With fall practice wrapping up, and Week 0/1 preparation beginning for all 130 college football teams, it's time to evaluate how every program looks at quarterback for the 2021 season. The FBS level lost a handful of big-time names from last year, including Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Kyle Trask and Mac Jones. However, the talent level remains high this season, as Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler and North Carolina's Sam Howell are likely first-round picks in next year's draft, and a wave of rising stars like Alabama's Bryce Young and Clemson's D.J. Uiagalelei are ready to emerge.
Ranking the quarterbacks by conference or nationally is no easy task. To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2021. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, having a clear hold on the No. 1 position, previous production/career stats, 2021 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank all 130 quarterbacks in the nation for 2021. This list could look a lot different by kickoff, especially once some of the battles are settled across the FBS level.
College Football Starting QB Rankings for 2021 (Top 130)
130. Jonah Johnson, New Mexico State
Johnson and Weston Eget are battling to take the first snap in Las Cruces this year. Johnson spent two years at Fresno City (Calif.) College before transferring to New Mexico State in 2020. He showed some promise in the Aggies’ two-game spring season, throwing for 358 yards and one touchdown and rushing for 64 yards and two scores.
129. Rhett Rodriguez, ULM
Rodriguez transferred from Arizona to play under his father (Rich Rodriguez) this season. From 2017-20, Rhett played in 10 games with the Wildcats and completed 51 percent of his passes for 578 yards and three scores to four picks. Colby Suits and Jeremy Hunt will push Rodriguez for the starting nod.
128. Matt McDonald, Bowling Green
McDonald – a transfer from Boston College – struggled in his first season with the Falcons, connecting on just 43.9 percent of passes for 712 yards and one touchdown to six picks. A full offseason to work with the starting lineup should help McDonald’s performance in 2021.
127. Tyler Lytle, UMass
The Minutemen have struggled to find steady quarterback play under coach Walt Bell. That could change in 2021, as Lytle – a transfer from Colorado – should upgrade the passing game.
126. Justin Tomlin, Georgia Southern
Tomlin is suspended for the first two games of the season, leaving Cam Ransom, Sam Kenerson or running back Amare Jones to get the nod under center in the interim. Tomlin played in eight games for the Eagles last year, running for 197 yards and a touchdown and connecting on 11 of his 25 throws for 161 yards and three picks.
125. Hayden Wolff, Old Dominion
Wolff, Stone Smartt and UCF transfer D.J. Mack are locked into a tight battle for the starting job under new coach Ricky Rahne.
124. Max Bortenschlager, FIU
FIU was limited to just five games last season, so a normal offseason and the arrival of play-caller Andrew Breiner should bring some needed stability. Bortenschalger – a transfer from Maryland – completed just 45.8 percent of his throws last season. He will be pushed by Kaylan Wiggins and Haden Carlson.
123. Jack Zergiotis, UConn
UConn did not play in 2020, but the practice time was valuable for Zergiotis after showing some promise as a freshman in ’19. The Montreal native threw for 1,782 yards and nine touchdowns but also tossed 11 picks and averaged only 6.9 yards per attempt. He’s battling Steven Krajewski to start this fall.
122. Gunnar Holmberg, Duke
David Cutcliffe knows how to develop quarterbacks, but the veteran coach will have his hands full in 2021. The Blue Devils struggled on offense in ’20, averaging only 24.8 points a game. Clemson transfer Chase Brice started all 11 games for Duke last fall but opted to depart for Appalachian State. Holmberg played in six games as a reserve last season and connected on 18 of 25 throws for 161 yards and two picks. The former three-star prospect played in one game as a freshman in ’18 and missed ’19 due to a knee injury. There’s a steep learning curve ahead for Duke’s quarterback room this year. Luca Diamont or freshman Riley Leonard could push Holmberg if he struggles early in ’21.
121. Jordon Brookshire, San Diego State
Johnson – a transfer from Georgia Tech – showed some promise in a start against Nevada, throwing for 184 yards and a touchdown and accumulating 29 yards and a score on the ground. He entered fall practice as the favorite, but Brookshire was named the starter by coach Brady Hoke in late August. The former JUCO transfer threw for 410 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 101 yards last year. Mississippi State transfer Jalen Mayden is also on the roster.
120. Gunner Cruz, Arizona
New coach Jedd Fisch’s background on offense should provide some optimism that once the quarterback battle is settled, Arizona should be able to show progress on this side of the ball throughout the 2021 season. A three-man battle between Cruz, USF transfer Jordan McCloud and Will Plummer took place this fall, with Cruz and Plummer edging ahead by late August. Cruz transferred to Arizona after spending two years at Washington State. He took a redshirt season in 2019 and played in just one contest last fall, connecting on five attempts for 34 yards and a touchdown against USC. McCloud played in 20 games at USF and accounted for 3,127 total yards but didn’t arrive in Tucson in time to compete in the spring. Plummer played in three games for the Wildcats last season and connected on 53.8 percent of his throws for 388 yards and three interceptions. Both Cruz and Plummer are expected to play in the season opener versus BYU.
119. Xavier Arline, Navy
The Midshipmen played five quarterbacks last year, and a battle is still unfolding this fall. Arline and Tai Lavatai are locked into a tight competition to start, with the winner of this needing to spark an offense that averaged only 17 points and 275 yards per game in 2020.
118. Justin Rogers, UNLV
Rogers was a touted, four-star prospect out of high school, but a serious leg injury prevented him from playing most of his senior year. After playing in just two games at TCU from 2018-19, Rogers transferred to UNLV in search of playing time. He recorded snaps in three games last season, connecting on 14 of 22 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Can second-year coach Marcus Arroyo help Rogers reach his potential? If not, Miami/Ohio State transfer Tate Martell could get a look under center for the Rebels.
117. D’Wan Mathis, Temple
Coach Rod Carey dipped into the transfer portal for help after Anthony Russo left for Michigan State. Mathis – a former four-star prospect – played in four games (with one start) at Georgia and connected on 12 of 30 passes for 89 yards and a score. Can the former Bulldog reach his potential with the Owls?
116. Rocky Lombardi, Northern Illinois
The Huskies went with a youth movement last season but will turn to a veteran under center to improve the team’s chances of winning in the MAC. Lombardi arrives after spending four years at Michigan State, throwing for 1,902 yards and 11 touchdowns to 14 picks in that span. The Iowa native has good mobility but needs to clean up the mistakes (14 picks over 332 attempts) and bolster the completion percentage (48 percent).
115. Brendon Lewis, Colorado
With Sam Noyer transferring to Oregon State, and Tennessee transfer J.T. Shrout out for the year due to injury, Lewis is the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback in Boulder. Lewis was one of the Buffaloes’ top recruits in the 2020 signing class, ranking as the No. 427 overall prospect and No. 17 dual-threat quarterback. Lewis worked behind Noyer for all of 2020 and didn’t play a snap until the Alamo Bowl against Texas. However, he showed promise in the limited stint against the Longhorns, connecting on six of 10 attempts for 95 yards and recording 73 yards and a score on the ground. Lewis is still very raw but has intriguing upside for coach Karl Dorrell.
114. Trey Lowe, Southern Miss
Expect new coach Will Hall to bring a spark to a Southern Miss offense that averaged only 25.3 points a game last season. Lowe – a transfer from West Virginia – threw for 433 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 104 yards and a score last fall. A jump in production and overall play is likely under the new staff, but the development of freshman Ty Keyes is worth monitoring.
113. Kato Nelson, Akron
Nelson missed all of 2020 due to injury, but his return is good news for an Akron offense that mustered only 17.2 points a contest last year. The Florida native has accounted for 5,584 total yards and 36 overall scores during his career with the Zips.
112. Jacob Sirmon, Central Michigan
Sirmon ranked as a top-100 player by 247Sports coming out of high school and transferred from Washington to Central Michigan for playing time after receiving limited snaps in two years with the Huskies.
111. Luke McCaffrey, Rice
McCaffrey or Wiley Green is expected to get the nod under center for coach Mike Bloomgren’s team this fall. McCaffrey – a Nebraska/Louisville transfer – has intriguing athleticism (530 rushing yards with the Cornhuskers) but is developing (1 TD vs. 6 INTs in 2020) as a passer.
110. Cade Fortin, USF
Fortin – a former North Carolina quarterback – edged Miami transfer Jarren Williams to start for the Bulls in coach Jeff Scott’s second season.
109. Todd Centeio, Colorado State
Likely as a result of the unusual 2020 offseason, Centeio never found his rhythm at Colorado State last fall. The Temple transfer played in three games and connected on just 38.9 percent of his passes for 207 yards and a score, while adding 92 yards on the ground. Centeio showed promise in his previous stop, which included a strong sample size in limited action in 2019 (34 of 51 for 444 yards and five scores).
108. Jason Bean, Kansas
The Jayhawks entered fall practice with three candidates vying for the starting job after no quarterback seized the No. 1 spot in 2020. Miles Kendrick and Jalon Daniels saw extensive playing time in Lawrence last year but combined to throw nine interceptions to just seven scores while leading an offense that averaged only 15.8 points a game. Considering the struggles of the offense last season, Bean is likely to get every opportunity to win the starting nod. The North Texas transfer showed promise in 16 games with the Mean Green, including a solid eight-game stint in 2020 (1,131 passing yards and 14 touchdowns and 346 rushing yards and five scores). Tougher competition in the Big 12 and accuracy (54.5 percent in 2020) remain question marks for Bean going into ’21.
107. Austin Kendall, Louisiana Tech
With Luke Anthony on the mend from a serious leg injury suffered last December, coach Skip Holtz brought in Kendall as a safety net and a potential starter. Kendall started his career at Oklahoma and transferred to West Virginia prior to 2019. The North Carolina native played in 11 games with the Mountaineers, throwing for 1,989 yards and 14 touchdowns to 10 picks.
106. Gerry Bohanon, Baylor
Baylor’s offense struggled mightily last season, finishing ninth in the conference in scoring (23.3 ppg) and yards per play (4.4). New coordinator Jeff Grimes brings hope for instant improvement in 2021, but unless a quarterback emerges, the Bears won’t get back on track on this side of the ball. Four candidates – Bohanon, Jacob Zeno, Blake Shapen and true freshman Kyron Drones – are vying for the No. 1 spot this fall. The battle is wide open, but Bohanon was listed as the backup to Charlie Brewer last season and has the most experience of any quarterback on the roster. The Arkansas native is 18 of 38 for 194 yards with two passing scores and added 296 yards and three touchdowns on the ground over 15 career appearances. Bohanon gets the nod here due to his edge in experience, but Zeno could easily take the first snap of '21.
105. Gavin Hardison, UTEP
The strength of UTEP’s offense should be the line and backfield, but Hardison will have opportunities to work his way up this list. The New Mexico native returns one of Conference USA’s top receivers in Jacob Cowing, which should help him improve after throwing for 1,419 yards and five scores over seven appearances last fall.
104. Luke Doty, South Carolina
South Carolina’s offense is expected to be a work in progress under new coach Shane Beamer and coordinator Marcus Satterfield. The one-two punch of Kevin Harris and MarShawn Lloyd at running back and a solid offensive line will have to carry the offense early on, especially with Doty needing time to develop and a lack of playmakers at receiver. The South Carolina native played in eight contests as a true freshman last fall, connecting on 43 of 71 throws for 405 yards and two touchdowns. However, he also averaged only 5.7 yards per attempt and had an average depth of target of 7.6 yards. Doty flashed his mobility by running for 91 yards in his limited playing time, which could be a key asset for Satterfield to deploy as the young (but promising quarterback) gets more comfortable in 2021.
103. Tanner McKee, Stanford
Stanford coach David Shaw enters fall practice hoping for a quick resolution to the team’s quarterback battle between McKee and Jack West. The edge in experience goes to West with five career appearances and two starts, but McKee ranked higher coming out of high school (No. 46) to West (No. 235). McKee originally signed with Stanford in the 2018 class but didn’t arrive until ’20 due to an LDS mission. He played in one contest last fall, connecting on three passes for 62 yards against Oregon. West’s experience and familiarity with the system might give him an early edge in the battle. However, McKee’s talent eventually wins out to become the No. 1 QB on The Farm.
102. Haaziq Daniels, Air Force
Daniels showed potential in Air Force’s six games last season, as the New Jersey native ran for 297 yards and three scores over 55 attempts and also added 433 yards (55.6 percent completion rate) through the air. The 2020 snaps were the first of Daniels’ career at the Academy, providing optimism for more development in ’21.
101. Tyhier Tyler, Army
Army has a handful of quarterbacks with experience on the roster, so the battle to start could go into the season. Tyler gets the nod here since he finished 2020 as the starter and ran for 578 yards and five scores over the last seven contests. If Tyler doesn’t get the start, it could fall to Jabari Laws, Christian Anderson, Jemel Jones or Cade Ballard.
100. Gunnar Watson, Troy
Watson is locked into a tight battle with Missouri transfer Taylor Powell for the starting nod this fall. Last season, Watson missed two games but still threw for 2,141 yards and 16 scores. He also led the Sun Belt in completion percentage (70.1). However, he tied for seventh among conference signal-callers with just five completions of 40-plus yards.
99. Chase Brice, Appalachian State
Brice is now on his third FBS program. He spent 2017-19 at Clemson, which included a clutch performance in ’18 to lead the Tigers to a win over Syracuse. After accounting for nine passing scores from 2018-19 as the backup to Trevor Lawrence, Brice left for an opportunity to start at Duke. Unfortunately for Brice, the ’20 season was a struggle. He averaged only 4.8 yards per attempt, completed 54.8 percent of his passes, and tossed 15 picks over 352 throws. Was last year a result of the limited practice time or will Brice continue to struggle to find his rhythm?
98. Kurtis Rourke, Ohio
Kurtis’ brother (Nathan Rourke) torched the MAC from 2017-19 as the Bobcats’ starting quarterback. Can Kurtis replicate that production in 2021? The limited sample size from ’20 (386 yards and three touchdowns through the air and glimpses of potential on the ground) shows it’s possible.
97. N’Kosi Perry, FAU
The Owls struggled to get consistent play under center last season, averaging just 5.6 yards per pass attempt. Coach Willie Taggart brought in a pair of transfers – Perry and Michael Johnson Jr. – to push Nick Tronti for the starting nod. Perry played in 24 games at Miami from 2018-20 and threw for 2,484 yards and 24 touchdowns. The former four-star prospect should be a good fit for Taggart’s offense.
96. Hunter Johnson, Northwestern
Johnson edged Ryan Hilinski for the starting nod this fall. The Clemson transfer played in six games for the Wildcats in 2019 and completed 46.3 percent of his throws for 432 yards and one touchdown to four picks. Hilinski was placed into a difficult spot as a true freshman at South Carolina, as he was pressed into the No. 1 job after Jake Bentley was lost for the year after the opener. But Hilinski – a former four-star recruit – was poised in his 11-game stint, throwing for 2,357 yards and 11 touchdowns to only five picks. Hilinski had three efforts of 300 or more yards, including 324 versus Alabama. The California native averaged only 5.8 yards per pass attempt, but it’s tough to read too much into the numbers considering the quick transition period and overall struggles of the offense. Will Johnson's second opportunity to start go better than his stint in '19?
95. Tommy DeVito, Syracuse
The 2021 season is an important one for Syracuse coach Dino Babers. For the Orange to get back to a winning record and a bowl, jump-starting an offense that managed only 17.8 points a contest in ’20 is a must. Offensive line woes have limited this group the last two years but experience and better depth s