Five college football teams set for big upgrades at QB

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

July 17, 2022 06:42 PM
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College football basically has its own version of free agency now, with programs bidding for players through NIL and the transfer portal. 

Under the old rules, transfers had to sit out a year unless they met certain criteria. Nowadays, any player who announces his or her intent to transfer by May 1 is eligible for fall sports.

While teams upgrading at the quarterback position from one year to the next is not new, it sure is a whole lot easier to do these days.

Let’s look at some programs set for big upgrades at the QB spot in 2022.

South Carolina 

Coach Shane Beamer is building a new culture in Columbia and the Gamecocks look like a program on the rise. Beamer’s award for a 7-6 season was a mild concussion and a mayonnaise bath after South Carolina’s 38-21 win over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Dakereon Joyner, once a QB recruit but more of a wide receiver for South Carolina, has just 39 career pass attempts after starting at QB in the Mayo Bowl.

This might be the most upgraded QB room in the nation. Spencer Rattler comes in from Oklahoma as a former five-star recruit per 247Sports and Rivals. He threw 40 touchdown passes against 12 interceptions with a 70.1% completion rate at OU. The Gamecocks also brought in two highly touted freshmen in Tanner Bailey (Alabama) and Braden Davis (Delaware). 247Sports graded Bailey as the 15th-best QB in the class and Davis as the 27th.

Nine players had pass attempts for the Gamecocks last season, with Luke Doty, Jason Brown and Zeb Noland getting the bulk of the work. Collectively, that trio posted a 57.5% completion percentage for 2,386 yards with 20 TDs against 10 INTs. The Gamecocks were 95th in passing yards per game and 74th in yards per attempt.

For a team with an offense that ranked 104th in points per game and a defense that ranked in the Top 50, the presence of Rattler could end up making a huge difference.

USC 

Speaking of Oklahoma transfers, Caleb Williams followed coach Lincoln Riley to USC and has no competition for the starting gig (Kedon Slovis transferred to Pitt and Jaxson Dart to Ole Miss). Slovis and Dart combined for 20 touchdown passes but also 13 interceptions last season. Both battled injuries and the offense suffered as a whole when wide receiver Drake London broke his ankle.

A TD/INT ratio of 21/13 — Miller Moss threw the other TD pass — isn’t the standard in Los Angeles and Williams and Riley have been brought in to re-establish the brand. Because Williams already knows the system, this has a chance to work from Day 1, especially because the Trojans really attacked the transfer portal for wide receivers.

Williams should give the QB position the explosive potential it has missed since Sam Darnold threw for more than 4,000 yards in 2017. Williams had a 21/4 TD/INT ratio at Oklahoma and ran for six more scores.

Nebraska 

Coach Scott Frost seemed to repeatedly stake his reputation on the arm and decision-making of Adrian Martinez with little to no return. Mercifully, that pairing is done, as Martinez heads to Kansas State and Frost starts the season with one of the hottest seats in the country.

Texas transfer Casey Thompson represents a noticeable upgrade, especially under the tutelage of first-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Thompson posted a 30/9 TD/INT ratio over three seasons in Austin, but it was pretty clear that Quinn Ewers was going to be the guy for the Longhorns, so the junior left town. 

While Thompson is mobile, he’ll be more of a thrower than Nebraska has had over the last few seasons. Martinez did run for 13 touchdowns.

Martinez threw 30 interceptions over four seasons in Lincoln, and as long as Thompson takes better care of the ball than that, especially in the red zone, the Cornhuskers should end a five-year bowl drought.

South Florida 

Just about anything would represent an upgrade for the Bulls, but plucking Gerry Bohanon from Baylor represents a really nice improvement. USF quarterbacks posted a 6/12 TD/INT ratio last season, with freshman Timmy McClain throwing five touchdowns against seven interceptions.

Bohanon, a four-star prospect from the Class of 2018, had an 18/7 TD/INT ratio for Baylor last season but lost the job late in the season due to injury and lost a spring battle with freshman Blake Shapen. Bohanon goes to a conference not known for defense and has the chance to thrive as a dual threat after rushing for nine touchdowns last season. 

The Bulls were 102nd in passing offense and 110th in yards per play.

Middle Tennessee 

This upgrade has nothing to do with the transfer portal but simply has to do with health. The Blue Raiders were so stricken by injuries at the QB position that four different players started games. The one who was most successful was Chase Cunningham, who had a 16/3 TD/INT ratio on 176 pass attempts. He suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 30 and missed the rest of the season.

Cunningham, who took advantage after NC State transfer Bailey Hockman retired midseason, is the likely starter this season. Nick Vattiato, who was supposed to redshirt last season but played after Cunningham went down and was named the Bahamas Bowl Offensive MVP, has a chance to play as well in the new Air Raid offense of OC Mitch Stewart.

No matter who plays, this group should have better health and will be much more experienced after finishing 108th in yards per play.

Honorable Mentions

Arizona: The Wildcats secured Washington State transfer Jayden de Laura, the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year last season with a 23/9 TD/INT ratio and a 63.2% completion percentage. Arizona QBs had 18 interceptions against 12 touchdown passes and three different players started games.

Indiana: Connor Bazelak wasn’t great at Missouri last season with a 16/11 TD/INT ratio, but that was better than the 9/15 TD/INT ratio that Hoosiers QBs posted. Bazelak completed more than 65% of his passes, while Indiana had a 51% completion percentage.

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