Makinen: College football QB rankings, conference by conference

August 13, 2022 08:52 PM
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Undoubtedly, the quarterback position is the most important on the field for any college football team. 

It’s so important that in my college football stability scores, I give four points (out of a maximum of 19) to teams with a returning starter at QB. This four-point quantifier is the same value I assign for having the same head coach or for returning at least 17 starters in any given season. 

In almost all cases, it’s a big deal to have a returning starting quarterback playing in the same system as the previous season.

All of that said, all returning starting quarterbacks are not created equal, and all returning starting QBs are not better than a new one on a different team. Knowing who is who and what is what is crucial, however. Getting a solid gauge on which teams have the best quarterbacking situations is one of the most important parts of my preseason prep work. 

Each year for Point Spread Weekly, I like to share my interpretation of the rankings I develop for the starting quarterbacks in each conference. It has been quite the controversial subject over the years, and I am always invigorated by the passionate responses I receive in my inbox or on my Twitter feed. 

Let me preface the content with this: These lists don’t amount to college football gospel. They are simply my best guess as to which players are the best and/or in the best situations. I look at past college performances, raw recruiting rankings, my own team projections for the season, plus size, speed and several other factors. It’s a fun subject to discuss and I can only assume I will be doing so on my Wednesday morning appearance on the “Lombardi Line.” Be sure to check out that show at 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT if you get a chance.

Here are my QB rankings by conference:

AAC

1. Clayton Tune, Houston: Has started 31 games in career … Led Houston to 35.9 PPG last season, threw for 30 TDs … Injury last year affected his running numbers but should be 100% for 2022.

2. Tanner Mordecai, SMU: Oklahoma transfer threw for 39 TDs last year in leading Mustangs to 38.4 PPG … Could be challenged by highly rated recruit Preston Stone.

3. Holton Ahlers, East Carolina: Super senior has 37 career starts at ECU … Has thrown 69 TDs for Pirates, including 18 last year.

4. Gerry Bohanon, South Florida: Started 12 games for 12-2 Baylor team last season, accounting for 25 TDs … Could give USF a huge lift after a 7-26 record over last three seasons.

5. John Rhys Plumlee, UCF: Original SEC recruit transfers from Ole Miss … Started nine games for Rebels in three seasons, posting modest numbers … Mikey Keene, last year’s starter (17-6 TD-INT) is also in mix for top job.

6. Seth Henigan, Memphis: Not quite at level of predecessor Brady White, but Henigan did post good numbers (25-8 TD-INT) for Memphis in full-time starting role last season … That was his true freshman season and expect him to only get better.

7. Michael Pratt, Tulane: Gritty QB whose numbers over last two seasons (41 TDs, 16 INTs) aren’t accurately reflected in team’s 8-16 record in span … Battled through injury for much of 2021 season but is healthy for 2022.

8. Evan Prater and Ben Bryant, Cincinnati: Both Prater and Bryant are at least 6-foot-3 and will need to play big to fill shoes of Desmond Ridder … Prater was mediocre in relief of Ridder last year … Bryant transfers over after starting at Eastern Michigan.

9. Davis Brin, Tulsa: Full-time Tulsa starter last year when Hurricane went 7-6 and scored 26.4 PPG … Threw far too many interceptions (16).

10. D'Wan Mathis, Temple: Huge 6-foot-6 frame … Transferred from Georgia prior to last season … Struggled in overmatched offense with Owls scoring just 16.3 PPG.

11. Tai Lavatai, Navy: Typical athletic Navy QB for running option … Accounted for 12 TDs last year with Midshipmen scoring just 20.1 PPG … Averaged just 2.2 yards per rush.

ACC

1. Devin Leary, NC State: 20 career starts for Wolfpack … 35-5 TD-INT ratio last season … Efficient and prolific … Potential Heisman candidate if NC State excels.

2. Tyler Van Dyke, Miami: Good-sized sophomore at 6-foot-4… Stepped in for injured D’Eriq King last season and thrived … Best pure passer for Hurricanes in years.

3. Malik Cunningham, Louisville: Dual-threat senior has 25 career starts … Accounted for 39 TDs and almost 4,000 yards last season … Great athlete.

4. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest: Had huge year for Wake last season, accounting for 50 TDs by himself … Relatively small at 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, but has 33 career starts for Demon Deacons.

5. Brennan Armstrong, Virginia: Threw for 31 TDs and almost 4,500 yards last year … One of only four Cavaliers starters back in 2022 … Will be asked to carry offense again … Left-hander with 20 career starts.

6. Phil Jurkovec, Boston College: Highly rated recruit has good size at 6-foot-5 … Has started 16 games but only six last year due to injury… Surprised BC fans by coming back for another season.

7. Jordan Travis, Florida State: Dual threat who started five games in 2020 and eight in 2021 … Closed season as starter and led FSU to upset wins over Miami and BC, plus near miss versus Florida … Accounted for 22 TDs, 15 of them passing.

8. DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson: Elite five-star prospect coming out of high school … Had eye-opening freshman campaign in subbing in for Trevor Lawrence … Struggled last year in full-time role with 9-10 TD-INT ratio … Has highest ceiling of any ACC QB if Clemson rebounds offensively.

9. Kedon Slovis, Pittsburgh: Multi-year starting transfer from USC struggled in 2021 after two solid years prior … Steps into highly productive spot left open by Kenny Pickett’s departure … Can he pick up where Pickett left off?

10. Drake Maye, North Carolina: Another QB stepping trying to replace legendary starter … Five-star recruit is 6-foot-5 … Brother was star on UNC basketball team … Takes over for multi-year starter Sam Howell, who put up big numbers despite team underachieving.

11. Jeff Sims, Georgia Tech: Entering third year as starter … Had 12-7 TD-INT ratio in six starts last year, but team has won just six games over last two years … Decent size at 6-foot-3 with big arm.

12. Grant Wells, Virginia Tech: Experienced option in spring battle with Jason Brown … Wells started two years at Marshall, throwing 34 TDs … Brown transferred from South Carolina and has four career starts.

13. Garrett Shrader, Syracuse: 6-foot-4, 228-pounder likes to take off and run … Accounted for 23 TDs in nine starts but 14 were on ground.

14. Riley Leonard and Jordan Moore, Duke: Starter unclear as of now … Both saw action in 2021 … Leonard is better passer, Moore is better runner.

Big 12

1. Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma: Transfer from UCF … Started three years for explosive Knights offense and threw for over 8,000 yards and 70 TDs … Steps into Oklahoma offense run by his former OC at UCF, Jeff Lebby.

2. Quinn Ewers, Texas: Top-ranked recruit coming out of high school … Enrolled at Ohio State but couldn’t supplant CJ Stroud so redshirted in 2021 … Huge potential in Steve Sarkisian offense for 6-foot-2 freshman.

3. Blake Shapen, Baylor: Stepped in for injured Gerry Bohanon and helped Baylor win Big 12 title game, earning game MVP honors … Had two starts in all, throwing for five TDs against zero interceptions … Small at 6-foot, 192 pounds, but mobile.

4. JT Daniels, West Virginia: Former Georgia starter transfers to West Virginia as a junior … Prototype QB at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds … Posted good numbers for Bulldogs … Should improve WVU offense over Jarret Doege’s performance.

5. Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State: First-team All-Big 12 last year despite modest numbers by conference standards … Has 32 career starts in three seasons and Cowboys are 26-10 in span … Decent runner too.

6. Max Duggan and Chandler Morris, TCU: Same QBs who took snaps for TCU in 2021 … Duggan has 29 career starts … Morris, former Oklahoma transfer, stepped in last season after an injury to Duggan and played well in upset of Baylor.

7. Adrian Martinez, Kansas State: Enigma while at Nebraska … Talented and athletic but turned it over too often and Cornhuskers underachieved … Could reignite career with fresh start for solid program and coach coming off 8-5 season.

8. Jalon Daniels, Kansas: Athletic option has started nine games for Jayhawks over last two seasons, including 57-56 upset win at Kansas last year … Has best potential for Kansas at position in years.

9. Tyler Shough and Donovan Smith, Texas Tech: Both have huge frames at 6-foot-5 … Shared starting role after Henry Colombi injury last year … Shough started career at Oregon before transferring prior to 2021 season … Smith’s numbers were slightly better and he is more mobile.

10. Hunter Dekkers, Iowa State: Has big shoes to fill in replacing ISU legend and multi-year starter Brock Purdy … Has good size at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, and has some limited backup experience.

Big Ten

1. CJ Stroud, Ohio State: Co-frontrunner for Heisman Trophy along with Alabama’s Bryce Young … Had massive 2021 season, throwing for 4,400+ yards and 44 TDs, including 573 yards in Rose Bowl … Has good size at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, and has best WR crew in college football.

2. Sean Clifford, Penn State: Has 33 career starts for Nittany Lions … Game manager but brings grit and experience along with career 62-24 TD-INT ratio.

3. Aidan O'Connell, Purdue: Around since 2017 and has started 15 games, including nine last year in Purdue’s 9-4 season … Had 28-11 TD-INT ratio last year … Loses top three pass catchers, however. 

4. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland: Brother of Tua is relatively small at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, but has become huge playmaker for Terps … Threw for 3,800+ yards last year and had huge game in 54-10 Pinstripe Bowl rout of Virginia Tech.

5. Casey Thompson, Nebraska: Texas transfer had 24-9 TD-INT ratio in 2021 … Smaller at 6-foot-1 but relatively mobile … Should cut down on mistakes this offense got from Adrian Martinez.

6. Payton Thorne, Michigan State: Not highly rated out of high school but started all 13 games for Spartans in 2021, leading team to 11-2 record … Average size at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds … Threw for 3,233 yards and 27 TDs last season.

7. Cade McNamara, Michigan: Starter for last year’s playoff team, posting 15 TDs … Has full complement of offensive line back but could be pushed for playing time by highly rated J.J. McCarthy.

8. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota: Big Ten’s most-experienced QB with 39 starts entering final season for Gophers … Production has dropped dramatically over last two seasons (17 total TDs, 14 INTs) after losing potent pass-catching weapons following 2019 season.

9. Spencer Petras, Iowa: Hawkeyes won 10 games in 2021 despite modest numbers from Petras (10-9 TD-INT ratio) … Big kid at 6-foot-5, 233 pounds, but not very mobile … Enters junior season.

10. Graham Mertz, Wisconsin: Entering third year as starter after being one of Badgers’ highest-rated QB recruits ever … First two seasons have been underwhelming and stats last year are proof (10 TDs, 11 INTs) … Loses top three targets from 2021.

11. Ryan Hilinski, Northwestern: Among Big Ten QBs, highest-rated recruit out of high school other than Stroud … Started career at South Carolina but transferred last year and posted modest numbers in five starts … Should be better in 2022 with experienced offense featuring nine returning starters.

12. Gavin Wimsatt, Rutgers: Highly rated recruit brings size and arm talent … Redshirt freshman should win job from returning starter Noah Vedral … Saw some action in bowl game last year.

13. Connor Bazelak, Indiana: Missouri transfer brings three years of experience but only modest stats (23-17 TD-INT ratio) … Good size at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds.

14. Tommy DeVito and Artur Sitkowski, Illinois: Sitkowski was part-time starter last year, throwing for 700+ yards in three starts … DeVito is transfer from Syracuse who started in multiple seasons but became lightning rod for program’s struggles … DeVito showed potential for Orange, however, posting 28-12 TD-INT ratio.

Conference USA

1. Frank Harris, UTSA: Senior has started 28 games, including all 14 last year when UTSA went 12-2 … Accounted for 33 TDs and over 3,700 yards … Dual threat at 6-foot, 200 pounds.

2. Chris Reynolds, Charlotte: Reynolds has 35 starts at Charlotte … Comes off nice season in which he threw for 26 TDs and over 2,600 yards … Experienced offense returns for his senior season, including top four pass catchers.

3. Jarret Doege, Western Kentucky: Started 26 games in three relatively quiet seasons for West Virginia … Posted decent numbers (40-19 TD-INT) but program didn’t win more than six games in any season … Huge shoes to fill in replacing Bailey Zappe.

4. Dylan Hopkins, UAB: Solid option after starting parts of two different seasons, including nine games last year … Threw 18 TDs to lead Blazers to 9-4 record.

5. N'Kosi Perry, Florida Atlantic: Played pretty well for FAU after transferring from Miami, where he started nine games in three seasons … Threw for 2,700+ yards and 20 TDs last year … Team lost last four games while scoring just 15.8 PPG and will need bigger numbers from Perry.

6. Grant Gunnell and Austin Aune, North Texas: Aune was starter last season, after showing promise in 2020, but took step back (9-9 TD-INT) … Gunnell transfers from Arizona and has big frame at 6-foot-6, 228 pounds.

7. Chase Cunningham, MTSU: Cunningham took over starting job in Game 4 last season and had 16-3 TD-INT ratio in five games before being knocked out with season-ending injury … Small at 5-foot-11, 188 pounds, but can be very productive in this offense.

8. Gavin Hardison, UTEP: Huge arm who started all 13 games for Miners and led team to unexpected 7-6 season after combined nine wins in prior five seasons … Threw 18 TDs … Loses top two pass catchers.

9. Landry Lyddy, Matthew Downing and Parker McNeil, Louisiana Tech: QB race is as wide open as any … Downing and Lyddy are Big 12 transfers … Whoever wins job figures to post decent numbers in Sonny Cumbie’s offense.

10. Gunnar Holmberg, FIU: Played two years for Duke, throwing for over 2,500 yards … Brings good size at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

11. TJ McMahon and Wiley Green, Rice: Four players received decent number of snaps for Rice last season, including McMahon and Green … Green is more experienced and bigger.

Mid-American

1. Dequan Finn, Toledo: Sharp last year in seven starts, posting 18-2 TD-INT ratio … Rushed for over 500 yards and nine TDs … Good size (6-foot-2) for his mobility.

2. Daniel Richardson, Central Michigan: Put up big numbers for CMU last year, throwing for 24 TDs and 2,600+ yards … Small at 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, but big playmaker … Chippewas’ 9-4 record was their best since 2009.

3. Brett Gabbert, Miami (Ohio): Had big 2021 season with 26 TDs against six interceptions … Team’s record (7-6) didn’t reflect that efficiency … Enters junior season with 41 TDs and 25 starts.

4. Rocky Lombardi, Northern Illinois: Turned around 11-14 TD-INT ratio in three years with Spartans by posting 15-8 ratio for NIU … Also had nine rushing TDs and led NIU to 9-5 season, its most wins since 2014 … Senior is 6-foot-3, 227 pounds.

5. DJ Irons, Akron: Big dude at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, and not afraid to tuck it and take a hit … Started three games last year and accounted for 10 TDs.

6. Matt McDonald, Bowling Green: Rebounded from brutal 2020 season to throw for over 2,500 yards and a 12-7 TD-INT ratio … Senior has eight other offensive starters back from group that improved from 11.4 PPG to 21.4 PPG.

7. Collin Schlee, Kent State: Has unenviable task of replacing Dustin Crum … Golden Flashes have been very good offensively in three straight seasons, in large part due to Crum … Schlee lacks experience and only four offensive starters are back, but junior is big (6-foot-3, 220 pounds), has strong arm and has seen snaps.

8. Kurtis Rourke, Ohio: Like brother Nathan before him at Ohio, Kurtis is gritty and can produce both running and throwing … Tough to bring down at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds … Has 11 career starts … Had 11-7 TD-INT ratio last year plus three rushing TDs for 3-9 team.

9. Cole Snyder, Buffalo: Rutgers transfer saw action in six games last year, throwing for 130 yards … Buffalo hopes to get boost from Big Ten pedigree. 

10. Taylor Powell, Eastern Michigan: Surprising transfer of Ben Bryant back to Cincinnati, after team scored over 30 PPG, left QB job open  … Powell, a 6-foot-2 transfer from Troy, probably winds up getting job … Started five games last year.

11. Jack Salopek, Western Michigan: Redshirt freshman with just five career pass attempts … Lean at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds … Only has four returning offensive starters back.

12. John Paddock, Ball State: Won’t be easy for next Ball State QB after Drew Plitt had huge career dating to 2017 … Looks like Paddock will get first shot … Junior played in two games last year, throwing 26 passes.

Mountain West

1. Jake Haener, Fresno State: Human highlight film last season … In 13 starts, threw for almost 4,100 yards and 33 TDs … Seemed to come up biggest when stakes were highest … Gutty senior is MWC’s best player.

2. Logan Bonner, Utah State: Bonner made right choice to join coach Blake Anderson from Arkansas State … Aggies were beneficiaries of duo last season, going 11-3 … Bonner’s numbers were stellar (36 TDs, 3,600+ yards) … Should be strength of offense again in senior season.

3. Haaziq Daniels, Air Force: Don’t confuse Daniels with triple-option quarterbacks at Army and Navy … Good size at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, and equally capable of running and passing … Accounted for 18 TDs and over 1,900 yards last year … Coming off 10-3 season, senior has experienced offense with eight starters back.

4. Hank Bachmeier, Boise State: Fourth-year junior has 25 career starts with 35-16 TD-INT ratio … Loses biggest target (Khalil Shakir) but has entire starting offensive line back.

5. Braxton Burmeister, San Diego State: Aztecs lean on defense under Brady Hoke … Will be interesting to watch Virginia Tech transfer hold down offensive side of ball … If Aztecs turn him loose, he could have big senior season, which didn’t happen at Virginia Tech.

6. Chevan Cordeiro, San Jose State: Transfer played in four different seasons for Hawaii, throwing 45 TDs … Takes over for Nick Starkel, who had huge 2020 season but flopped in 2021.

7. Harrison Bailey, UNLV: SEC transfer is a huge (6-foot-5, 225 pounds), strong-armed QB who could finally bring UNLV football out of shadows … Started two games for Tennessee in two seasons but enters this year as redshirt freshman. 

8. Shane Illingworth, Nevada: Illingworth has unenviable task of taking over for Carson Strong, now in NFL … 6-foot-6, 230-pound transfer from Oklahoma State has pedigree to succeed if other things fall into place.

9. Cammon Cooper, Hawaii: Whoever wins starting job will be working in new system with inexperienced roster … Cooper, a 6-foot-4, 208-pound transfer from Washington State, is favorite to win it … Has six games of experience and 143 career passing yards.

10. Clay Millen, Colorado State: Comes over from Nevada with coach Jay Norvell … Recruited for pistol system … At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, seems to be prototypical QB for Norvell … Only threw two passes at Nevada.

11. Andrew Peasley, Wyoming: Left Utah State after Logan Booner proved worthy of starting spot there … Junior has four years of experience and 830 career passing yards.

12. Miles Kendrick, New Mexico: Former Kansas QB hopes to reinvigorate program … Departing starter Terry Wilson did respectable job, so it’s a tough assignment for Kendrick … Small (5-foot-10, 205 pounds) but can run and throw. 

Pac-12

1. Caleb Williams, USC: Former five-star recruit followed Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma … Playmaking QB had 21-4 TD-INT ratio in seven starts in Riley’s offense last year.

2. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA: Super senior has 35 career starts … Dual threat accounted for 30 TDs last season in leading Bruins to eight wins, program’s most since 2015 … Has 61 career passing TDs.

3. Cameron Rising, Utah: Filled in nicely for Charlie Brewer last season … Produced 26 total TDs in 11 starts, plus surprising 6.7 yards per rush attempt.

4. Bo Nix, Oregon: Gritty playmaker was a shocking transfer after strong 34-start career at Auburn … Spends his final season in Eugene after 39 passing TDs and plethora of memorable plays for Tigers.

5. Cameron Ward, Washington State: Cougars lost all four QBs who attempted passes last year but get experienced transfer in Ward … Put up huge numbers at FCS Incarnate Word, throwing for almost 4,700 yards and a 47-10 TD-INT ratio … Good size at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds … Will it be another Bailey Zappe situation?

6. Tanner McKee, Stanford: Biggest quarterback in conference at 6-foot-6, 226 pounds … Threw for 2,300+ yards and 15 TDs last year despite 3-9 record for Cardinal … Gained valuable experience in freshman year.

7. Michael Penix, Dylan Morris and Sam Huard, Washington: QB room at Washington is deep, with Indiana transfer Penix supposedly atop depth chart … Morris is returning starter but struggled with 14-12 TD-INT ratio last year … Huard, entering redshirt freshman year, is highest-rated recruit of trio.

8. Chance Nolan, Oregon State: Junior has 15 starts at OSU, posting respectable 25-12 TD-INT ratio … Has been good but not great … Could be pushed by senior Tristan Gebbia.

9. Emory Jones, Arizona State: Transferred from Florida, where he started 12 games last season … Threw for 2,700+ yards but was intercepted 13 times.

10. Jayden de Laura, Arizona: On smaller side at 6-foot, 186 pounds … Put up good numbers in 15 starts over two years for Washington State (28 TDs and almost 3,700 passing yards).

11. Jack Plummer, California: Big at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds … Transfers from Purdue, where he started 13 games over three seasons, throwing 26 TDs.

12. Brendon Lewis, Colorado: Put up decent numbers for 4-8 Buffaloes last season … Had impressive 10-3 TD-INT ratio … Now a sophomore.

SEC

1. Bryce Young, Alabama: Returning Heisman Trophy winner now in sophomore season … Threw for almost 5,000 yards and 47 TDs versus just seven interceptions … New, smaller group of wide receivers in 2022.

2. KJ Jefferson, Arkansas: A load for defenses to deal with at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds … As effective a runner as he is a passer … Accounted for over 3,300 yards and 27 TDs last year … Just a sophomore.

3. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina: Biggest wild card in SEC and perhaps entire country … Benched in Game 6 last year at Oklahoma and his “struggles” resulted in a near 75% completion percentage and 11-5 TD-INT ratio… Had 40 passing TDs for Sooners in 17 starts … Could instantly revive South Carolina football, assuming chemistry develops with top two returning WRs.

4. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee: Unbelievably good last year after transferring from Virginia Tech … Threw for 31 TDs versus three interceptions, plus ran for 616 yards and five TDs … Big kid at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds.

5. Will Rogers, Mississippi State: Made massive leap from first to second season, going from six starts and 11 TD passes to 13 starts and 36 TDs … Attempted 683 passes last season for Mike Leach … Great fit for system.

6. Max Johnson, Texas A&M: Haynes King figures to be in running for starting job, but Johnson figures to be top option considering numbers he put up at LSU before transferring … Had 35-7 TD-INT ratio in 14 starts for Tigers … Big at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds.

7. Will Levis, Kentucky: Junior returning starter produced 24 TDs versus 13 INTs in leading Wildcats to 10-3 season … Solid frame at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds.

8. Jayden Daniels, LSU: Myles Brennan is still at LSU after five seasons but job figures to land with Daniels … Playmaking transfer was true dual threat at Arizona State, accounting for over 7,300 yards of total offense … Elusive and fast.

9. Stetson Bennett, Georgia: Undersized game manager but now a national champion quarterback … Senior is smallest QB in conference at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds … Still produced 29-7 TD-INT ratio in 2021.

10. Jaxson Dart, Ole Miss: USC transfer started three games, throwing nine TDs … Decent size at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds … Good enough arm to produce big numbers in Lane Kiffin’s offense.

11. Anthony Richardson, Florida: Big sophomore at 6-foot-4, 237 pounds … Posted modest passing stats in backup role last season but proved to be a dangerous runner (401 yards, 7.9 yards per carry).

12. T.J. Finley, Auburn: Started last three games last season after Bo Nix got hurt … Had 6-1 TD-INT ratio but Tigers lost all three games … Huge frame at 6-foot-7, 250 pounds … Originally recruited by LSU.

13. Jack Abraham, Brady Cook, Tyler Macon and Sam Horn, Missouri: Battle for starting job figures to go deep into camp … Abraham is transfer from Southern Miss, Cook threw 59 passes in one start last year, Macon is versatile and brings run option, Horn is highest-rated recruit of group and comes in for his freshman season.

14. Ken Seals and Mike Wright, Vanderbilt: Seals started in 2020 and showed promise but struggled in 2021 … Wright stepped in for five games last season and produced better numbers than Seals, with an ability to run when needed.

Sun Belt

1. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina: Poster guy for Sun Belt football has 22 career starts and is officially only a sophomore … Boasts impressive 53-6 TD-INT ratio in two seasons and brings winner’s mindset to CCU.

2. Chase Brice, Appalachian State: Former Duke transfer threw for 3,300+ yards and 27 TDs in first season at ASU … One of league’s bigger QBs enters senior season.

3. Layne Hatcher, Texas State: Makes in-conference move from Arkansas State … Started games in three different years for ASU, throwing 55 TDs against 25 INTs … Shorter than most but familiar with conference.

4. Henry Colombi, Marshall: Played two years at Texas Tech, starting nine games and throwing 13 TDs … Had injury problems … Brings good size.

5. Kyle Vantrease, Georgia Southern: All three players who took snaps last year return for Georgia Southern but starting job goes to Vantrease … Spent last five years with Buffalo … In 26 starts, threw for 4,700+ yards and 25 TDs.

6. James Blackman, Arkansas State: Former Florida State transfer showed enough in five starts last year to convince Layne Hatcher to leave for TSU … Big at 6-foot-5 and should help ASU improve on 2-10 record.

7. Darren Grainger, Georgia State: Comes off a big season in first chance as starter … Produced 19-4 TD-INT ratio and four rushing TDs.

8. Todd Centeio, James Madison: Steps into starting role in JMU’s first season of FBS football … Gets chance to run Mike Shanahan’s offense … Comes over from Colorado State, where he threw for 3,100+ yards and a 16-11 TD-INT ratio in 13 starts over two years.

9. Chandler Rogers, La.-Monroe: With Rich Rodriguez no longer OC at ULM, son Rhett figures to be out of running for starting job … Rogers had 9-3 TD-INT ratio and 1,300+ yards in six starts.

10. Chandler Fields, Louisiana: Fields has to fill shoes of Levi Lewis, who started 42 games for ULL … Was backup last year and only other player to throw a pass.

11. Gunnar Watson, Troy: Junior was starter last year and played role of game manager, with 8-4 TD-INT ratio in 228 attempts .. Figures to be challenged by Peter Costelli, a transfer from Utah.

12. Desmond Trotter and Carter Bradley, South Alabama: Starting job figures to come down to these two players … Trotter has three years of experience and a 24-9 TD-INT ratio … Bradley transfers in from Toledo where he started 10 games over four years.

13. Ty Keyes, Southern Miss: Got three starts in true freshman season last year before being lost to injury … Production was mediocre at best. 

14. Hayden Wolff, D.J. Mack Jr. and Brendon Clark, Old Dominion: QB situation could get interesting … Wolff and Mack are returning starters, with Wolff having produced more … Clark transfers in from Notre Dame, earning instant credibility.

Independents

1. Jaren Hall, BYU: Great season last year with 20-5 TD-INT ratio while leading Cougars to 10-3 record … Was big question mark after replacing Zach Wilson but far surpassed expectations … His prospects, and BYU’s, are higher for 2022.

2. Charlie Brewer, Liberty: Played for Baylor and Utah … Gets lighter schedule at Liberty but has huge shoes to fill in replacing Malik Willis … With his vast experience, expect Brewer to put up big numbers in Hugh Freeze’s offense.

3. Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne, Notre Dame: Both sought-after recruits out of high school and both got limited snaps last year playing behind Jack Coan … Both are similar-level passers but Buchner brings another option with ability to run.

4. Ta'Quan Roberson, Connecticut: UConn has some promise with transfer of Roberson, who arrives after modest season at Penn State … Small at 5-foot-11, 203 pounds, and still has to win job, but has more raw talent and speed than anyone else in contention.

5. Brady Olson, Massachusetts: Threw for more TDs than INTs (8-7) on team that went 1-11 … Had big game against Boston College last year, and with eight starters back on offense, figures to improve this year.

6. Tyhier Tyler, Army: Just 5-foot-8, 185 pounds … Three QBs threw more passes for Army last season … Prototypical option quarterback who makes good decisions and can run. 

7. Diego Pavia, Dino Maldonado and Weston Eget, New Mexico State: Starting job figures to be decided in fall camp … Pavia is a JC transfer, Maldonado played reasonably well in limited time last season, Eger is biggest of bunch at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds.

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