Ranking the debuts of new QBs from Week 1
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. The 2019 season is all about the transfer portal and quarterbacks that found a new home. As expected, Jalen Hurts thrived in his debut at Oklahoma, Kelly Bryant put up huge numbers in a Missouri loss at Wyoming, and Justin Fields impressed in Ohio State's easy vcitory over FAU. There's a new wave of stars ready to emerge in 2019, 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 that had previous starts had their current program were not considered for this ranking. Also, production and quality of opponent was factored into the ranking.
College Football's Top 25 QB Debuts of 2019
1. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Hurts had a record-setting and flawless debut in Oklahoma’s win over Houston. The Alabama transfer threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns and added 176 yards and three scores on the ground. Hurts is just the second quarterback over the last 15 years to throw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns and run for 150 (or more) yards and three scores in a game.
2. Hank Bachmeier, Boise State
Bachmeier faced a relentless Florida State pass rush but wasn’t fazed by the moment or defense. The true freshman directed a second-half comeback versus the Seminoles, throwing for 407 yards and a touchdown over 30 completions.
3. Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State
The quarterback position seems to be an annual strength for Oklahoma State under Mike Gundy, and Sanders is primed for a huge year for the Pokes. He had an impressive debut on the road against Oregon State, throwing for 203 yards and three scores and adding 109 yards on the ground.
4. Justin Fields, Ohio State
Ryan Day’s debut wasn’t the only big storyline in Columbus on Saturday. All eyes were on Fields as he made his first career start after transferring in from Georgia. The sophomore gashed FAU’s defense for 234 yards and four touchdowns through the air and ran for 61 yards and a score.
5. Sam Howell, North Carolina
North Carolina’s offense started slow but improved in the second half once Howell found his rhythm. The true freshman led two scoring drives longer than 90 yards in the second half to lead the Tar Heels to an upset win over South Carolina. Howell finished with 245 passing yards and two touchdowns on 15 completions.
6. Bo Nix, Auburn
Nix’s final stat line wasn’t as impressive as some of the other quarterbacks on this list, but the true freshman came up big in the clutch, delivering timely plays to help direct Auburn to a last-second win over Oregon. Nix finished with 42 rushing yards and connected on 13 of 31 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
7. Jacob Eason, Washington
Eason showcased his arm strength on a 50-yard bomb to receiver Andre Baccellia in the first quarter and finished his Washington debut with 349 yards and four touchdowns over 27 completions.
8. Anthony Gordon, Washington State
Gordon was brilliant in his first opportunity for extended playing time. After completing his first 15 passes, Gordon ended the night with 420 passing yards and five scores over 29 completions.
9. Tommy Stevens, Mississippi State
Stevens’ decision to reunite with his former offensive coordinator (Joe Moorhead) looks like it will pay dividends for both parties. Mississippi State’s offense averaged 7.1 yards per play in Saturday’s win over Louisiana. Stevens had an efficient day through the air (20 of 30 for 236 yards and 2 TDs) and added 37 more yards and a score on the ground.
10. Kelly Bryant, Missouri
Bryant’s debut at Missouri was overshadowed by the Tigers’ upset defeat to Wyoming, but the Clemson transfer threw for 423 yards and two scores and added 20 yards on the ground.
11. Carson Strong, Nevada
Strong’s steady play helped Nevada engineer an upset win over Purdue on Friday night. The redshirt freshman connected on 30 of 51 throws for 295 yards and three scores and added 34 rushing yards over six carries.
12. Matt McKay, NC State
The post-Ryan Finley era is off to a good start in Raleigh. McKay threw for 308 yards and a touchdown on 25 completions and added two rushing scores and 35 yards in a win over East Carolina on Saturday.
13. Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
Daniels ranked as the top recruit in Arizona State’s 2019 signing class and won the starting job this offseason. He didn’t disappoint in the opener against Kent State, connecting on 15 of 24 passes for 284 yards and two scores. He also added 25 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
14. Jorge Reyna, Fresno State
Jeff Tedford has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks, and it looks like Reyna is going to be a solid player for Fresno State in 2019. In the senior’s first start for the Bulldogs, he threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns and led the team with 88 rushing yards against USC.
15. Sean Clifford, Penn State
Clifford inherited big shoes to fill in replacing Trace McSorley and had a strong debut (14 of 23 for 280 yards and 2 TDs with 57 rushing yards) in an easy win over Idaho.
16. Brandon Wimbush, UCF
UCF’s offense picked up where it left off last season by scoring 62 points and averaging 7.4 yards a play in Thursday’s win over Florida A&M. Wimbush got the start under center and performed well in his debut, throwing for 168 yards and two scores and adding 20 yards on eight carries.
17. Frank Harris, UTSA
UTSA’s offense struggled last season, but Harris’ first start provided hope for improvement in 2019. The sophomore completed 28 of 36 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns and added 123 rushing yards over 15 carries.
18. Darius Wade, Bowling Green
Wade’s decision to transfer to Bowling Green to play for former coordinator Scot Loeffler was critical for the Falcons after Jarret Doege transferred to West Virginia. The former Boston College quarterback had an impressive debut with Bowling Green, throwing for 253 yards and three scores and adding 42 yards on the ground.
19. Quinten Dormady, Central Michigan
Central Michigan is the third FBS stop in Dormady’s career. The senior was brought in to help spark an offense that managed only 15 points a game and provided steady play in the opener. Dormady completed 27 of 37 passes for 285 yards and three scores in an easy win over Albany.
20. Shane Buechele, SMU
Buechele should post huge numbers in SMU’s offense this season, and the Texas transfer was instrumental in leading the Mustangs to a road win at Arkansas State by throwing for 360 yards on Saturday night.
21. Logan Bonner, Arkansas State
Finding a replacement for quarterback Justice Hansen was the biggest question mark on offense for Arkansas State going into this season. However, the Red Wolves have found their answer under center, as Bonner threw for 324 yards and four touchdowns and added 16 yards on the ground in the opener against SMU.
22. Michael Penix, Indiana
Penix suffered a torn ACL last October but showed no ill-effects from that injury in the opener against Ball State. He connected on 24 of 40 throws for 326 yards and one score and added 67 yards on the ground in a 34-24 win by the Hoosiers.
23. Josh Jackson, Maryland
Mike Locksley’s debut was a flawless one in College Park. Jackson went 15 of 24 for 245 yards and four touchdowns in a 79-0 victory by Maryland.
24. McLane Carter, Rutgers
Carter edged Artur Sitkowski for the starting job in fall practice and provided a spark in the opener against UMass. The Texas Tech transfer threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns over 21 attempts while leading the team to a 48-21 win. Rutgers had only five touchdown scores last fall. Carter nearly posted half of that total in one game.
25. Brandon Peters, Illinois
In his first game after transferring to Illinois from Michigan, Peters was a key cog in the program’s 42-3 win over Akron on Saturday. He connected on 14 of 23 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 36 yards and one score over six carries.
Other debuts of note from Week 1: Asher O'Hara, MTSU; Austin Kendall, West Virginia; Ross Bowers, Northern Illinois; Ben Hicks, Arkansas; Riley Neal, Vanderbilt; Stone Smartt, Old Dominion; Brandt Hughes, New Mexico; Randall West, UMass; Matt Myers, Buffalo; Mike Beaudry, UConn; Alex Delton, TCU; Matt Corral, Ole Miss; Zach Smith, Tulsa; Hunter Johnson, Northwestern; Brett Gabbert, Miami (Ohio)