Ranking the top 25 quarterback rooms in college football ahead of the 2018 season
It takes more than one arm for sustained success, and these schools clearly know that
How good is your team's quarterback room? It's a question that can dictate a season and determine job security. It's a question that is answered through recruiting, development, coaching hires and sometimes just dumb luck, but the answer is achieved over time.
Ohio State needed its entire quarterback depth chart to win the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship. Florida's inability to find a steady quarterback has played a part in costing two coaches their jobs. Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa started last season as backups for Georgia and Alabama, respectively, but battled it out for the national title in January.
So, I set out to rank the top 25 quarterback rooms in the college football right now. This isn't a list of the top starting quarterbacks. It's a ranking that seeks to answer questions like: Who is best equipped to absorb injuries under center? Who is set up for success beyond the 2018 season? Who has a quarterback coach that will get the most out of his room? Who has recruited well at the position?
Here's your top quarterback rooms for the 2018 season.
Browning has his limitations, but he's amassed almost 9,000 career passing yards entering his fourth season as starter. Then, the Huskies get two years of an even more talented QB in Eason. Then, in 2021, Chris Petersen gets his choice of what will likely be three former four-star arms to take over. Hamdan is also a rising star.
When Tagovailoa wins the starting job, he'll emerge as one of college football's best quarterback talents, and he's around for at least one more season. This also makes Hurts the most accomplished backup in college football. Even if Hurts transfers after the season, Jones will give Alabama solid depth in 2019 and beyond. So, too, will Tua's little brother Taulia, a 2019 Tide commit.
3. Penn State
McSorley is a Heisman Trophy candidate and Stevens is as good as any backup in college football. Penn State is air tight for the next two seasons, but after Stevens, someone will need to step up and it's likely Levis or 2019 commit Ta'Quon Roberson.
Regardless of whether Lawrence is starting against Furman on Sept. 1, here's betting he'll be starting by the time Clemson is playing in the College Football Playoff. Clemson has the former No. 1 player in the country for three more seasons, and Brice and Bryant will serve as solid No. 2s along the way.
QB coach: James Coley
Depth chart: Jake Fromm (Soph.), Justin Fields (Fr.)
Georgia has the best two-man depth chart in college football, but behind Fields is an abyss of walk-ons with no quarterback committed for 2019 and beyond. The good news is that Fields and Fromm will (probably) be around beyond 2018, but Kirby Smart has got to find some depth quickly.
This ranking is a dramatic uptick for the Michigan QB room from the past two years, but Patterson has first round NFL Draft pick potential as a transfer, Peters proved last year he's of starter quality and McCaffrey and Milton are both young with a ton of upside. With this group, Harbaugh has no excuses. Time to live up to his QB reputation.
The transfer of Johnson really elevates the Northwestern room. He's an NFL-level talent who will have three years of eligibility remaining after a season that likely produces an NFL pick in Thorson. McCall's presence matters too and this room could give him his third and fourth NFL Draft picks in just 10 years.
8. Mississippi State
You're getting huge, athletic dudes with big arms under center for the foreseeable future in Starkville. Fitzgerald has a really good backup in Thompson, and 2019 commit Garrett Shrader is the most athletic big quarterback in his class. Throw in a Moorhead bump on this ranking as well because of his QB-friendly system.
9. Michigan State
Michigan State has been incredible developing QBs under Mark Dantonio, and Brad Salem has played no small role in that. Lewerke was a breakthrough, first-year starter last season and brings arm and athleticism to the position. He's got at least one more year and the position looks sturdy beyond the starting job with Lombardi and Day.
10. Florida State
Heading into the 2017 season, there was talk of Francois as a potential NFL Draft pick as a redshirt sophomore. After a missed season because of injury, he's in a battle just to win his starting job back from Blackman. That may be bad for Francois, but it's great for FSU's room. The Seminoles new QB coach overachieved with Maryland's talent and should do well with Florida State.
Riley has the magic touch right now and though the Heisman winner is gone, he's got an even better athlete returning in Murray and a starter-quality option in Kendall. Murray is off to the MLB after this fall, but with Mordecai and 2019 commit Spencer Rattler in the pipeline, the room has a lot of long-term stability.
12. Ohio State
Haskins has been outstanding in flashes as a backup and may be good enough to be one-and-done to the NFL after 2018. Martell doesn't have the physical features for the NFL, but he could be scary good as a college quarterback. Their coach turned down an NFL offensive coordinator job to stick around, so they're in good hands.
Stidham may be a 2019 first-round pick if he has the junior season we expect this fall, but Auburn has a lot of questions behind him because there's not a viable passing threat waiting in the wings. There is, however, a pair of really talented runners in Willis and Gatewood, and Gus Malzahn knows how to utilize that skill-set. Reinforcements are coming through the air, too. 2019 commit Bo Nix can spin it.
14. NC State
Finley may have been an NFL Draft pick had he departed after the 2017 season and he's tracking to be a pro after this year as well. Behind him, NC State has done a good job in getting some competent talent. Leary has a huge arm and McKay is a big, athletic dude who presents a different look for defenses.
If not for some injury questions, this is a top 10 room. Costello really gave Stanford some juice last season when he took over under center, and he should be improved in Year 2. Mills was ranked higher than Fromm and Tagovailoa in the class of 2017, but has dealt with injuries. Those two could solidify Stanford's quarterback room for the next three years and by the time they're gone, McKee will be coming off of his Mormon mission with more arm talent than all of them.
16. Kansas State
QB coach: Collin Klein
Depth chart: Alex Delton (Jr.), Skyler Thompson (Soph.), Samuel Wheeler (Fr.), John Holcombe (Fr.)
Kansas State upset Oklahoma State last season behind Thompson and nearly upset Oklahoma with Delton. Whether it's Delton's legs, Thompson's arm or some balance of both, Kansas State has plenty of capable options under center.
Jones has two more years of eligibility left, but there's buzz coming out of Durham that he may be poised for the type of year that springboards him to an early NFL Draft departure. He's got the tools and Cutcliffe should know. Harris is a solid backup and there are some intriguing arms coming up, but Duke's pursuit of Hunter Johnson in the spring indicates that perhaps the next sure thing isn't on campus yet.
Herbert is probably the most unique talent in the country at the quarterback position and has No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick upside. If injury hits Herbert though, last season showed that the depth chart is not there yet. Burmeister and Shough have some work to do to stabilize the room long term, and this is likely the last year Oregon gets with Herbert.
I'm not sure enough people realize how good Stanley could be. Don't be surprised if he is considered an upper-tier quarterback in college football by the end of the 2018 season. There's a battle for the backup job between Mansell and Petras and Iowa feels very comfortable with what it has in those two youngsters.
20. Iowa State
Kempt is a former walk-on with size and ability, and the stones to beat Oklahoma in his first start last fall. When Kempt went down to injury, Noland nearly upset Oklahoma State. Mitchell brings an athletic, run-first quarterback if needed and Purdy chose Iowa State late last cycle over the likes of Texas A&M and Alabama.
21. Ole Miss
QB coach: Phil Longo
Depth chart: Jordan Ta'amu (Sr.), Matt Corral (Fr.)
Ta'amu has the ability to push Ole Miss higher on this list, but the limited depth is concerning in Oxford. Corral was a huge recruiting win for the Rebels as a four-star kid from California who has rare arm talent. He won't be ready in Year 1 though, so Ta'amu needs to stay healthy and Matt Luke needs to recruit depth quickly.
With the arrival of Burrow, this room went from a huge question mark to a potential strength for the Tigers. Burrow doesn't bring experience to LSU, but he brings a ton of ability and he gives a young, talented depth chart time to mature. By the time Burrow is gone, Brennan will be physically prepared to take over or Narcisse will have developed enough as a passer to be effective.
23. West Virginia
Grier is a no-doubt talent that will be in the NFL next year. But behind him is a Miami transfer in Allison who hasn't proven much, a true freshman that plans to split time with baseball and walk-ons.
The new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach will get a lot of scrutiny this fall, but he'll shrug it off quickly because of how good one of the best QBS in the country will be. We'll see how good Dooley is after Lock is gone because behind him, there's not much.
Tate caught the Pac-12 sleeping last season and had some mind-blowing performances, but he did sputter to the finish line a bit in his last four games of the regular season. Pac-12 defensive coordinators will be ready for him this year. There's also a very thin depth chart behind him and Arizona is in big trouble if he gets injured.
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