1. Texas Tech
Patrick Mahomes may be the best quarterback in the country. Certainly top 3. His arm strength and accuracy are one thing, but Mahomes extends plays as well as anyone in college football and he's been given the keys with few limitations to one of the country's best offenses year in and year out. Just ask LSU, that peerless group of freak athletes, about Mahomes abilities outside the pocket. Sure the Tigers beat Tech in the Houston Bowl, but they're still trying to catch Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes could win the Heisman in 2016, a vote that ironically could be swayed as much by Tech's defensive acumen as anything else. We know what Mahomes can do, he's done it and even improved in almost two years as a starter. There's room to get better and that's scary given the rookie mode Madden numbers he's put up the last two years.
We like Greg Ward Jr. Tony Levine had Ward playing wide receiver in 2014. Levine is now a position coach at Western Kentucky. Tom Herman sure likes Ward and why not, his quarterback played at an elite level in 2015, surpassing everyone's expectation. Things could be even better in 2016.
In 2015 Ward played at an elite level, helping his team to a Peach Bowl win and a top 15 ranking. He excelled in Herman's fast paced, physical spread option attack. Remember, Ward played sparingly in two games down the stretch due to injury. A healthy Ward will put up gigantic numbers this year.
|Greg Ward Jr.||153.7||304||207||68.10||2590||16||5||178||1041|
We're going to assume that Seth Russell comes back from neck surgery playing at the same level as his pre-injury 2015 self. With the news of Jarrett Stidham and Chris Johnson's transfer, he'll have to. There are no other options. As it is a healthy Russell is a pretty decent option for the Bears.
In just half a season Russell put up huge numbers, the norm for Baylor quarterbacks. He also brought a different dynamic with his running ability. Chances are new coach Jim Grobe won't be so keen on Russell breaking the pocket and exposing himself to big shots, but even confined to the pocket Russell is a huge threat. With the weapons he can throw to, Baylor's offense should be just as explosive.
The Trill is back! Well, back at a different location, but back playing on Saturdays none the less. In September of 2014 Kenny Trill Hill was going to win the Heisman, the SEC and probably an NCAA title for Texas A&M, then came a suspension, a benching, and a transfer. Now Hill is wearing purple and back close to home in the metroplex.
We think he'll thrive in the Frogs Meachum/Cumbie up tempo offense, a more polished passer than Trevone Boykin, if not the same caliber runner. Hill is being pushed for playing time by 6'5 230 pound Foster Sawyer, a highly regarded sophomore with two years in the system. Sawyer brings an entirely different set of traits to the offense, but he's been thrown into the fire a bit with starts against Oklahoma and Kansas.
5. Texas A&M
This time last year Texas A&M was flipping coins to decide which 5-Star quarterback would start the season. Now? Not so much. Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen are gone, off to different if not greener pastures in Norman and Houston. So who's left? The better question might be who's here?
Trevor Knight transfered in from Oklahoma and brought with him a mixed bag that includes a meteoric Sugar Bowl win three years ago, a disappointing encore season in 2014 and, last year, a benching in favor of Heisman favorite Baker Mayfield. Which Knight shows up in College Station is anyone's guess. Jake Hubenak, the non-5 star holdover, is the backup and was inconsistent in 2015.
Matt Davis is an unguided missile. Lots of energy and running around with no idea where he or the ball will land. That was a blessing and a curse in 2015, Davis needed to run for his life behind SMU's offensive line but SMU's offense ultimately suffered from the rag tag nature of his play.
Davis still put up decent enough numbers, though his completion percentage left something to be desired. Davis will benefit from a young team getting better in 2016. His skill position mates are actually pretty good. Highly touted RS Freshman Ben Hicks backs up Davis, along with the diminutive Darrell Colbert.
Tyrone Swoopes has a certain gravity when it comes to the starting job at Texas, no matter how far away he seems to be, the pull of the position brings him back to the top of the depth chart. In 2015, Jerrod Heard exploded onto the scene in the Cal game (a missed extra point away from overtime thwarted the Horns chances), and looked the part of the dynamic dual threat freak athlete. You know, like Tyrone Swoopes was supposed to be. Heard's slight size and frailty cut his season short, and his spring as well. There was Swoopes, pulled back to the starting position.
Now comes young and also slight, Shane Buechele who tore up the half of the spring game the Longhorns were able to get in before a thunderstorm canceled the rest. Whether it's Buechele, Swoopes, or Heard, the Longhorns need more productivity out of the position. Chances are Buechele will play, may even start in the Horns new offensive system, but somewhere Tyrone Swoopes knows that the odd gravitational pull of the position is ever present.
8. Texas State
Everett Withers has promised parties in the end zone as he takes over Texas State's program, how frequent the parties occur is up largely to Tyler Jones. Jones has been the starter essentially since his arrival on campus from Stephenville three years ago. Jones' numbers took a hit and are trending in the wrong direction after 2015 but Withers offense may be just the tonic he needs to get back headed in the right direction. Previous coach Dennis Franchione wasn't exactly a quarterback guru.
Jones will be challenged by Missouri grad transfer Eddie Printz as well as rising sophomore L.G. Williams. The state goal is an offense that runs 80-90 plays a game, so whoever gets the keys will plenty of chances.
Jared Johnson left one of the FCS's most successful programs to make the jump to the FBS and UTSA. He brings with him a fair amount of success and experience, things that UTSA has been searching for since Eric Soza graduated 2 years ago. Johnson will battle incumbent starter Dalton Sturm, who got the nod to end 2015 after Blake Bogenschutz' career came to an end due to concussions.
Sturm was serviceable at best for the Roadrunners, an adjective that just won't work for the 2016 squad. He was also a pin cushion in 2015, taking 32 sacks. Obviously a number of factors go into sacks, but that high a number indicates that maybe the issue wasn't just a porous offensive line.
Whoever starts at Rice will be a large human. 6'5 Tyler Stehling and 6'4 J.T. Granato battled through the spring along with 6'5 Jackson Tyner. Stehling looks to have the job coming into the fall but coach Bailiff admitted that no one ran away from the competition. Lilliputian sized Nate German checks in at 6'2 but he's more likely to lineup at wide receiver. That's where they put the short guys.
The new guy will replace two year starter Driphus Jackson and also lead Rice back to a bowl game. Stehling, a senior, has stepped into a leadership role, which is great until the live action starts. Granato was a three star recruit from inside the loop in Houston and he and Tyner had the benefit of redshirting last season. Granato looks like the most complete athlete of the bunch, but that's not saying a lot.
11. North Texas
Alec Morris was in a stable of four and five star recruits in the quarterback room at Alabama. Things got a little stuffy and Morris returned home to the Denton County to help resurrect a hapless North Texas program. Seth Littrell was glad to see Morris arrive on campus. Morris and the rest of the Mean Green signal callers get to learn at the dry erase board of a Texas legend, Graham Harrell.
There may not be enough dry erase ink in the world to perform a quick fix at North Texas, still, last season's results were so bad that Morris or any warm body will be an upgrade. A combination of Quinn Shanbour, Connor Means, and Caleb Chumley will back up Morris.
The grad transfer bug has spread to El Paso, and Sean Kugler hopes he's caught a good one in Fresno ex-pat Zach Greenlee. Greenlee was a highly regarded prep quarterback who was inconsistent at best at Fresno. He'll be part of a three headed quarterback battle at UTEP along with Ryan Metz and Kavika Johnson. Metz is the most experienced of the returnees having started several games after Mack Leftwich went down with concussions in 2015. Leftwich is out with shoulder issues for 2016 so the quarterback position is wide open.
Past performance tells us that there may not be an answer on campus in El Paso. Neither set the world on fire in limited action in 2015, though Metz has a leg up having completed spring ball under new OC Brent Pease