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RANKING THE STARTING QBS BY CONFERENCE

By Steve Makinen  () 

If you read my work regularly in Point Spread Weekly, you would know that I am a huge believer in the importance of the starting quarterback position in college football. To me there is no more important job, as the plays a QB executes or fails to execute are almost always the difference in a team winning

a game or covering the point spread. Furthermore, with turnovers being such a key part of how games play out, the one most responsible for these are the quarterbacks. Those signal callers comfortable in their systems and confident in their abilities can take a team to heights previously unknown.

Let’s take for instance the situation at Clemson the last few years. With Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence under center, the Tigers won national titles, twice in three years. Sandwiched in between those titles was a year they came up short, losing in the semifinals, and I firmly believe it was because the starting QB that season was Kelly Bryant, who while not a horrible option, was clearly not the level of performer that Watson was or Lawrence is for the program.

For bettors preparing for the 2019 season, it pays to know the quality of the quarterbacks manning their respective teams. To me, there are four different scenarios for evaluating. In cases where the starter is returning from the prior season with the same coaching staff in place, the assessment is as easy as looking at last year’s performance and making minor adjustments for the players that will be surrounding him this season. When the starter is the same but will be playing in a new offense under a new head coach and/or offensive coordinator, it gets a little trickier, but for the most part you can make some assumptions about the quality of that player. In the case of a new starter taking over the same system that has been

in place, the best way to analyze is to compare the physical attributes and recruiting grades of the new player, and then perhaps do some reading of local coverage on that team in regards to spring practices, scrimmages, and other tidbits. Where the analysis gets most unpredictable is when a new quarterback takes the controls for a new coaching staff at a school. There is really no concrete way to predict the success level of the new combination as compared to the previous regime, and in this case, the more resourceful you can be in digging up info the better your chances.

With all of that said, I thought I’d run through all of the expected quarterback situations across the country and do a ranking of the teams in this key area by conference. Naturally, the better the quarterback situation, the more success that team is bound to

achieve in 2019. In all, there are 87 out of 130 teams across FBS that have a starting quarterback from 2018 returning. This doesn’t mean that they were full-time starters, OR that they will be in that position again in 2019, but it does provide an overall value on how much returning experience there is this season. I’ll make note of specific unique situations regarding returnees in the rankings.

In case you’re wondering about my overall rankings, I have not been shy on the air with VSiN in terms of my affection for Lawrence’s overall size, arm strength, mobility, and overall football savvy, and I’ve even gone so far as a Packers’ fan to encourage the team to do whatever it takes to line up to somehow obtain him as Aaron Rodgers’ eventual replacement.

In any case, enjoy the rankings, and feel free to send me (steve@vsin.com) your comments, kudos, objections, and any other feedback you deem necessary after viewing. And of course, good luck with your college football wagering this fall. Note that the player in parenthesis is the expected starter. This of course can and will change in some circumstances prior to Week 1 games.

ACC

  1. CLEMSON (Trevor Lawrence): Top QB in the country in my opinion. Size, arm strength, mobility, 30/4 TD/Int ratio in 2018

  1. VIRGINIA (Bryce Perkins): Original Arizona State recruit and JC transfer, good numbers last year, over

2600 yards passing and 900 rushing

  1. FLORIDA ST (James Blackman): Had decent year as freshman, one start last year, tall wiry kid

  2. MIAMI FL (Tate Martell): Ohio State transfer, 5-star recruit with dual-threat ability. Small though, only

5’11”

  1. LOUISVILLE (Jawon Pass): Struggled last year with rest of teammates but big percent mobile, thought of as heir apparent to Lamar Jackson

  2. SYRACUSE (Tommy DeVito): Filled in reasonably well for injured Eric Dungey last year, 6’2”, strong kid

  1. WAKE FOREST (Sam Hartman): Smaller of the top two QB options at Wake, 16/8 TD/Int ratio in nine starts last year

  1. NC STATE (Matt McKay): Prototype size with big arm and a dual-threat. First-time starter, 7 of 8 in only action last year

  1. NORTH CAROLINA (Sam Howell): De-committed from Florida State. Highly rated in-state recruit that broke NC passing records

  1. VIRGINIA TECH (Ryan Willis): Decent but not flashy numbers after taking over for injured Josh Jackson last year, Kansas transfer

  1. BOSTON COLLEGE (Anthony Brown): Third-year starter hasn’t put up big numbers consistently

  2. PITTSBURGH (Kenny Pickett): Started all 14 games last year, threw just 12 TD’s and struggled in bowl game

  1. DUKE (Quentin Harris): Started twice last year but first full-time job as a senior, dual-threat

  2. GEORGIA TECH (Lucas Johnson): Junior with good size but seeing first action after strong spring game, having to learn new pro-style attack

AMERICAN ATHLETIC

  1. HOUSTON (D’Eriq King): Top QB in the AAC, now running offense for Dana Holgorsen. Small frame but quick, agile, and a fantastic playmaker that produced 50 TD’s in 2018

  2. MEMPHIS (Brady White): Original Arizona State recruit had 14 starts with a 26/9 TD/Int ratio last year, numbers below Memphis predecessors

  3. CINCINNATI (Desmond Ridder): 6’5” kid, solid 20/5 TD/Int ratio in 2018 in 12 starts

  4. SMU (Shane Buechele): Texas transfer with two years eligibility left and 19 starts under his belt, threw

  5. TD’s in his Longhorns career

  1. TULANE (Justin McMillan): LSU transfer that got six starts for Tulane in ‘18, throwing for 1,304 yards and 10/4 TD/Int ratio

  1. EAST CAROLINA (Holton Ahlers): Had three huge games for ECU last year out of his five starts to earn 2019 job, in all 12/3 TD/Int ratio for 240-pound kid with running ability

  1. UCF (Brandon Wimbush): McKenzie Milton injury leaves job open for Notre Dame transfer Wimbush. Only modest numbers and success for Irish in 16 starts

  1. SOUTH FLORIDA (Blake Barnett): Former Alabama recruit Barnett started 10 games last year for USF but had just a 12/11 TD/Int ratio

  1. NAVY (Malcolm Perry): Typical small, quick, and agile Navy QB to run option offense, gained over 1100 yards rushing in ‘18

  1. TULSA (Zach Smith): Baylor transfer played two years for Bears, posting modest numbers of 56 percent completions, 21/15 TD/Int ratio

  1. TEMPLE (Anthony Russo): Good size but only 14/14 TD/Int ratio in Geoff Collins’ offense, now learning new system of Rod Carey

  1. CONNECTICUT (Steven Krajewski): Redshirt freshman saw very limited action last year and appears to have won battle of attrition for QB job

BIG 12

  1. TEXAS (Sam Ehlinger): Coming off great season, Ehlinger is the face of Texas football for ‘19, but only one of eight starters back, had 25/5 TD/Int ratio

  2. OKLAHOMA (Jalen Hurts): Alabama transfer that was 24-2 in 26 starts with the Tide, mobile QB that will be hard-pressed to match the numbers of last two OU QB’s

  1. TEXAS TECH (Alan Bowman): Had injury problems as a freshman in ‘18 but started seven games while throwing for 2,600 yards, will adjust to new Matt Wells offense

  2. OKLAHOMA ST (Spencer Sanders): Good athlete with big arm figures to be next in line to put up big numbers for Mike Gundy in OSU attack

  3. BAYLOR (Charlie Brewer): Junior QB with 16 starts on his ledger, has thrown for 27 TD’s against 13 interceptions, average size at 6’1”

  1. KANSAS ST (Skylar Thompson): Has started 14 games in his first two seasons, threw for 1,391 yards last year with 9/4 TD/Int ratio

  2. IOWA ST (Brock Purdy): Decent dual-threat quarterback who started eight games as a freshman, ending season with 16/7 TD/Int ratio

  1. WEST VIRGINIA (Austin Kendall): Wildcard quarterback in the Big 12 for ‘19, transferred from Oklahoma after seeing limited action as frosh percent sophomore, good arm strength

  1. TCU (Alex Delton): Good running quarterback that had six starts at Kansas State in ‘18 but threw just two touchdowns

  1. KANSAS (Thomas MacVittie): Started career at Pitt before going JUCO last year, good sized kid at 6’5” 215 but learning new system

BIG TEN

  1. NEBRASKA (Adrian Martinez): Has Cornhuskers fans excited for the future, Martinez had big freshman season accounting for 25 TD’s, a number which should improve in ‘19

  2. MICHIGAN (Shea Patterson): Senior season, has

  3. starts to his record, threw for 22/7 TD/Int ratio in‘18 but consistency was missing

  4. NORTHWESTERN (Hunter Johnson): Clemson transfer that can run percent throw, very highly recruited out of high school, best talent for Northwestern at QB perhaps ever

  5. OHIO ST (Justin Fields): Very highly touted recruit by Georgia, played in three games for Bulldogs, better running ability than passing

  6. MARYLAND (Josh Jackson): Virginia Tech transfer, missed most of last season with injury but has 16 starts on his ledger, could put up huge numbers

  1. IOWA (Nate Stanley): Underrated and consistent quarterback for Iowa the last two seasons, with 13 starts and 26 TD’s in EACH of those years, big kid at 240 lbs

  1. PURDUE (Elijah Sindelar): Sindelar is officially a junior and has eight starts for Purdue back in ‘17, 6’4” kid with big arm

  1. WISCONSIN (Graham Mertz): Highly touted freshman QB that chose Wisconsin over the likes of Clemson percent Alabama, big arm, great athlete

  2. MICHIGAN ST (Brian Lewerke): Struggled with 8/11 TD/Int ratio last year but has 25 career starts in three different seasons for MSU

  3. INDIANA (Peyton Ramsey): Has 16 career starts for Indiana, accounted for 24 TD’s a year ago, but could be pushed by freshman Michael Penix for job

  1. ILLINOIS (Isaiah Williams): Freshman is highest rated recruit for Illinois in over 10 years, dual-threat playmaking capability but VERY small at 5’10” 175

  1. PENN ST (Sean Clifford): 6’2” sophomore appeared in four games last year, has big shoes to fill after replacing Trace McSorley

  1. MINNESOTA (Tanner Morgan): Six starts last year as a freshman, modest 9/6 TD/Int ratio, not a clear cut option heading into ‘19

  1. RUTGERS (McLane Carter): Senior transfer that saw limited action at Texas Tech, figures to be stopgap measure until QB of the future is found

CONFERENCE USA

  1. NORTH TEXAS (Mason Fine): Only 5’11” 185 but has had stellar college career at UNT (36 starts), including 27/5 TD/Int ratio last year and 300 straight passes without a pick

  2. FLA ATLANTIC (Deondre Francois): Florida State transfer with 25 starts and over 6,000 yards passing already in his career, playing senior season

  3. FLA INTERNATIONAL (James Morgan): Had big year in 2018 after transferring from Bowling Green, 26/7 TD/Int ratio, 6’4” pure passer, missed bowl game win

  4. SOUTHERN MISS (Jack Abraham): Started nine games last year as sophomore and completed 73 percent of his 305 attempts for modest 7.70 yards per attempt, played JUCO as frosh

  1. MARSHALL (Isaiah Green): Had nine starts last year as a freshman including last six games, modest 15/10 TD/Int ratio

  2. UAB (Tyler Johnston): Had five starts last year as freshman, with 1,300 yards passing and 350 rushing, including big bowl game effort

  3. LOUISIANA TECH (J’Mar Smith): Has 27 starts now for Bulldogs, decent dual-threat ability, has 33/16 TD/ Int ratio career but just 15/10 last year

  4. W KENTUCKY (Ty Storey): Grad transfer from Arkansas, had nine starts last year but only 11/10 TD/ Int ratio, mobile QB

  5. OLD DOMINION (Messiah deWeaver): Have seen three different starters named on various depth chart sites, deWeaver is biggest (6’5”) and highest rated option, having first landed at Michigan State before going JUCO

  6. TX-SAN ANTONIO (Frank Harris): Harris was injured all of last year and was one of five quarterbacks in hunt for starting spot in spring, Lowell Narcisse, a highly rated recruit at 6’4” 230 could challenge

  7. CHARLOTTE (Chris Reynolds): A seemingly wide-open race for starting spot, Reynolds (5’11) with six starts last year will have tough time holding off Brett Kean, a senior and transfer from South Florida

  8. RICE (Tom Stewart): Grad transfer from Harvard, started nine games with sharp 14/2 TD/Int ratio there, 6’3” 220

  1. MIDDLE TENN ST (Asher O’Hara): Played only two games as freshman going 9 for 20 passing, only 6’0”, could be pushed by 6’5” JUCO transfer Randall Johnson

  2. UTEP (Kai Locksley): Locksley struggled last year in eight starts throwing nine interceptions against three touchdowns and less than 50 percent completions

FBS INDEPENDENTS

  1. BYU (Zach Wilson): Started final seven games of season including bowl game in which he completed all 18 passes he threw, 12/3 TD/Int ratio, big things expected

  1. NOTRE DAME (Ian Book): Decent first year as starter last year starting nine games with 19/7 TD/Int ratio, only 6’0” however

  1. ARMY (Kelvin Hopkins): Typical small, savvy Army option QB had 23 total TD’s last year, plus threw AND ran for 1,000 yards, now a senior

  1. LIBERTY (Stephen Calvert): Fourth-year starter at Liberty with 30 career starts to his record, had 18 interceptions last year however, pocket passer

  1. NEW MEXICO ST (Josh Adkins): Started eight games as frosh last year with 13 TD’s and 2,500 yards, has makings of good long career as NMSU starter

  1. MASSACHUSETTS (Ross Comis): Have seen senior Comis, junior Andrew Brito, and senior Michael Curtis all atop depth charts, Comis had 14/3 TD/Int ratio so could be decent option

MAC

  1. OHIO U (Nathan Rourke): Third-year starter after two straight years being 2nd team All-MAC, career 40/15 TD/Int ratio, also ran for 15 TD’s in ‘18, big time playmaker

  2. KENT ST (Woody Barrett): Original Auburn recruit, accounted for over 3,000 yards and 18 TD’s last year in 12 starts, dual-threat ability at 6’2” 236

  3. W MICHIGAN (Jon Wassink): Senior has battled injuries and has 17 career starts, last year accounted for 22 TD’s in nine games

  4. TOLEDO (Mitchell Guadagni): Not a sure-fire starter at this point, 6’2” senior started seven games, going 13/3 TD/Int ratio, while challenger Eli Peters (18/7) started six

  1. C MICHIGAN (Quinten Dormady): Originally with Tennessee, played three years there starting five games, 6’4” 215 SEC level talent

  2. E MICHIGAN (Mike Glass): Had 61.5 percent completion percentage and 9/1 TD/Int ratio in three starts last year, can also run (412 RY/6 TDs)

  3. AKRON (Kato Nelson): Mobile quarterback the likes of which new HC Tom Arth utilized at Chattanooga, had 15/8 TD/Int ratio last year as a sophomore

  1. N ILLINOIS (Marcus Childers): Dual-threat option with 21 career starts heading into junior season in new offense, was sacked 43 times in 14 games

  1. BOWLING GREEN (Grant Loy): Big 6’5” 226 kid that threw 12 passes as a sophomore last year but considered a running quarterback

  1. BUFFALO (Kyle Vantrease): Sophomore that threw just nine passes last year, not much experience elsewhere as team looks to replace Tyree Jackson

  2. BALL ST (Drew Plitt): Has three starts in each of his first two seasons but just a combined 9/11 TD/Int ratio, not real mobile either

  3. MIAMI OHIO (Jackson Williamson): Sophomore that appeared in two games last year without a pass attempt, could be pushed by freshman Brett Gabbert, a higher rated recruit

MOUNTAIN WEST

Love was phenomenal for former coach Matt Wells and is onle of only two starters back, at 6’4 230 could be better this year with far lesser numbers

  1. HAWAII (Cole McDonald): Threw for 36 TD’s in ‘18 and has eight other offensive starters back around him, big for Hawaii QB at 6’4”, should post big numbers again

  1. SAN DIEGO ST (Ryan Agnew): Started seven games last year, now a senior, had 10/6 TD/Int ratio, somewhat dual-threat and has top three rushers back around him

  1. COLORADO ST (Collin Hill): Junior who has four starts in each of his first two seasons, coming off torn ACL, not great numbers in 2018 (7/7 TD/Int ratio, 6.86 PYA)

  1. UNLV (Armani Rogers): Has less than 50 percent completion percentage in 14 career starts, missed time last year with foot injury, highly rated signee two years ago though

  1. AIR FORCE (DJ Hammond): Hammond and fellow competitor Isaiah Sanders had similar numbers last year but Hammond accounted for 14 TD’s, Sanders 10, and Hammond is a bit stronger and perhaps better at running the offense

  1. NEW MEXICO (Tevaka Tuioti): Started three games as sophomore last year accounting for 6 TD’s, charted ahead of Sheriron Jones, who started seven games in‘18 and was original Tennessee recruit

  2. BOISE ST (Chase Cord): Very little experience in Boise State QB rotation, sophomore Cord (6’2”) has thrown nine passes, but could be pushed by highly rated recruit Hank Bachmeier

  3. SAN JOSE ST (Josh Love): Had respectable 14/9 TD/Int ratio for 1-11 team in ‘18, not much of a running threat, 6’2”, returns with six other offensive starters

  1. NEVADA (Cristian Solano): Threw 45 passes last year with 0 TD’s and 4 interceptions, started in 21-3 loss to Fresno State, could be pushed by Florida State transfer Malik Henry

  1. WYOMING (Sean Chambers): 6’3” mobile QB who ran for more yards than passed last year (329-266) but was still able to redshirt and is a freshman, good size at 6’3” 218

  1. FRESNO ST (Jorge Reyna): Big shoes to fill in replacing Marcus McMaryion who had 33 TD’s, senior JC transfer who threw 12 passes for FSU in ‘18, 6’0” 215

PAC 12

  1. OREGON (Justin Herbert): Heisman Trophy candidate has sparkling 63/13 TD/Int ratio in 28 career starts, big kid at 6’6” 233 has improved every year

  1. STANFORD (K.J. Costello): Has 20 starts in first two years and 43/15 TD/Int ratio, not much of a runner but good size (6’5”) and pure passer

  1. ARIZONA (Khalil Tate): Has 20 career starts, posted impressive 26/8 TD/Int ratio in ‘18, clear leader of Wildcats offense and big year is expected

 
  1. USC (JT Daniels): Highly touted QB that started 11 games as freshman with 14/10 TD/Int ratio, 6’3”, big things expected in year two

  2. WASHINGTON (Jacob Eason): Transfer from Georgia had 13 starts there in two years, now a junior, 6’6” 227 with huge arm, replaces 4-year starter Jake Browning

  1. WASHINGTON ST (Gage Gubrud): Grad transfer from FCS power Eastern Washington, much heralded at that level, 6’2” 205 modest size for Pac-12

  1. UCLA (Dorian Thompson-Robinson): Had six starts last year as highly touted freshman before shoulder injury, decent numbers but should be better in year two of Chip Kelly offense with nine offensive starters back

  1. COLORADO (Steven Montez): Senior had decent 2018 season, throwing for 2,800 yards and 19 TD’s, 6’5” 230 big kid who has 27 career starts and figures to climb Colorado record books in ‘19

  1. UTAH (Tyler Huntley): Third-year starter has 19 starts on his ledger with modest 27 TD passes, could be pushed for job by Jason Shelley and Cameron Rising

  2. OREGON ST (Jake Luton): One of tallest QB’s in country at 6’7”, has battled injury woes and has only nine starts over last two years, posted 10/4 TD/Int ratio in ‘18

  3. CALIFORNIA (Chase Garbers): Had 10 starts as a freshman, threw for 1500 yards, ran for 400 , 6’2”

  4. QB returns with only three other offensive starters

  1. ARIZONA ST (Dillon-Sterling Cole): Have to replace multi-year starter Manny Wilkins, DSC was highly rated recruit that has one start as frosh, threw two passes in ‘18

SEC

  1. ALABAMA (Tua Tagovailoa): Started all 15 games for ‘Bama last year amassing incredible 43/6 TD/Int ratio and nearly 4,000 yards passing, Heisman frontrunner

  2. GEORGIA (Jake Fromm): If not for Tua, best QB in SEC, has 54-/3 TD/Int ratio in first two seasons, could put up even bigger numbers if more was asked of him

  3. FLORIDA (Feleipe Franks): Highly touted out of high school, struggled freshman year but came on in ‘18, going 24/6 TD/Int ratio, 6’6” 240 dual-threat playmaker

  4. TEXAS A&M (Kellen Mond): Now has 21 starts for Aggies, dual-threat playmaker accounted for 31 TD’s in ‘18, should be in for big 2019 campaign

  1. LSU (Joe Burrow): Started career at Ohio State before transferring prior to ‘18, accounted for 23 TD’s in ‘18 in 13 starts last year including huge bowl effort

  1. SOUTH CAROLINA (Jake Bentley): Entering fourth year as starter, has 32 starts to his record, posted career high numbers last year (3171 yards, 27 TDs), tough competitor

  2. TENNESSEE (Jarrett Guarantano): Junior now has 18 career starts, threw for 12/3 TD/Int ratio percent 1900 yards last year, good size at 6’4” 215 and is surrounded by nine other returning offensive starters

  1. MISSOURI (Kelly Bryant): Transfer from Clemson, started in between Watson percent Lawrence, had modest numbers there by comparison

  1. AUBURN (Joey Gatewood): Played in one game as true frosh last year, highly touted at 6’5” 237, has big arm but listed ahead of 5* recruit Bo Nix right now

  1. ARKANSAS (Ben Hicks): Grad transfer who started 33 games at SMU, originally recruited by and played for Arkansas coach Chad Morris

  1. OLE MISS (Matt Corral): Played four games as true frosh last year then redshirted, completed 73% of his 22 attempts, 6’1” 205 small by SEC standards

  2. KENTUCKY (Terry Wilson): Original Oregon recruit before JUCO, had modest numbers last year for UK (1,800 yards, 11/8 TD/Int ratio) in 13 starts

  3. VANDERBILT (Riley Neal): Neal making big jump in competition coming over from Ball State, had 46 TD’s in three years, has good size at 6’5” 218

  1. MISSISSIPPI ST (Keytaon Thompson): 6’4” 225 junior has seen limited action in first two seasons, threw six TD’s in 18 completions (46%) last year, not locked in as starter yet however

SUN BELT

  1. APPALACHIAN ST (Zac Thomas): Accounted for 31 TD’s last year for Mountaineers, now a junior, has nine other starters back on offense alongside him

  1. LA MONROE (Caleb Evans): Dual-threat QB that had

  1. TD’s throwing 10 TD’s rushing in ‘18, has decent size at 6’2” and had 17/6 TD/Int ratio in ‘17 so has shown ability

  1. GEORGIA ST (Dan Ellington): Senior was leading rusher for GSU last year (625 yards) and threw for 2,100 as well, good size for Sun Belt at 6’3” 205, should be better with experienced unit around him

  2. TROY (Kaleb Barker): Barker started fast last year with 13 total TD’s in six games before tearing ACL, now a senior, has played in 23 games for Troy

  1. GA SOUTHERN (Shai Werts): Threw 10 TD’s versus 0 interceptions in 118 total attempts in ‘18, third-year starter has started 23 games despite smaller stature, 5’11” 200

  2. TEXAS ST UNIV (Gresch Jensen): Shown #1 on depth chart despite two QB’s from ‘18 being back, JUCO kid with size 6’2” 225 and eight other starters back on offense

  3. ARKANSAS ST (Logan Bonner): Has difficult task of replacing Justice Hanson, a big-time performer in last two years for ASU, 6’1” 215 with nine games in mop up duty

  4. COASTAL CAROLINA (Fred Payton): Started four games and threw 6 TD’s a year ago but was efficient with 65% completion percentage as a freshman

  1. LA LAFAYETTE (Levi Lewis): Small at 5’11” 185, started three games as frosh, then played in all 14 last year (no starts)

  2. S ALABAMA (Cephus Johnson): Limited action as freshman, completed but 7 of 19 passes, started one game last year, struggled and was replaced

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