Quarterback play is always under the microscope for every college football team. Finding and developing a reliable starter isn’t easy for some programs, but for other schools, the next quarterback steps in and the offense doesn’t miss a beat.
With the 2016 season just beginning, who has the best quarterback situations in college football? And which teams should be concerned? We ranked all 128 quarterbacks – with a few stipulations. This is not a list of career achievements or NFL Draft stock. Both of those elements were considered, but we also weighed value to the team, supporting cast, track record of coaches and teams for developing quarterbacks, scheme, projection for 2016, recruiting background, talent and production so far. Anything you can think of to evaluate quarterbacks was used in this ranking.
Here’s an updated look at how the projected starting quarterbacks for all 128 teams rank for 2016:
Ranking All 128 College Football Starting QBs for 2016
128. Justin Agner, Kent State
Kent State’s offense desperately needs a spark after averaging 13.1 points a game in 2015. With Colin Reardon shifting to receiver, Bollas, Mylik Mitchell and Justin Agner were the top three candidates competing for the job this fall. Bollas threw for 756 yards and two touchdowns in 12 appearances in 2015 but was edged by Agner – a true freshman – for the starting nod.
Podcast: QB Extravaganza
127. Glen Cuiellette, Tulane
Willie Fritz is one of the top coaching hires for 2016, but Tulane is headed for a rebuilding year this fall. Cuiellette has played in only one game and won the starting job over freshmen Johnathan Brantley and Darius Bradwell. However, it's possible both Brantley and Bradwell see playing time early in the 2016 season.
126. Dallas Davis, South Alabama
The Jaguars opened fall camp with three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Davis edged Marshall transfer Cole Garvin for the No. 1 spot. Davis played in six games as Cody Clements’ backup in 2015 and completed 11 of 23 throws for 108 yards and one score.
125. Conner Manning, Georgia State
Manning and Aaron Winchester are locked into a tight battle for the starting job. There’s big shoes to fill at Georgia State after Nick Arbuckle expired his eligibility after winning Sun Belt Player of the Year honors in 2015. Manning – a graduate transfer from Utah – attempted six passes in his career with the Utes.
124. Ikaika Woolsey, Hawaii
If new coach Nick Rolovich can get steady play from his quarterbacks, the Rainbow Warriors should make big progress on the stat sheet after averaging only 17.6 points a game in 2015. Woolsey (908 yards and five scores) edged Aaron Zwahlen and Dru Brown for the starting nod this fall.
123. Kevin Olsen, Charlotte
Olsen signed with Miami as one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits in the 2013 signing class but transferred after the 2014 season. After a stint at Riverside City College, Olsen is back on the FBS level for two years at Charlotte. He’s an intriguing option for a program entering its second season at the FBS level.
122. Tyler Stehling, Rice
Stehling worked as Driphus Jackson’s backup over the last two seasons and enters 2016 with 479 passing yards and two scores in 10 career appearances. The 6-foot-6 signal-caller inherits a solid supporting cast, which includes receiver Zach Wright, running back Darik Dillard and three starters on the offensive line.
121. Jason Driskel, FAU
Driskel and redshirt freshman Daniel Parr were locked into a tight battle for FAU’s starting nod this fall. Driskel played in 10 games and threw for 965 yards and three scores last season, while Parr took a redshirt year in his first on campus. Driskel eventually edged Parr for the No. 1 spot.
120. Ross Comis, UMass
Comis opened fall camp with an edge over junior college recruit Andrew Ford for the starting nod. Comis showed promise in a limited stint last season, throwing for 171 yards and two touchdowns in six appearances. UMass faces a brutal schedule in 2016, but Comis (and Ford) provide coach Mark Whipple with options under center.
119. Josh Allen, Wyoming
Bad luck is the best way to describe Allen’s 2015 season. In his first career start (Week 2 against Eastern Michigan), Allen completed 3 of 4 passes for 32 yards and rushed for 40 yards. However, he suffered a season-ending collarbone injury early in the contest.
118. Chason Virgil, Fresno State
New coordinator Eric Kiesau was brought in to spark a Fresno State offense that averaged only 22.3 points a game in 2015. Finding consistency at quarterback would be a huge plus for Kiesau, and Virgil is back as the starter after watching his 2015 campaign end after three games due to injury.
117. Tyree Jackson, Buffalo
Jackson is competing with Iowa State graduate transfer Grant Rohach for the starting job. The 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman is an intriguing prospect for second-year coach Lance Leipold.
116. Billy Bahl, Miami, Ohio
The RedHawks are a sleeper team to watch in the MAC East this fall. Bahl (1,409 yards and eight scores) is competing with Gus Ragland for the starting job.
115. Ryan Higgins, Louisiana Tech
Higgins is slated to replace Jeff Driskel as Louisiana Tech’s starter, but he won’t start the opener due to a DWI arrest in early August. Sophomore Price Wilson or redshirt freshman J’mar Smith will take the first snap of the year against the Razorbacks.
114. Greg Windham, Ohio
With J.D. Sprague retiring, Windham gets the nod over redshirt freshman Quinton Maxwell for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Windham completed 19 of 40 passes for 298 yards and one touchdown in limited action last year.
113. Tyler Rogers, New Mexico State
Rogers was off to a good start last year before a season-ending thumb injury in the fourth game. Prior to the injury, Rogers threw for 974 yards and seven scores.
Podcast: Win Totals and Prop Bets
112. Zack Greenlee, UTEP
Greenlee left Fresno State as a graduate transfer and is the favorite over Kavika Johnson and Ryan Metz for the starting job. In seven games with the Bulldogs last year, Greenlee threw for 866 yards and 13 scores.
111. Anthony Jennings, UL Lafayette
Can the Ragin’ Cajuns find consistency at quarterback in 2016? Three signal-callers received snaps last year, with Jordan Davis emerging as the best option at the end of 2015. However, Davis was edged by LSU graduate transfer Anthony Jennings this fall. Jennings was LSU’s starting quarterback in 2014 and passed for 1,611 yards and 11 scores and rushed for 292 yards on 108 carries.
110. Ahmad Bradshaw, Army West Point
Bradshaw started seven games in a promising sophomore campaign last fall but faced a push from sophomore Chris Carter for the starting nod. Bradshaw is a promising option for coach Jeff Monken, as he ranked second on the offense with 468 rushing yards in 2015.
109. Kurt Benkert, Virginia
Matt Johns threw for 2,810 yards and 20 scores in his first full season as Virginia’s starter in 2015, but the senior was edged by East Carolina graduate transfer Kurt Benkert for the starting job. Benkert missed 2015 due to a knee injury but completed 8 of 10 passes for 58 yards in 2014.
108. Perry Hills, Maryland
Walt Bell was one of the Big Ten’s top coordinator hires for 2016, and the first-year play-caller should make a difference for a unit that averaged only 24.7 points a game last fall. Five quarterbacks are set to battle for the starting nod in fall practice, with Hills the frontrunner after ending spring camp at No. 1. The Terrapins used four quarterbacks last season and led the Big Ten with 29 interceptions. Hills seems to have the best balance of run/pass ability to fit Bell’s scheme and has a good group of receivers at his disposal. True freshman Tyrell Pigrome’s progress is worth monitoring in fall practice.
Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2016
107. Chris Laviano, Rutgers
Laviano (2,247 passing yards and16 TDs in 2015) is listed as Rutgers’ projected starter here, but the No. 1 spot is up for grabs this fall. New coordinator Drew Mehringer is looking for more mobility and rushing potential out of the starting quarterback, and the offense needs more overall consistency after the Scarlet Knights averaged only 21.3 points in Big Ten games last year. Laviano will be pushed for time by TCU graduate transfer Zach Allen, true freshman Tylin Oden and junior Hayden Rettig.
106. Ryan Willis, Kansas
A case could be made for Willis to be a spot or two higher on this list. In 10 appearances as a true freshman in 2015, Willis threw for 1,719 yards and nine scores. Willis didn’t have much help from his supporting cast and was often playing from behind for a Kansas team that finished 0-12. While Willis showed promise last fall, he spent the spring recovering from a wrist injury, which allowed backup Montell Cozart to make a push for the starting job. Is there actually a battle between Cozart and Willis for the starting job? Or was Cozart’s appearance at Big 12 Media Days more of an indication he will play some role in the offense this fall? If Willis is the starter, move him up a spot on this list.
105. Richard Lagow, Indiana
Kevin Wilson is one of the Big Ten’s top offensive-minded coaches, but he will have his hands full in replacing Nate Sudfeld this fall. Junior college recruit (and former UConn and Oklahoma State signal-caller) Richard Lagow left spring with an edge over Danny Cameron and Zander Diamont for the starting nod and was named the starter in fall camp. Lagow threw for 2,285 yards and 21 touchdowns at Cisco Community College in 2015.
104. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Injuries took a toll on Kansas State’s quarterback depth chart last year. Three players received a start under center, with Ertz suffering a season-ending knee injury in the first drive of the opener against South Dakota. Ertz accumulated just one rush attempt for five yards in game action last year. He’s expected to return to full strength in 2016 and should hold off Joe Hubener and Alex Delton for the starting job. Ertz earned Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 2012 and threw for 7,317 yards in his high school career.
103. David Blough, Purdue
Marked improvement in the win column is unlikely for the Boilermakers in 2016, but with 16 returning starters in place, coach Darrell Hazell’s team could be more competitive in Big Ten action this fall. Hazell needs better play from his quarterbacks to help an offense that averaged only 25.1 points a game in 2015. Blough showed promise in his first season, throwing for 1,574 yards and 10 scores. In Purdue’s 55-45 upset win over Nebraska, Blough threw for four scores and 274 yards. There’s potential here, but Blough could be pushed for time by redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar.
102. Bart Houston, Wisconsin
Paul Chryst has a good track record of finding and developing quarterbacks throughout his coaching career. How quickly will the second-year coach find the right answer in 2016? With Joel Stave expiring his eligibility, Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook competed this offseason for the starting job. Houston was considered the favorite, but Hornibrook seemed to close the gap late in spring practice. However, Chryst eventually settled on Houston late in fall camp. Even though he’s a senior, Houston hasn’t played much in his career. In seven games last fall, Houston completed 27 of 47 passes for 281 yards and three scores. This group is a question mark, but the guess here is Chryst finds the right answer during the 2016 season.
101. Daniel Jones, Duke
Thomas Sirk was on track in his recovery from a torn Achilles suffered in February workouts, but the senior aggravated the injury in fall camp and will miss the 2016 season. While junior Parker Boehme has one career start (Pitt in 2015), coach David Cutcliffe picked Jones as the No. 1 quarterback for the opener against North Carolina Central. Jones – a redshirt freshman – could be Cutcliffe’s next star pupil under center.
100. Alec Morris, North Texas
New coach Seth Littrell is a good hire for North Texas, but wins could be tough to come by in 2016. The Mean Green have new schemes on both sides of the ball, including a switch to a new wide-open attack on offense. Morris transferred in from Alabama with one season of eligibility and should be a good fit in the new system.
99. Johnny Stanton, UNLV
Stanton is a former Nebraska signal-caller and a breakout candidate for 2016. He was named the starter in late August, but second-year coach Tony Sanchez has indicated both Stanton and backup Kurt Palandech will both see time in the opener.
98. Christian Chapman, San Diego State
San Diego State’s offense is going to lean heavily on running back Donnel Pumphrey, but Chapman showed promise in a limited stint under center last season. He threw for 203 yards and one score in the Mountain West title win over Air Force and completed 8 of 11 throws for 113 yards against Cincinnati in the Hawaii Bowl.
97. Brogan Roback, Eastern Michigan
Roback was a bright spot for an Eastern Michigan team that went 1-11 in 2015. Roback threw for 2,304 yards and 16 scores last year and should take those numbers up a notch in 2016. However, he's suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
96. Justice Hansen, Arkansas State
The battle between Hansen and Pitt graduate transfer Chad Voytik could extend into the season. Regardless of who starts, the Red Wolves should be in good shape under center.
95. Nate Romine, Air Force
Romine reclaims the starting job after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 of the 2015 season. The California native has been solid in limited action, throwing for 954 yards and seven touchdowns and rushing for 410 yards and five scores in 16 career appearances.
94. Bryant Shirreffs, UConn
Defense is the strength of Bob Diaco’s team, but UConn needs more from an offense that ranked 121st nationally in scoring last fall. Shirreffs accounted for 2,581 yards and 12 scores and completed 60.2 percent of his throws in 2015. The junior’s production should improve with a supporting cast that returns eight starters.
93. Manny Wilkins, Arizona State
Three candidates are vying to start for Arizona State this season, with Wilkins and redshirt freshman Brady White a step ahead of Dillon Sterling-Cole in the battle to replace Mike Bercovici. Bryce Perkins was in the mix to start, but he will miss the 2016 season due to injury. Wilkins was a four-star recruit in the 2014 signing class and played in four games as a redshirt freshman in 2015. In his limited action, Wilkins rushed for 55 yards on seven carries and did not attempt a pass. White – the No. 67 overall recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite – is the name to watch this fall. Regardless of who starts, Arizona State’s offense is in good hands under the direction of new coordinator Chip Lindsey. If there was a clear starter, we would move that player up a spot or two on this list.
92. Philip Nelson, East Carolina
Nelson hasn’t played a down of college ball since the 2013 season and has been on a long journey to get to East Carolina. In two years at Minnesota, Nelson threw for 2,179 yards and 17 scores and ran for 548 yards and six touchdowns. He could have a solid senior year under new coach Scottie Montgomery.
91. Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Paxton Lynch will be missed, but Ferguson is a talented and capable replacement. After signing with Tennessee out of high school, Ferguson eventually landed at Coffeyville Community College and threw for 2,942 yards and 35 scores last year. Ferguson could surprise in 2016.
90. Jared Johnson, UTSA
New coach Frank Wilson is known for his recruiting prowess, and the former LSU assistant landed a couple of graduate transfers this offseason to speed up UTSA’s rebuilding process. Johnson started 30 games at Sam Houston State and ended his career with 6,953 total yards and 50 overall scores.
89. David Washington, Old Dominion
Washington provided a spark for Old Dominion’s offense in the second half of last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Southern Miss. The senior tweaked the knee in fall practice but isn’t in any danger of missing the opener against Hampton. If he can stay healthy, Washington should guide the Monarchs to the program’s first bowl appearance.
Related: Ranking All 128 Teams for 2016
89. Darell Garretson, Oregon State
Coach Gary Anderson didn’t sit idle this offseason after watching his offense rank last in the Pac-12 by averaging only 19 points a game in 2015. Kevin McGiven and T.J. Woods were promoted to co-offensive coordinators, and this duo is tasked with helping Garretson get acclimated to the Pac-12 level of play in his first opportunity for snaps in Corvallis. Garretson isn’t without experience, as he threw for 2,586 yards and 18 scores in two years at Utah State. The junior should provide a spark and stability for the Beavers’ offense.
87. Jalan McClendon, NC State
McClendon finished spring practice with a slight edge over redshirt freshman Jakobi Meyers for the starting nod. However, this battle isn’t a two-man race anymore, as Boise State graduate transfer Ryan Finley joined the mix this summer. McClendon and Finley are both expected to play in the Sept. 1 opener against William & Mary. Regardless of which quarterback wins the job, there are big shoes to fill in replacing Jacoby Brissett. McClendon played in eight contests last year, completing 8 of 14 passes for 69 yards.
86. Drew Lock, Missouri
Lock was pressed into action as a true freshman last season, which was certainly earlier than anyone in the program likely anticipated. As expected with any true freshman quarterback, Lock had his share of ups and downs. The Missouri native ended 2015 with 1,332 yards and four passing scores. He also completed only 49 percent of his throws and tossed eight interceptions. Lock certainly has the talent to move up this list, but his supporting cast is littered with question marks for 2016.
Related: Ranking the SEC RB Tandems for 2016
85. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt’s offense has room to improve after averaging only 15.2 points a game last fall. But coach Derek Mason’s team has reason for optimism, as running back Ralph Webb is one of the best in the SEC, and two key players – receiver C.J. Duncan and tackle Andrew Jelks – are back after missing 2015 due to injury. Additionally, Mason seemed to find his quarterback of the future late last year in Shurmur. In five appearances, Shurmur threw for 503 yards and five scores. His best performance came in the season finale against Tennessee, completing 15 of 34 throws for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
84. Sean White, Auburn
Gus Malzahn is regarded as one of the SEC’s top offensive minds, but the Auburn offense needs a spark after struggling in 2015. The Tigers averaged only 27.5 points a game and 5.4 yards per play last season. A three-man competition in fall practice between White, John Franklin and Jeremy Johnson eventually led to Malzahn naming White as the team's starter for the opener against Clemson. Franklin transferred in from the junior college ranks and brings more mobility to the position than White or Jeremy Johnson. However, how consistent will Franklin be as a passer? White only threw for one touchdown in seven games last year, but he's the best passing option for Malzahn.
83. Brandon McIlwain, South Carolina
New coach Will Muschamp has major holes to fill for a team that returns only seven starters in 2016. However, Muschamp has three promising options at quarterback, including last year’s starter Perry Orth and freshmen Brandon Mcllwain and Jake Bentley. McIlwain gets the nod as our projected starter for South Carolina, as the true freshman enrolled in time to compete for spring practice and finished with an impressive performance in the final scrimmage (19 of 26 for 169 yards).
82. Mike White, WKU
Replacing Brandon Doughty won’t be easy. However, Jeff Brohm is one of the nation’s top offensive-minded coaches, and the Hilltoppers have a strong supporting cast in place to minimize the transition period. White was named the starter over Louisville transfer Tyler Ferguson and sophomore Drew Eckels for the job. White threw for 2,722 yards and 11 scores in a two-year stint at USF.
81. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
It’s no secret Dak Prescott leaves big shoes to fill in Starkville. After all, a strong case could be made Prescott was the best player in program history. Four quarterbacks are vying to replace Prescott, with Fitzgerald the early favorite to take the first snap of the year against South Alabama. He played in eight games last year, completing 11 of 14 passes for 235 yards and three scores and recording 127 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Fitzgerald has intriguing upside and could move up this list by a couple of spots – assuming he wins the job – in 2016.
80. Luke Del Rio, Florida
Florida’s offense struggled mightily after Will Grier was suspended in mid-October. The Gators only eclipsed more than 200 passing yards once over the final seven games and recorded just two passing scores in the last three contests. While drastic improvement is unlikely, expect Florida’s offense to take a step forward in 2016. Del Rio – a transfer from Oregon State – was named the starter late in the fall. He played in three games with the Beavers in 2014 and completed 8 of 18 passes for 141 yards. If Del Rio stumbles, Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby is likely the next quarterback on the depth chart.
79. Lamar Jordan, New Mexico
Jordan has room to improve as a passer (51.7%), but he’s a dangerous runner and ranked third on the team with 807 yards last year. Austin Apodaca is expected to share the snaps for the Lobos in 2016.
78. Riley Neal, Ball State
Neal is one of Athlon’s breakout quarterbacks for 2016 after an impressive stint (2,276 yards and 16 scores) last fall. First-year coach Mike Neu should help this offense take a step forward.
77. James Knapke, Bowling Green
The Falcons suffered some heavy personnel losses and there’s a new coaching staff in place. However, Knapke is a good building block on offense for new coach Mike Jinks. He started 13 games in place of an injured Matt Johnson in 2014 and threw for 3,173 yards and 15 touchdowns.
76. Troy Williams, Utah
Williams was sidelined at the end of spring practice due to an arm injury, but the junior college recruit (and former Washington signal-caller) is back at full strength for fall workouts. Even though the Utes tied for last in the Pac-12 with just 12 passing plays of 30 yards or more, there is optimism about the aerial attack for 2016. Most of that optimism is based upon the addition of Williams, as the California native thrived at Santa Monica College in 2015. Williams threw for 2,750 yards and 31 scores at the junior college level last season and was previously regarded as the No. 101 high school recruit by the 247Sports Composite in the 2013 signing class. There’s certainly upside to Williams, but he also needs help from an unproven group of receivers.
75. Drew Barker, Kentucky
New play-caller Eddie Gran should help Kentucky’s offense take a step forward after a disappointing 2015 campaign. The Wildcats averaged only 24.7 points a game last fall but return nine starters for 2016, including big-play running back Boom Williams and a handful of experienced receivers. Barker redshirted in his first year on campus and played in five games in 2015. Patrick Towles led the team with 2,148 passing yards, but Barker completed 35 of 70 throws for 364 yards and one score last year. Can Barker take the next step in his development with Gran at the controls?
74. Tyler Jones, Texas State
Missouri graduate transfer Eddie Printz made a push for the starting nod, but Jones was picked as the team's starter in late August. Can Jones regain his 2014 form (3,209 total yards and 28 overall scores)? New coordinator Brett Elliott is a rising star to watch over the next few years.
73. Garrett Smith, ULM
Smith is one of the building blocks for new coach Matt Viator. He passed for 2,033 yards and 17 scores and rushed for 250 yards and two touchdowns in a promising freshman campaign last year.
72. Tyler Stewart, Nevada
Stewart was steady in his first year as the starter, throwing for 2,139 yards and 15 scores and rushing for 322 yards and four touchdowns. He should thrive under new play-caller Tim Cramsey.
71. Matt Linehan, Idaho
Idaho is a sleeper team to watch in the Sun Belt this year. Linehan is a big reason why the Vandals could challenge for a bowl bid after a promising sophomore campaign (2,992 yards and 16 scores).
70. Logan Woodside, Toledo
Woodside was pressed into the starting lineup in 2014 after Phillip Ely suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2. Woodside threw for 2,263 yards and 19 scores that year and reclaims the starting job after taking a redshirt season last fall.
69. Joel Lanning, Iowa State
New coach Matt Campbell was a standout hire for Iowa State, and his background on offense should help the Cyclones take a step forward on that side of the ball in 2016. Lanning showed promise in a late-season stint as the starter, throwing for 1,246 yards and 10 scores and running for 330 yards and four touchdowns. With two talented skill players (RB Mike Warren and WR Allen Lazard) at his disposal, Lanning could move up this list by a spot or two during the 2016 season.
68. Trace McSorley, Penn State
Penn State’s offense has struggled during James Franklin’s two seasons in Happy Valley, but there’s optimism for this group to improve in 2016. New play-caller Joe Moorhead is one of the nation’s top coordinator hires, the Nittany Lions are loaded at receiver and return standout running back Saquon Barkley. McSorley was picked as the team's starter over Tommy Stevens to replace Christian Hackenberg under center this fall and showed promise in last year’s TaxSlayer Bowl. Even though the Nittany Lions fell short, McSorley played well in the second half and completed 14 of 27 throws for 142 yards and two scores. The sophomore could have a breakout year under Moorhead’s direction this fall.
RELATED: Penn State Football Schedule 2016
67. Thomas Woodson, Akron
Woodson’s emergence was a big reason why the Zips earned the second bowl appearance and first postseason win in program history. In 13 appearances, Woodson threw for 2,202 yards and 16 scores and rushed for 591 yards and three touchdowns.
66. Shane Buechele, Texas
After averaging only 25.3 points in Big 12 games last season, Texas coach Charlie Strong hit the reset button on offense. Former Baylor assistant Sterlin Gilbert was hired from Tulsa to coordinate the Longhorn attack, and all signs suggest the new play-caller will hand the controls of the offense to Buechele. The Arlington native ranked as a four-star prospect in the 2016 signing class and enrolled in time to compete in spring ball. Buechele completed 22 of 41 passes for 299 yards and two scores in the final spring scrimmage.
65. Tago Smith, Navy
Keenan Reynolds leaves big shoes to fill, but Navy’s offense is still going to be a handful for the rest of the American Athletic Conference. Smith has impressed in limited action and should keep this offense performing at a high level. In 18 career games, Smith has completed 12 of 17 throws for 245 yards and four scores and rushed for 294 yards and five touchdowns.
64. John Wolford, Wake Forest
Wake Forest is another team with an unsettled quarterback situation headed into fall camp. The Demon Deacons have struggled on offense over the last two seasons, finishing near the bottom of the ACC in scoring. Quarterback play isn’t necessarily the area to blame for the lack of production, as the offensive line has struggled mightily in recent years. However, improvement is coming for the Demon Deacons in 2016, as the offense returns eight starters and two experienced options at quarterback. Wolford gets the nod here after throwing for 3,828 yards over the last two years. However, sophomore Kendall Hinton brings more dual-threat potential to the offense and has a stronger arm than Wolford.
63. Ryan Burns, Stanford
Replacing the steady play of Kevin Hogan won’t be easy for the Cardinal in 2016. However, coach David Shaw has a couple of talented passers ready for their first opportunity at extended action. Keller Chryst worked as Hogan’s backup in 2015 and was expected to win the job this fall. However, Chryst was edged by Ryan Burns in camp. Both quarterbacks are expected to play in the opener against Kansas State. Regardless of who is under center for coach David Shaw, the offense is going to lean heavily on running back Christian McCaffrey this fall.
62. Hayden Moore, Cincinnati
Cincinnati's quarterback battle ended just over a week before the season opener against Tennessee-Martin. Moore edged Gunner Kiel for the starting nod, and the promising sophomore takes full control of a Bearcat attack that averaged 33.8 points per game in 2015. Moore threw for 1,885 yards and nine scores as a freshman last fall.
61. Brandon Silvers, Troy
Silvers quietly had a solid 2015 campaign under new coach Neal Brown, throwing for 2,378 yards and 20 scores in 11 appearances. The junior should challenge for All-Sun Belt honors in 2016.
60. Matt Davis, SMU
Second-year coach Chad Morris has SMU moving in the right direction, and the Mustangs should make another jump on the stat sheet after averaging 27.3 points a game in 2015. Davis threw for 2,263 yards and 16 touchdowns and led the offense with 761 yards.
59. Justin Holman, UCF
UCF’s offense was hit hard by bad luck and injuries last year. Holman is a better quarterback than his 2015 numbers (1,519 total yards) indicate. Look for a bounce-back year under new coach Scott Frost.
58. Patrick Towles, Boston College
Injuries hit Boston College’s offense hard last season, as the Eagles managed only 9.1 points in ACC action. But with more experience returning in the trenches, Towles stepping in at quarterback, and a healthy Jon Hilliman at running back, the Eagles should take a step forward on offense in 2016. Towles transferred to Boston College as a graduate transfer from Kentucky. He threw for 5,099 yards and 24 scores in three years with the Wildcats and should provide some immediate help for a passing attack that generated only one play of 40 yards or more last fall.
57. Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech should improve on offense under first-year coach Justin Fuente. Evans ranked as the No. 7 junior college recruit and was regarded as a four-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite in the 2016 signing class. The Texas native averaged 395.5 passing yards a game and tossed 38 scores at Trinity Valley Community College last season. Evans earned the starting job late in fall camp over Brenden Motley and is a good candidate for a breakout campaign this fall.
Related: ACC Predictions for 2016
56. Nick Stevens, Colorado State
Despite throwing for 2,679 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, Stevens is fighting for the starting job this fall. Georgia transfer Faton Bauta and true freshman Collin Hill are pushing for the No. 1 spot.
Podcast: QB Extravaganza
55. Alex McGough, FIU
After a solid sophomore campaign (2,722 yards and 21 TDs), the arrow is pointing up on McGough’s career entering 2016. He’s a big reason why FIU should challenge for a bowl berth this fall.
54. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
As expected, Thorson had his share of up-and-down moments in 2015. The first-year starter threw for 1,522 yards and seven scores (with nine interceptions) and ranked second on the team with 397 rushing yards. While Thorson’s running ability is a valuable asset, he has to become a better passer in 2016. He only completed 50.8 percent of his throws and ranked near the bottom of the conference with just three completed passes of 40 yards or more. Thorson has potential to climb this list and will improve in his second season as the starter. However, the sophomore also needs help from a revamped receiving corps to spark the passing attack.
53. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota
There’s growing optimism about Leidner’s potential for 2016, especially after offseason foot surgery and a return to 100 percent. The Minnesota native has started 29 games in his career and is coming off career highs in passing yards (2,701), passing scores (14 TDs) and completion percentage (59.5 percent). Additionally, Leidner has recorded 23 rushing scores in three seasons with the Golden Gophers. Is Leidner ready to take the next step under new coordinator Jay Johnson and finish his career on a high note?
52. John O’Korn, Michigan
The Wolverines enter 2016 with uncertainty under center, but Jim Harbaugh is one of college football’s top quarterback gurus. While it may take a game or two, it’s safe to assume Harbaugh will figure things out under center. O’Korn transferred to Michigan after throwing for 4,068 yards and 34 scores in two seasons (2013-14) at Houston. But O’Korn isn’t guaranteed the job. Sophomore Wilton Speight is also in the mix and left spring locked into a tight battle with O’Korn for the No. 1 spot.
51. Tyler O’Connor, Michigan State
Connor Cook leaves big shoes to fill in East Lansing, but the Spartans have two capable candidates vying for the starting nod. O’Connor gets the advantage over Damion Terry as the starter and enters 2016 with 54 career pass attempts. The Ohio native received the most-extensive playing time in his career last fall, starting for an injured Connor Cook against Ohio State, leading the Spartans to a 17-14 upset victory. While O’Connor is largely unproven, the limited sample size is promising, and it’s safe to assume coach Mark Dantonio will prevent the passing game from suffering too much of a drop in production this year.
50. Kenny Potter, San Jose State
Potter’s emergence was a big reason why San Jose State showed improvement over the second half of 2015. The former junior college product finished the year with 1,984 passing yards and 15 scores and ranked second on the team with 415 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
49. Austin Allen, Arkansas
Brandon Allen closed out his career with a standout senior season (3,440 yards, 30 TDs), but the Razorbacks may not see too much of a drop in the passing game this fall. The receiving corps is among the SEC’s best, and coordinator Dan Enos was instrumental in the development of this group last year. Austin Allen – Brandon’s brother – was picked as the starter in spring practice. The Arkansas native has completed 9 of 19 passes for 188 yards and one score in two seasons of action. Allen may not replicate his brother’s overall totals, but don’t rule out a solid all-around first year as the starter.
48. Cooper Bateman, Alabama
In Lane Kiffin we trust. Sure, this is the third consecutive season the Crimson Tide enter fall practice with uncertainty at quarterback, but Kiffin’s track record suggests the offense won’t miss a beat in 2016. Cooper Bateman made one start in 2015 and finished the year with 291 passing yards and one score on 37 completions. Bateman has the edge in experience over Blake Barnett, Jalen Hurts and David Cornwell and opened fall camp as the favorite to start. However, Barnett has the most overall talent among the signal-callers on the roster. His progress is worth monitoring early in the year.
47. Kent Myers, Utah State
Myers has shined in limited action over the last two years and is Utah State’s unquestioned No. 1 quarterback for 2016. Expect a breakout season.
46. Sefo Liufau, Colorado
A Lisfranc injury suffered in early November against USC clouded Liufau’s status in the spring. However, all signs point to a return to 100 percent by Liufau for 2016, and that’s good news for coach Mike MacIntyre after Davis Webb decided to transfer to California instead of Colorado. Liufau had a promising 2014 campaign (3,200 yards and 28 scores) but took a step back last season, finishing 2015 with 2,418 yards and nine passing touchdowns. Liufau won’t have standout receiver Nelson Spruce to throw to this fall, but the senior should close out his career on a high note.
45. Max Browne, USC
Settling the quarterback battle between Browne and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold was the top priority in fall practice for new coach Clay Helton. While Darnold made a strong push for the starting job in the spring and again in the fall, Browne was named the starter. Browne was a five-star recruit in the 2013 signing class and completed 11 of 19 passes for 143 yards over the last two years. The junior has all of the necessary tools and potential to have a breakout season in 2016.
44. Eric Dungey, Syracuse
The ACC has a solid group of quarterbacks returning in 2016, but it wouldn’t surprise us if Dungey climbs this list by the end of the year. New coach Dino Babers is a standout offensive mind and was instrumental in developing high-powered attacks at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green over the last four seasons. Dungey showed promise in eight games last fall, throwing for 1,298 yards and 11 scores. He should thrive under Babers’ direction and is due for a breakout year in 2016.
43. Chase Litton, Marshall
Rakeem Cato left big shoes to fill at Marshall, and it took the Thundering Herd offense a few games to find the right replacement under center. Litton emerged as Marshall’s starter as a true freshman last fall and ended the year with 2,605 yards and 23 scores. He should have a breakout year this fall.
42. Nathan Peterman, Pitt
Peterman quietly posted a solid debut as Pitt’s starting quarterback in 2015. He unseated Chad Voytik for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart early in the year and threw for 2,287 yards and 20 scores. Peterman also added 232 yards and one touchdown on the ground and finished second among ACC quarterbacks by completing 61.5 percent of his throws. New coordinator Matt Canada is a solid replacement for Jim Chaney (left for Georgia) and should keep Pitt’s offense performing at a high level. However, the Panthers have to find a replacement for standout receiver Tyler Boyd.
41. Wes Lunt, Illinois
Is this the year Lunt puts everything together and ranks as one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks? The senior has experienced his share of bad luck over the last two seasons with coaching changes and injuries, while top receiver Mike Dudek will miss his second consecutive year with a knee injury. After transferring from Oklahoma State, Lunt settled in as Illinois’ starter in 2014 and threw for 1,763 yards and 14 scores in eight appearances. He started all 12 games for the Fighting Illini last year and threw for 2,761 yards and 14 touchdowns. New coordinator Garrick McGee should help this offense take a step forward in 2016, allowing Lunt to end his career in Champaign on a high note.
40. Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
Texas A&M’s quarterback depth chart changed dramatically before last year’s game against Louisville in the Music City Bowl. Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray transferred, leaving Jake Hubenak as the team’s No. 1 quarterback. While the losses of Murray and Allen were a setback, the Aggies found a solid one-year solution in Knight. The graduate transfer from Oklahoma should be a good fit for new coordinator Noel Mazzone’s offense and will be throwing to one of the nation’s top receiving corps. Knight threw for 3,424 yards and 25 scores and rushed for 853 yards and eight touchdowns during his career at Oklahoma. His best performance came in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, guiding the Sooners to a 45-31 win over Alabama by completing 32 of 44 passes for 348 yards and four scores.
39. Brandon Harris, LSU
LSU’s hopes of contending for the SEC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff likely hinge on Harris’ development. It’s no secret the Tigers need to jumpstart their passing game to complement running back Leonard Fournette, and the pieces are in place for improvement. In his first full year as the starter, Harris threw for 2,158 yards and 13 scores and added 226 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Additionally, Harris tied for third among SEC quarterbacks by completing 12 passes of 40 yards or more. LSU doesn’t need Harris to throw for 300 yards every week. However, after completing 53.6 percent of his passes in 2015, Harris certainly has room to improve this fall.
38. Kevin Ellison/Favian Upshaw, Georgia Southern
Ellison is expected to start, but Favian Upshaw is going to see his share of opportunities. This duo only combined to throw for 824 yards and four touchdowns last year, but Ellison and Upshaw was a dynamic combination on the ground. Ellison ranked third on the team with 712 yards, while Upshaw averaged 7.3 yards per carry and ended 2015 with 583 yards.
37. Drew Hare, Northern Illinois
Hare was on his way to another standout season but an Achilles injury in early November ended his 2015 campaign. All signs point to a return to full strength for 2016.
36. Phillip Walker, Temple
Walker is one of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks. He already owns the Temple school record for passing touchdowns and total offense and is on the verge of setting a new mark for most passing yards in a career.
35. Dakota Prukop, Oregon
Vernon Adams was a dynamic one-year standout for the Ducks. Will Oregon have success once again with a FCS transfer under center? Prukop earned first-team FCS All-America honors by the Associated Press after throwing for 3,025 yards and 28 scores and running for 797 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Prukop isn’t as dynamic of a passer as Adams, but he brings more of a running threat to the Ducks’ offense.
34. Skyler Howard, West Virginia
Howard capped his first season as West Virginia’s starter with a huge performance (532 yards and five touchdowns) in the Cactus Bowl victory over Arizona State. Will Howard pick up where he left off? In 13 games last fall, Howard threw for 3,145 yards and 26 scores and rushed for 502 yards and six touchdowns. Those are solid totals, but Howard needs to perform better in conference action (50.4%, 12 TDs, 11 INTs in Big 12 games in 2015).
33. Kenny Hill, TCU
Hill and Foster Sawyer left spring neck-and-neck for the starting job and the tough assignment of replacing standout Trevone Boykin. Hill was picked by coach Gary Patterson as the starter in late August. Coordinator Doug Meacham has transformed this attack into one of the Big 12’s best, and the Horned Frogs are loaded with promising skill players. Hill threw for 2,649 yards and 23 scores as Texas A&M’s starter in eight games in 2014. He transferred to TCU after losing his starting job to Kyle Allen and left spring locked into a tight battle with Sawyer for the No. 1 spot.
32. Dane Evans, Tulsa
Evans thrived under new coach Philip Montgomery’s high-powered attack in 2015, finishing the season with 4,332 yards and 25 passing scores. Evans’ 333.2 per-game average in passing yards ranked seventh nationally.
31. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
Another offseason to learn under coordinator Danny Langsdorf and coach Mike Riley should pay dividends for Armstrong. The Texas native ranked second among Big Ten quarterbacks by averaging 285.8 total yards per game in 2015 and accounted for 29 overall scores. However, Armstrong’s biggest trouble spot was turnovers. He tossed 16 picks on 402 attempts and completed only 55.2 percent of his passes. Expect Armstrong to cut his mistakes and become a better overall player for the Cornhuskers in 2016.
30. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech is leaning heavily on Thomas to rebound after a disappointing 3-9 campaign in 2015. The Yellow Jackets aren’t as bad as last year’s record indicated, and with more experience and big-play ability returning on offense, getting back to a bowl game is a realistic expectation. Thomas is the catalyst for the triple-option attack, as he averaged 200.4 total yards per game and 26 overall scores in 2014. However, Thomas struggled with a revamped supporting cast and generated only 488 rushing yards and six scores last year. A rebound season should be in order for the senior in 2016.
29. Deondre Francois, Florida State
After an uneven season of production from Everett Golson and Sean Maguire, Florida State’s quarterback situation should be in better shape in 2016. Maguire will miss the start of the 2016 season due to a foot injury, but Francois is ready to step into the spotlight under center. The redshirt freshman ranked as the No. 64 overall prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite.
28. Jacob Eason, Georgia
There’s no guarantee Eason takes the first snap of the year against North Carolina. However, we are banking on the true freshman winning the job at some point during the year and finishing 2016 as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks. Eason was rated as a five-star prospect and the No. 2 overall quarterback by the 247Sports Composite. He enrolled in time to compete in spring practice and completed 19 of 29 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown in the G-Day scrimmage. Eason should be the top freshman quarterback in the nation this fall.
27. Anu Solomon, Arizona
Injuries took a toll on Solomon last season, and the Las Vegas native was unable to build off a promising freshman campaign. In 14 games in 2014, Solomon threw for 3,793 yards and 28 scores and added 291 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Additionally, Solomon’s performance as a freshman was instrumental in guiding Arizona to an appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game. He was limited to just 11 games last season and ended the year with 2,667 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. Solomon seems poised for a rebound year, but he will be pushed for time by sophomore Brandon Dawkins.
26. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
Marquise Williams departs Chapel Hill after earning second-team All-ACC honors last fall, but coach Larry Fedora isn’t too worried about the quarterback position. That’s due to the progress and development of Trubisky over the last two seasons. The junior is one of the nation’s rising stars under center and steps into the No. 1 role after completing 40 of 47 passes for 555 yards and six touchdowns in 2015. Trubisky is surrounded by a standout supporting cast, including one of the nation’s top running backs (Elijah Hood) and a deep receiving corps.
25. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan
Rush is one of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks. He’s started 36 games over the last three seasons and passed for 9,354 yards and 67 scores in that span.
24. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
Terrell eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark for the second year in a row and guided Western Michigan to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history in 2015.
23. Brent Stockstill, MTSU
Stockstill was one of the nation’s top freshmen quarterbacks last season. And here’s the scary thought for the rest of Conference USA: Stockstill is only going to get better as a sophomore. Stockstill connected on 66.7 percent of his throws for 4,005 yards and 30 scores last year. Look for the sophomore to connect with dynamic receiver Richie James early and often in 2016.
22. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State
Appalachian State should have the Sun Belt’s best offense in 2016. The Mountaineers are deep at running back, while Lamb returns under center after a breakout 2015 campaign. En route to guiding Appalachian State to an 11-2 record, Lamb set the school record for touchdown passes (31) and threw for 2,387 yards. He also added 436 yards and five scores on the ground.
21. Davis Webb, California
Jared Goff leaves big shoes to fill, but the late-spring addition of Webb should prevent a steep drop off at this position for coach Sonny Dykes. Webb left Texas Tech as a graduate transfer and has one season of eligibility remaining. The senior played in a similar offense with the Red Raiders, so the transition to California’s Bear Raid attack should be an easy one. In three seasons at Texas Tech, Webb threw for 5,557 yards and 46 scores. With Webb entrenched under center, the biggest question mark on offense for Dykes shifts to the revamped receiving corps.
20. Brett Rypien, Boise State
Rypien is one of college football’s top rising stars at quarterback and is due for a huge season in 2016. Rypien was pressed into the starting job last year after Ryan Finley suffered a season-ending ankle in mid-September. Rypien played in 11 games and threw for 3,350 yards and 20 scores.
19. Quinton Flowers, USF
Willie Taggart’s decision to implement the “Gulf Coast Offense” last offseason helped to jumpstart USF's program back on track. Flowers proved to be the perfect triggerman for Taggart, emerging as one of the top Group of 5 quarterbacks last fall by averaging 252.4 total yards per game and accounting for 34 overall scores.
18. Nick Mullens, Southern Miss
Todd Monken’s late departure to the NFL was a setback for Southern Miss, but with Mullens back for his senior season, the Golden Eagles are still one of the favorites to win Conference USA in 2016. Mullens was thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2013 and has developed into one of the nation’s top Group of 5 quarterbacks. In 14 games last season, Mullens threw for 4,476 yards and 38 touchdowns (both marks set new school records).
17. C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Beathard’s emergence was a big reason why Iowa won the Big Ten’s West Division and nearly earned a spot in the College Football Playoff in 2015. In 14 appearances last year, Beathard threw for 2,809 yards and 17 scores and added 237 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. With Beathard at the helm, the Hawkeyes increased their plays of 40 yards or more from 12 in 2014 to 17 last fall. Beathard battled injuries last year but never missed a start and ranked third among Big Ten quarterbacks with a 61.6 completion percentage.
16. Taysom Hill, BYU
BYU’s quarterback situation was one of the nation’s most intriguing position battles this fall. Tanner Mangum replaced Taysom Hill after he was lost to a season-ending foot injury in the opener against Nebraska and threw for 3,377 yards and 23 scores last year. Mangum and Hill were locked into a tight battle this fall, with Hill eventually winning the starting nod. Prior to his injury last season, Hill was regarded as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. The senior has accounted for 4,606 passing yards and 31 touchdown tosses and rushed for 2,210 yards and 24 scores since 2012.
15. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
The combination of Bobby Petrino’s offense and Jackson’s dynamic playmaking ability is going to provide plenty of headaches for the ACC in 2016 and beyond. Jackson showcased his potential and raw talent as a true freshman last season, throwing for 1,840 yards and 12 scores and adding 960 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Jackson’s emergence as the starting quarterback helped Louisville finish 2015 by winning six out of its final seven games. Now that Petrino has a full offseason to build around Jackson’s ability, expect the sophomore to have a breakout year and challenge for All-ACC honors.
14. Jake Browning, Washington
The continued development of Browning is a big reason why Washington is poised to challenge for the Pac-12 title in 2016. Browning showed flashes of promise and plenty of potential in 12 starts as a true freshman last season. He completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,955 yards and 16 scores and guided the Huskies to wins in four out of their last six games. Expect Browning to be one of the nation’s top breakout quarterbacks this season.
13. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
Pencil in Kizer or Malik Zaire at this spot. Coach Brian Kelly has already indicated both quarterbacks will play in the opener against Texas and the two-quarterback system could extend deep into the season. Kizer replaced Zaire after he was lost for the year in Week 2 last season and threw for 2,880 yards and 21 scores. While Kizer isn’t as dynamic on the ground as Zaire, he still rushed for 520 yards and 10 touchdowns.
12. Seth Russell, Baylor
Russell’s 2015 season was cut short by a neck injury in late October. But prior to the injury, Russell was one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, throwing for 2,104 yards and 29 scores in seven appearances. Russell is back to full strength and will participate in fall practice. His return is a huge boost for coordinator Kendal Briles and new coach Jim Grobe.
11. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Considering the uncertainty surrounding Baylor’s offense after the firing of coach Art Briles, let's give Rudolph a slight edge over Baylor's Seth Russell for the No. 3 spot. Rudolph struggled with a foot injury late in the 2015 campaign but still threw for 3,770 yards and 21 scores last season. With J.W. Walsh out of eligibility, Rudolph is poised for his best all-around year in Stillwater.
10. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
The development of the passing game could be the missing piece in Tennessee’s quest to win the SEC and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. Dobbs is clearly the No. 2 quarterback in the SEC and will be looking to take the next step as a passer in 2016. Dobbs led all SEC quarterbacks by rushing for 671 yards and 11 scores. And in 13 games last season, Dobbs threw for 2,291 yards and 15 scores. Dobbs connected on just three plays of 40 yards or more and averaged only 6.7 yards per attempt. However, Dobbs will have more help on his side with an improved group of receivers, allowing the senior to connect on more big plays in the passing game in 2016.
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9. Brad Kaaya, Miami
Kaaya is already one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks, but new coach Mark Richt should help the junior take the next step in his development this fall. After throwing for 3,198 yards and 26 scores as a true freshman in 2014, Kaaya had a solid sophomore campaign, ending the 2015 season with 3,328 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. Kaaya missed one game due to a concussion but increased his completion percentage to 61.2 percent and ranked second among ACC passers with 28 passes of 30 yards or more.
8. Luke Falk, Washington State
It’s a close call between Luke Falk and UCLA’s Josh Rosen as the Pac-12’s top returning quarterback for 2016. Do you go with overall production or pure talent? It’s a coin flip, but we give a slight edge to Rosen. Falk threw for 4,561 yards and 38 scores in his first full season as Washington State’s starter and was a big reason why the Cougars improved their win total by six games from 2014. With one of the nation’s best receiving corps at his disposal, Falk is primed for another monster season under coach Mike Leach.
7. Josh Rosen, UCLA
As mentioned under Luke Falk, it’s a coin flip on the top Pac-12 quarterback for this season. However, we lean slightly with overall talent and give Rosen the No. 1 spot among Pac-12 passers. Rosen started all 13 games as a true freshman last fall and threw for 3,669 yards and 23 scores. Additionally, Rosen completed 60 percent of his passes and ranked fifth among Pac-12 quarterbacks with 22 plays of 30 yards or more. There’s no question Rosen can only get better as a sophomore and should benefit from UCLA shifting to more pro-style looks in its offensive scheme.
6. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
Mahomes guided Texas Tech’s high-powered offense to an average of 45.1 points a game in 2015. In 13 games, Mahomes passed for 4,653 yards and 36 scores and rushed for 456 yards and 10 touchdowns. But here’s the scary thought for defensive coordinators in the Big 12: 2015 was just his first year as the full-time starter. Mahomes should be even more dangerous (and productive) for coach Kliff Kingsbury in 2016.
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5. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Kelly delivered a standout season in his debut at Ole Miss and is easily the SEC’s top returning quarterback for 2016. In 13 starts, Kelly threw for 4,042 yards and 31 scores and rushed for 500 yards and 10 touchdowns. Kelly’s 65.1 completion percentage ranked fourth among SEC passers, while his 8.8 yards per attempt ranked second behind Arkansas’ Brandon Allen. Additionally, Kelly connected on 25 passes of 30 yards or more – the most in the SEC. Even though receiver Laquon Treadwell will be missed, Kelly should push for All-America honors this fall.
4. Greg Ward, Houston
The combination of coach Tom Herman and Greg Ward guided the Cougars to a 13-1 record last season. High expectations surround this duo once again, as Herman has molded Ward into one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and a dark horse Heisman candidate for 2016. Ward averaged 281.1 total yards per game last season and scored 38 overall touchdowns.
3. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
After splitting time with Cardale Jones in 2015, Barrett is back as the clear No. 1 quarterback for the Buckeyes. And now that Barrett is a full year removed from the leg injury that ended his 2014 campaign early, the junior is poised to emerge as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks once again. As a redshirt freshman in 2014, Barrett accounted for 3,772 yards and 45 overall scores and finished fifth in the Heisman voting.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
The combination of Mayfield and coordinator Lincoln Riley helped to spark Oklahoma’s offense last season, guiding the Sooners to the Big 12 title and a berth in the College Football Playoff. Mayfield earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors after throwing for 3,700 yards and 36 scores and running for 405 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. Mayfield is the catalyst for the dynamic Sooner offense and is one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy in 2016.
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Watson set the bar high in his first full season as the starter. However, the junior is capable of elevating his game just a notch higher in 2016. That won’t be easy for a quarterback that accounted for 5,209 total yards and 47 overall scores, but Watson is capable of inching those numbers even higher with one of the nation’s top receiving corps in place, and the junior could lower his interceptions (13) just a bit. Of course, that’s just being picky for a quarterback that finished third in the Heisman voting in his first year as the starter. Watson should be the frontrunner to claim college football’s top honor and is easily the No. 1 overall player returning for the 2016 season.