Cal went 1-11 and he was pounded by opposing defenses, which sacked him 41 times. Still, Goff's advice for a potential freshman starter leans toward the positive.

"I would tell him not to hesitate with anything and to be confident in every play you make and enjoy every single second of it because it feels like yesterday that I was a freshman," Goff said. "It goes by really fast. Don't take anything for granted. Don't wait to be good. Be good today, tomorrow. Be good as a freshman."

If the conference's freshman QBs advance from merely game managers to "good," it figures to be an interesting season in the Pac-12.