Spring practice is a busy time for all 130 college football teams, and it's no secret most of the attention in offseason workouts starts with the quarterback position. The 2017 crop of quarterbacks starts with defending Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, with Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and USC's Sam Darnold next in line. Ohio State's J.T. Barrett and Washington's Jake Browning are two names that could push Jackson, Mayfield and Darnold for spots in the top three by the end of 2017.
Considering how critical quarterback play is to the success of any program, it’s never too early to preview 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 spring practice inching closer (or already underway) for all 130 teams, Athlon Sports is taking an early look at the quarterback position by ranking every starter for 2017. This list could look a lot different by August, especially once some of the battles are settled at Power 5 programs. 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 and just overall talent. Think of this list as an early power ranking for 2017, with tweaks expected at the end of spring and prior to Week 1.
College Football's Spring 1-130 Starting QB Rankings for 2017
130. Austin Wilson, 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. Wilson – a graduate transfer from Syracuse – is penciled in as the team’s No. 1 quarterback on the spring depth chart.
129. 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 top competition this offseason.
128. 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.
127. Seth Shuman, 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, Shuman (47.2 percent in 2016) is the favorite to take the first snap.
126. Jackson Tyner, Rice
Tyler Stehling departs after accounting for 2,358 total yards last season. Tyner (32 of 67 for 318 yards) is the front-runner, with J.T. Granato also in the mix.
125. Tom Flacco, Western Michigan
Zach Terrell leaves big shoes to fill in Kalamazoo this spring. Flacco – the brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco – is the front-runner over redshirt freshman Jon Wassink for the starting job.
124. Bryant Shirreffs, UConn
Shirreffs is penciled in here, but keep an eye on junior college recruit David Pindell. Sophomore Donovan Williams is another candidate after playing in the final three games of 2016. Shirreffs threw for 2,010 yards and seven scores and rushed for 326 yards and two touchdowns over nine games last season.
123. Logan Marchi, Temple
Replacing Phillip Walker – Temple’s all-time passing leader – won’t be an easy task for new head coach Geoff Collins. Marchi completed two of six throws for 29 yards last season and headlines a quarterback battle featuring redshirt freshman Anthony Russo and junior Frank Nutile.
122. 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.
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. Giovanni Rescigno, Rutgers
New coordinator Jerry Kill has a tough assignment trying to upgrade an offense that was shut out four times and averaged only 9.6 points in Big Ten games last year. Rescigno replaced Chris Laviano as the team’s starter in 2016 and threw for 889 yards and five touchdowns. He will face competition from senior Zach Allen, sophomore Tylin Oden and true freshman Johnathan Lewis.
119. Conor Rhoda, Minnesota
P.J. Fleck’s first spring in Minneapolis begins with a wide-open quarterback battle. Rhoda, a former walk-on, has one previous start and finished 2016 with 88 passing yards and one score on eight completions. Junior college transfer Neil McLaurin, sophomore Demry Croft and redshirt freshman Seth Green are also vying for snaps.
118. Keon Howard, Southern Miss
Nick Mullens leaves big shoes to fill in Hattiesburg this spring. 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.
117. Jordan Davis, Louisiana
The Ragin’ Cajuns aren’t dipping back into the graduate transfer ranks for 2017, and all signs from head coach Mark Hudspeth indicate Davis is the front-runner to start. 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.
116. 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. One concern for Minshew: East Carolina has to replace standout receiver Zay Jones.
115. 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.
114. 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.
113. 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 and Daniel Santacaterina as the front-runners for the job. Graham passed for 680 yards and eight scores in nine games last year. True freshman Rodney Hall enrolled in time to compete for the job in spring practice.
112. 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?
111. 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. Will George Bollas or Mylik Mitchell reclaim the No. 1 job this spring?
110. Johnny Stanton, UNLV
High expectations surrounded Stanton last season, but a knee injury prevented him from making a huge impact in his first season with the Rebels. Stanton will be pushed for time this spring by senior Kurt Palandech and talented redshirt freshman Armani Rogers.
109. 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 is expected to be pushed for snaps by junior college recruit Jorge Reyna.
108. Chase Forrest, California
The Golden Bears have four quarterbacks vying to replace Davis Webb this spring. Forrest – 18 career pass attempts – will be pushed by Ross Bowers, Victor Viramontes and Max Gilliam.
107. Chayce Crouch, Illinois
Crouch was pressed into the starting job after an injury to Wes Lunt, but the Ohio native was also sidelined due to injury midway through the 2016 campaign. With Lunt out of eligibility, Crouch and Jeff George Jr. will compete for the starting nod. True freshman Cameron Thomas will join the mix this summer. The Fighting Illini hope junior college recruit Dwayne Lawson joins in time for fall practice.
106. Caleb Henderson, Maryland
Henderson – a transfer from North Carolina – gets the nod here for Maryland, but sophomores Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager are also in the mix. True freshman Kasim Hill is a name to watch this fall.
105. Darius Wade, Boston College
Wade opened the 2015 campaign as Boston College’s No. 1 quarterback but suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3 against Florida State. After working as the backup to Patrick Towles last fall, Wade is ready to assume the controls of the offense once again. However, he will face competition from talented redshirt freshman Anthony Brown.
104. Torrance Gibson, Cincinnati
Hayden Moore and Ross Trail are back after combining for 12 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions last year. However, new head coach Luke Fickell landed Gibson as a transfer from Ohio State (via the junior college ranks) to add to the mix. Gibson’s athletic ability isn’t in question, but can he consistently manage the passing game?
103. Chad President, Tulsa
A three-man battle is underway to replace Dane Evans at Tulsa this spring. President – the No. 358 recruit in the 2015 signing class – is vying with sophomore Will Hefley and redshirt freshman Luke Skipper. President is more mobile than Evans but has attempted only five passes in his career.
102. Shane Morris, Central Michigan
Cooper Rush’s departure leaves a significant void under center at Central Michigan this spring. The Chippewas are leaning 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.
101. Jake Luton, Oregon State
Luton is part of a three-man competition for the starting job in Corvallis. The Washington native began his career at Idaho and played in four games with the Vandals in 2015. Luton spent 2016 at Ventura (Calif.) College and threw for 3,551 yards and 40 scores.
100. 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.
99. 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.
98. 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.
97. Dallas Davis, South Alabama
A shoulder injury limited Davis at times during the 2016 season, and he’s slated to miss 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. One concern for 2017: South Alabama loses its top four receivers, including standouts Josh Magee and tight end Gerald Everett.
96. 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.
95. 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.
94. Damian Williams, Texas State
With Nick Fitzgerald entrenched as Mississippi State’s starting quarterback, Williams left Starkville as a graduate transfer in search of playing time. Texas State was a good landing spot for Williams, as his dual-threat ability should be a good fit under play-caller Zak Kuhr. In three seasons with the Bulldogs, Williams completed 68 of 117 passes for 706 yards and five scores and added 274 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
93. Nathan Stanley, Iowa
Stanley earned the backup role as a true freshman last season and opened spring with an edge over Tyler Wiegers for the No. 1 job. In limited snaps, Stanley completed 5-of-9 throws for 62 yards in 2016. He’s a promising quarterback for new coordinator Brian Ferentz to groom over the next couple of years.
92. Brian Lewerke, Michigan State
The Spartans struggled to find consistency without quarterback Connor Cook guiding the passing game last year. And with Tyler O’Connor departing, Michigan State will start spring ball with uncertainty at quarterback. Lewerke (31-of-57, 381 yards in 2016) is the favorite, but Damion Terry and redshirt freshman Messiah deWeaver could push for snaps.
91. Peyton Bender, Kansas
The Jayhawks have ranked last in the Big 12 in scoring offense for seven consecutive seasons. However, there are reasons for optimism entering 2017. The addition of new play-caller Doug Meacham should pay dividends, while Bender joins the team after a stint at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College. The Florida native started his career at Washington State in 2014 and started one game for the Cougars in ‘15.
90. Tanner Lee, Nebraska
While Tommy Armstrong had a productive career in Lincoln, Lee or redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien are a better fit for what head coach Mike Riley wants to do on offense. There’s more upside with O’Brien, but Lee has the edge in experience. The Tulane transfer threw for 3,601 yards and 23 touchdowns in two years with the Green Wave.
89. Kendall Hinton, Wake Forest
Hinton was poised to assume the starting role over John Wolford last season but suffered a season-ending injury in Wake Forest’s third game. In limited action, Hinton completed 11 of 19 passes for 174 yards and one score and rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
88. 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.
87. 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 should rebound as ULM’s starter in 2017.
86. 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.
85. 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.
84. 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.
83. 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?
82. Malik Rosier, Miami
The Hurricanes have a wide-open competition to replace Brad Kaaya this offseason. Rosier is the team’s most experienced option, as he registered one start in 2015 and has completed 31 of 61 passes for 370 yards and two scores over the last two years. Rosier will be pushed for time by Jack Allison, Cade Weldon, N’Kosi Perry, Evan Shirreffs and Vincent Testaverde.
81. Kurt Benkert, Virginia
Benkert was a key pickup to help with stability and depth as a graduate transfer for first-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall last season. The former East Carolina quarterback threw for 2,552 yards and 21 scores but also tossed 11 picks in his debut with the Cavaliers. In ACC contests, Benkert’s completion percentage dipped to 53.2.
80. 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. Backup JaJuan Lawson was one of the top recruits in New Mexico’s 2015 signing class and intriguing junior college recruit Cameron Burston arrives this summer.
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. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
The one-year Trevor Knight experiment was a success for the Aggies. However, Knight has expired his eligibility, leaving a three-man battle for the job in spring ball. Mond – a true freshman – is battling redshirt freshman Nick Starkel and senior Jake Hubenak for the top spot on the depth chart. Mond has the most upside, but this battle may not be decided until the fall.
77. Feleipe Franks, Florida
With Luke Del Rio recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Franks will have an opportunity to stake his claim for the No. 1 job in Gainesville. And expectations are high for the redshirt freshman after ranking as the No. 54 overall recruit in the 2016 signing class. Additionally, Franks will be surrounded by an improving set of receivers and running back Jordan Scarlett (889 yards). There’s plenty of upside for Franks in 2017.
76. Drew Barker, Kentucky
Barker was set to become Kentucky’s full-time starter after Patrick Towles transferred to Boston College last year. However, a back injury limited Barker to just three games, prompting junior college transfer Stephen Johnson to start the rest of the season. Can Barker reclaim the starting job? Or will Johnson hold onto the top spot?
75. Brandon Harris, North Carolina
Replacing Mitch Trubisky won’t be easy. But the Tar Heels landed a potential impact transfer to the mix this spring, as LSU graduate Brandon Harris will join the team for offseason workouts. Harris threw for 2,756 yards and 20 scores during his three years with the Tigers and has one season of eligibility remaining. Nathan Elliott and redshirt freshmen Chazz Surratt and Logan Byrd round out head coach Larry Fedora’s options on the depth chart.
74. Josh Jackson, Virginia Tech
With Jerod Evans off to the NFL, second-year head coach Justin Fuente is starting over at quarterback. While Evans leaves big shoes to fill, the track record of Fuente and coordinator Brad Cornelsen should be able to find the right answer to keep Virginia Tech in the mix to win the Coastal Division. Jackson – the No. 453 recruit in the 2016 247Sports Composite – is the front-runner to start over junior college recruit A.J. Bush and true freshman Hendon Hooker.
73. 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.
72. 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.
71. 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.
70. 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.
69. 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.
68. 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.
67. Thomas Woodson, Akron
The quarterback situation is up in the air as spring practice opens for the Zips. Woodson has started 18 games over the last two seasons but is out until June due to offseason surgery. Junior college recruit (and former Virginia signal-caller) Nick Johns is the No. 2 option for head coach Terry Bowden.
66. Richard Lagow, Indiana
In his first season with the Hoosiers, Lagow ranked second among Big Ten quarterbacks by averaging 258.6 passing yards per game. The junior college recruit (and former Oklahoma State signal-caller) threw for 3,362 yards and 19 scores but also tossed 17 picks. Helping Lagow reduce the interceptions will be a key offseason goal for new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord.
65. 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.
64. Matthew Jordan, Georgia Tech
Justin Thomas concluded his career at Georgia Tech with a solid senior year, but the Yellow Jackets appear to have a capable replacement in Jordan. The Alabama native has played in 13 games over the last two seasons (with one start) and accumulated 404 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
63. Danny Etling, LSU
New offensive coordinator Matt Canada is tasked with improving LSU’s passing attack. Etling is expected to hold off a group of young quarterbacks for the starting job, and his overall experience should make a quick transition for the new offense. The Tigers have plenty of room to grow their passing game, but Etling helped this group show some punch late in the 2016 season.
62. Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee
The starting job in Knoxville is up for grabs this spring. Guarantano is battling junior Quinten Dormady to replace Joshua Dobbs under center. While Dormady has the edge in experience, talent is on Guarantano’s side. The New Jersey native ranked as the No. 77 overall recruit by the 247Sports Composite in the 2016 signing class.
61. Jacob Park, Iowa State
With Joel Lanning expected to move to an all-purpose role, Park is expected to handle the full-time duties under center for the Cyclones. The South Carolina native started his career at Georgia and transferred to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in 2015. In his first year with Iowa State (and first on-field experience since high school), Park threw for 1,791 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016.
60. 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.
59. Nic Shimonek, Texas Tech
Shimonek is the next quarterback to take the reins of Texas Tech’s high-powered offense. The Iowa transfer played in four games last season and connected on 38 of 58 throws for 464 yards and six touchdowns. While Shimonek has big shoes to fill in replacing Patrick Mahomes, he will also have one of the Big 12’s best receiving corps at his disposal in 2017.
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. 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.
56. 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.
55. Kelly Bryant, Clemson
Bryant worked as the backup to Deshaun Watson over the last two years and will get the first opportunity to claim the starting job in the spring. Can he hold off Zerrick Cooper and five-star freshman Hunter Johnson?
54. Max Browne, Pitt
Browne is one of the nation’s most intriguing quarterbacks for 2017. The Washington native was a five-star recruit out of high school and saw limited work in 2014-15 for USC before taking over the starting job in 2016. However, Browne’s stay at the top of the depth chart was limited to just three games, as Sam Darnold emerged as the Trojans’ No. 1 quarterback. The talent is there for Browne to keep Pitt’s offense performing at a high level, and he enrolled in time to participate in spring ball.
53. Brandon Dawkins, Arizona
As evidenced by his team-leading 944 rushing yards last season, Dawkins is a dynamic athlete with plenty of room to improve as a passer. Dawkins threw for 1,345 yards and eight scores while completing 53.6 percent of his passes last year.
52. Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin
Wisconsin won’t change its formula for success on offense with a run-first approach, but the growth of Hornibrook should allow head coach Paul Chryst to open up things as needed in 2017. As a freshman last fall, Hornibrook threw for 1,262 yards and nine scores while sharing snaps with Bart Houston. With Houston out of eligibility, Hornibrook will take the full-time job for 2017.
51. Keller Chryst, Stanford
Chryst replaced Ryan Burns as Stanford’s starter in late October and guided the Cardinal to six consecutive victories to close the 2016 campaign. However, Chryst suffered a knee injury in the bowl win over North Carolina and won’t return to action until fall camp. He threw for 905 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. If healthy (and the starter), Chryst should move up a few spots on this list by fall practice.
50. Zach Smith, Baylor
As a true freshman last season, Smith was pressed into action after Seth Russell suffered a season-ending leg injury against Oklahoma in early November. Smith went 1-3 in his four starts as the starting quarterback but ended 2016 with 1,526 passing yards and 13 scores. He will be pushed for time by Arizona graduate transfer Anu Solomon.
49. Blake Barnett, Arizona State
Barnett was a five-star recruit out of high school and started the first game for Alabama in 2016. However, after losing the starting job to Jalen Hurts, Barnett decided to transfer to Arizona State. In three contests with the Crimson Tide last year, Barnett threw for 219 yards and two scores on 11 completions. He will provide some stability to an Arizona State offense that utilized three quarterbacks due to injuries last year.
48. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
After throwing only three touchdown passes through Vanderbilt’s first seven games, Shurmur tossed six over the final six contests, including four in huge wins against Ole Miss and Tennessee. Entering his junior year, Shurmur is a quarterback on the rise and is a big reason why Vanderbilt should push for a bowl game once again in 2017.
47. Daniel Jones, Duke
Jones was pushed into the starting job last season after a preseason Achilles injury forced Thomas Sirk to miss all of 2016. The redshirt freshman responded with a solid debut for head coach David Cutcliffe, throwing for 2,836 yards and 16 scores. Jones also added 486 yards and seven touchdowns. He should build off that performance in 2017.
46. 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.
45. David Blough, Purdue
Volume and yardage certainly wasn’t a problem for Blough last season. He led all Big Ten quarterbacks with 517 pass attempts and total passing yards per game (279.3) and threw 25 touchdown scores. However, Blough also tossed 21 picks. New head coach Jeff Brohm is one of the nation’s top offensive minds. He should help Blough become a better overall quarterback this fall.
44. 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.
43. Steven Montez, Colorado
Montez is one of the Pac-12’s quarterbacks on the rise for 2017. He started three games due to an injury to Sefo Liufau last year and showed flashes of promise by throwing for 1,078 yards and nine scores. Look for Montez to deliver a breakout year this fall.
42. Troy Williams, Utah
Williams turned in a solid debut in his first season with the Utes. In 13 starts, Williams threw for 2,757 yards and 15 touchdowns and added 235 yards and five scores on the ground. Another step forward is likely in 2017 under new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor, but the Utes lose three out of their top four receivers from last year.
41. 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.
40. Kenny Hill, TCU
Hill sat out 2015 after transferring to TCU from Texas A&M and had his share of ups and downs in ‘16. In 13 games, Hill threw for 3,208 yards and 17 touchdowns and ranked second on the team with 609 rushing yards and 10 scores. Can Hill show more consistency in 2017?
39. 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.
38. Ryan Finley, NC State
Finley was an ideal addition for NC State last season, as new play-caller Eliah Drinkwitz arrived in Raleigh to implement an offense similar to the one he utilized at Boise State. Finley had two years (2014-15) of on-field experience with Drinkwitz at Boise State and was slated to be the full-time starter in 2015 before a season-ending injury in Week 3. In his first year with the Wolfpack, Finley completed 60.4 percent of his passed for 3,055 yards and 18 touchdowns.
37. 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.
36. 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.
35. Drew Lock, Missouri
Talent certainly isn’t an issue for Lock, as he threw for 3,399 yards and 23 scores in his first full season as Missouri’s starter. Additionally, he ranked second among SEC quarterbacks by averaging 283.3 passing yards per game. However, a deeper look at the numbers shows Lock still has some areas to improve on in 2017. Lock tossed all 10 of his interceptions and completed only 53.3 percent of his passes in SEC play.
34. Shane Buechele, Texas
Buechele posted a solid freshman season in 2016, throwing for 2,958 yards and 21 scores. However, he’s not secure in the top spot, as incoming freshman Sam Ehlinger is expected to push for time under new head coach Tom Herman.
33. Eric Dungey, Syracuse
For the second consecutive year, Dungey’s season was cut short due to injury. However, before missing the last three games of 2016, Dungey showed why many picked him as a breakout quarterback. Under the guidance of head coach Dino Babers, Dungey threw for 2,679 yards and 15 scores and added six rushing touchdowns. Additionally, he ranked second among ACC quarterbacks by averaging 297.7 passing yards per game.
32. Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier is one of the breakout players to watch for 2017. As a freshman at Florida in 2015, Grier threw for 1,204 yards and 10 scores but missed eight games due to a suspension. He has the potential to post huge numbers under head coach Dana Holgorsen.
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 was one of the Big Ten’s most improved players last season. As a freshman in 2015, Thorson threw for 1,522 yards and seven touchdowns but improved those numbers to 3,182 and 22 last year. A new No. 1 target must emerge after the departure of wide receiver Austin Carr. However, Thorson should continue his progression with another solid 2017 season.
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. 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.
26. Wilton Speight, Michigan
Michigan entered 2016 with some uncertainty under center, but Speight quickly ended any quarterback concerns by tossing nine touchdowns to zero interceptions through the first four games. A late-season injury forced Speight to miss one game and hindered his late-game performance against Iowa on Nov. 12. Despite those problems, Speight finished 2016 with 2,538 yards and 18 touchdown tosses. He’s one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks for 2017, but the team’s top three receiving targets from last year must be replaced.
25. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
After his 2015 season ended after the opener due to injury, Ertz pieced together a solid all-around debut in ‘16. While guiding the Wildcats to a 9-4 record, Ertz threw for 1,755 yards and nine scores and rushed for 1,012 yards and 12 touchdowns.
24. Jake Bentley, South Carolina
Bentley appeared to be on the path to a redshirt year last season, but head coach Will Muschamp decided to play the true freshman in late October. The move paid dividends for the Gamecocks, as Bentley gained valuable experience and also guided the program to a 4-3 record over the final seven contests. After throwing for 1,420 yards and nine scores as a freshman last season, Bentley is poised for an even bigger (and better) 2017 campaign.
23. Shea Patterson, Ole Miss
Chad Kelly’s late-season knee injury forced head coach Hugh Freeze to remove Patterson’s redshirt for the final three games. In Patterson’s first start, he led the Rebels to a 29-28 victory at Texas A&M by throwing for 338 yards and two scores and adding 64 yards on the ground. Patterson finished 2016 with 880 yards and six passing scores but also posted a completion percentage of 52.2 over his final two games. The sophomore should take a step forward in his first full season under center.
22. Justin Herbert, Oregon
Herbert assumed the starting job in early October last season and impressed in his seven starts under center. The Oregon native showed remarkable poise for a freshman and tossed only four interceptions on 255 attempts, while throwing for 1,936 yards and 19 scores. Additionally, Herbert rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns. He should thrive under new head coach Willie Taggart.
21. Jacob Eason, Georgia
As expected with any true freshman quarterback, Eason had his share of ups and downs last fall. However, the five-star recruit showed flashes of his potential by throwing for 2,430 yards and 16 scores. Georgia’s supporting cast is a work in progress around Eason, as the offensive line and receiving corps are two preseason question marks. Eason has all of the arm talent to rank among the best in the SEC. Will he take a step forward in 2017?
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 the best player (Dak Prescott) in school history wasn’t going to be easy for Mississippi State last year. However, Fitzgerald ended 2016 as one of the top breakout players in the SEC and is poised to challenge for all-conference honors in 2017. As evidenced by his 1,375 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, Fitzgerald is a difference-maker on the ground. He also passed for 2,423 yards and 21 scores.
14. Austin Allen, Arkansas
A midseason knee injury seemed to slow Allen in the second half of 2016, but his first year as a starter was a success. Over 13 games, Allen threw for 3,430 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also led all SEC quarterbacks by connecting on 53 passes of 20 or more yards. A rebuilt receiving corps will be an early challenge for Allen in 2017.
13. Deondre Francois, Florida State
The Seminoles will be looking for Francois to take the next step in his development in 2017. As a redshirt freshman last fall, Francois completed 58.8 percent of his throws for 20 scores and added 196 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. After taking several monster hits, there’s no question about Francois’ toughness or willingness to stand in the pocket and deliver a strike. However, head coach Jimbo Fisher would like to see Francois get rid of the ball quicker and improve his accuracy this offseason.
12. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Stidham ranked as one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2015 signing class and was pressed into action as a true freshman at Baylor following a season-ending injury to Seth Russell. Stidham showcased his talent in the limited stint, throwing for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns. He left Waco following the dismissal of Art Briles and spent 2016 at a junior college. Stidham is the missing piece for Auburn’s offense.
11. Jalen Hurts, Alabama
The emergence of Hurts played a key role in Alabama’s run to the College Football Playoff last season. And with 14 starts under his belt as a true freshman last fall, Hurts should be even better in his second year as a starter. The running ability of Hurts (954 yards and 13 scores) brings a different dimension to the Alabama offense. However, Hurts is still developing as a passer.
10. Josh Rosen, UCLA
A shoulder injury ended Rosen’s season prematurely, but the junior is slated to return to full strength for 2017. As Rosen showed in 2015 as a true freshman, he’s one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and could climb by a few spots on this list by the end of ‘17. However, he also needs more help from the ground attack.
9. Trace McSorley, Penn State
The emergence of McSorley and hire of Joe Moorhead as the program’s play-caller provided a needed spark for Penn State’s offense last season. McSorley spent 2015 as Christian Hackenberg’s backup and entered ‘16 with just 40 career pass attempts. But McSorley didn’t take long to grow into the starting job and finished with 3,614 passing yards and 29 scores while also adding 365 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. He should push Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett for first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2017.
8. Luke Falk, Washington State
Falk is the catalyst for Washington State’s high-powered passing game. He’s eclipsed 4,000 yards and passed for 38 scores in back-to-back years. Falk ranked fourth nationally by averaging 343.7 passing yards per game last season.
7. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State’s Big 12 title hopes rest on Rudolph’s right arm and the big-play connection with wide receiver James Washington. Rudolph has developed into one of the nation’s best quarterbacks over the last three seasons and should push for All-America honors after throwing for 4,091 yards and 28 touchdowns last year.
6. 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.
5. Jake Browning, Washington
Browning delivered a breakout season and guided Washington to the College Football Playoff in his second year as the starter. After throwing for 3,430 yards and 43 scores in 2016, the bar will be set high for Browning and the Huskies in 2017.
4. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Ohio State’s offense led all Big Ten teams by averaging 38 points per game in league play last season, but head coach Urban Meyer knows this unit has plenty of room to improve. And with that in mind, Meyer wasted no time looking for a new play-caller after the season ended, bringing former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson to Columbus as the team’s new coordinator. After sharing the starting job with Cardale Jones in 2015, Barrett was the full-time starter last year and ended ’16 with 3,400 total yards and 33 overall scores. With Wilson at the controls, another run at the Heisman Trophy isn’t out of the question for Barrett.
3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mayfield has one more campaign left in his prolific career for Oklahoma and should be one of the leading contenders to win the Heisman in 2017. The senior set a new FBS single-season pass efficiency rating (196.4) in 2016 and threw for 3,965 yards and 40 touchdowns while leading the Sooners to a Big 12 title. Mayfield won’t have standout wide receiver Dede Westbrook to throw to in 2017, but Oklahoma’s offense is still going to be performing at a high level.
2. Sam Darnold, USC
The outlook on USC’s 2016 season changed dramatically once Darnold assumed the starting job. Max Browne started the first three games for the Trojans, but after a 1-2 start and sluggish performances against Alabama and Stanford, head coach Clay Helton made the switch. Darnold ignited USC’s offense in the second half of the season and guided the Trojans to Rose Bowl win over Penn State. Darnold threw for 3,086 yards and 31 scores and added 250 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner begins the preseason quarterback rankings where he left off in 2016. Jackson may not match his 2016 totals this fall, but the dynamic junior will keep Louisville in contention for a New Year’s Six bowl and a spot among the ACC’s top teams. In 13 games last season, Jackson threw for 3,543 yards and 30 scores and added 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.