Top 10 college football quarterbacks: Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler crashes amid big shakeup
The 2021 college football season will feature new faces on some big-time programs, but there are some returning starters who figure to shine, too.
Here are the top 10 college football quarterbacks, which takes into account what transpired during Week 1’s Saturday slate and also takes into account what each player projects to do for the rest of the year.
10. Kedon Slovis, USC
- 2020 stats: 177-of-264, 1,921 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, seven interceptions
The Pac-12 had the strangest 2020 season of any Power Five conference, so it’s worth giving Kedon Slovis a bit of a pass for his uneven, underwhelming showing. Slovis was excellent as a freshman with a 71.9% completion rate, and 30 touchdowns to only nine interceptions.
Many outsiders are selling their Slovis stock, but they shouldn’t. It’s always fun to bash Trojans quarterbacks because of their repeated flops in the pros. Slovis has the tools to break that streak. Then again, a baffling loss to Stanford and the firing of Trojans coach Clay Helton clouds Slovis’ outlook for 2021, as does the neck injury he suffered in Week 3 .
9. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
- 2020 stats: 172-of-250, 2,488 yards, 26 touchdowns, three interceptions; 111 carries, 569 yards, seven TDs
Coastal Carolina is breaking its way into the national conversation, and steady sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall is a big reason for that. After leading the Chanticleers to an 11-1 mark in 2020, McCall has ripped off three straight wins to begin this year, showing off great accuracy and his trademark running ability.
8. Jake Haener, Fresno State
- 2020 stats: 150-of-232, 2,201 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, five interceptions
This man can flat-out sling the rock. Jake Haener is one of the best-kept secrets in college football. What he lacks in prototypical size, he makes up for with the ability to make any throw and attack all areas of the field with accuracy. He’s athletic enough to extend plays with his feet, but is lethal from the pocket, too. Don’t be surprised if he’s a rising prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.
7. Bryce Young, Alabama
The Alabama phenom made his debut in Week 1 and did not disappoint in the slightest. He threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns — both Crimson Tide records for a QB’s first start — in a 44-13 win over King’s Hurricanes. Young only scampered for one eight-yard gain. He’s a legitimate dual-threat playmaker whose skill set in that area should open up more as the year goes on.
Off a blowout win over Mercer, Young was impressive in throwing for four TDs in a 31-29 victory over Florida in his first road start. It’s obvious that Young has a special skill set, and it’s why oddsmakers now have him as the clear-cut top contender for the Heisman Trophy.Also Read:
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6. Carson Strong, Nevada
- 2020 stats: 249-of-355, 2,858 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, four interceptions
Cannon-armed Carson Strong is one of the most underrated passers in the collegiate game. He was dominant throughout last season and led the nation’s No. 12 passing offense. Strong averaged over 300 yards per game, leading Nevada to a 7-2 record and a bowl victory. He threw for five touchdowns in a 38-27 postseason triumph over Tulane.
After failing to pull off a road win against Kansas State this Saturday in a 38-17 loss, Strong falls a bit from fourth on this list. However, Week 4’s tilt with Boise State is an even greater opportunity for Strong to become more prominent on the national radar.
5. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
- 2020 stats: 186-of-281, 2,296 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, six interceptions; 592 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns
While some of this list is projection and based on smaller sample sizes, Desmond Ridder has earned his spot with a lengthy tenure, excellent ability as a runner and steady throwing progress.
Ridder has guided the Bearcats to three straight double-digit win seasons, and nearly helped Cincinnati pull an upset over Georgia in the Peach Bowl. His performance to start 2021 has the program legitimately in the College Football Playoff conversation.Also Read:
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4. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
2020 stats: 214-of-317, 3,031 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, seven interceptions
However, the Sooners rallied behind Rattler and won eight straight games, won the Big 12 title, and demolished Florida in the Cotton Bowl. Now, Rattler has lost his front-runner status to win the Heisman Trophy in 2021 to the likes of Young and Matt Corral, and is failing to meet expectations thus far. He falls from No. 1 to fourth on the list this week.Also Read:
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3. Matt Corral, Ole Miss
- 2020 stats: 231-of-326, 3,337 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 14 interceptions ; 506 yards rushing, four touchdowns
Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin absolutely let Corral loose in 2020 — sometimes too much so, but it often led to excellent results. Look no further than Corral’s bonkers outing against Alabama, where in a 63-48 loss, he threw for 365 yards and two scores on 21-of-28 passing.
Eleven of Corral’s 14 interceptions happened against Arkansas and LSU. Overall, he completed over 70% of his throws and flashed plenty of running ability, too. Should Corral cut some of those errors out, he’ll prove to be among the elite QBs. Through two 2021 starts, he’s thrown for 662 yards, six touchdowns and no picks. Good start.Also Read:
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2. Malik Willis, Liberty
- 2020 stats: 170-of-265, 2,250 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, six interceptions; 944 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns
You’re going to want to get ahead of the crowd on the Malik Willis bandwagon, because this man can absolutely sling it. Oh, and run the ball with authority. Willis may not go to the biggest school, and still has bouts of passing inconsistency, yet the upside is absolutely undeniable.
Willis was a transfer from Auburn, and despite his roundabout college career to date, has the potential to be a high first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Flames went 10-1 last season under Willis, and were just outside the AP top 25 prior to Week 3’s matchup with Old Dominion, where Willis had six total TDs within the first three quarters.
1. Sam Howell, North Carolina
2020 stats: 236-of-348, 3,586 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, seven interceptions
Some project Howell as the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, he just lost all his top targets. Wideouts Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome, and tailbacks Javonte Williams and Michael Carter are all in the NFL. It showed in Week 1 when he threw two interceptions in an ugly 17-10 loss to Virginia Tech.
If he can rally back and help elevate the level of play from his new skill players, Howell would cast himself in an even more favorable light among NFL talent evaluators. As the Tar Heels’ past two games have proven since that defeat, it’s pretty clear that Howell is the best all-around quarterback in college football right now.
Best college football quarterbacks: Honorable mentions
- Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
- Jaren Hall, BYU
- D’Eriq King, Miami FL
- JT Daniels, Georgia
- Max Johnson, LSU