Ranking the Pac-12's signal-callers for 2018
Standout quarterback play is usually an annual strength for the Pac-12. Don't expect that standard to change in 2018, as the conference features three All-America candidates in Washington's Jake Browning, Oregon's Justin Herbert and Arizona's Khalil Tate. The Pac-12 also has an intriguing set of signal-callers outside of the top three. Arizona State's Manny Wilkins and Utah's Tyler Huntley round out a talented top five, with Stanford's K.J. Costello and Colorado's Steven Montez in the next tier. The development of USC freshman JT Daniels could add even more depth to this conference for 2018.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2018. 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, 2018 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Pac-12 for 2018.
Ranking the Pac-12's Quarterbacks for 2018
12. Jake Luton, Oregon State
Luton’s 2017 season was cut short due to an injury suffered against Washington State on Sept. 16. The former junior college (and Idaho) signal-caller threw for 853 yards and four touchdowns and completed 61.5 percent of his throws in limited action. He's battling Conor Blount and junior college recruit Jack Colletto this fall for the starting job under new coach Jonathan Smith.
11. Gardner Minshew, Washington State
Luke Falk's departure leaves big shoes to fill in Pullman for coach Mike Leach's high-powered passing game. The Cougars opened fall practice with three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Minshew – a graduate transfer from East Carolina – arrived this offseason to compete with Anthony Gordon and Tinsley for the starting nod. Minshew threw for 2,140 yards and 16 touchdowns with the Pirates last fall. Gordon and Tinsley were able to work with the No. 1 offense in the spring, leaving Minshew with plenty of ground to make up when he arrived on campus. While Minshew didn't have much time to pick up the offense, he made a quick impression in fall practice. Tinsley has yet to attempt a pass since arriving at Washington State in 2016.
10. Devon Modster, UCLA
Chip Kelly’s high-powered offense has arrived in Westwood. And this offseason, the former Oregon coach added competition to a quarterback room that featured Modster, sophomore Matt Lynch, redshirt freshman Austin Burton and incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Michigan graduate transfer Wilton Speight will arrive on campus this summer and is expected to push Modster for the starting job. Modster threw for 671 yards and four touchdowns and added 34 rushing yards last fall.
9. JT Daniels, USC
USC ended spring camp with a question mark under center and opened fall practice with three candidates vying for the job. Can Matt Fink and Jack Sears hold off Daniels? Fink completed 6 of 9 passes for 43 yards as Sam Darnold’s backup last fall, while Sears took a redshirt in his first year on campus. Daniels reclassified to graduate high school a year early and ranked as the No. 16 overall player for the 2018 signing class. The five-star freshman has all of the physical tools and talent needed to move up this list during the 2018 season – provided he beats out Fink and Sears this fall. Darnold leaves big shoes to fill, but Daniels has been impressive in fall practice and is USC's future under center.
8. Ross Bowers, California
With 17 returning starters back, California should take another step forward under coach Justin Wilcox in 2018. The Golden Bears have room to improve after averaging 26.4 points in Pac-12 games last fall, but coordinator Beau Baldwin returns key receivers Kanawai Noa and Vic Wharton, five starters up front, and a 1,000-yard rusher in Patrick Laird. Bowers had a solid debut last year, connecting on 59 percent of his throws for 3,039 yards and 18 touchdowns. South Carolina transfer Brandon McIlwain is likely to slide into the No. 2 role.
7. Steven Montez, Colorado
If Colorado is to push for a winning record and return to a bowl game, it has to get more out of Montez. In his first year as the starter, Montez threw for 2,975 yards and 18 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Additionally, he added 338 yards and three scores on the ground. However, Montez struggled at times, with his quarterback rating dipping below 130 in four out of the last five games. With more consistency, Montez could jump up this list by a few spots in 2018. The junior loses a couple of key receivers from last season, but there's not much concern at this position in Boulder. Montez should have ample targets thanks to the emergence of Juwann Winfree and Laviska Shenault.
Related: Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2018
6. K.J. Costello, Stanford
Keller Chryst transferred to Tennessee, leaving Costello as Stanford’s No. 1 quarterback for 2018. Costello showed promise in his first opportunity for snaps last fall, connecting on 58.8 percent of his throws for 1,573 yards and 14 touchdowns. He finished 2017 on a high note by throwing for 212 yards (a season high) against TCU in the Alamo Bowl. With Bryce Love and one of the nation’s top offensive lines leading the way, Costello won’t be asked to carry the team on his own, allowing the sophomore time to develop into a solid starter this year.
5. Manny Wilkins, Arizona State
Wilkins quietly had a productive 2017 season and will be looking to take another step forward under new coach Herm Edwards. The California native earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors after throwing for 3,270 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushing for 287 yards and seven scores. Wilkins has one of the Pac-12's top receiving corps at his disposal, which includes Athlon Sports' second-team All-American N'Keal Harry.
4. Tyler Huntley, Utah
Huntley over Manny Wilkins for the No. 4 spot among Pac-12 signal-callers might be a surprise for some, but we think Huntley is poised to have a breakout year in 2018. For Utah to win its first Pac-12 South title, the offense needs Huntley to develop into one of the league’s top quarterbacks. That’s a reasonable expectation considering Huntley threw for 2,411 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 537 yards and six scores in his first year as the team’s starter. Huntley completed 63.8 percent of his throws and will benefit from another offseason to work with offensive coordinator Troy Taylor. The return of Britain Covey from a two-year mission will alleviate the loss of Darren Carrington at receiver.
3. Justin Herbert, Oregon
Herbert was poised for a monster 2017 season but a collarbone injury in late September forced him to miss five games. The Oregon native returned for the final three contests and ended the year with 1,983 passing yards and 15 touchdowns. If Herbert can stay healthy, challenging for first-team All-Pac-12 and All-America honors is within reach for 2018. And with running back Royce Freeman off to the NFL, Herbert will be the focal point of Oregon's offense this fall.
2. Jake Browning, Washington
Washington’s passing game missed John Ross’ big-play ability at receiver last season, but Browning still threw for 2,719 yards and 19 touchdowns over 13 games. Additionally, Browning tossed just five interceptions and his 68.5 completion percentage ranked second among FBS quarterbacks. The senior ranks second in school history in career passing yards (9,104) and owns the program record for most career passing scores (78). Browning will have a new play-caller (Bush Hamdan) this fall after Jonathan Smith left Seattle to take over as Oregon State's head coach.
1. Khalil Tate, Arizona
Tate emerged as one of college football’s most dynamic playmakers last season and should continue to develop into one of the top QBs under the tutelage of new coach Kevin Sumlin and coordinator Noel Mazzone. The junior is among the leading candidates from the Pac-12 to win the Heisman Trophy in 2018 after accumulating 3,002 total yards and 26 overall scores last fall. Tate is still developing as a passer, but his all-around playmaking ability will produce plenty of highlights (and wins) for the Wildcats.