Which JUCO QBs will make the biggest impact next fall?
Finding or developing a quarterback is no easy task for any college football coach. This position is one of the hardest to evaluate in high school, and quarterbacks often transfer early in their career in search of more playing time if they are entrenched behind a proven starter. Needless to say, quarterbacks are the position likely providing the most headaches for coaches throughout the year. While developing a quarterback through the high school ranks is the preferred option for coaches, the junior college level presents quick-fix options and players who were often overlooked in the recruiting process. The junior college level always produces a handful of impact transfers each year, and the quarterback position has a handful of intriguing names back on the scene in 2017. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) and Blake Barnett (Arizona State) are two former top recruits headed back to Power 5 teams after a short stint at the junior college level. Additionally, Peyton Bender (Kansas), Jake Luton (Oregon State) and De'Andre Johnson (FAU) are just a few of the other junior college quarterbacks expected to make an impact in 2017.
Which junior college quarterbacks will make the biggest impact in 2017? Here’s a look at 20 who could make an impact this fall, ranked by the most likely to start or see significant snaps:
College Football's Top 20 Impact JUCO Transfer QBs for 2017
Others to Watch: Cameron Burston, New Mexico; Ryan Brand, Maryland; Michael Curtis, UMass; Rathen Ricedorff, Boise State
20. Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss
Shea Patterson is set as the starter for coach Hugh Freeze in 2017, but depth is an issue at quarterback. Ta’amu arrives in Oxford after throwing for 3,014 yards and 32 scores for New Mexico Military Institute in 2016. He will compete with Jason Pellerin for the No. 2 job.
19. Nathan Rourke, Ohio
Quinton Maxwell heads into offseason workouts as the No. 1 quarterback for Ohio, but Rourke is an interesting addition after a prolific high school career and a short stint in the junior college ranks. After spending his first three years in high school in Canada, Rourke played his senior season at Edgewood Academy in Alabama. During that season, Rourke threw for 3,779 yards and 59 scores. The Canada native landed at Fort Scott Community College for the 2016 campaign and threw for 2,367 yards and 18 touchdowns.
18. McLane Carter, Texas Tech
It’s no secret Patrick Mahomes leaves big shoes to fill in Lubbock next year. However, it’s also safe to assume the Red Raiders will remain prolific on offense with coach Kliff Kingsbury calling the plays. Nic Shimonek impressed in limited action (464 yards and six passing scores in 2016) and heads into 2017 as the team’s No. 1 quarterback. While Shimonek seems entrenched as the starter, depth behind him is a concern. Carter should fill that void after transferring in following one year at Tyler Junior College. In his only season at the junior college level, Carter threw for 3,226 yards and 30 scores.
17. Neil McLaurin, Minnesota
Replacing Mitch Leidner at quarterback is one of Minnesota’s biggest offseason question marks for new coach P.J. Fleck. Former walk-on Conor Rhoda (8 of 16) is the most-experienced option, but redshirt freshman Seth Green and junior Demry Croft return for 2017. McLaurin committed to Minnesota under former coach Tracy Claeys and enrolled in time to compete during spring practice. The Mississippi native threw for 964 yards (52.8%) and eight scores and added 440 yards and six touchdowns in 2016 at Southwest Mississippi Community College. McLaurin ranked as a three-star prospect and the No. 172 junior college recruit in the 247Sports Composite.
16. A.J. Bush, Virginia Tech
With Jerod Evans leaving early for the NFL Draft, all eyes in Blacksburg will be on the quarterbacks this spring. Coach Justin Fuente has an outstanding track record of developing quarterbacks, so while this position is a question mark headed into offseason workouts, the Hokies should find the right answer. Bush started his career at Nebraska and transferred after two seasons to Iowa Western Community College. Bush played in 10 games in 2016 and threw for 602 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 285 yards and five scores on the ground. Redshirt freshman Joshua Jackson is considered the early favorite to win the job, but Bush provides some much needed depth and competition for the spring.
15. Kado Brown, Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern’s quarterback depth chart took a big hit this offseason after Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw expired their eligibility after the win over Troy in the regular season finale. Seth Shuman played in five games and gained valuable experience last year, but new coordinator Bryan Cook plans to shift the offense back to more of an option approach in 2017. Brown seems to be a good fit for the offense after rushing for 757 yards and nine touchdowns and throwing for 1,427 yards and eight scores at Moorpark Community College in 2016. Brown started his collegiate career at Army before a stint in the junior college ranks.
14. Devlin Isadore, North Texas
Seth Littrell was regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive coordinators prior to taking the top spot in Denton, and the first-year coach capped off a solid debut with the Mean Green by guiding the program to an appearance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Littrell has this program trending up entering 2017, but the coaching staff is still putting all of the pieces in place on offense. Alabama transfer Alec Morris expired his eligibility after the bowl game, which leaves Mason Fine (261 attempts) competing with five other quarterbacks for the starting nod this spring. Isadore is one to watch after transferring to North Texas following a two-year stint at Navarro College. The Texas native missed most of 2016 due to an injury but threw for 2,173 yards and 20 scores as a freshman in 2015.
13. Nick Johns, Akron
Injuries forced Akron to utilize three quarterbacks last season, and the outlook for the 2017 starter is unsettled heading into spring ball. If healthy, Thomas Woodson (264.1 total yards per game in 2016) is the likely starter. However, Woodson had offseason shoulder surgery and is not expected to participate in spring workouts. With Woodson sidelined, Tra’Von Chapman and Johns will have a chance to close the gap this offseason. Johns started his career at Virginia and used a redshirt year with the Cavaliers in 2015. The Virginia native transferred to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M for the 2016 season and threw for 2,243 yards and 16 scores in 10 games. Johns has three years of eligibility remaining and ranked as a three-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite.
12. D.J. Gillins, SMU
SMU coach Chad Morris has stockpiled an impressive group of quarterbacks for 2017. In addition to returning starter Ben Hicks, Arkansas transfer Rafe Peavey and Gillins – a former Wisconsin signal-caller – are all set to battle for the job this spring. This group could get even deeper if Matt Davis is awarded an additional year of eligibility after a season-ending injury in 2016. Gillins was rated as the No. 5 junior college quarterback by the 247Sports Composite but was limited to one game at Pearl River Community College due to a knee injury in 2016.
11. Jordan Hoy, Old Dominion
The Monarchs are coming off a 10-3 record and the program’s first trip to a bowl game. Despite losing starting quarterback David Washington, coach Bobby Wilder’s team should be one of Conference USA’s top teams once again in 2017. Sophomore Blake LaRussa (14 of 24 attempts for 140 yards) is the early frontrunner to replace Washington, but Hoy and freshman Drayton Arnold are also in the mix. Hoy spent 2016 at Fullerton Community College and threw for 3,434 yards and 37 touchdowns. Additionally, the Texas native added 712 yards and nine scores on the ground.
10. Jorge Reyna, Fresno State
Reyna was one of the top additions in new coach Jeff Tedford’s first class at Fresno State. The California native arrives after two seasons at West Los Angeles College and was named the Metro League Offensive Player of the Year in 2016. Reyna threw for 3,646 yards and 39 scores and added 386 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. He’s regarded as a three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite and is expected to compete with Chason Virgil for the starting job this spring.
9. Dwayne Lawson, Illinois
Lawson might be the toughest quarterback to rank on this list. The former Virginia Tech signal-caller has the potential to start right away in 2017, but he was not listed on the school’s rundown of signed recruits on National Signing Day. Lawson is still working to transfer in time for fall practice and has to compete with Chayce Crouch and Jeff George, Jr. once he arrives on campus. Lawson rated as the No. 310 overall recruit by the 247Sports coming out of high school and ranked as a three-star junior college prospect. Lawson’s status will be worth monitoring this offseason.
8. David Pindell, UConn
UConn’s offense struggled mightily in 2016, finishing 12th in the American Athletic Conference by averaging just 14.8 points per game. New coach Randy Edsall wasted no time looking for help on this side of the ball, as the staff inked three quarterbacks on National Signing Day. Pindell has the chance to make the biggest impact right away, as the Missouri native joins UConn after two years at Lackawanna Community College. Pindell played in all 11 games in 2016 as the team’s starting quarterback and threw for 2,424 yards and 31 scores and added 459 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Pindell ranked as a three-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite.
7. Jonathan Banks, Tulane
Willie Fritz has Tulane trending in the right direction, and the second-year coach may have found his answer at quarterback with the addition of Banks. In addition to needing an effective passer under center, the Green Wave’s offense requires a quarterback with mobility. Last year, Glen Cuiellette (216 rush yards) and Johnathan Brantley (202 yards) struggled to jumpstart the attack. After accounting for 1,953 yards and 16 total scores at Independence Community College last season, Banks is a good fit for Tulane’s offense. Prior to Independence Community College, the Texas native started his career at Contra Costa College in 2014 and spent one season as a redshirt at Kansas State in 2015.
6. Torrance Gibson, Cincinnati
Luke Fickell scored an early victory for his first season at Cincinnati by landing Gibson to play in 2017. Gibson was regarded as a four-star recruit out of high school and started his career at Ohio State as a quarterback, before shifting to receiver during his redshirt year in 2015. Gibson was suspended for the 2016 campaign and never played a down for the Buckeyes. The Florida native is taking classes at Cincinnati State in order to gain immediate eligibility for the 2017 season with the Bearcats. Assuming Gibson is cleared in time, he will compete with Ross Trail and Hayden Moore for the starting job. Gibson is a bit raw in his passing ability, but he’s an excellent athlete who could be a difference maker at quarterback for the Bearcats.
5. De’Andre Johnson, FAU
FAU inked the No. 1 recruiting class from Conference USA in the 247Composite rankings, with Johnson listed as the Owls’ best incoming prospect. Johnson started his career at Florida State but was dismissed following an incident in the 2015 offseason. The Jacksonville native landed at East Mississippi Community College and recorded a prolific 2016 campaign. En route to guiding East Mississippi Community College to a Mississippi Bowl State Championship, Johnson threw for 2,645 yards and 26 scores and added 834 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. He’s expected to compete with Jason Driskel and Daniel Parr for the starting job this spring.
4. Jake Luton, Oregon State
Injuries forced Oregon State to utilize three different quarterbacks under center last season. Marcus McMaryion, Darell Garretson and Conor Blount all return in 2017, and this unit will add another name to the mix in spring ball. Luton arrives in Corvallis after a successful stint at Ventura College. The Washington native threw for 3,551 yards and 40 touchdowns in 2016 and added 175 yards and six scores on the ground. Luton originally started his career at Idaho in 2014 and played in four games with the Vandals in 2015. Luton ranked as the No. 54 junior college prospect in the 2017 247Sports Composite.
3. Peyton Bender, Kansas
Kansas desperately needs to find a spark on offense after averaging only 20.3 points a game in 2016. The good news for the Jayhawks? Coach David Beaty made one of the offseason’s top coordinator hires in Doug Meacham (from TCU), and Bender arrives from the junior college ranks as potential impact player. Bender began his collegiate career at Washington State and started one game for coach Mike Leach in 2015. In his only season of action with the Cougars, Bender completed 53 of 91 passes for 498 yards and three touchdown tosses. The Florida native played at Itawamba Community College in 2016 and threw for 2,733 yards and 21 scores. He should push to start this spring.
2. Blake Barnett, Arizona State
Barnett opened 2016 as the starting quarterback for Alabama but transferred to Palomar College in late September. In his short stint with the Crimson Tide last year, Barnett threw for 219 yards and two scores on 11 completions. Barnett did not play at the junior college level in 2016 but was ruled eligible for the entire 2017 season at Arizona State. Barnett’s arrival is a huge addition for an Arizona State offense that tossed only 12 touchdown passes in Pac-12 games. The California native ranked as a five-star prospect coming out of high school and is joined in Tempe by former Alabama assistant Billy Napier to call the plays in 2017.
Related: Early Pac-12 Predictions for 2017
1. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Stidham is the nation’s No. 1 impact player from the junior college ranks for 2017. The Texas native was regarded as one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2015 signing class and played in 10 games as a true freshman at Baylor. Stidham completed 75 of 109 throws for 1,265 yards and 12 scores in 2015 and spent 2016 out of football at McLennan Community College. Auburn’s ground game is already one of the best in the SEC. And with Stidham at the controls under center, coach Gus Malzahn now has one of the league’s best quarterbacks.