Quarterback play is always under the spotlight during the preseason or throughout the course of a regular season for all 130 college football teams. This process starts in high school, as evaluating prospects and how they will translate to FBS play is no easy assignment. And at the FBS level, a lot of factors go into a quarterback evaluation. Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, Louisville's Lamar Jackson and USC's Sam Darnold headline the list of top signal-callers for 2017, but several teams opened the year with question marks or a new starter under center. 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 Colorado's Steven Montez, Maryland's Tyrrell Pigrome, Michigan State's Brian Lewerke, Miami's Malik Rosier, Navy's Zach Abey and Ole Miss' Shea Patterson already had previous starts and were not considered for this ranking.
College Football's Top 20 Quarterback Debuts of 2017
1. TaQuon Marshall, Georgia Tech
It’s a close call between Marshall and Virginia Tech’s Josh Jackson for the top spot, but we give a slight edge to Marshall for the No. 1 ranking. The converted A-back executed Georgia Tech’s flexbone option attack to perfection against Tennessee on Monday night. Marshall rushed 44 times for 249 yards and five touchdowns and also completed 5 of 9 throws for 120 yards.
2. Josh Jackson, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks in his coaching career. Based upon Sunday night’s opener against West Virginia, it looks like Fuente has his next star pupil. Jackson carried the offense for the Hokies, throwing for 235 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 101 yards and a score on 11 attempts.
3. Will Grier, West Virginia
The quarterback-head coach combination of Will Grier and Dana Holgorsen should be entertaining in Morgantown this fall. Grier had one of the toughest debuts of any new quarterback in 2017, taking on Virginia Tech’s defense in Landover on Sunday night. But despite the tough matchup, Grier threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns and also showcased his mobility by rushing for 52 yards.
4. Brandon Wimbush, Notre Dame
New Notre Dame play-caller Chip Long is off to a strong start in South Bend after guiding the offense to an average of 8.2 yards per play in a 49-16 victory over Temple. Wimbush was projected as a breakout player this offseason and showcased his talent in the opener by completing 17 of 30 throws for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 106 yards and a score on the ground.
5. Ross Bowers, California
The Justin Wilcox era at California is off to a good start. The Golden Bears upset North Carolina in Chapel Hill, largely due to the play of an improved defense and Bowers. The sophomore tossed two picks but threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Bowers’ 20-yard toss to Jordan Duncan gave the Golden Bears the lead for good early in the fourth quarter.
6. Kelly Bryant, Clemson
Bryant posted a strong debut for the defending champs, as he completed 16 of 22 passes for 236 yards and one score. He also chipped in 77 yards and a touchdown on the ground, including a 47-yard scramble in the second quarter. So far, so good for Bryant. But the real test comes this Saturday against Auburn.
7. Tyler Huntley, Utah
The Utes got off to a slow start in Thursday’s opener against North Dakota but still finished with 37 points in Huntley’s debut. After unseating Troy Williams for the job in fall practice, Huntley completed 23 of 32 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 70 yards and two scores. The development of Huntley under new coordinator Troy Taylor will be an interesting storyline to watch in the Pac-12 this season.
8. Nic Shimonek, Texas Tech
Patrick Mahomes leaves big shoes to fill in Lubbock, but the Texas Tech offense will be fine with Shimonek under center. He completed 26 of 30 throws for 384 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s 56-10 victory over Eastern Washington.
9. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Considering Saturday night’s game against Georgia Southern was his first appearance since 2015, Stidham had a little rust to knock off in Week 1. But even with a little rust, Stidham was steady in his debut. The sophomore connected on 14 of 21 throws for 185 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 17 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
10. Jonathan Banks, Tulane
Second-year coach Willie Fritz has Tulane on the rise, and Banks is the perfect quarterback to spark an offense that averaged only 24.1 points per game last season. The former Kansas State quarterback was sharp in his Green Wave debut, connecting on 10 of 15 throws for 185 yards and three touchdowns and leading the offense with 69 yards and a score on the ground.
11. Quinten Dormady, Tennessee
Dormady had some bad luck with drops by receivers and an injury to No. 1 target Jauan Jennings, but the junior was solid in his first start for the Volunteers. He connected on 20 of 37 throws for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
12. Tanner Lee, Nebraska
Lee is a good fit for coach Mike Riley’s offense and guided the Nebraska attack to an average of 6.6 yards per play on Saturday night. The Tulane transfer was steady through the air, connecting on 19 of 32 attempts for 238 yards and two touchdowns.
13. Peyton Bender, Kansas
New coordinator Doug Meacham should help the Jayhawks take a step forward on offense this fall, and Saturday’s performance against Southeast Missouri State was a good sign. Bender threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns on 23 completions and guided the Jayhawks to 38 points.
14. Anthony Brown, Boston College
A road start against an upset-minded Northern Illinois’ squad isn’t the easy place to make a debut, but Brown delivered a solid performance and provided optimism for the offense to improve in 2017. The redshirt freshman completed 26 of 42 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-20 victory over the Huskies.
15. Anu Solomon, Baylor
Solomon edged sophomore Zach Smith for the job in fall practice and accounted for 375 total yards in the loss against Liberty. The senior completed 14 of 29 throws (with three going for touchdowns) and also led the team with 97 rush yards.
16. Armani Rogers, UNLV
Even though UNLV was upset by Howard, coach Tony Sanchez has to like what he saw out of Rogers in his first action at the FBS level. The redshirt freshman threw for 220 yards and a touchdown on 11 completions and added 82 yards on nine carries. Rogers also led the offense to an average of 8.4 yards per play on Saturday night.
17. Jake Fromm, Georgia
Fromm had a difficult assignment on Saturday night, as he was pressed into action after Jacob Eason suffered a sprained knee and was ruled out for the remainder of the opener. But Fromm – a true freshman – was solid in his first FBS action. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown in a 31-10 victory over Appalachian State.
18. Nathan Stanley, Iowa
Iowa leaned on its ground attack and defense to knock off Wyoming, but Stanley is a promising prospect for new coordinator Brian Ferentz to develop this year. Against the Cowboys, Stanley connected on eight passes for 125 yards. However, three of those completions went for touchdowns.
19. Kwadra Griggs, Southern Miss
Keon Howard got the start for Southern Miss in Saturday’s game against Kentucky, but Griggs provided a second-half spark and is the starter for Week 2 against Southern. Griggs completed 15 of 26 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns in his one half of action against the Wildcats.
20. Kyle Bolin, Rutgers
Even though Rutgers lost 30-14 to Washington in Week 1, it’s clear coach Chris Ash’s team took a significant step forward over the offseason. Additionally, the hire of Jerry Kill as coordinator should pay big dividends throughout the 2017 campaign. Bolin – a graduate transfer from Louisville – completed 24 of 32 throws for 178 yards and two touchdowns against one of the Pac-12’s best defenses on Friday night.
Other Notable QB Debuts
Max Browne, Pitt
Montell Cozart, Boise State
Jordan Davis, Louisiana
A.J. Erdely, UAB
Kasim Hill, Maryland
Blake LaRussa, Old Dominion
Jake Luton, Oregon State
Logan Marchi, Temple
Shane Morris, Central Michigan
Elijah Sindelar, Purdue
Thomas Sirk, East Carolina
Nick Starkel, Texas A&M
Chazz Surratt, North Carolina
Jon Wassink, Western Michigan
Damian Williams, Texas State
Malik Zaire, Florida