Which QBs had a breakout start to the 2016 season?
With the exception of two games on Thursday night this week, the first full month of the 2016 college football season is in the books. And as expected, plenty of players are having a breakout year at the quarterback position. Whether it’s a freshman like Florida State’s Deondre Francois, Texas’ Shane Buechele or Alabama’s Jalen Hurts or a senior like Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong, the emergence of quarterbacks in a breakout year are going to play a key role in the races to win conference championships or claim a spot in the top four for the playoff rankings.
20 College Football QBs Who Had a Breakout September
Austin Allen, Arkansas
Arkansas’ passing attack was one of the best in the SEC last season and hasn’t missed a beat with Allen under center. The junior leads all SEC quarterbacks in completion percentage (66.9) and delivered big-time performances in the Razorbacks’ toughest tests (TCU and Texas A&M) in 2016.
Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
Minimizing the turnovers was a critical goal for Armstrong in 2016. So far, so good. After tossing 16 picks last fall, Armstrong has only one through four games and has increased his yards per attempt from 7.5 to 8.8. Additionally, Armstrong remains a dangerous threat on the ground for the Cornhuskers (281 yards and four scores).
Jake Browning, Washington
Washington’s schedule will get tougher, but Browning looks like he’s ready to take the next step in his second year under center. Browning has passed for 14 scores, which is nearly as many as he tossed (16) in 2015. The sophomore’s 70.5 completion percentage ranks seventh nationally among FBS quarterbacks.
Shane Buechele, Texas
The combination of new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and the quarterback duo of Tyrone Swoopes and Buechele have provided a spark for Texas’ offense. After averaging 26.4 points a game in 2015, the Longhorns rank second in the Big 12 with an average of 44.7 points per contest after three games. Buechele – a true freshman – has been sharp. He’s completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 720 yards and seven scores.
Eric Dungey, Syracuse
Athlon Sports was high on Dungey’s breakout potential this offseason, and the sophomore has lived up the expectations through four weeks. Dungey leads all ACC quarterbacks with an average of 341.8 passing yards per game and his 179 pass attempts rank third nationally among FBS quarterbacks. New coach Dino Babers has Syracuse trending in the right direction.
Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech
New coach Justin Fuente certainly has an eye for quarterback talent and Evans looks like his next star pupil. In his first season after transferring in from the junior college ranks, Evans has only one interception on 103 pass attempts and ranks fifth among ACC quarterbacks by averaging 293.3 total yards per game.
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Paxton Lynch left big shoes to fill, but Ferguson is off to a fast start under new coach Mike Norvell. Ferguson torched Bowling Green for six touchdown passes and guided the Tigers to a 43-7 victory over Kansas in Week 3.
Deondre Francois, Florida State
Francois (33 of 52 for 419 yards) was instrumental in Florida State’s win over Ole Miss and is only going to get better with each snap under coach Jimbo Fisher. He’s also added 97 yards and one score on 37 rush attempts.
Skyler Howard, West Virginia
West Virginia opens Big 12 play this Saturday, but there are positive signs about Howard’s development after an uneven 2015 campaign. The senior completed 31 of 40 passes for 332 yards against a solid BYU defense in Week 4 and has increased his completion percentage from 54.8 in 2015 to 68.5 so far in 2016.
Jalen Hurts, Alabama
Coach Nick Saban and coordinator Lane Kiffin handed the keys to the Alabama offense to Hurts – a true freshman – after the opener against USC. In addition to his success as a passer, Hurts has rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns. He’s also yet to complete under 60 percent of his passes in each of his three starts.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
A breakout year from Jackson was expected, and the sophomore has a strong case as the nation’s best player through the first month of 2016. Through four games, Jackson has showed marked improvement as a passer and remains a dangerous option on the ground. The sophomore leads all Louisville rushers with 526 yards and 12 scores and ranks second nationally by averaging 464 total yards per game.
Daniel Jones, Duke
Thomas Sirk’s preseason injury was a setback for Duke’s offense, but coach David Cutcliffe has found his next standout under center. The redshirt freshman is off to a strong start through the air (64.3%) and guided the Blue Devils to a road win at Notre Dame in Week 4.
Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
Knight has been the perfect stopgap for Texas A&M’s quarterback situation after the offseason transfers of Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray. Knight – an Oklahoma graduate transfer – ranks second among SEC quarterbacks by completing 11 passes of 30 yards or more and has recorded 308 rushing yards on 38 carries.
Drew Lock, Missouri
Lock has showed marked improvement under the direction of new coordinator Josh Heupel. The sophomore has already passed for more touchdowns in four games (14) than Missouri did in all of 2015 (10). Lock’s 1,508 passing yards are the most by any SEC quarterback after four weeks.
Philip Nelson, East Carolina
Nelson was Minnesota’s starting quarterback from 2012-13 but hasn’t taken a snap at the FBS level over the last two years. Rust hasn’t been a problem for the senior, as his 1,457 passing yards leads all quarterbacks in the American Athletic Conference. Nelson also threw for 297 yards in a 33-30 upset win over NC State.
Wilton Speight, Michigan
Jim Harbaugh is one of the nation’s best quarterback coaches, so it should be no surprise Michigan has already found the right answer under center. After developing Iowa transfer Jake Rudock into a solid option last year, Harbaugh is working his magic with Speight. The sophomore has tossed only one pick on 114 attempts and ranks fourth among Big Ten quarterbacks with seven plays of 30 yards or more.
Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
Trubisky started the year with a tough matchup against Georgia but has been on a tear over North Carolina’s last three matchups. The junior has tossed 10 touchdowns with no interceptions and ranks second nationally by completing 74.5 percent of his passes.
Davis Webb, California
Webb’s decision to transfer to California as a graduate student certainly eased coach Sonny Dykes’ concerns about replacing No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. Webb threw for 5,557 yards in his Texas Tech career and is on pace to easily eclipse the 4,000-yard mark in 2016. The senior is tied for first nationally among FBS quarterbacks with 14 completions of 30 yards or more.
Manny Wilkins, Arizona State
New coordinator Chip Lindsey has eased Wilkins’ transition into the starting lineup and utilized his strengths as a runner. Wilkins is completing 67.2 percent of his throws and ranks third on the team with 263 rushing yards and four scores.
Troy Williams, Utah
Williams has provided a spark for Utah’s passing attack this season. The junior made several clutch throws in the Utes’ win over USC and already has more passes of 40 yards or more (six) than last year’s starter Travis Wilson (five) had in the entire 2015 season.