It’s that time of year again folks. College football is right around the corner. Every player is fighting for a chance to start at their position, but the quarterback is deemed to be the most sought after performer.
Let’s take a look at the top quarterback battles of the upcoming season and who will become the starter on opening day.
1. Texas A&M- Haynes King vs. Max Johnson vs. Connor Weigman
Haynes King: Heading into year 3 with Texas A&M, King was named the starter out of camp over Zach Calzada, but his season was cut short with a Week 2 injury paving the way for Calzada the rest of the season. While Calzada defeated Alabama at home, King threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns while defeating Kent State before week 2. He did however make 3 picks in that game too.
Max Johnson: The son of former NFL quarterback Brad Johnson and nephew of former Georgia and Miami (FL) head coach Mark Richt, the left-handed signal caller played in 18 games as LSU before transferring to College Station. Johnson had a reparable 2021 season, for an up and down Tigers team. He threw for 2,815 yards and 27 touchdowns with a mere six ints. His physical traits aren’t off the chart’s and his release can be slow, but he is consistent and is intelligent. He was not to blame for Ed Orgeron being fired last year.
Connor Weigman: A top 40 recruit in Jimbo Fishers number one ranked class in 2022, Weigman arrived to campus to get an early start on his progress in spring training. While he definitely shows leadership and maturity for only being a freshman, the quarterback of the future may need a full year of seasoning before he sees the field.
Outcome: King. He has a slight edge over LSU transfer Max Johnson. The reason being is King is the most experienced guy in the room, as he already knows the system. But should his knee injury problems keep reocurring, look for Johnson to be ready to hear his name being called. Plus, Johnson is poised in the pocket and he has the bloodline’s with his father Brad.
2. UCF- Mikey Keene vs. John Rhys Plumlee
Mikey Keene: Keene was thrown to the wolves as a natural freshman when now former starter Dillion Gabriel went down with an early season injury. Now that Gabriel has transferred to Oklahoma, Keene has a chance to compete for the full time role as a sophomore. His head coach Gus Malzahn is also in year 2, so the familiarity is already there.
John Rhys Plumlee: Plumlee was the starter as a Freshman for Ole Miss in 2019 under former head coach Matt Luke. Unfortunately for Plumlee, he dipped below Matt Corral when Lane Kiffin came. Plumee was on the field as a receiver, reeling in 25 balls for 280 over the past two years. He also boasts 1,189 rushing yards that mostly came in 2019. He struggled as a thrower that year, only piling a 52.7 completion percentage at 6.1 yards per attempt.
Outcome: Plumlee. This makes the most logical reasoning. Plumlee is a beast with his legs and is the type of mobile quarterback Malzahn had always had going back to Auburn with Cam Newton and Nick Marshall. Keene is a good quarterback with a big upside, but with Plumlee being a dual threat quarterback, Malzahn will have seen enough to award Plumlee the starting gig.
3. Washington- Michael Penix vs. Sam Huard vs. Dylan Morris
Michael Penix: Penix was a four year starter at Indiana and rose to prominence there. He also was hit with injuries and turnovers. Over his career, he has piled up 4,197 passing yards and 29 touchdowns, with 15 picks and has a minor 59.4% completion rate. He will be transferring into Washington and will be reuniting with Kalen DeBoer who is now the head coach at Washington after a tenure with Penix as Indiana’s offensive coordinator.
Sam Huard: A five-star recruit in the class of 2021, Huard only played in four games as a freshman, and that did not go well. He only completed 22 of 42 throws for 241 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Still, Huard is a prized possession and a talented quarterback too early to give up on.
Dylan Morris: Morris was Washington’s starter in the last two years. In 15 starts, Morris threw for 3,355 yards but has 15 int’s to combine with 18 touchdowns. He rode the pine in favor of Huard late last season.
Outcome: Penix. He gets the starting notch in Washington because of his familiarity with DeBoer. His potential is also much greater than Morris and Huard is a long-term project.
4. Auburn- Zach Calzada vs. TJ Finley
Zach Calzada: Calzada is transferring in from Texas A&M and is known as a winner when he and the Aggies upset the number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide last October. Despite that magical moment, Calzada struggled and was inconsistent in leading the Aggies to an 8-4 record. Calzada had 2,318 yards passing and 19 touchdowns in a week 2 replacement of injured starter Haynes King. He did however throw 10 interceptions while only completing 55.8% of his throws. He is mobile with an epic arm, but can be inaccurate at times. Still, Calzada is a prized transfer quarterback who has a shot to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl should he be the starter by then.
TJ Finley: Finley is a big duel threat quarterback whose 6’7″, 250 lb frame reminds me of Cam Newton when he was at Auburn. He started the last three games of the season after Bo Nix fractured his ankle. Finley also started a lot of contests back at LSU in the 2020 season. Finley has the potential to be the full time starter, but similar to Calzada, Finley has accuracy deficiency’s. In his short career, Finley has thrown for 1,768 yards passing. His 11 td’s and six int’s are solid, but his 56% completion percentage needs improvement.
Outcome: Finley- Calzada will have his moment in the sun, but it may not come until the Tigers play Alabama in the Iron Bowl in late November. Both Finley and Calzada are big, mobile quarterbacks with big arms. While both struggle with accuracy, Finely is slightly more accurate than Calzada. Plus, Finely already knows the system. Until Calzada is comfortable and learns Bryan Harrison’s offense, Finley is the guy Auburn should start week one. Oh and maybe in the Iron Bowl, Harrison has one of those two guys run the statue of Liberty that he called back in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, when the Boise State Broncos defeated the Oklahoma Sooners.
5. Cincinnati- Ben Bryant vs. Evan Prater
Ben Bryant: Bryant spent three seasons at Cincinnati as the backup quarterback to now Atlanta Falcon’s draft pick Desmond Ridder, before entering his name into the transfer portal. Bryant transferred to Eastern Michigan and had a solid one year season. He had a 68.4 completion percentage for 3,121 yards. Bryant came back to Cincinnati in hopes of becoming Ridder’s replacement.
Evan Prater: Prater signed with the Bearcats as a four star recruit and as a hometown kid. In the 2020 season plagued by COVID, Prater was third string behind Ridder and Bryant. In 2021, he was promoted to the backup role after Bryant transferred to EMU. Ridder and the Bearcats had a historic season which led them to the CFP in 2021, making them the first non-power 5 program to make the College Football playoffs.
Outcome: Bryant. The Bearcats have a tough first game on the road at Arkansas and starting Prater, as a younger option would spell trouble right away. Starting Bryant makes more sense as he is the veteran guy who got starting experience when he transferred to EMU. Because he is from an SEC team right out the gate, Luke Fickell decides to go the veteran route and make Bryant the game 1 starter.
6. Clemson- DJ Uiagalelei vs. Cade Klubnik
DJ Uiagalelei: Uiagalelei was rated 5 stars as a recruit and excelled in his two starts in 2020. Unfortunately, 2021 was a step back. The Clemson offense was abysmal as a unit, and sadly, Uiagalelei was the man leading the group. He was one of the bottom feeders in the ACC, as the quarterback completed 55.6 % of his throws for nine TD’s and 10 INTS while only carrying an average of six yards per attempt. Can he bring back the 2020 version of himself?
Cade Klubnik: Head’s up Clemson University, we have a new five star freshman recruit in town. Klubnik was rated the No 3. overall prospect in the class of 2022, by Rivals. He played high school ball in the prospect rich football state of Texas, and enrolled early at Clemson in South Carolina. Right now, he is Uiagalelei’s backup, but fans may be crying for his name to be called sooner rather than later.
Outcome: Uiagalelei. Dabo Swinney has done nothing but rave about the improvement of Uiagalelei this season and has full confidence in him to get Clemson back to the CFP. You still can’t let go of all the struggles last year as he was atrocious. Also, don’t forget Dabo Swinney’s history of starting the season with a veteran, only to switch to a five star freshman. That has happened twice with Deshaun Watson (2015) and Trevor Lawrence (2018). Is the third time a charm with Klubnik?
7. LSU- Myles Brennan vs. Jayden Daniels vs. Garrett Nussmeier
Myles Brennan: Brennan is the most experienced guy in the quarterback room. Since 2017, Brennan has served as Joe Burrow’s backup and then started the 2020 season as the starter before being injured. Brennan was about to start the 2021 season, but he broke his arm in a fishing trip accident, keeping him out for another full year. After seeking a transfer, new head coach Brian Kelly convinced Brennan to stay a Tiger.
Jayden Daniels: Daniels is a transfer from Arizona State looking to make a step up from PAC 12 to SEC competition. At ASU, Daniels passed for 6,025 yards and rushed for 1,288 yards along with a combined 45 touchdowns. He has the skills, but will he be able to handle the jump from the PAC 12 to the SEC?
Garrett Nussmeier: Nussmeier was a four star recruit in 2021 who was able to keep his redshirt after playing in four games as a true freshman. He was 29-57 for 329 yards, two touchdowns and two ints. His spring practice drew approval from Kelly and that’s something for a freshman to be complimented by a head coach of Brian Kelly’s caliber.
Outcome: Brennan. This is Brennan’s time to shine. He’s paid his due’s sitting and learning behind an NFL superstar now in Joe Burrow, and his injurie’s were bad luck and bad timing. Now, he’s a sixth year senior ready to show his maturity as a quarterback and compete against some of the best the SEC has to offer.
8. Michigan- Cade McNamara vs. JJ McCarthy
Cade McNamara: Yes, McNamara did bring Michigan to the Big Ten title last year, but it is also known that it’s his job to lose. McNamara had 2,576 yards passing, while compiling 15 td’s and six interceptions. Is McCarthy just a gadget qb? Or does his duel-threat capabilities put him over the top of McNamara? Either way, OSU is looking for revenge this year and Michigan better figure out who will start week 1 before that big rivalry game.
JJ McCarthy: McCarthy probably could have been the starter after week 1 of camp, but McNamara already knew the system better. But when head coach Jim Harbaugh found out the potential in McCarthy, he put him in for read option packages. McCarthy is similar to Notre Dame signal caller Tyler Buchner where he is very mobile, but needs to work on his throwing. Still in limited action, he threw for 516 yards, rushed for 124 yards, and scored seven touchdowns. It’s going to be a close call for Harbaugh but like his faith, Harbaugh will play the best guy that gives them the best chance to win.
Outcome: McNamara. McCarthy has more potential with his duel threat status, but why would Harbaugh want to make that change with McNamara guiding the Wolverines to the CFP. Because they are both good players, Michigan will probably keep playing both qb’s in the early part of a soft schedule.
9. North Carolina- Jacolby Criswell vs. Drake Maye
Jacolby Criswell: Criswell was rated four stars in the 2020 recruiting class and had to sit behind Sam Howell for two years. He’s small, but has a stocky built and he has a cannon for an arm. He’s also a duel threat as he can take of on a read option play and pick up first downs with his legs.
Drake Maye: Maye is a big guy at 6′ 4″ and 220 pounds. He is a very accurate passer and calm from the pocket. The downside to his game is he is very immobile which is Criswell’s upside. If Maye was more mobile, I’d say he could start over Criswell, but you need that duel threat quarterback to run a college style up tempo offense.
Outcome: Criswell. Look, both Criswell and Maye are great competitors, there’s no denying that. They’ve both had to battle for reps behind Sam Howell who is now in the NFL. This year, they have to battle for the starting job. While it’s possible both quarterbacks could see playing time, I think Criswell wins the job due to his arm strength and mobility. Maye could possibly seek a transfer through the portal.
10. Notre Dame- Tyler Buchner vs. Drew Pyne
Tyler Buchner: Buchner got into game action in year 1, but was mainly used as a running quarterback. He ran for an impressive 336 yards and six touchdowns on 46 carries. Buchner is a raw passer, but he is a piece of clay where you can mold him into a true duel threat quarterback, which is something Notre Dame has never really had.
Drew Pyne: At a mere 5′ 11″ Pyne is prejudged as the tough, small quarterback who is confident, but not cocky. He fit that stereotype well as he led multiple scoring drives coming of the bench in comeback attempts vs Cincinnati and Wisconsin in 2021. Pyne however was only 15-30 in passing attempts.
Outcome: Buchner. Under Marcus Freeman as head coach, its time for a new era of quarterback play. Gone are the traditional pocket passers Brian Kelly recruited in the early 2010’s. Bucher is an excellent runner and if he can be molded into a good passer, he will be a true duel-threat quarterback. Don’t you worry Drew Pyne, your toughness and quarterback mentality will be needed should you need to come off the bench and lead comeback efforts again. And now it’s official, the team announced that Buchner will be the starting quarterback over Pyne for week 1 at Ohio State.
11. Ole Miss- Jaxson Dart vs. Luke Altmyer
Jaxson Dart: Gone is three year starter Matt Corral as he is now a rookie in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. In comes this smart, highly intelligent kid from USC who is looking for a new home to start in college football. Dart was a four star recruit in 2021 and played in six games seeing action with Kedon Slovis. Dart threw for 1,353 yards, with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. He was one of the stars in Lane Kiffin’s 2nd ranked transfer portal class in 2022.
Luke Altmyer: Altmyer was also a four star recruit in 2021 similar to Dart, but the difference is Altmyer is in his sophmore year at Ole Miss which gives him the edge in already knowing the offense. In the 2021 Sugar Bowl vs Baylor, Matt Corral suffered a college career ending knee injury, paving the way for Ole Miss to evaluate Altmyer as a true freshman. He was knocked around against a more mature Baylor defense and the Rebels lost the game.
Outcome: Dart. I’m going to go with the bulls-eye man himself. Dart is everything he is in his last name. He can throw the ball accurately with some zip on the ball. More importantly, he arrived to Ole Miss on target as a transfer. Altmyer is a nice player, but that one Sugar Bowl game should tell you that you have to go with the prized transfer in Dart. He is already the big man on campus.
12. Oregon– Bo Nix vs. Ty Thompson
Bo Nix: Nix was a five star recruit who went to Auburn and was the starting quarterback as a freshman. He started for three years and enjoyed many ups as well as a few downs. While he hasn’t lived up to his five star status, he was a fan favorite at Auburn. New head coach Dan Lanning who was the defensive coordinator for the defending National Champion Georgia Bulldogs, has SEC experience and Nix also has SEC experience. It should be a match made in paradise.
Ty Thompson: Thompson was a five star in 2021, but was barely used sitting behind Anthony Brown as a freshman. There are sky high aspirations for Thompson, but he isn’t ready to start week 1 against Georgia.
Outcome: Nix. Nix is an SEC transfer which goes perfect for former SEC coach Dan Lanning in his first head coaching gig. And who is Oregon taking on in their first game? Oh yeah, Only the defending National Champion Georgia Bulldogs. This is the team Lanning built into a once in a generation defense.
13. Pittsburgh- Kedon Slovis vs. Nick Patti
Kedon Slovis: Slovis was an underrated three-star recruit when taking over the starting role for an injured JT Daniels at USC. He performed very well for a freshman, throwing for 3,052 yards and 30 TDS. Afterwards, he then had to split action with 2021 four star recruit in Jackson Dart. When Dart transferred to Ole Miss in 2022, Slovis transferred to Pitt where he has a big task of replacing Steelers first round draft pick Kenny Pickett.
Nick Patti: Patti has been waiting so patiently for his chance to start after three years as Kenny Pickett’s backup. After Pickett skipped his bowl game to declare for the NFL Draft, Patty got the start in the Peach Bowl. Unfortunately he broke his collarbone in the first quarter. Patti still has a fighting chance to beat out Slovis, but that type of injury is something you don’t want to mess with.
Outcome: Slovis. You should always add quarterback depth even if you’re team doesn’t need it. Pitt went hard after Slovis and Slovis bought into what he was being sold with a commit. Patti could have been the starter, but that injured-collarbone in the Peach Bowl really hurt his chances and Slovis has starting experience with USC.
14. TCU- Max Duggan vs. Chandler Morris
Max Duggan: Duggan has been the starting quarterback for TCU’s last three seasons, but a new sheriff is in town. New Head Coach Sonny Dykes takes over for long time coach Gary Patterson. Duggan is a duel threat quarterback struggling with a foot injury. His numbers have been nice, but combine his foot injury and the fact TCU hasn’t won anything may persuade Dykes to look at other options.
Chandler Morris: Morris transferred in from Oklahoma last season and served as Duggan’s backup for most of 2021. The one chance he got to play was late in the year against Baylor and Morris had his shining moment. He threw for an astounding 461 yards in an upset win over the Bears. Because of that moment, Dykes said this year the qb battle would be an open competition.
Outcome: Morris. Morris is a better choice in Dykes’ passing offense. TCU also has a great set of running backs and receivers that need an effective passer like Morris to start week 1.
15. Texas- Quinn Ewers vs. Hudson Card
Quinn Ewers: Ewers was the top recruit in the class of 2022 but he reclassified to 2021 and attended Ohio State instead. He instantly regretted that decision as he was way behind on the depth chart. As a result, he transferred back to Austin to play for the Longhorns. Being one of the most highly rated recruits for a Texas Longhorn signal caller since Vince Young, there’s oodles of potential for this kid.
Hudson Card: Card was the starter for the Longhorns in the opening week of the 2021 season. He won in Week 1 over Louisiana. In a key SEC game vs Arkansas on the road in week 2, Card was horrible and was benched for Casey Thompson who later transferred to Nebraska. Card chose to stay, but will the Quin Ewers excitement be too much for Card to handle?
Outcome: Ewers. OMG. No doubt Ewers is the guy week 1. Steve Sarkisian picked up this prized transfer because he needs to start recruiting as if they are already in the SEC. Oh, and did I mention his former boss Nick Saban and Alabama are coming to Austin week 2? Yeah, I have. Multiple times.