Ranking every projected starting QB from 130 to 1 for 2017.
Quarterback play is an essential part of every college football team’s hope for a national championship, CFB Playoff bid or simply getting to a bowl game. This position is difficult to project, but new stars emerge with the returning faces to add plenty of intrigue under center. The 2017 season features a handful of returning stars at the top of the list, as Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and USC’s Sam Darnold lead the way. Quarterbacks like Virginia Tech’s Josh Jackson, South Carolina’s Jake Bentley and Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson are just a few names projected to have a breakout season and could easily move up this list by December.
Considering how critical quarterback play is to the success of any program, it’s never too early to preview and rank the quarterback position. First-year starting quarterbacks have experienced success at a high level recently, and this list provides an early look at how some of the new faces blend in with returning stars. With the first wave of games for the 2017 season slated to start on Saturday, Aug. 26, most of the preseason battles have been decided. However, there are still a few teams with an open competition.
With fall practice almost complete (and Week 1 game-planning underway) for all 130 teams, Athlon Sports is taking a look at the quarterback position by ranking every starter for 2017. This list could look a lot different by the end of the season, especially once some of the battles are settled at Power 5 programs and breakout players emerge in every conference. Our rankings are compiled by using many factors including career stats so far, 2016 statistics, pro potential, projection for 2017, value to the team, recruiting background, scheme changes, supporting cast and just overall talent.
College Football's Fall 1-130 Starting QB Rankings for 2017
130. Josh Love, San Jose State
Love worked as the backup to Kenny Potter last season and headlines a group of six quarterbacks on the San Jose State roster for 2017. He completed 31 of 60 passes for 392 yards, two touchdowns and five picks last year. Montel Aaron and Sam Allen were pushing Love for the job in fall practice and could see time early in the season.
129. Willie Jones III, Texas State
Damian Williams was penciled in as the starter prior to the start of fall practice, but the Mississippi State graduate transfer was suspended in August. He returned to practice, but the No. 1 spot is up for grabs. Jones - one of four freshmen in the mix - could grab the top spot on the depth chart for the opener against Houston Baptist. If Williams is the starter, the senior has the potential to rank among the Sun Belt's top quarterbacks.
128. Sam Glaesmann, Rice
Glaesmann edged Jackson Tyner and J.T. Granato for the starting job this offseason, but the redshirt freshman won't have it easy with a matchup against Stanford on tap for the season opener. Glaesmann was a three-star recruit in the 2016 signing class and is an intriguing prospect for coach David Bailiff in a critical year following last year's 3-9 record.
127. A.J. Erdely, UAB
Erdely originally started his career at MTSU and spent a year at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before landing at UAB. Redshirt freshman (and three-star recruit) Tyler Johnston is likely to be Erdely’s backup.
126. Shai Werts, Georgia Southern
The Eagles took a step back on offense last season, and head coach Tyson Summers made changes on this side of the ball, including hiring Bryan Cook – a former Georgia Tech assistant versed in the option attack – as coordinator. With Favian Upshaw and Kevin Ellison departing, Seth Shuman (47.2 percent in 2016) was the favorite to take the first snap exiting spring ball. However, Shuman left the team to concentrate on playing baseball for Georgia Southern. Werts had a strong performance in the spring game and should be a good fit for Cook's offense.
125. David Pindell, UConn
Bryant Shirreffs was penciled in here following spring practice, but Pindell - a junior college recruit from Lackawanna - won the job in fall practice. Pindell threw for 2,424 yards and 31 scores and added 459 yards and eight touchdowns at the junior college level last season.
124. Frank Nutile, Temple
Replacing Phillip Walker – Temple’s all-time passing leader – won’t be an easy task for new head coach Geoff Collins. Logan Marchi completed two of six throws for 29 yards last season and was in a battle with junior Frank Nutile to claim the starting job in fall practice. Redshirt freshman Anthony Russo and true freshman Todd Centeio also got a look in practice, but Nutile or Marchi is the favorite to take the first snap of the year.
123. Tyler Keane, Coastal Carolina
Coastal Carolina will begin its first season at the FBS level with uncertainty at quarterback. Injuries wreaked havoc on the Chanticleers’ quarterback depth chart last year, and six players recorded a pass attempt. Austin Wilson – a graduate transfer from Syracuse – was penciled in as the team’s No. 1 quarterback on the spring depth chart, but Keane worked with the first team in fall practice. In 11 appearances last year, Keane threw for 809 yards and 10 scores and rushed for 145 yards.
122. Jon Wassink, Western Michigan
Zach Terrell leaves big shoes to fill in Kalamazoo this spring. Tom Flacco – the brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco – was the front-runner over Wassink for the starting job exiting the spring. However, Flacco decided to transfer over the summer, leaving Wassink as the unquestioned starter for 2017. The Michigan native did not attempt a pass in his first season of action in 2016.
121. Blake LaRussa, Old Dominion
David Washington’s steady play (31 TD passes) was a big reason why Old Dominion won 10 games and reached the program’s first bowl game last fall. While Washington will be missed, head coach Bobby Wilder is one of Conference USA’s top offensive minds and has some intriguing options. LaRussa worked as Washington’s backup in 2016 and is expected to open spring ball as the No. 1 quarterback. Redshirt freshman Drayton Arnold and junior college recruit Jordan Hoy are also in the mix.
120. Demry Croft, Minnesota
Croft is listed as the starter here, but there’s an ongoing battle in fall practice to claim the top spot on the depth chart. Senior Conor Rhoda isn’t far behind Croft, and coach P.J. Fleck has indicated both players will take snaps in the opener. Rhoda played in three games (with one start) last fall, completing 8 of 16 passes for 88 yards and one score. Croft is the name to watch in fall camp, as the sophomore has the edge in upside and overall talent or fit for Fleck’s offense. He played in seven games in 2015 and took a redshirt year in 2016.
119. Jordan Davis, Louisiana
After working as a backup to Anthony Jennings last year, Davis is poised to take over the full-time job. The Texas native does not have a start in two seasons of action but he has completed 28 of 44 throws for 263 yards and one touchdown in limited work. Dion Ray is expected to see snaps as a change-of-pace option under center.
118. Cole Garvin, South Alabama
A shoulder injury limited Dallas Davis at times during the 2016 season, and he missed all of spring ball as a result of surgery. While Davis was less than full strength for 2016, he showed promise by throwing for 2,706 yards (completed 56.7 percent of passes) and 11 scores in 11 appearances. However, Davis did not win the job in fall practice, as Cole Garvin was named the starter in mid-August. Garvin played in five games last year, throwing for 463 yards and four touchdowns. One concern for 2017: South Alabama loses its top four receivers, including standouts Josh Magee and tight end Gerald Everett.
117. Ryan Graham, Northern Illinois
Injuries hit Northern Illinois’ quarterback depth chart hard last season, as four different signal-callers received snaps. Anthony Maddie and Drew Hare have expired their eligibility, leaving Graham, Daniel Santacaterina and Marcus Childers as the front-runners for the job. Graham passed for 680 yards and eight scores in nine games last year. True freshman Rodney Hall is a name to remember for future seasons.
116. Tyree Jackson, Buffalo
Jackson is an intriguing 6-foot-7 signal-caller for head coach Lance Leipold but had an uneven debut last fall. How far will Jackson progress this offseason?
115. Nick Holley, Kent State
Injuries at the quarterback position forced Kent State to get a little creative last season. Holley – a receiver through the first four games – moved to quarterback in early October. Holley didn’t add a ton of pop to the passing game, but he rushed for 920 yards and 10 scores. Mylik Mitchell was expected to work as the backup, but he's out for the year due to a knee injury. Holley needs to stay healthy in order for Kent State to improve off last season's 3-9 mark.
114. Chason Virgil, Fresno State
New head coach Jeff Tedford inherits a Fresno State offense that averaged only 17.7 points a game in 2016. Virgil had his share of ups and downs in his first full year as the starter last year and was expected to be pushed for snaps by junior college recruit Jorge Reyna in fall practice. However, Tedford reeled in an intriguing late arrival, as Oregon State graduate transfer Marcus McMaryion joined the team in fall practice. McMaryion needs time to get acclimated to the offense.
113. Ross Bowers, California
Finding a quarterback to direct coordinator Beau Baldwin’s high-powered offense is one of the top preseason storylines for new coach Justin Wilcox. Junior Chase Forrest and sophomore Ross Bowers worked as the backup to Davis Webb in 2016 and neither player received much in the way of playing time. Both players ranked as three-star recruits by the 247Sports Composite out of high school. Bowers is the projected starter here, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both players receive extended snaps during the season. True freshman Chase Garbers is the future at this position for Wilcox and Baldwin.
112. Kwadra Griggs, Southern Miss
Nick Mullens leaves big shoes to fill in Hattiesburg this year. Griggs took a redshirt season in 2016, which was his first year on campus after transferring in from Itawamba Community College. The junior appeared to build a lead for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in fall practice. Keon Howard was one of Southern Miss’ top recruits in its 2016 signing class and started two games due to an injury to Mullens last year. Howard threw for 365 yards and one score and added 150 yards and two touchdowns in 2016. He's likely to work as the No. 2 quarterback.
111. Mason Fine, North Texas
Second-year head coach Seth Littrell has North Texas trending in the right direction, but the Mean Green need more from their quarterbacks in order to reach a bowl for the second consecutive year. Fine threw for 1,572 yards and six scores in 10 games as a true freshman in 2016.
110. Shane Morris, Central Michigan
Cooper Rush’s departure leaves a significant void under center at Central Michigan this spring. The Chippewas could lean on Michigan graduate transfer Shane Morris for the starting spot. He ranked as the No. 72 overall recruit in the 2013 signing class and went 43 of 92 for 437 yards and five interceptions in three years with the Wolverines. However, coach John Bonamego indicated Tony Poljan is also expected to see time in the opener. The battle between Morris and Poljan is likely to extend into the season.
109. David Cornwell, Nevada
New head coach Jay Norvell got a huge boost in his first season in Reno with the addition of Cornwell. The Oklahoma native was a four-star recruit out of high school and joins the Wolf Pack as a graduate transfer from Alabama. Cornwell's arrival will help Nevada ease the transition to more of a pass-first offense in 2017.
108. Chayce Crouch, Illinois
With junior college recruit Dwayne Lawson unable to join the team in time for the 2017 season, Crouch is the clear No. 1 quarterback for coach Lovie Smith. Before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in his first career start, Crouch threw for 249 yards on 18 completions and one score over four appearances. Additionally, Crouch showed good mobility by averaging 6.1 yards per carry over 29 attempts. Crouch is inexperienced, but there’s upside for coordinator Garrick McGee to build around, especially with a solid group of receivers to target on the outside.
Related: Big Ten Football 2017 Predictions
107. Tyrrell Pigrome, Maryland
The Terrapins opened fall practice with Henderson, true freshman Kasim Hill and sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome locked into a tight battle for the No. 1 spot. Henderson – a North Carolina transfer – is eligible after sitting out 2016 due to NCAA rules. He made just two appearances in his time with the Tar Heels and attempted only one pass. Henderson ranked as a four-star recruit in the 2014 signing class. Pigrome showcased his mobility (254 yards) as a freshman backup last fall but completed 52.1 percent of his passes. Henderson was sidelined in fall practice due to injury, which likely puts Pigrome in the driver's seat for the No. 1 spot.
106. Darius Wade, Boston College
In each of coach Steve Addazio’s four years in Chestnut Hill, four different players have led the team in passing yardage. Patrick Towles was the team’s No. 1 quarterback last fall and expired his eligibility following the Quick Lane Bowl victory over Maryland. The battle to replace Towles and bring some stability to the position continued into fall practices with Wade and redshirt freshman Anthony Brown locked into a tight competition. Wade started three games in 2015 but suffered a season-ending injury in a 14-0 loss to Florida State on Sept. 18. Can Wade’s previous experience propel him to the starting spot? Or will Brown win the job this fall?
105. Hayden Moore, Cincinnati
Hayden Moore and Ross Trail are back after combining for 12 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions last year. The Bearcats attempted to bring in Ohio State transfer Torrance Gibson, but he decided to play 2017 at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Moore is the frontrunner to take the first snap of the year for new coach Luke Fickell.
104. Gardner Minshew, East Carolina
Minshew was a post-spring addition for head coach Scottie Montgomery last season and spent 2016 as the backup to Philip Nelson. The Mississippi native filled in as the starter for the final two games after Nelson was sidelined due to injury. Minshew showed promise in his limited stint under center, finishing 2016 with 1,347 passing yards and eight scores. Additionally, Minshew held off Duke graduate transfer Thomas Sirk in fall practice to solidify his place at the top of the depth chart. Sirk is likely to be used in specialty packages to utilize his rushing ability. One concern for Minshew: East Carolina has to replace standout receiver Zay Jones.
103. Ryan Metz, UTEP
Metz gained the starting job over Zack Greenlee in early October and finished with a solid 2016 season. Metz threw for 1,375 yards and 14 scores, while completing 64.7 percent of his passes. The junior never topped more than 215 yards in a game in 2016.
102. De’Andre Johnson, FAU
Potential. That’s the best word to describe Johnson in FAU’s offense under the watchful eye of new head coach Lane Kiffin. The former Florida State signal-caller lands in Boca Raton after transferring in from East Mississippi Community College. However, FAU's starting quarterback spot may not be decided by the opener or could extend into the season. Daniel Parr and Jason Driskel were pushing for the starting job over Johnson in fall practice.
101. Jake Luton, Oregon State
Luton started his collegiate career at Idaho and spent two seasons with the Vandals before transferring to Ventura Community College for the 2016 campaign. The Washington native threw for 3,551 yards and 40 touchdowns in only season at the junior college level. He was named Oregon State's starter on Aug. 1 after competing with Marcus McMaryion and Darell Garretson for the starting job.
100. Kyle Bolin, Rutgers
New coordinator Jerry Kill is looking for ways to spark an offense that averaged only 15.7 points per game and was shut out four times in 2016. Giovanni Rescigno led the Scarlet Knights with 889 passing yards and tied for the team lead with five touchdown tosses. Needless to say, the offense has to get more production and consistency out of its quarterbacks in 2017. Rescigno opened fall camp with a lead over true freshman Jonathan Lewis and graduate transfer Kyle Bolin for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. However, Bolin earned the job in mid-August. In three seasons at Louisville, Bolin threw for 2,104 yards and 13 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
99. Luke Skipper, Tulsa
Replacing Dane Evans won't be easy for Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery in 2017. Skipper - a redshirt freshman - and Chad President went into fall practice locked into a tight battle for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Both players could see time in the opener against Oklahoma State. However, the winner of this job inherits a strong supporting cast, including the best offensive line in the AAC, as well as standout running back D'Angelo Brewer.
98. Armani Rogers, UNLV
Tony Sanchez’s rebuilding effort in Las Vegas is on track entering his third season. And with Rogers ready to take over under center, UNLV could push for a bowl trip in 2017. The redshirt freshman ranked as the No. 2 Mountain West recruit by the 247Sports Composite in 2016 and is a physically impressive prospect at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. In addition to a strong arm, Rogers will be a playmaker for coordinator Barney Cotton on the ground. High expectations surround Rogers, but the freshman from Los Angeles seems to be up to the task in his first year as the starter.
97. Jonathan Banks, Tulane
Banks is back at the FBS level after spending the 2016 season at Independence (Kan.) Community College. The Texas native spent the 2015 campaign at Kansas State and his dual-threat ability is a good fit for head coach Willie Fritz’s offense. Banks is a breakout candidate at quarterback to watch in 2017.
96. Hasaan Klugh, Charlotte
Charlotte’s offense showed signs of life with Klugh at the controls last season. In his first opportunity for snaps with the 49ers, Klugh threw for 1,356 yards and 10 scores and added 426 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. The junior needs to improve a completion percentage that dipped to 53.6 after connecting on less than 45 percent of his passes in each of the last three games.
95. Conner Manning, Georgia State
Georgia State struggled to establish a consistent ground attack last year, so the offense relied heavily on Manning and the passing game. The Utah transfer held his own, throwing for 2,684 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Panthers have a new coaching staff, with former FAU play-caller Travis Trickett taking over the coordinator duties on offense. In addition to the new offense, Manning will have one his top targets back from injury, as Penny Hart returns after missing nearly all of 2016 due to injury.
94. Tyler Rogers, New Mexico State
Since Rogers was limited to just four games due to injury in 2015, he was granted an additional year of eligibility for ‘17. The senior has passed for 6,356 yards during his career with the Aggies but has also tossed 38 interceptions over the last three years.
93. Nathan Stanley, Iowa
New play-caller Brian Ferentz is tasked with finding ways to jumpstart a passing attack that managed only 13 plays of 30 or more yards last fall. Injuries and other personnel concerns at receiver hindered the performance of former quarterback C.J. Beathard. The same concerns remain at receiver this fall, with Stanley and junior Tyler Wiegers in competition to replace Beathard. Stanley was the No. 2 quarterback as a true freshman in 2016 and completed 5 of 9 passes for 62 yards.
92. Peyton Bender, Kansas
The Jayhawks averaged only 20.3 points per game last season, but coach David Beaty has a few reasons to be optimistic in 2017. The arrival of coordinator Doug Meacham should provide a needed spark and direction for the offense, the overall talent level on this side of the ball has improved, and Bender is a potential upgrade at quarterback. The former Washington State signal-caller spent 2016 at Itawamba Community College and threw for 2,733 yards and 21 scores last fall. He’s the frontrunner to start over sophomore Carter Stanley and redshirt freshman Tyriek Starks.
Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2017
91. Garrett Smith, ULM
After a promising freshman season, Smith had his 2016 campaign derailed by injury. In six games last year, Smith threw for 1,237 yards and nine scores and rushed for 308 yards and three touchdowns. He could rebound as ULM’s starter in 2017, but sophomore Caleb Evans is making a push for the job in fall practice.
90. McKenzie Milton, UCF
The Knights made considerable progress in head coach Scott Frost’s first season, but the offense still has room to grow after averaging 28.8 points per game. Finding consistency out of the quarterback spot is essential for the offense this spring, and there’s promise for Milton after 10 appearances as a freshman in 2016. Milton threw for 1,983 yards and 10 scores last year and rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
89. Ahmad Bradshaw, Army
In Bradshaw’s first full season as the starter, the Black Knights improved their scoring average to 29.9 points per game – up from 22.1 in 2015. He ranked second on the team with 826 rushing yards and nine scores, while connecting on 40 of 91 passes for 703 yards and four scores.
88. Quinton Maxwell, Ohio
Maxwell shared the starting job last season but is slated to take over the No. 1 job with Greg Windham out of eligibility. Maxwell showed promise in 10 appearances, throwing for 1,247 yards and eight scores and rushing for 193 yards and a touchdown on 69 attempts.
87. James Morgan, Bowling Green
Morgan was the top recruit in Bowling Green’s 2015 signing class (under former head coach Dino Babers) and took a redshirt year in his first season campus. The Wisconsin native replaced James Knapke in the fifth game of 2016 and threw for 2,082 yards and 16 scores.
86. Riley Neal, Ball State
Neal’s overall yardage (2,541) and completion percentage (61.4) increased from 2015 in his first full year as Ball State’s starter. However, Neal’s interceptions rose from six (2015) to 12 in 2016. Can second-year head coach Mike Neu help Neal take the next step this offseason?
85. Andrew Ford, UMass
Ford – a former Virginia Tech quarterback – took over as the starter for head coach Mark Whipple in the third game of the season and threw for 2,665 yards and 26 scores. Ford tossed at least three touchdown passes in five out of his final six games. Ross Comis is back after suffering a season-ending injury in 2016 and is expected to share a portion of the snaps at quarterback with Ford early in the year.
84. Kurt Benkert, Virginia
With a full offseason to work under coordinator Robert Anae, Benkert should be more comfortable in his second year as Virginia’s No. 1 quarterback. After transferring to Charlottesville from East Carolina, Benkert threw for 2,552 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2016. The senior did not eclipse 200 passing yards in four out of his final five appearances.
83. Brian Lewerke, Michigan State
The Spartans aren’t without concerns on defense for 2017, but the offense has to take a significant step forward in order to return to a winning record and bowl game after a 3-9 finish last year. Lewerke received two starts in 2016 and showed promise before a season-ending leg injury. In four appearances (with two starts), Lewerke completed 31 of 57 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 149 yards on 21 carries. Lewerke’s development is crucial to Michigan State’s hopes of a rebound in 2017.
82. Nick Starkel, Texas A&M
It’s hard to get a good read on Texas A&M’s quarterback situation for the Week 1 showdown at UCLA. Starkel gets the nod as the projected starter here, but senior Jake Hubenak and true freshman Kellen Mond are essentially tied for No. 1. Mond ranked as the No. 106 recruit by the 247Sports Composite in the 2017 signing class and enrolled in time to compete in spring workouts. At IMG Academy as a senior in 2016, Mond threw for 1,936 yards and 20 touchdowns and added 775 yards and 18 scores on the ground. Starkel was a three-star recruit in the 2016 signing class and used a redshirt in his first year on campus. Hubenak started the Music City Bowl against Louisville in 2015 and two games (Ole Miss and UTSA) last season. Considering how tight this battle is, all three quarterbacks could see time this fall.
81. Stephen Johnson, Kentucky
Drew Barker opened 2016 as Kentucky’s No. 1 quarterback but was lost for the season due to a back injury suffered in September. Barker’s injury opened the door for Johnson – a junior college prospect in 2016 – to take over as the top quarterback. Johnson was steady in his time under center for coach Mark Stoops, throwing for 2,037 yards and 13 touchdowns and adding 327 yards and three scores on the ground. In order for Kentucky to challenge for a spot among the top three in the SEC East, Johnson has to be better in league play after tossing four scores and completing just 50.9 percent of his passes in conference action.
80. Kendall Hinton, Wake Forest
Hinton was poised to take over the starting job for the Demon Deacons last year but a knee injury ended his 2016 campaign in September. In three appearances last season, Hinton completed 11 of 19 passes for 174 yards and rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries. The North Carolina native has three career starts and brings more of a dual-threat or-big play element to the offense than John Wolford. Can Hinton stay healthy and put together a breakout season for coach Dave Clawson?
79. Justice Hansen, Arkansas State
Arkansas State’s offense got off to a slow start in 2016 but rallied over the second half of the season once Hansen became entrenched as the starting quarterback. In his first year with the Red Wolves, Hansen threw for 2,719 yards and 19 scores and also chipped in 131 yards on the ground. Look for Hansen to have a better grasp of the offense in his second year on campus.
78. Malik Zaire, Florida
The Gators ended spring practice with redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks atop the depth chart but entered fall practice with three candidates vying for the first snap. Malik Zaire arrived from Notre Dame as a graduate transfer and competed with Franks and Luke Del Rio deep into fall practice. Zaire played sparingly as a reserve behind Everett Golson but earned one start in the Music City Bowl during the 2014 campaign. Zaire was slated to start in 2015 but suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 2. The emergence of DeShone Kizer pushed Zaire into a backup role in South Bend last fall. Zaire has attempted only 98 passes in his career but has showed good mobility on the ground (324 yards). Even if Zaire does not win the starting job, he should see snaps as a change-of-pace option for coach Jim McElwain. Franks or Del Rio could take the first snap against Michigan, but all three quarterbacks are likely to play.
77. Alex McGough, FIU
Injuries cut short McGough’s 2016 season, but the Tampa native is expected to return at full strength for 2017. This will be McGough’s fourth consecutive season as FIU’s starter, and he will look to post a season similar to his 2015 totals: 21 TDs, 2,722 yards and 64 percent completion percentage.
76. Lamar Jordan, New Mexico
As evidenced by Jordan’s 681 passing yards last year, New Mexico isn’t going to throw the ball much under offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse. However, the run-first/Pistol option scheme is a good fit for the Lobos. Jordan ranked third on the team with 739 rushing yards and also added three scores in 2016.
75. Dalton Sturm, UTSA
The Roadrunners will miss top running back Jarveon Williams, but the offense should be able to lean a little more on the pass with the return of Sturm and the team’s top four statistical receivers from 2016. The former walk-on threw for 2,170 yards and 20 touchdowns and added 313 yards and four scores on the ground last fall.
74. Thomas Woodson, Akron
The quarterback situation for coach Terry Bowden was up in the air exiting spring practice. Woodson started 18 games over the last two seasons but was out until June due to offseason surgery. Junior college recruit (and former Virginia signal-caller) Nick Johns is the No. 2 option for Bowden. However, all signs point to Woodson returning at full strength by the opener.
73. Richard Lagow, Indiana
Kevin Wilson is no longer in Bloomington, but the Hoosiers won’t make drastic changes on offense. Veteran coordinator Mike DeBord takes over the play-calling duties for new head coach Tom Allen and inherits an offense with five returning starters, including one of the Big Ten’s best receiving corps. DeBord’s is tasked with getting Lagow to play with more week-to-week consistency. In his first year as the starter last fall, Lagow ranked second among Big Ten quarterbacks by throwing for 3,362 yards but also tossed 17 interceptions. He also ranked second in the conference by completing 24 passes of 30 or more yards.
72. Chase Litton, Marshall
Litton’s 2016 totals were slightly better than his ‘15 production, but the junior still has room to improve entering ‘17. Litton did not play in two contests last year but ended 2016 with 2,612 yards and 24 scores. If Litton takes the next step in his development this offseason, Marshall should be able to rebound after last year’s surprising 3-9 record.
71. Matthew Jordan, Georgia Tech
Jordan is expected to take over the starting job for coach Paul Johnson after working as a backup to Justin Thomas last season. The Alabama native made one start in 2016, rushing for 121 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-20 victory at Virginia Tech. Over the last two years, Jordan has played in 14 games and completed 8 of 18 throws for 205 yards and rushed for 404 yards and eight touchdowns. Junior TaQuon Marshall is expected to claim the No. 2 job, with freshmen Jay Jones and Lucas Johnson rounding out the quarterback depth chart in Atlanta.
70. Malik Rosier, Miami
The Hurricanes opened fall practice with N'Kosi Perry, Malik Rosier, Evan Shirreffs and Cade Weldon competing for the starting job. Rosier entered with the edge in experience with 13 career appearances and one previous start (2015). Over his two seasons of snaps, Rosier has completed 31 of 61 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 63 yards. While Perry is arguably the team's most talented signal-caller, Rosier was named the starter in mid-August.
69. Brandon Harris, North Carolina
With Mitch Trubisky taking snaps with the Chicago Bears, coach Larry Fedora looked to the graduate transfer ranks for immediate help. Harris arrives in Chapel Hill after spending three years with the Tar Heels. Over 25 games (with 15 starts), Harris threw for 2,756 yards and 20 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. The Louisiana native also added 370 yards and seven scores on the ground. Harris was one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2014 signing class but never quite reached his potential in Baton Rouge. Can Fedora get the most out his talent in 2017?
68. Zach Abey, Navy
Abey was forced into the starting job late last year after Will Worth suffered a season-ending injury against Temple in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. Abey rushed for 114 yards and two scores against Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl and should thrive as the starter with a full offseason to work with the No. 1 offense.
67. Ben Hicks, SMU
Hicks is penciled in here as the starter, but SMU has assembled a trio of talented quarterbacks. In addition to Hicks, junior college recruit (and former Wisconsin signal-caller) D.J. Gillins and Arkansas transfer Rafe Peavey will push for the starting job. Hicks should have the edge to start after throwing for 2,930 yards and 19 touchdowns after replacing Matt Davis due to injury in 2016.
66. Danny Etling, LSU
The top priority for new coordinator Matt Canada is pretty simple: Improve the passing attack. While total yardage aren’t the best way to judge the effectiveness of passing offenses, it’s notable the Tigers have only finished higher than ninth once in the SEC in passing yards per game since 2009. After sitting out 2015 due to transfer rules, Etling took over the starting job from Brandon Harris for the final 10 games of 2016. He passed for 2,123 yards and 11 scores and connected on eight passes of 40 or more yards. True freshman Myles Brennan impressed in fall practice.
65. Joshua Jackson, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente is one of the nation’s best coaches when it comes to finding and developing starting quarterbacks. While Fuente was at TCU, he was instrumental in the development of Andy Dalton and Casey Pachall and transformed Paxton Lynch into a first-round pick at Memphis. Fuente’s magic continued last season in his debut at Virginia Tech, as Jerod Evans averaged 314.1 total yards per game in his first year from the junior college ranks. With Evans departing Blacksburg for the NFL, Fuente had a three-man battle to replace Evans this offseason. True freshman Hendon Hooker and junior college recruit A.J. Bush were in the mix early in the fall, but redshirt freshman Josh Jackson earned the starting nod. Jackson had an edge over the other two quarterbacks since he spent 2016 as a redshirt learning the offense. The Michigan native is a dual-threat option and ranked as a three-star recruit in the 2016 signing class. Even though Jackson is inexperienced, Fuente’s track record suggests the redshirt freshman will have a productive (and breakout) 2017 season.
Related: ACC Football Predictions for 2017
64. J’Mar Smith, Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech’s high-powered offense loses standout receivers Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson, but the offense should remain one of the best in Conference USA this year. Smith is a big reason why the Bulldogs should be set on offense once again, as the sophomore is a rising star to watch. In eight appearances (with one start) in 2016, Smith threw for 412 yards and two touchdowns and added 62 yards and two scores on the ground.
63. Tyler Huntley, Utah
Utah opened fall practice with Troy Williams as the No. 1 quarterback, but Huntley had a strong showing this offseason and was named the team's starter in August. New coordinator Troy Taylor, along with Oregon transfer Darren Carrington at receiver, provide optimism for the Utes' passing attack in 2017. Huntley completed five of seven passes for 60 yards and scored once on the ground as a freshman last fall. He's an intriguing quarterback to watch in 2017.
62. Quinten Dormady, Tennessee
Dormady gets the nod here, but redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano is likely to see plenty of action for the Volunteers in 2017. Dormady has spent the last two years as a backup to Joshua Dobbs and completed 24 of 39 passes for 357 yards and one score in limited work. The Texas native ranked as the No. 262 recruit and a four-star prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite. Both Dormady and Guarantano have upside and could finish a couple of spots higher on this list by December.
61. Tanner Lee, Nebraska
Intrigue surrounds Nebraska’s offense for 2017. In addition to the need to establish the ground game and fill out the receiving targets, Lee takes over as the starting quarterback after Tommy Armstrong expired his eligibility. The Louisiana native is a better fit than Armstrong for coach Mike Riley’s offense and is eligible after sitting out 2016 due to transfer rules. Lee previously started at Tulane, throwing for 3,601 yards and 23 touchdowns from 2014-15. The junior is surrounded by a better supporting cast than his tenure with the Green Wave and had a strong spring to stake his claim for the top spot on the depth chart.
60. Jacob Park, Iowa State
Park is projected as one of Athlon’s top breakout quarterbacks for 2017. In his first year with the Cyclones, Park provided a spark for the offense late in the season. After close losses to Kansas State and Oklahoma, Iowa State won two out of its last three games. Park threw for 1,791 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall and finished 2016 by throwing for a career high of 371 yards in a loss against West Virginia.
59. Christian Chapman, San Diego State
Chapman turned in a solid campaign in his first full season as San Diego State’s starter. Over 14 games, Chapman threw for 1,994 yards and 20 touchdowns. The ground game remains the focal point of the Aztecs’ offense. However, Chapman’s development should add opportunities to add more balance for head coach Rocky Long’s attack.
58. Kent Myers, Utah State
A breakout year was expected for Myers in his first full year as Utah State’s No. 1 quarterback. However, the Aggies struggled to find balance after an injury to running back Devante Mays early in the year, and Myers was limited to 199.1 passing yards per game. New offensive coordinator David Yost should help Myers take a step forward in 2017.
57. Brandon Dawkins, Arizona
With Anu Solomon transferring to Baylor, Dawkins is the favorite to start for coach Rich Rodriguez. The California native played in six games as a reserve in 2015 but started nine games last fall and ran for 944 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dawkins is still a work in progress as a passer after completing 98 of 182 throws for 1,348 yards and eight scores in 2016. He was pushed by sophomore Khalil Tate and former MLB prospect Donavan Tate for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart this fall.
56. Manny Wilkins, Arizona State
Arizona State’s quarterback depth chart was riddled with injuries last year, as three different signal-callers took significant snaps. With Brady White still recovering from a late-season injury, and Dillon Sterling-Cole likely to redshirt, Arizona State’s quarterback battle is a two-man race between Manny Wilkins and Barnett. Wilkins threw for 2,329 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 246 yards and five scores in 10 games. Barnett started the first game of the year at Alabama in 2016 but transferred after four games. Former Alabama assistant Billy Napier takes over as Arizona State’s play-caller for 2017, which could give Barnett the inside track to the starting job. However, Wilkins opened fall practice as the starter and seemed to hold onto the job deep into workouts for Week 1.
55. Nic Shimonek, Texas Tech
Patrick Mahomes will be missed, but Shimonek will keep Texas Tech’s offense performing at a high level. While Shimonek doesn’t have Mahomes’ mobility, he’s a classic gunslinger with one of the Big 12’s top receiving corps at his disposal. Shimonek threw for 464 yards and six scores in limited snaps last year.
54. Arion Worthman, Air Force
It’s a small sample size, but Worthman’s stint as Air Force’s starter at the end of 2016 was impressive. He rushed for 674 yards and six scores over the final six games and added 546 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Worthman is a candidate for a breakout year in 2017.
53. Dru Brown, Hawaii
It didn’t take long for head coach Nick Rolovich to find the right answer at quarterback for the Rainbow Warriors. Brown earned the starting job after a 1-3 start by Hawaii and finished 2016 by tossing nine touchdowns over his final two games. He also ranked fifth among Mountain West quarterbacks by averaging 214.9 total yards per game.
52. Max Browne, Pitt
Will the Panthers have success with a transfer quarterback for the second year in a row? Under the watch of former coordinator Matt Canada, Nathan Peterman closed out his Pitt career by throwing for 27 touchdowns and 2,855 yards last season. Browne transferred to the Steel City as a graduate transfer after the emergence of Sam Darnold at USC in 2016. The former five-star prospect completed 69 passes for 650 yards and two touchdowns during his career with the Trojans. New coordinator Shawn Watson is tasked with helping Browne reach his potential in his final year in college.
51. Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin
Coach Paul Chryst isn’t going to change Wisconsin’s formula for success. The Badgers are going to pound away with the ground attack and lean on one of the Big Ten’s top defenses to return to Indianapolis for the conference title in December. However, Chryst could open up the pass a little more with Hornibrook entrenched as the starter. The Pennsylvania native started nine games as a redshirt freshman last year, throwing for 1,262 yards and nine touchdowns. The lefty is primed to take a step forward in his first full season as Wisconsin’s No. 1 quarterback.
50. Zach Smith, Baylor
Arizona graduate transfer Anu Solomon and true freshman Charlie Brewer are pushing for snaps, but the guess here is Smith holds onto the starting job. After Seth Russell was lost for the year due to injury, Smith filled in as Baylor’s top quarterback for the final four games, including a 31-12 victory over Boise State in the Cactus Bowl. He finished 2016 with 1,526 yards and 13 touchdowns.
49. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
Shurmur took a step forward in his development over the final month of the regular season, helping Vanderbilt win four out of its last six games and earn a trip to the Independence Bowl. Shurmur torched Tennessee for 416 yards and also tossed two touchdowns and 273 yards in a 38-17 victory over Ole Miss. While Shurmur’s final stat line was only 2,409 yards and nine touchdowns to 10 picks, the junior is clearly trending in the right direction entering 2017.
48. Keller Chryst, Stanford
Chryst finished 2016 a perfect 6-0 as Stanford’s No. 1 quarterback. However, a knee injury suffered in the Sun Bowl against North Carolina prevented him from participating in spring workouts. Chryst is slated to start the opener against Rice, which is critical with a huge test in Week 2 against USC looming large for the Cardinal. Ryan Burns or redshirt freshman K.J. Costello will handle the No. 2 job. In 12 appearances last fall, Chryst threw for 905 yards and 10 touchdowns and tossed only two interceptions on 136 attempts. He also rushed for 159 yards and two scores.
47. Brogan Roback, Eastern Michigan
Roback was one of the driving forces behind Eastern Michigan’s first bowl game since 1987 last fall. He did not play through the first three games but finished the year with 2,694 yards and 18 scores, including six performances of 300 or more yards.
46. David Blough, Purdue
New coach Jeff Brohm engineered some of the nation’s top offenses during his three-year stint at WKU. The Hilltoppers averaged over 40 points a game in all three seasons, while the starting quarterback for those teams posted at least 37 touchdown tosses every year. Brohm’s first offense at Purdue probably won’t equal those totals, but it’s safe to assume there will be improvement. Blough should benefit the most from Brohm’s arrival, as the junior returns under center after throwing for 3,352 yards and 25 scores last fall. Cutting down on the interceptions (21) and raising the completion percentage (57.1) are two priorities for Blough in 2017.
45. Gus Ragland, Miami (Ohio)
An offseason knee injury prevented Ragland from playing in the first half of 2016, but his return was a big reason why Miami finished the season by winning six out of its final seven games. Ragland showed efficiency (64.2) and a willingness to take care of the ball (one interception, while throwing for 1,537 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also added 202 yards and two scores on the ground.
44. Kenny Hill, TCU
The Horned Frogs need more week-to-week consistency from Hill to return to the top 25 in 2017. In his first year of snaps at TCU, Hill threw for 3,208 yards and 17 touchdowns and ranked second on the team with 609 yards and 10 rushing scores. However, Hill tossed 13 picks and averaged only 7.3 yards per attempt.
43. Kelly Bryant, Clemson
Deshaun Watson is going to be missed, but Clemson had three talented quarterbacks vying for the starting job this offseason. Bryant had the inside track over Zerrick Copper and true freshman Hunter Johnson for the No. 1 spot after spending 2016 as the backup to Watson. And the junior was named the team's starter in August. The South Carolina native has appeared in 12 games, completing 13 of 22 passes for 75 yards and adding 178 yards on the ground. Johnson holds the edge in overall talent, but Cooper will also see snaps in 2017.
42. Ryan Finley, NC State
Finley claimed the starting job in Raleigh after arriving from Boise State as a graduate transfer prior to fall practice. Under the direction of former Boise State assistant (and first-year NC State play-caller) Eliah Drinkwitz, Finley threw for 3,055 yards and 18 touchdowns and completed 60.4 percent of his throws last year. With a solid group of receivers and one of the ACC’s best offensive lines at his disposal, Finley could push for all-conference honors by December.
41. Daniel Jones, Duke
David Cutcliffe is no stranger to developing standouts at quarterback. And after one season as Duke’s No. 1 quarterback, Jones appears to be the next star pupil for Cutcliffe. The Charlotte native wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school and considered Princeton before choosing to head to Durham. After a redshirt year in 2015 and an injury to starter Thomas Sirk, Jones assumed the top spot on the depth chart. As expected, Jones had his share of ups and downs last fall but still finished with 2,836 yards and 16 touchdown passes. Jones tossed three touchdowns in a road win over Notre Dame and threw for 240 yards in an upset over rival North Carolina. Jones also possesses good mobility, as he recorded 486 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Look for Jones to be even better in his second year as the starter.
40. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State
Despite an increase in pass attempts to 325 (up from 283 in 2015), Lamb’s passing yards and touchdowns decreased from the previous year. The drop in production is largely due to the turnover at receiver, along with reliance on a standout ground game. Lamb has quietly been very efficient, completing at least 60 percent of his passes in all three years on campus.
39. Steven Montez, Colorado
Montez is one of Athlon’s top breakout candidates at quarterback for 2017. He impressed in his first opportunity for playing time as a redshirt freshman last year, which included 10 appearances and three starts for an injured Sefo Liufau. Montez threw for 1,078 yards and nine scores and added 231 yards and one touchdown on the ground. He’s surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including the Pac-12’s top receiving corps.
38. Nick Stevens, Colorado State
After throwing for 2,679 yards and 21 scores in 2015, Stevens was projected to rank among the Mountain West’s best quarterbacks for ‘16. The senior took an interesting path to that rank, as he was benched after a slow start in favor of Collin Hill but later regained the job due to injury. Stevens finished the season on a tear by throwing 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions over the final seven contests.
37. Matt Linehan, Idaho
Linehan was a big reason why the Vandals improved their win total by five games from 2015 to ‘16. And he’s also one of the reasons to believe Idaho can return to the postseason in its final year at the FBS level. En route to earning second-team All-Sun Belt honors last season, Linehan threw for 3,184 yards and 19 touchdowns.
36. Eric Dungey, Syracuse
Injuries have derailed Dungey’s 2015 and 2016 campaigns, but if he can stay healthy in 2017, the junior should contend for All-ACC honors in coach Dino Babers’ high-powered offense. In nine games last fall, Dungey completed 64.8 percent of his throws for 2,679 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also added 293 yards and six scores on the ground. In 17 career appearances at Syracuse, Dungey has passed for 3,977 yards and 26 touchdowns.
35. Drew Lock, Missouri
In his first full year as Missouri’s No. 1 quarterback, Lock was one of the bright spots for a team that finished 4-8. The Missouri native finished second in the SEC by averaging 283.3 passing yards per game and tossed 23 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. Lock’s development was a big reason why the Tigers averaged 31.4 points per game last fall. While the final numbers were impressive, Missouri needs better play out of Lock in SEC games. In league play, Lock’s totals slipped to 10 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and posted a 53.3 completion percentage.
34. Wilton Speight, Michigan
Even though Speight started 12 games and earned third-team All-Big Ten honors last fall, he’s not entrenched as Michigan’s No. 1 quarterback. Coach Jim Harbaugh is promoting an open competition this fall, with John O’Korn and redshirt freshman Brandon Peters vying for the top spot. Speight threw for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns last fall and is still the favorite to take the first snap for the Wolverines in 2017. However, the development of Peters – a former four-star recruit – is worth watching this fall.
33. Shane Buechele, Texas
After a promising freshman season, Buechele heads into 2017 locked into a battle for the starting job with true freshman Sam Ehlinger. Even though new coach Tom Herman has promised a competition, Buechele should emerge as the starter. And after throwing for 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns last fall, Buechele should benefit from the arrival of Herman and develop into one of the Big 12’s top quarterbacks this fall.
32. Kyle Allen, Houston
After sitting out 2016 due to transfer rules, Allen is poised to take over the starting job in Houston. Greg Ward expired his eligibility after the 2016 campaign, but Allen’s arrival should limit the drop-off for the Cougar attack. In two years at Texas A&M, Allen threw for 3,532 yards and 33 touchdowns. He was a five-star recruit in the 2014 signing class.
31. Tanner Mangum, BYU
After starting 12 games after an injury to Taysom Hill in 2015, Mangum returned to the backup role last fall. However, Hill was injured in the regular season finale, forcing Mangum back into the lineup against Wyoming in the Poinsettia Bowl. In 18 career appearances, Mangum has passed for 3,618 yards and 26 scores.
30. Brandon Wimbush, Notre Dame
Wimbush is a breakout candidate in his first year as Notre Dame’s starter. The New Jersey native was one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2015 signing class and played in two games that season before taking a redshirt year in ‘16.
29. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
Thorson took a step forward in his second year as Northwestern’s starting quarterback last fall. After throwing for 1,522 yards and seven touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2015, Thorson threw for 3,182 yards and 22 scores last season and added five rushing scores. Thorson’s completion percentage also jumped from 50.8 to 58.6. Top target Austin Carr must be replaced, but Thorson is poised for his best all-around season as the No. 1 quarterback for coach Pat Fitzgerald.
28. Brandon Silvers, Troy
Silvers has been a three-year starter for Troy and is primed for a monster 2017 season. The Trojans are overflowing with options at receiver, and Silvers earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors after throwing for 3,180 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2016. He should be able to take those totals even higher this year.
27. Jacob Eason, Georgia
Eason’s development is crucial to Georgia’s hopes of winning the SEC East in 2017. The five-star prospect started 12 games for the Bulldogs as a true freshman last fall and finished the year by throwing for 2,430 yards and 16 scores. Eason needs to improve his accuracy (55.1 percent) and do a better job of taking care of the ball (eight picks last year), but the talent is there to take a step forward in 2017.
26. Will Grier, West Virginia
The Mountaineers received good news this offseason when Grier was ruled eligible for the entire 2017 season. The junior should give the West Virginia offense more big-play ability in the passing game after sitting out 2016 due to NCAA transfer rules. Grier played in six games at Florida in 2015 and guided the Gators to a 6-0 mark, including wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee. Over those six contests, Grier threw for 1,204 yards and 10 scores and chipped in two rushing touchdowns. Look for Grier to push for All-Big 12 honors.
25. Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Paxton Lynch left big shoes to fill in Memphis, but Ferguson ensured there was little drop-off for the offense last year. The former Tennessee quarterback (and junior college recruit) ranked second among American Athletic Conference quarterbacks by throwing for 284.5 yards per game. Ferguson ended 2016 with 3,698 yards and 32 touchdowns.
24. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Ertz battled through a shoulder injury last season to lead Kansas State to a 9-4 record in his first full year at the controls. With a full offseason to recover, Ertz should be able to execute better in the passing attack after throwing for 1,755 yards and nine scores in 2016. While Ertz won’t post huge totals through the air, he’s likely to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards for the second year in a row. On 183 carries last fall, Ertz rushed for 1,012 yards and tied for the team lead with 12 touchdowns on the ground.
23. Shea Patterson, Ole Miss
Until a knee injury suffered in November by Chad Kelly, Patterson was not expected to play for Ole Miss in 2016. The Louisiana native ranked as a five-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite in the 2016 signing class and started for the Rebels over the final three games. In that small three-game window, Patterson showcased his potential. He completed 72 of 132 throws for 880 yards and six touchdowns and added 169 yards on the ground. Patterson’s best performance came on the road at Texas A&M, as he guided the Rebels to a 29-28 victory by accounting for 402 total yards. With one of the SEC’s top receiving corps at his disposal, along with the addition of new coordinator Phil Longo, look for Patterson to emerge as one of the league’s top signal-callers in his sophomore campaign.
22. Jake Bentley, South Carolina
In an effort to spark the offense and an eye to the future, Bentley’s redshirt was removed prior to the Oct. 22 matchup against UMass. The move paid dividends for coach Will Muschamp, as Bentley threw for threw for 1,420 yards and nine scores and guided the Gamecocks 4-2 record in the final six regular season games, with a trip to the Birmingham Bowl against USF. Bentley was supposed to be a high school senior last fall but enrolled a year ahead of schedule.
21. Justin Herbert, Oregon
The Ducks handed the keys to the offense to Herbert after a 2-3 start last season and found the next star quarterback in Eugene. Over the last eight contests, Herbert threw for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns and added 161 yards on the ground. After gaining valuable experience as a true freshman last fall, Herbert is poised for a breakout season under new coach Willie Taggart.
20. Josh Allen, Wyoming
After his 2015 season was cut short due to injury, Allen emerged as one of the nation’s top Group of 5 quarterbacks and guided Wyoming to a Mountain Division title last fall. In 14 starts, Allen threw for 3,203 yards and 28 scores and rushed for 523 yards and seven touchdowns. Allen won’t have key targets Tanner Gentry, Jake Maulhardt and Jacob Hollister to throw to in 2017, but the junior should be in the mix for first-team All-Mountain West honors.
19. Brett Rypien, Boise State
It’s a close call for the top spot among Mountain West quarterbacks, but let’s give Rypien the nod over Josh Allen. As a sophomore in 2016, Rypien threw for 3,646 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also earned first-team All-Mountain West honors for the second year in a row.
18. Mike White, WKU
White thrived under former head coach Jeff Brohm, as he earned second-team All-Conference USA honors after throwing for 4,363 yards and 37 scores last year. New head coach Mike Sanford should keep WKU’s offense performing at a high level, but top targets Taywan Taylor (98 catches) and Nicholas Norris (76) will be missed.
17. Brent Stockstill, MTSU
A collarbone injury limited Stockstill to just 10 games in 2016, but he still finished the year with 3,233 yards and 31 scores. Over the last two seasons as MTSU’s No. 1 quarterback, Stockstill has passed for 61 touchdowns. His return to full strength should help the Blue Raiders contend for the Conference USA title in 2017.
16. Logan Woodside, Toledo
Woodside headlined Toledo’s explosive offense last season and claimed first-team All-MAC honors last fall after torching opposing defenses for 4,129 yards and 45 scores. He tossed at least two touchdowns in every game and finished fourth nationally by completing 69.1 percent of his throws.
15. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Replacing Dak Prescott wasn’t supposed to be that easy for coach Dan Mullen and Mississippi State in 2016. While Prescott was clearly missed, the Bulldogs identified their next star under center in the second half of last season. Fitzgerald guided Mississippi State to four wins over its final six games and finished 2016 by averaging 292.2 total yards per contest. Fitzgerald’s 1,375 rushing yards led the team and were the most by a quarterback in Mississippi State school history. The next step for Fitzgerald is to develop as a passer and improve his completion percentage (54.3 percent in 2016).
14. Austin Allen, Arkansas
The Razorbacks had a seamless transition from Brandon Allen to Austin Allen at quarterback in 2016. In his first year as Arkansas’ No. 1 quarterback, Allen threw for 3,430 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also led the SEC by connecting on 53 passes of 20 or more yards. A knee injury suffered against Auburn on Oct. 22 hindered Allen late in the season, but even with some turnover among the supporting cast for 2017, the senior is entrenched as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks.
13. Deondre Francois, Florida State
Francois was one of college football’s top freshmen last fall, as he started all 13 games for coach Jimbo Fisher and threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Orlando native never tossed more than one interception in a game last year and was named the ACC’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in December. Francois needs to get rid of the ball quicker and raise his completion percentage (58.8 last season), but both of those factors should get better with more snaps in 2017.
12. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Stidham could be the missing piece for Auburn’s offense and has the ability to finish 2017 as the SEC’s No. 1 quarterback. The Tigers led the SEC in rushing (271.3 ypg) but tied for the fewest touchdown tosses (four) in league-only games last year. Stidham gives coach Gus Malzahn and coordinator Chip Lindsey a difference-maker at the position, as the Texas native possesses a powerful, accurate arm and is also mobile enough to be a factor on the ground. Stidham spent one season at Baylor, throwing for 1,265 yards and 12 scores in 10 games in the 2015 campaign. He left Waco last summer and spent 2016 as a student at McLennan Community College. Stidham ranked as the No. 39 overall recruit by the 247Sports Composite in the 2015 signing class.
Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2017
11. Jalen Hurts, Alabama
The bar is set high for Hurts in his second year as the starter. As a true freshman last fall, Hurts guided Alabama to the national championship game and claimed first-team All-SEC honors. Hurts proved to be a dynamic runner (954 yards and 13 scores) but also passed for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns. With a full offseason to work as the starter, Hurts should continue to develop as a passer in 2017.
10. Josh Rosen, UCLA
UCLA’s hopes of contending for the Pac-12 South title were derailed after Rosen’s season-ending shoulder injury in early October. All signs point to a return to full strength for Rosen in 2017, and the junior should be able to reclaim his place among the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks. In 19 games for UCLA, Rosen has passed for 5,583 yards and 33 touchdowns. He’s also working under a new play-caller (Jedd Fisch), who hopes to find a spark for a ground game that managed only 84.3 yards per game last fall.
9. Trace McSorley, Penn State
McSorley was one of the nation’s top breakout quarterbacks from 2016. In addition to guiding Penn State to the Big Ten Championship and an 11-win season, McSorley threw for 3,614 yards and 29 touchdowns and added 365 yards and seven scores on the ground. Look for McSorley to benefit from another offseason with coordinator Joe Moorhead, and he should be even better in his second year as the starter.
8. Luke Falk, Washington State
Washington State’s high-powered passing offense is in good hands with Falk at the controls once again. He led the nation with 633 pass attempts in 2016 and torched opposing defenses for 4,468 yards and 38 scores. Falk also ranked fourth nationally by averaging 343.7 yards per game, while his 70 percent completion percentage ranked second behind Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.
Related: Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2017
7. Quinton Flowers, USF
Flowers is a dynamic dual-threat playmaker and will keep USF in the mix to be the top Group of 5 team in 2017. Flowers had his best season as a passer last year, connecting on 62.5 percent of his throws for 2,812 yards and 24 scores. And after just missing out on a 1,000-yard campaign on the ground in 2015, Flowers led the Bulls with 1,530 rushing yards and 18 scores.
6. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Loaded. That’s the easiest way to describe Oklahoma State’s offense for 2017. Not only is Rudolph back under center and ranked as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, the Cowboys return college football’s No. 1 receiving corps and a rising star at running back in sophomore Justice Hill. Rudolph threw for 4,091 yards and 28 touchdowns last fall and only tossed four picks on 448 attempts.
5. Jake Browning, Washington
Browning guided the Huskies to the CFB Playoff in his second year as the starter and returns as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in 2017. Browning started all 14 games last fall and threw for 3,430 yards and 43 scores (a school record), while earning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors. Top receiver (and big-play threat) John Ross must be replaced in 2017, but Browning’s return should ensure Washington’s offense won’t miss a beat.
4. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Even though Ohio State’s offense averaged 39.4 points per game last season, coach Urban Meyer wasn’t going to sit idle after losing 31-0 to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. Instead, Meyer brought in former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson to take over the play-calling duties and bring back a big-play element to the Buckeyes’ offense. The main benefactor of this move should be Barrett. After a dynamic freshman season in 2014, Barrett shared the job with Cardale Jones in 2015 and accounted for 3,275 yards and 33 overall scores last fall. With Wilson at the controls, Barrett should take his production up a notch and contend for the Heisman Trophy.
3. Sam Darnold, USC
USC was a different team after Darnold was inserted as the starting quarterback. After scoring just 16 combined points in games against Alabama and Stanford, the Trojans scored at least 20 points in every contest with Darnold as the starter and also eclipsed 40 points six times. Darnold finished 2016 with 3,086 yards and 31 touchdown passes and added 250 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He’s one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy in 2017 and is a big reason why USC is one of the frontrunners to make the CFB Playoff.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Top receiver Dede Westbrook is gone, but Oklahoma’s offense will continue to fire on all cylinders with Mayfield under center and Lincoln Riley calling the plays in his first season as head coach. Mayfield set a new FBS record by posting a 196.4 quarterback rating in 2016 and led all signal-callers by completing 70.9 percent of his passes last year. Additionally, Mayfield finished 2016 with 3,965 passing yards and 40 touchdowns. He’s passed for 7,665 yards in two seasons with the Sooners.
1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
After winning the Heisman Trophy and accounting for 51 touchdowns and 5,114 total yards last season, what can Jackson do for an encore in 2017? The No. 1 goal for Louisville is to beat Florida State and Clemson on a path to the ACC Atlantic title and contend for a CFB Playoff spot. Even though the Cardinals have a few holes to fill on both sides of the ball, Jackson’s return at quarterback will ensure Louisville’s offense won’t miss a beat. And here’s a scary thought for the rest of the ACC: Jackson is likely to improve as a passer after an offseason of work with coach Bobby Petrino.