The MAC isn't as deep as it normally is in terms of starpower at the quarterback position, but the league still returns its share of standouts in 2022. Miami's Brett Gabbert leads the quarterback rankings, followed by Toledo's Dequan Finn and Northern Illinois' Rocky Lombardi in the second tier. Kent State's Collin Schlee is a breakout candidate to watch this year. Quarterback battles at Western Michigan and Buffalo will unfold in fall practice.
Ranking the quarterbacks by conference or nationally is no easy task. To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2022. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors — pure talent, supporting cast, having a clear hold on the No. 1 position, previous production, 2022 projection, and scheme changes (just to name a few) — were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the MAC for 2022.
Ranking the MAC Quarterbacks for 2022
12. John Paddock, Ball State
How fast (and well) Ball State replaces Drew Plitt will determine just how high coach Mike Neu's team can finish in the MAC West. Paddock worked as Plitt's backup for the last three years and completed 24 of 34 throws for 180 yards and one pick. However, Paddock's average yards per attempt was only 5.3 and his quarterback rating was 109.2 in that limited time. Paddock will have to hold off a challenge from incoming freshman Kaden Cobb this fall.
11. Jack Salopek, Western Michigan
Kaleb Eleby leaves big shoes to fill in Kalamazoo after throwing for 6,084 yards and 45 touchdowns in 2018 and '20-21. Salopek worked as the No. 2 quarterback for coach Tim Lester and connected on three of five attempts for 20 yards last year. Mareyohn Hrabowski also played as more of a change-of-pace quarterback (121 rushing yards) last fall and is expected to factor into the mix. Alabama transfer Stone Hollenbach will push Salopek and Hrabowski for the starting nod this fall.
10. Matt Myers, Buffalo
Kyle Vantrease's transfer to Georgia Southern opens the quarterback battle in Buffalo between Myers and Rutgers transfer Cole Snyder. Myers holds an edge after completing 107 of 210 attempts for 1,316 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions over 18 games (and seven starts) over the last three years. The New York native is also a good runner, as evidenced by his 276 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 93 carries. Snyder played in nine games at Rutgers and threw for 165 yards and one touchdown in limited snaps. Whichever quarterback wins the job is dealing with a revamped offensive line (just one returning starter), but receiver Quian Williams and running backs Ron Cook Jr. and Mike Washington are back.
9. Taylor Powell, Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan is Powell's third FBS stop in his career. The Arkansas native played in 12 games at Missouri from 2018-19 and connected on 35 of 76 passes for 431 yards and one score. He transferred to Troy prior to the '21 campaign and showcased good accuracy (66.1 percent) while throwing for 1,237 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions in seven appearances. Powell lost the starting job to Gunnar Watson for the second half of the season, which prompted a transfer to Eastern Michigan to replace Ben Bryant. The Eagles have ranked among the top five teams in the MAC in pass attempts in five out of the last six years, and the supporting cast at receiver is strong with Hassan Beydoun, Tanner Knue and Dylan Drummond back out wide. Those two factors give Powell a chance to post big numbers in Ypsilanti this fall.
8. DJ Irons, Akron
Expect Akron to be among the most-improved offenses in college football this fall. New coach Joe Moorhead is one of the top offensive minds in the nation, and the Zips have plenty of room to improve after averaging only 19.8 points a game last year. Irons is listed here, but freshman Dijon Jennings and Albany transfer Jeff Undercuffler are in the mix if he doesn't claim a clear hold on the job. Irons showed flashes of potential as a junior college transfer last fall. The Georgia native threw for 892 yards and eight touchdowns with just four picks over 121 attempts. He also showed his dual-threat ability with 296 yards and two scores on the ground. Although the sample size on Irons is small, Moorhead has a strong track record of developing explosive offenses - especially ones with dual-threat quarterbacks.
7. Kurtis Rourke, Ohio
A Rourke - Nathan or Kurtis - has directed the Ohio offense since '17. Kurtis was tapped to fill his brother's shoes prior to the '20 season and has started 12 games over the last two years. Over that span, Rourke hasn't quite matched Nathan's level of play during his successful stint in Athens. However, Kurtis has passed for 2,187 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 344 yards and three scores in that span. With Armani Rogers out of the picture, the job is all Rourke's this fall, leading to hopes he can take a big step forward and emerge as one of the top quarterbacks in the MAC.
6. Matt McDonald, Bowling Green
McDonald began his career at Boston College but followed coach Scot Loeffler to Bowling Green prior to the '19 season. The California native had to sit out '20 due to NCAA transfer rules but has started all 17 of the Falcons' games over the last two years. After a rough debut (712 yards and one touchdown to six picks in '20), McDonald rebounded a bit last fall. He threw for 2,555 yards, 12 touchdowns, and seven picks while adding four rushing scores over 12 matchups. McDonald's completion rate was a solid 60.1 percent but six of his touchdown passes came in two contests (Buffalo and Akron). Entering his third year as the starter, McDonald needs more overall consistency and production for the Falcons to rise in the MAC East.
5. Daniel Richardson, Central Michigan
Jacob Sirmon opened 2021 as Central Michigan's No. 1 quarterback, but Richardson - a four-game starter for the team in '20 - regained the starting job in the fifth contest. The Miami native gave the Chippewas a needed spark, guiding the team to a 7-2 mark over the final nine contests and ending the season with 2,583 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. Richardson finished third in the MAC in quarterback rating (150.4), averaged a healthy 8.2 yards per pass attempt, and ranked fourth in most completions of 10-plus yards (102). He also posted solid performances in key MAC games Kent State (268 yards and four touchdowns) and Northern Illinois (289 yards and three scores) for CMU last fall.
4. Collin Schlee, Kent State
Expectations are high for Schlee as he looks to keep Kent State's Flash Fast offense performing at a high level. Filling the void left behind by Dustin Crum (a two-time, first-team All-MAC selection) won't be easy, but Schlee performed well in limited snaps over the last two years, connecting on 24 of 37 passes for 351 yards and three scores. He's also added 212 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The sample size is small, but there's a lot for coach Sean Lewis to like, including his yards per attempt (11.1) and quarterback rating (171.3) so far.
3. Rocky Lombardi, Northern Illinois
Lombardi's play was instrumental to Northern Illinois' jump from 0-6 in 2020 to MAC champion last year. The Michigan State transfer provided steady play (236.1 total yards per game) and averaged 7.02 yards per snap. Lombardi threw for 2,597 yards and 15 scores and added another 472 and nine on the ground. He also set a new program record in passing yardage for a single game with 532 against Kent State and also threw for 348 yards and three scores in a win against Central Michigan. If Lombardi can continue to improve the week-to-week consistency and overall accuracy, NIU will have a great shot to repeat as MAC champs.
2. Dequan Finn, Toledo
Finn emerged as a breakout quarterback last season and is poised for another step forward in '22 to rank among the top signal-callers in the MAC. After seeing playing time in seven games as a backup from 2019-20, Finn played in all 13 games last fall and started in the final seven contests. The Detroit native averaged 7.1 yards per play (No. 5 among MAC signal-callers and finished the year with 2,044 yards and 18 touchdowns through the air and 505 yards and nine scores on the ground. Despite sharing time for a good chunk of the season, Finn finished tied for second among MAC quarterbacks in connections of 40-plus yards (10) and fourth in yards per attempt (8.2). Accuracy (57.6 percent last year) is one area the Rockets would like to see Finn improve upon in '22.
1. Brett Gabbert, Miami (Ohio)
Since he stepped onto campus in 2019, Gabbert has held the starting quarterback spot and capably manned the RedHawks' offense for coach Chuck Martin. In a standout debut, Gabbert threw for 2,411 yards and won MAC Freshman of the Year honors in '19. The '20 season was abbreviated, but Gabbert still shined in the finale by torching Akron for 308 yards and four touchdowns. The Missouri native missed three contests last year, yet still threw for 2,648 yards and paced the MAC with 26 touchdown tosses. Gabbert's 8.9 yards per attempt ranked second among starters in the conference, while he led the MAC in passing yards a game (264.8).