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College Football's Top 15 Quarterback Debuts of 2018

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State Buckeyes Football

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State Buckeyes Football

Quarterback play is always in the spotlight during the preseason or throughout the course of a regular season for all 130 college football teams. And that's especially true after Week 1, as every program got its first look at a new starter under center. Some of college football's top signal-callers from 2017 departed to the NFL, including Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. However, there's a new wave of stars ready to emerge in 2018, and Week 1 was the first opportunity for the new signal-callers or quarterbacks to make an impression. Which new starters impressed in Week 1?

With the influx of new starters across the nation, Athlon set out to rank the debuts for the quarterbacks. An important note: We only considered freshmen in their first game, transfers or quarterbacks that had yet to make a start at their current school for this ranking. Quarterbacks like Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and TCU's Shawn Robinson (both had previous starts) or Clemson's Trevor Lawrence (did not start on Saturday) were not considered for this ranking.

College Football's Top 15 QB Debuts of 2018

1. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

Haskins is regarded as a better passer than former starter J.T. Barrett and that talent was on display in Week 1. The Maryland native threw for 313 yards and five scores in Ohio State’s 77-31 win over Oregon State.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Ohio State

2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Tagovailoa picked up where he left off in the national championship win over Georgia and is clearly the best quarterback for Alabama in 2018. The sophomore connected on 12 of 16 throws for 227 yards and two touchdowns and added 26 yards and a score on the ground against Louisville.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Alabama

3. Cole McDonald, Hawaii

McDonald has thrived in Hawaii’s return to the run-and-shoot offense, torching Colorado State in Week 0 and Navy last Saturday. Against the Midshipmen, McDonald threw for 428 yards and six touchdowns on 30 completions.

College Football Rankings: Hawaii

4. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest

A true freshman making his first start on the road in a season opener is never easy, but Hartman was impressive in Thursday night’s win over Tulane. He connected on 31 of 51 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns and led the offense with 64 rushing yards on 13 attempts.

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5. Zac Thomas, Appalachian State

Thomas nearly guided Appalachian State to a win in Happy Valley against the Nittany Lions. The sophomore inherited big shoes to fill in replacing Taylor Lamb, but he completed 25 of 38 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns and added 43 yards and a rushing score against one of the top teams in the Big Ten.

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6. Shea Patterson, Michigan

Michigan’s offensive line struggled, but Patterson performed well considering the circumstances. In his first start for the Wolverines, Patterson connected on 20 of 30 throws for 227 yards and one pick. 

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Michigan

7. Brady White, Memphis

Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller have finished their eligibility, but Memphis’ high-powered offense didn’t miss a beat in the opener. White – a transfer from Arizona State – torched Mercer for 358 yards and five touchdowns on 22 completions.

College Football Rankings: Memphis Football

8. JT Daniels, USC

Sam Darnold left big shoes to fill in Los Angeles, but the Trojans appear to have their next standout in place. Daniels connected on 22 of 35 throws for 282 yards and a touchdown in USC’s win over UNLV.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: USC

9. Bryce Perkins, Virginia

Tougher tests are ahead for Perkins once Virginia reaches ACC play, but the former Arizona State and junior college passer showcased why he was a big pickup for the Cavaliers. In Saturday night’s win over Richmond, Perkins connected on 13 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 108 yards and two scores.

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10. Joe Burrow, LSU

Burrow’s numbers weren’t prolific, but he was poised and in control of LSU’s offense in Sunday night’s big win over Miami. The Ohio State transfer completed 11 of 24 passes for 140 yards and also added 14 rushing yards on four carries. Most importantly, Burrow did not throw an interception.

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11. Gardner Minshew, Washington State

A road trip to play Craig Bohl’s Wyoming Cowboys is never an easy start to a career, but Minshew was solid on Saturday, completing 38 of 57 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns.

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12. Blake Barnett, USF

USF is Barnett’s third stop at the FBS level, and he’s inheriting control of an offense that averaged 38.3 points a game last year. The senior was sharp in the opener against Elon, connecting on 24 of 34 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 31 yards and a score on eight carries.

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13. Zack Annexstad, Minnesota

Annexstad made history on Thursday night, as he’s believed to be only the second true freshman walk-on to start at quarterback in the opener. The moment certainly wasn’t too big for the freshman in the win over New Mexico State. Annexstad completed 16 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns and guided the Minnesota offense to an average of 6.4 yards a play.

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14. Woody Barrett, Kent State

Kent State showed marked improvement in its debut under new coach Sean Lewis. The Golden Flashes nearly upset Illinois, falling 31-24 after leading 17-3 at halftime. Barrett – a former Auburn quarterback – was a key pickup for Lewis in the 2018 signing class. He gave the Fighting Illini fits on defense all game long, leading the offense with 117 rushing yards and a touchdown, while throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns on 28 completions.

College Football Rankings: Kent State

15. Jawon Pass, Louisville

Pass had the toughest opponent (Alabama) of any new quarterback in Week 1. The sophomore played well considering the opponent and offensive line issues, throwing for 252 yards and two touchdowns on 20 completions.

College football rankings: Louisville

Other Debuts of Note for 2018

Taylor Cornelius, Oklahoma State

Kaleb Barker, Troy

Reid Herring, East Carolina

Isaiah Green, Marshall

AJ Bush, Illinois

Artur Sitkowski, Rutgers

Kelvin Hopkins, Army

Dan Ellington, Georgia State

Mitchell Guadagni, Toledo

Jack Abraham, Southern Miss