The Roundup's 2017 position group previews starts with the quarterbacks. We look at the quarterback depth charts for the 12 Texas FBS schools and view the position as a whole. Where we can we've given you radar graphs based on past performance. We track quarterbacks through 8-10 criteria - the most important of which (and we totally stole this from Bill Connelly over at football study hall) are completion percentage, interception rate, sack rate, yards per attempt, and yards per play (taking into account passing, sack, and rushing yardage).
We take those five indicators and every quarterback with 100 or attempts and give each quarterback a percentile rank amongst his peers. Is it flawless? Nope. Does it give us a pretty good indicator of how efficient a quarterback is? You bet. If you rank in the top 75 in terms of percentile, you're really good, probably elite. If you rank in the top 50% that's a decent number. Below that and we've got some work to do.
There's also a little bit of film study as well. Enjoy.
Best of the Power 5: Nic Shimonek
Best of the G5: Kyle Allen
Top Newcomer: Damian Williams
Texas' quarterback room may be in better shape in 2017 than it's been in a while. We hate to be mean, but when your backup in Tyrone Swoopes, you've got issues. Swoopes skill set didn't exactly jell with Texas' desire to run a west coast offense, it fit better with the Mike Norvell spread, but his abilities certainly didn't fit with the Bear Raid of Sterling Gilbert. Now Texas has Shane Buechele and a very similarly gifted true freshman Sam Ehlinger.
Let's start with Buechele, a gym rat who can walked into DKR for his first college game against Notre Dame and didn't blink.
Buechele did a lot of good things, some of them very good. He struggled with things that young players typically struggle with, i.e. sack rate and interception rate. As the game continues slow down for him and his comfort level grows those areas should improve.
As to the good things, Buechele throws with confidence and accuracy. He's already near elite level in terms of completion percentage and efficiency. He gets the ball out quickly on horizontal routes is just enough of a run threat to keep defenses honest.
The question will be how Herman and Tim Beck use him. He's not comparable to any of Herman's recent quarterback progeny. His game doesn't fit with Ohio State quarterbacks J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, or Braxton Miller. Nor does he compare with Greg Ward Jr. from Herman's time at Houston. How conventional can the Beck/Herman offense look with a quarterback who isn't a creator in the run game?
Ehlinger was all-everything at Austin Westlake, just up the hill from UT's campus. He was groomed by former Longhorn quarterback and legendary high school coach Todd Dodge. He's bigger than Buechele at 6-2, 225 which may help him in the running game but we doubt either of Texas' quarterbacks will be asked to do a ton of running.
Herman has hinted that the Horns will have a package for Jerrod Heard, the dynamic quarterback who transitioned to receiver last season. At the very least Heard will give opposing coaches something to think about as they prep for the Horns. He's a game breaker in the right scheme.
2. Texas Tech
Texas Tech's offense has never suffered from inexperience at the quarterback position. If anything the Red Raiders' offense has been plug and play. The best thing you can do to replace a 5,000 yard passer like Patrick Mahomes is go and get yourself another one. Nic Shimonek looks like he can be that guy.
In a very small sample size Shimonek fit right in. After Mahomes went down with an injury Shimonek guided the Red Raider offense without a hitch against Kansas. He completed 71% of his passes for 271 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. On the season, Shimonek completed 65% of passes with six touchdowns to just one pick, albeit in just 58 attempts. Shimonek isn't going to be wowed by the spotlight, he went from Melissa High School to Iowa and after a year in Iowa City he transferred to Tech. While awaiting his chance to play and a scholarship, he made ends meet by refinishing furniture.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury calls him the hardest working guy on the team. That bodes well for the Red Raiders who have often used lesser talented quarterbacks than Shimonek to put up lots of numbers and lots of wins.
Film Study: Nic Shimonek
Calming presence on the field. Great use of feet/lower body. Quiet feet. Quick release. Decisive. Moves inside the pocket with purpose, not a run threat, but can extend plays. Throws from varied arm angles well.
If anything happens to Shimonek things could get dicey. McLane Carter transferred into Tech from Tyler Junior College after a very successful high school career at Gilmer. Then there's the very talented Xavier Martin from Cibolo Steele. Martin enrolled early and participated in spring practice. Ideally Martin would sit and watch for a season, hopefully redshirt. That may depend on the status of Tech's highly regarded quarterback recruit from 2o16, Jett Duffy. Duffy was found responsible for two counts of sexual misconduct by the University and suspended. His suspension is set to lift by late August. Whether he can be counted on to contribute will be determined at that time.
Call us crazy but we're very high on Baylor's quarterback situation for one reason: Options. Baylor has a ton of them. Start with Zach Smith who filled in pretty admirably for the injured Seth Russell from the OU game on. You need to look beyond his radar graph a bit, in three of his four starts Smith completed 60% or better. The one outlier was a trip to Morgantown and Tony Gibson's defense. That's a tough ask of anybody, let alone a true freshman. The Bears should be encouraged as after a three weeks of bowl practices, Smith torched Boise State. In spite of an open competition, Smith looks like it's his job to lose.
Baylor's quarterback room received a boost with the arrival of transfer Anu Solomon from Arizona. Solomon was the favored quarterback in Tucson until 2016 when he was banged up and lost his job. Up until the injury bug struck, Solomon was a very effective starter, even leading the Wildcats to the PAC 12 South title as a redshirt freshman. Concussions derailed his 2015 season and he never got off the ground in 2016. Hopefully he's healthy and a fresh start in Waco can give him one last run.
A player Bear fans should be excited about is Charlie Brewer, the early enrollee out of Lake Travis. Brewer was arguably the best quarterback in the state last season. He ran the Cavaliers pass happy offense to near perfection as they rolled to a 6A Division I state title. Brewer is as polished as a high schooler could be as he integrates into Matt Rhule's offense. Brewer might be ready this season, but a redshirt year wouldn't hurt.
After five games, Kenny Hill looked like an apt replacement for Trevone Boykin. Hill threw for 350 or more yards in four of his first five starts. In three of those starts he topped 400 yards. He completed 66% of his passes and his QB rating was 142.
The the wheels came off. Hill completed almost ten percentage points less vs. conference opponents. He topped 200 yards just twice. His yards per attempt dropped by almost two yards. He threw eleven touchdowns and nine picks. He was benched, injured and TCU fell to 6-7.
Hill has the talent, he's a natural, fluid passer. He has the arm strength to make every throw that Sonnie Cumbie's offense requires. His throwing motion is compact and efficient and he can flat out spit it. When Hill is on (and his receivers are catching) it's a beautiful things.
Hill is an asset in the running game. He's instinctual in the pocket and when things break down and he takes off good things tend to happen. All that should add up to an elite level quarterback, but the math hasn't worked out. We mentioned how beautiful it can be when it works, and it does more often than not, but it's those other instances, the 5-10% of the time that Hill baffles you with his ball security and haphazard approach. If he can cut that percentage down, he's shown he has the potential to be as good as anyone in the country.
Film Study: Kenny Hill
Quiet lower body, quick release. Throws with velocity and accuracy. Very good at the zone read and RPO's. Needs to learn to slide in the run game to stay healthy. Gets in trouble when he predetermines where the ball is going and locks on. Can be fooled by coverage schemes.
Year two in TCU's offense gives Hill another opportunity to make good on his potential. If he doesn't there's a highly regarded freshman waiting.
Shawn Robinson turned heads in the spring by seizing the backup job in his first semester. Robinson, an early enrollee from DeSoto, has all the tools to be special. The key will be can he adapt to the Frog's offense. Robinson threw for over 3,400 hundred yards and rushed for another 1,500. If he's at all ready Patterson and Cumbie will find a way to get Robinson on the field.
Grayson Muehlstein returns for his junior season. Muehlstein was once the fourth rated quarterback in the state, however, he's yet to earn significant playing time in Fort Worth. If Robinson redshirts (as some suggest though we don't see it) Muehlstein has been in this offense for three years giving the Horned Frogs the rare experienced backup.
Houston faces the challenge of replacing the dynamic Greg Ward Jr. Over the past two seasons Ward accumulated nearly 8,000 yards of total offense and played a part in 70 touchdowns. Now the Cougars turn to a very different player with very different skills in transfer Kyle Allen.
Allen was a five-star recruit out of Arizona who initially landed at Texas A&M before transferring to Houston and sitting out 2016. This spring Allen fit right in as Major Applewhite took over for Tom Herman. New offensive coordinator Brian Johnson has overseen the development of several highly productive quarterbacks: at Utah he coached Jordan Wynn and Travis Wilson, both lanky athletic pocket passers; and at Mississippi State Dak Prescott, current Cowboy wunderkind, and bulldozer Nick Fitzgerald. Allen is unique among them, the best pocket passer, but lacking the running ability, not only of those four but also of Ward.
That fact will mean a shift if philosophy, away from Ward's quarterback/point guard role, where Ward was given the freedom to distribute and create with both his legs and his arm. Houston will look more conventional in their passing and running approaches.
Make no mistake, Allen can flat out spin it. He has the arm strength and confidence to go downfield and challenge the top of the defense. He used those traits at A&M to sit near the 70th percentile in yards per attempt.
Two years ago Allen struggled with completion percentage and sack rate. Part of his completion issues were due to a serious case of the drops by A&M receivers, but Allen played a part as well. A year away from game action could lead to rust or perhaps a change in perspective. Allen was an Elite 11, 5-star, can't miss prospect who's career has taken turn. Houston gives Allen a fresh start and a chance to put up big numbers.
Kyle Postma is a rarity in this day and age, a backup with experience. Postma was Ward's understudy the past two seasons, making the odd spot start due to injury. He's played in nineteen games over two seasons starting three with a 2-1 record. If something happens to Allen, Houston will have a fighting chance.
Applewhite made a strategic decision to allow sophomore D'Eriq King to compete at quarterback after playing the slot last fall. He sat out the spring with an injury. King was a gifted receiver and punt returner in 2016, but was just one season removed from starting for Houston area power Manvel. King was a 4-star recruit and put up over 13,000 yards of total offense and 188 touchdowns. King is listed at 5-11, he's not. He might crack 5-9, so size is an issue. King may end up being a package player at quarterback, a change of pace. But if Houston needed to, King's athleticism could cause opponents a lot of problems.
6. Texas A&M
Last season Texas A&M turned to a grad transfer, Trevor Knight, after their recent haul of four and five star recruits up and left town. Knight did some nice things for the Aggie offense but not enough to push them into elite status in the SEC West.
Currently there is a three horse race to see who gets a shot at leading the Aggies in 2017. Senior Jake Hubenak, redshirt freshman Nick Starkel, and true freshman Kellen Mond.
Hubenak has the most experience by a mile, he's made several starts over the past two seasons. Hubenak was one of the most prolific passers in high school football his senior year out of Georgetown. As a collegian he's reliable, but he hasn't been anything special.
He's yet to complete 60% or better in any start, last season's 58% completion percentage ranked him in the 44th percentile and was 5 point improvement over 2015. Hubenak, from a percentile rank, also took a lot of sacks in 2016.
On the positive side, Hubenak threw downfield to the tune of 8.5 yards per attempt. That would have been good enough for second among SEC quarterbacks behind Austin Allen, had Hubenak qualified. For his career he's had a 3-1 touchdown to interception ratio.
If A&M plays it safe, they'd start Hubenak and save the young quarterbacks for emergency situations. However the hot seat in College Station may not afford Kevin Sumlin that luxury.
Starkel, a redshirt freshman out of Liberty Christian in Argyle, was given every chance to win the job in the spring. He threw for 174 yards in the spring game and showed off his best asset, arm strength. Starkel may have the most arm talent of any quarterback at A&M in recent memory. He's been linked to offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone since the latter was at UCLA. Once Mazzone jumped to A&M Starkel de-committed from Oklahoma State and signed with A&M. He would provide a noticeable difference from Knight as he can push the ball downfield.
Meanwhile Mond is yet another quarterback to be anointed the future of A&M football. Sort of like being the Spinal Tap drummer. Mond played at San Antonio Reagan before transferring to IMG Academy in Florida. He's a true dual threat quarterback and the best runner in the A&M QB room. As a passer he looked a bit unpolished in the spring, but he should grow into a nice player.
If he sticks around.
SMU is a rarity, as they enter 2017 with an incumbent, who may not give the Mustangs the best chance to win. Ben Hicks was up and down, or rather down then up, as 2016 carried on. Hicks failed to complete more than 59% of his passes in any outing through his first nine games, eight of which were starts. In those first nine games Hicks threw as many touchdowns as he did interceptions, eleven. He threw for more than 250 yards just twice.
Then in his last three games Hicks caught fire, completing 64% of his passes and throwing for over 300 yards twice. Two of those three games were against bowl qualifiers. You have to wonder what Chad Morris' offense can do with an efficient quarterback. In his three season Mustang quarterbacks have completed an average of 54% of their passes with 39 interceptions and 47 touchdowns.
Is this the year the Mustangs finally get some decent quarterback play? Is Hicks the quarterback to do it? We'll find out. This is the first season that there's real quality quarterback depth, at least on paper.
Rafe Peavey was a highly regarded recruit out of Missouri who signed with Arkansas in 2014. He had offers from every corner of the college football world including USC, Auburn, Ole Miss, Iowa, Nebraska and Louisville. Peavey has yet to throw a collegiate pass, stuck behind one of the Allen brothers for two seasons. Peavey entered fall camp in 2016 as the backup to Austin Allen. When he lost that spot to true freshman, Peavey jumped to SMU. Peavey moved into at least the number two spot coming out of spring practice.
While Hicks left spring with a slight edge, Peavey clearly staked a claim. In the spring game Peavey completed 16 of 18 passes for 173 yards with two touchdowns.
D.J. Gillins is another intriguing prospect out of Pearl River Junior College. Gillins originally signed with Wisconsin out of high school and spent two seasons with the Badgers as a quarterback and receiver. Gillins transferred to Pearl River and started exactly on game before a knee injury cut his season short. Regardless, Gillins was the number seven rated quarterback in the JC ranks with offers from Arizona, Boston College, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, and West Virginia among others. Gillins is healthy and will compete for the starting job in the fall.
It's all lining up for Frank Wilson's UTSA team, experience, depth, explosiveness, and size. Now if only the Roadrunners can tie it all up with good quarterback play. We don't need great, just good. The guy who can provide the goods is Dalton Sturm. Sturm has gone from scrawny kid from Goliad to UTSA walk-on to starter. Even a very good starter.
What Sturm has done well is work within a new offensive system to create big plays, downfield. He values the football with a near elite level interception percentile. He's also a very good athlete. Rewatching the Arizona State game, in particular the second half, you see a quarterback with little help almost will his team to a win thanks to his ability to extend plays with his legs. When Sturm has help, i.e. a consistent running game, he can really do some damage.
Now the not so good new, Sturm was wildly inconsistent as a passer, against FBS teams his completion percentage was below 55% and in the meat of the Roadrunners CUSA schedule, that percentage dropped to 51%. Sturm also struggled with sack avoidance, again as we always say - not necessarily the quarterback's fault - but sacks are drive killers and Sturm took a lot of them in 2016. Still, Sturm has so much potential to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem that we are optimistic.
Behind Sturm is a hodgepodge of potential and unknowns. Jaylon Henderson and Manny Harris from Kingwood and Copperas Cove respectively, are both sophomores who've yet to see any playing time. Harris was one of the highest rated recruits in UTSA history when he signed in 2015. Bryce Rivers enrolled early out of Stevens high school in San Antonio and might have the inside track at the backup quarterback position. Rivers distinguished himself a bit above Henderson and Harris in the spring game.
Highly regarded signee Frank Harris arrives this summer out of Schertz Clemens. He turned down offers from Baylor, Georgia Tech, and Central Florida to sign with the Roadrunners. Taking as a whole, after Sturm, none of his backups have seen live action. Wilson is hoping that he doesn't have to turn to any of those options for an extended period of time.
The Miners started last year with Zack Greenlee at quarterback before moving to Kavika Johnson for the Texas game and finally landed on Ryan Metz. All three of those players are still on the roster but the UTEP depth chart is dramatically different. Metz is now the starter and firmly in place, Greenlee is the backup, perhaps not firmly in place, and Johnson is a wide receiver.
UTEP may have found something in native El Pasoan Metz. He's the reason UTEP is ranked where they are. After an up and down redshirt freshman season, Metz took a huge step forward in 2016. His completion percentage jumped five points to elite levels at 64%. Add to that Brent Pease's offense which requires quarterbacks to make pro-throws and uses extensive shifting and motion. While a lot of classic spread/air raid offenses are predicated on quick, short, horizontal, high percentage throws, UTEP's offense doesn't provide those opportunities.
On a different note, Metz took his preseason demotion to transfer Greenlee in stride, his maturity and leadership both came to the forefront. UTEP will need those characteristics to continue to develop with the loss of Aaron Jones and his record setting ability.
Film Study: Ryan Metz
Works well in the context of the offense. Not great arm strength, needs to use his trunk, big stride to get velocity which slows down his motion. Not a run threat. Accurate in rhythm, very good when he can throw on time. Excels in playaction, carries fake well. Smart player - lots of self study. Uses the middle of the field well.
Greenlee on the other hand played well in the Miners' opener against rival New Mexico State, however his production and efficiency quickly dropped off. If Greenlee throws for a reasonably high percentage, it'll be the first time he's done so in his career both at UTEP and previously at Fresno State. He's had just one season of 50% completions. He also got a little reckless with the football, which is more of a mortal sin to Sean Kugler than any accuracy issues.
Another local product, Mark Torrez, put pressure on Greenlee in the spring. He was particular effective in the spring game going 4-5 for 58 yards. If you're looking for a potential future starter, look at Alex Fernandes out of Vandergrift high school in Austin. Fernandes was a three star recruit who threw for over 2,900 yards as a junior, and while his production tailed off as as senior, he appears to have a bright future.
10. North Texas
As offensive coordinator in year one, Graham Harrell was trying to fit a lot of square pegs into round holes. As year two approaches, Harrell will have more pieces that fit into his Air Raid system including perhaps one and possibly even two quarterbacks. Let's start with 2016's nine game starter Mason Fine.
Fine supplanted Alec Morris one game into last season. The results were ok trending to bad. Harrell and head coach Seth Littrell gave the true freshman from Locust Grove, just enough of the offense so he wouldn't be overwhelmed. That meant relying heavily on a running game. Again, Harrell wants to get this offense firing and doing so more effectively through the air.
Young starting quarterbacks tend to fail in a few key areas, for Mason Fine, the failures were to be somewhat expected. His completion percentage was right in the 50th percentile among passers with 100 0r more attempts, but he struggled with sack rate, typically attributed to the increase in the speed of the game. Understanding timing and throwing windows is a skill learned by repetition as well. In Fine's case a patchwork offensive line added to the issue.
Fine is a plus athlete but given his size, he's not a players that North Texas necessarily wants making plays outside the pocket regularly. A full offseason in the Mean Green weight room won't hurt, but if Fine were 6-3 210, more than likely he won't have ended up in Denton. Instead at under six feet and under 180, his slight build is a negative part of the equation.
Harrell's plan for the North Texas offense depends on Fine's further development. Either Fine or junior Quinn Shanbour. Shanbour has yet to appear in a collegiate game but showed a flash of potential in the spring game, going 13-for-22 with two touchdowns and 253 yards. Littrell has made it clear that Shanbour is in competition with the incumbent heading into fall ball.
Cade Pearson might have the most upside of any quarterback on the roster. Pearson enrolled early this spring out of Texarkana. Pearson is 6-3, 205 and if he was at all overwhelmed in April's spring game, it didn't show as he was 13-18 for 148 yards. Pearson was a two-star rated recruit, with offers from Wyoming and a few Southland schools.
Lastly, Devlin Isadore is a JC recruit out of Navarro by way of Aldine Eisenhower. At 6-4, 228, he's the biggest and, depending on how his knee is recovered from surgery, the best athlete. What role Isadore plays is anyone's guess, he played sparingly this spring.
11. Texas State
We would rank Texas State's quarterback position higher if we could get some sort of guarantee than Damian Williams stays healthy. We've asked around and no one is willing to do that. Plus with Texas State's offensive line it's a risky proposition.
That being said if Williams can stay healthy, the Bobcats will have a very nice piece at quarterback. Williams is a grad transfer from Mississippi State and was a highly regarded recruit out of Metairie, Louisiana. Williams is 6-1, 230 pounds and built like a fullback. He's got a strong arm and isn't afraid to test defenses downfield. He's actually more comfortable making downfield throws, at least on film. His mechanics can get a little wonky on quicker ,shorter throws.
In parts of four seasons in Starkville, Williams completed 58% of passes with five touchdowns and two picks. He's good and willing runner. In the spring game Williams went 14-23 for 172 yards and four scores. His presence jump started the Bobcat offense during the scrimmage.
Behind Williams are a number of true freshmen and walk-ons. Joseph Gonzalez and Michael Ross went through spring practice as walk-ons. It's hard to imagine either of them having a positive impact. Everett Withers signed four, yes four, quarterbacks in February: Jaylen Gipson, Willie Jones III, Kishawn Kelley, and Jaylin Nelson. A couple of those probably fall under the heading of "athlete" rather than quarterback, Kelley and Nelson were listed as such by 24/7.
Gipson was a three star recruit with offers from Texas Tech, Colorado State and New Mexico. On those wonderful Hudl videos, it appears he will win the Heisman but isn't a polished passer. Jones held offers from Louisiana Lafayette, Louisiana Monroe, and San Diego State. He's a big athlete at 6-4, but again, he'll need to be coached up to be an efficient collegiate passer.
Bottom line, we like Williams a lot. If he's healthy, Texas State could win four or five games. But if something happens to him, with all the young, raw depth, the Bobcats will struggle.
Rice's quarterback job is wide open with three candidates looking to replace Tyler Stehling. The options are young, big, and generally unknown. We'll begin with Jackson Tyner who actually started the Owls' last game, when Stehling was out with a knee injury and played significant minutes a week before against UTEP. The results were...starkly different.
Against UTEP, a conference opponent with a more similar talent level to Rice, Tyner completed 72% of his passes and generally looked like a Heisman candidate. In the Owls' trip to Palo Alto, Tyner completed a quarter of his passes for under 70 yards. All that comes together to give us an incomplete grade on Tyner in terms of live action production.
Film Study: Jackson Tyner
Needs a clean pocket. Doesn't extend plays inside the pocket. Works well with predetermined reads. Better athlete than anticipated. Decent arm, loses accuracy when pressured. Rice offense as a whole didn't deal with blitz well.
Tyner is a sophomore from tiny Edgewood, Texas, and every bit of 6-5, 240 pounds. He's a better athlete than his size indicates, but he's still a bit awkward. Tyner took most of the first team snaps in the spring, but offensive coordinator Billy Lynch was clear that there was no pecking order and that competition is wide open.
The most interesting prospect is Sam Glaesmann, a redshirt freshman from Waco Midway. He was a three star recruit. Glaesman was impressive in the spring game. He's the most fluid athlete of the Rice quarterbacks. In the spring game he completed three of his five passes for 95 yards. He was also the most willing to break the pocket and run. We'll see whether that continues when the red "no touch" jerseys come off.
Finally there's J.T. Granato who came in the same recruiting class as Tyner and at 6'4, 220 pounds has good size. He was listed as Stehling's backup, however once Stehling went down the Owls' turned to Tyner. He's thrown nineteen career passes, completing eight of them. We've always assumed he was the next man up, but so far that hasn't been the case. In the spring game he was 6-10 for 60 yards.
The Rice starter in 2017 will be an unknown commodity by-in-large. None of the three prospects will get to dip a toe before the heat starts. The Owls kick of 2017 in Australia agains PAC 12 North power Stanford.