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College Football's Top 20 Quarterback Debuts of 2022

Drake Maye, North Carolina Tar Heels Football

Week 1 of the 2022 college football season is in the books, and it's time to grade how the new quarterbacks performed in a new starting role. As a result of immediate eligibility as a transfer, nearly half (or over in some weeks) of all college football teams could start a transfer at quarterback. With so many names on the move and changes under center, the quarterback carousel is one of the most intriguing storylines for  '22. There's a new wave of stars ready to emerge this season, 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 for Week 0 and Week 1 of the 2022 season. An important note: We only considered freshmen in their first game, transfers, or those that had yet to make a start at their current school for this ranking. Quarterbacks that had previous starts had their current program were not considered for this ranking. Also, production and quality of opponent were factored into the ranking.

College Football's Top 20 Quarterback Debuts of 2022

1. Drake Maye, North Carolina
Maye edged Jacolby Criswell for the starting nod out of fall practice and showcased his potential in the opener against FCS Florida A&M. In the 56-24 victory for the Tar Heels, he connected on 29 of 37 throws for 294 yards and five scores and added 55 rushing yards against the Rattlers. However, he was even better against Appalachian State in Week 1. The redshirt freshman led North Carolina to a thrilling 63-61 victory, throwing for 352 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 76 yards and a score.

Related: Complete Recap for Week 1 of the 2022 Season

2. Michael Penix Jr., Washington
If Penix Jr. can stay healthy, a reunion with former coordinator (and now Washington coach) Kalen DeBoer should help him rank among the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks in 2022. The Indiana transfer looked sharp in the Huskies’ 45-20 win over Kent State on Saturday. Penix Jr. connected on 26 of 39 throws for 345 yards and four touchdowns and added 27 more yards on the ground.

3. Jayden de Laura, Arizona
While we don’t want to overreact to one game of the college football season, the arrival of de Laura as a transfer from Washington State could help Arizona become one of the most improved teams in the nation. De Laura guided the Wildcats to a surprising 38-20 upset of San Diego State on Saturday. The Hawaii native showed good command of coach Jedd Fisch’s pro-style attack (22 of 35 for 299 yards and four scores) and connected on two completions of 30-plus yards.

4. Todd Centeio, James Madison
Centeio led the way for James Madison in its FBS debut to crush Middle Tennessee 44-7 on Saturday. The Colorado State transfer accounted for 397 total yards and six passing scores, while guiding the Dukes to an average of 6.4 yards play.

5. Caleb Williams, USC
Williams helped to get the Lincoln Riley era started with a 66-14 victory over Rice. The Oklahoma transfer threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 19 completions and led the offense with 68 rushing yards on six carries.

6. John Rhys Plumlee, UCF
As the opener against South Carolina State showed, Plumlee should be a good fit for coach Gus Malzahn’s attack in UCF. The Ole Miss transfer ran for 86 yards and a score and added 308 yards and four touchdowns on 20 completions in a 56-10 win for the Knights.

7. Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma
Thanks to a strong effort on both sides of the ball, new coach Brent Venables was victorious in his debut as head coach at Oklahoma. Gabriel led the way for an offense that scored 45 points, as he threw for 233 yards and two scores and added 20 more yards and a touchdown on the ground. The UCF transfer averaged 10.1 yards per attempt on Saturday.

8. Hunter Dekkers, Iowa State
Filling the void left behind by Brock Purdy isn’t easy, but the Hunter Dekkers era in Ames is off to a fast start. The Iowa native was nearly flawless in Iowa State’s 42-10 victory over FCS Southeast Missouri State, completing 25 of 31 throws for 293 yards and four scores. Dekkers also added 11 rushing yards and ranked third among Big 12 signal-callers in quarterback rating (196.2).

9. Connor Bazelak, Indiana
Coach Tom Allen’s offseason overhaul of the offense paid immediate dividends for Indiana on Friday. The Hoosiers scored only 10 touchdowns last year in Big Ten play but posted two in the 23-30 win over the Fighting Illini in Week 1. Bazelak’s play was a big reason for the improved offense, as the Missouri transfer connected on 28 of 52 passes for 330 yards and one touchdown. He also landed three completions of 30-plus yards.

10. Kedon Slovis, Pitt
Kenny Pickett left big shoes to fill in the Steel City, and while Slovis misfired on a few throws and has plenty to work on going forward, his overall performance was solid in Pitt’s win over West Virginia in the renewal of the Backyard Brawl. The USC transfer was accurate (66.7) and threw for 308 yards on just 16 completions. Slovis’ yards per attempt (12.8) was the best among ACC quarterbacks in Week 1.

11. Austin Reed, WKU
WKU’s offense isn’t quite up to the high-powered level we saw in 2021 with Bailey Zappe at the helm, but Reed has been solid through two games. He’s connected on 64.1 percent of passes for 547 yards and seven touchdowns to two picks. The West Florida (Division II) transfer upped his completion percentage from 57.6 in the opener against Austin Peay to 71 versus Hawaii in Week 1.

12. Cameron Ward, Washington State
Ward was one of the Pac-12’s most intriguing transfers for 2022 after a successful two-year stint at FCS UIW. Tougher tests are upcoming, but Ward completed 25 of 40 passes for 215 yards and three scores in Washington State’s win over Idaho.

13. Mitch Griffis, Wake Forest
Griffis was pressed unexpectedly into the starting role when Sam Hartman was ruled out indefinitely due to a non-football-related medical condition this preseason. In Thursday’s win over FCS VMI, Griffis completed 21 of 29 throws for 288 yards and three touchdowns. An overmatched opponent it’s the best way to judge Griffis, but he’s off to a good start and gained valuable experience in Week 1.

14. Jayden Daniels, LSU
LSU’s offense came alive in the second half to nearly steal a victory from Florida State on Sunday night. Daniels accounted for 323 total yards and threw two touchdown passes in the Tigers’ 24-23 loss in the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. The Arizona State transfer needs to get more comfortable in the pocket, but his mobility is a key x-factor for a struggling LSU offensive line.

Related: Complete Recap for Week 1 of the 2022 Season

15. Quinn Ewers, Texas
Ewers didn’t post huge numbers (16 of 24 for 225 yards and two touchdowns) in Texas’ win over ULM, but the first start for the freshman was a success. Most importantly, coach Steve Sarkisian got Ewers valuable experience for the huge showdown against Alabama in Week 2.

16. Kyle Vantrease, Georgia Southern
New coach Clay Helton plans to open up Georgia Southern’s offense in 2022 and the early results were encouraging against FCS Morgan State. Vantrease – a transfer from Buffalo – completed 29 of 46 throws for 367 yards and four touchdowns in the opener.

17. JT Daniels, West Virginia
A late interception was costly, but Daniels threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns in his debut with the Mountaineers. There’s plenty to build on going forward.

18. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina
Rattler needs more help from his offensive line to push South Carolina higher in the SEC East.

19. Casey Thompson, Nebraska
Thompson’s overall numbers through two games are solid (39 of 63 for 548 yards and three touchdowns), but he’s also tossed too many interceptions (three).

20. Tyler Buchner, Notre Dame
Making your first road start in Columbus is never easy, but Buchner acquitted himself well by completing 10 passes for 177 yards and rushing 11 times for 18 yards. Better days are ahead for the young Fighting Irish signal-caller.

Other Notable Debuts from Week 1

Tommy DeVito, Illinois
Week 0 versus Wyoming: 27 of 37 for 194 yards, 2 TDs
Week 1 versus Indiana: 21 of 35 for 232 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 29 rush yards, 2 TDs

Gerry Bohanon, USF
17 of 30 for 172 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 28 rush yards against BYU

Grant Wells, Virginia Tech
21 of 36 for 193 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, 45 rush yards, 1 TD versus Old Dominion

Adrian Martinez, Kansas State
11 of 15 for 53 yards, 39 rushing yards and 1 TD versus South Dakota

Jack Salopek, Western Michigan
21 of 36 for 193 yards, 36 rush yards versus Michigan State

Cole Snyder, Buffalo
18 of 35 for 160 yards, 16 rush yards versus Maryland

Clay Millen, Colorado State
16 of 20 for 137 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT versus Michigan

Zion Turner, UConn
14 of 22 for 172 yards, 2 TDs versus Central Connecticut State

Colin Schlee, Kent State
12 of 24 for 178 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 47 rush versus Washington

Chevan Cordeiro, San Jose State
15 of 30 for 239 yards, 1 TD, 2 rush TD versus Portland State

John Paddock, Ball State
27 of 43 for 269 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT versus Tennessee

Taylor Powell, Eastern Michigan
21 of 30 for 271 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 1 rush TD versus Eastern Kentucky

Braxton Burmeister, San Diego State
5 of 10 for 51 yards, 1 TD, 20 rush yards versus Arizona

Andrew Peasley, Wyoming
20 of 30 for 256 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 45 rush yards versus Tulsa

Layne Hatcher, Texas State
33 of 51 for 289 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT versus Nevada

Shane Illingworth, Nevada 
Week 0: 7 of 12 for 51 yards versus New Mexico State
Week 1: 11 of 13 for 101 yards versus Texas State

Miles Kendrick, New Mexico
14 of 17 for 170 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 40 rush yards versus Maine

Emory Jones, Arizona State
13 of 18 for 152 yards, 48 rush yds., 2 TD versus Northern Arizona

Bo Nix, Oregon
21 of 37 for 173 yards, 2 INT, 37 rush yards versus Georgia

Jack Plummer, California
23 of 35 for 268 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT versus UC Davis

Jaxson Dart, Ole Miss
18 of 27 for 154 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 40 rush yards versus Troy

Henry Colombi, Marshall
24 of 26 for 205 yards, 1 TD versus Norfolk State

Carter Bradley, South Alabama
17 of 25 for 260 yards, 3 TD, 10 rush yards, 1 TD versus Nicholls

Chandler Fields, Louisiana
13 of 20 for 173 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT versus Southeastern Louisiana

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