2022 Pac-12 Quarterback Rankings

·10 min read

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The quarterback position is something to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 moving into fall camp as roughly half of the conference's teams could be starting a transfer and several teams are still in the midst of ongoing competition between passers.

USC's Caleb Williams is obviously the biggest name in the conference with the potential to come off the board quickly in April of 2024, but he's not the only signal-caller in this group who could go in the first round within the next two years.

Here's a look at how each of the projected starting quarterbacks in the Pac-12 rank with fall coming up:

1. Caleb Williams, USC.

No surprises here. Williams is projected to be one of the first players -- if not the first player -- to come off the board in the 2024 NFL Draft. He enters the season as one of the top-three quarterbacks in the nation and should only expand upon what he showed at Oklahoma moving into a new season. USC is in a good position to make a big run with the fact Williams already has experience in head coach Lincoln Riley's system and has one of the most talented groups of wide receivers in the nation around him.

Williams has shown solid pocket presence, has plenty of arm strength and has the mobility and athleticism to both extend plays and make plays on his own. He completed 64.5% of his passes for 1,912 yards with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2021. Expect to see the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder throw the ball more and continue to progress as a passer in 2022.

2. Tanner McKee, Stanford.

McKee has landed all over the place in the early mocks that have come out for the 2023 NFL Draft, with some pinning him as early as the middle of the first round.

When it comes to tools that translate to the NFL, McKee doesn't leave much to be desired. He fits the prototypical NFL frame at 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds, has a strong football IQ, a live arm, is accurate at all levels of the field, rarely puts the ball in harm's way and has showcased a high level of leadership ability.

I spoke with McKee earlier this offseason, and there seems to be a lot of excitement surrounding what Stanford will look like in what's set to be a big season for him despite Stanford finishing out at 3-9.

“We're bringing in some new concepts and we have a lot of guys who have been hurt that I feel like I have good timing with who are coming back—a lot very talented wide receivers, running backs, O-linemen, we didn't really lose anybody on the offensive side of the ball,” McKee said. “Our expectation is to put up 40-50 points per game. We're not going to settle for anything less. We feel like we have that capability and we should be able to do that.”

McKee finished out the 2021 season with a 65.4% completion rate, 2,327 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

3. Cameron Rising, Utah.

Rising garnered a bit of attention last season but has become a name that's progressively been more talked about throughout the offseason. He raised his stock a good bit at the Manning Passing Academy, impressing with his arm strength and mobility with one scout saying he could be "this year's Zach Wilson."

He's a quarterback who can beat defenders with his legs and has steadily improved his ball placement throughout his career. Rising has been mostly accurate in the short and intermediate passing game, but could afford to improve as a downfield passer and in his decision-making.

Rising ended out 2021 with a 63.8% completion rate, 2,493 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions.

4. Bo Nix, Oregon.

Nix had some ups and downs at Auburn, but he isn't being given enough credit for the step he took last year despite being sidelined by an ankle injury after the loss to Mississippi State. He took a big step on the decision-making front -- something he had struggled with in the preceding seasons. Nix has been something of a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde seemingly since he began his career but looked to have found more consistency last season that he can build upon in 2022.

Nix still needs to improve on the accuracy front (something that stems from inconsistent lower-body mechanics), but his ability to improvise and use his athleticism to convert has served him well. In 2021, Nix completed 61% of his passes for 2,294 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. If the former five-star recruit can take another step this year, he'll be a player who is receiving a lot more pre-draft buzz. He's set up well at Oregon with a reliable supporting cast and a good defense.

5. Cameron Ward, Washington State.

Ward is an under-the-radar player who is considered by some to be a dark horse first-round pick after transferring from Incarnate Word. He checks a lot of boxes in terms of what NFL teams at the next level look for between his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame, movement within and outside of the pocket and arm talent. The ball comes out of his hand quickly and he throws with velocity and touch, though he could stand to fine-tune his mechanics some.

Ward completed 65.1% of his passes for 4,648 yards with 47 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2021. Those are big numbers, it's just a matter of how well he can perform and meet the expectations moving on from the FCS to the Pac-12.

6. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA.

Thompson-Robinson is outstanding when it comes to using his athleticism to the highest degree and he's found success as a scrambler and on designed quarterback runs. But he still has a lot of room for improvement through the air, often faltering under pressure and with an accuracy rate on the deep ball that leaves something to be desired. His ball placement into tight windows must also get better moving forward. But if he can take the next step as a passer, between that, his arm strength and his athleticism, the UCLA signal-caller could become a more renowned draft prospect.

Thompson-Robinson completed 62.2% of his passes for 2,409 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2021.

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7. Jayden de Laura, Arizona.

De Laura has a transition to make to the Arizona offense after coming over from the Run And Shoot offense at Wazzu and there are question marks surrounding his supporting cast this upcoming season. Looking at conference-only games from last season, he led all Pac-12 quarterbacks in quarterback rating (149.89), yards per attempt (8.0), and completions of 40 yards or more with a total of eight.

De Laura completed 63.2% of his passes for 2,798 yards with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season. Coming over to a team that went 1-11 in 2021, de Laura instantly elevates what's been a subpar quarterback room and is expected to help propel the offense to a higher level.

8. Chance Nolan, Oregon State.

Nolan missed the last three games of the 2020 season, but saw the field for all 13 contests with 12 starts in 2021, completing 64.2% of his passes for 2,677 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. While Nolan needs to improve his touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's been mostly accurate and consistent. The element of mobility he brings to the table also helps the Beavers offense.

Nolan carried the ball 70 times for 286 yards with three rushing touchdowns last season. He told me earlier this offseason that he wants to more than double that rushing total in 2022 and really bring his athleticism to light in a bigger way. While still developmental in many aspects, Nolan has shown good foundational traits, goes through his progressions well and has a good pocket presence.

In addition to focusing on making his already satisfactory completion percentage higher, Nolan wants to bring a higher level of explosiveness to Oregon State offensively.

“I'm improving on my deep ball, putting some more air on it,” said Nolan. “I think at times, I was trying to be too perfect with the line in flight, so working on that with my guys. Hopefully, that will translate into us getting more big plays this year – we missed a lot last year that I wish I could have had back.”

9. Jack Plummer, Cal.

Plummer is expected to be Cal's starting quarterback to assume departed quarterback Chase Garbers' spot after the performance he put up over the spring. The Purdue transfer played in seven games last season, completing 68.5% of his passes for 864 yards with seven touchdowns. He enters an interesting situation on offense after the Golden Bears lost much of their receiving corps, offensive linemen and their lead running back.

Plummer has, to a degree, developed the identity of a game manager. He protects the football well, has a strong level of mental processing and seems to pick up new information quickly. Plummer told me earlier this year that he can see the comparison to quarterbacks like Jack Can that he's drawn, and that he doesn't consider himself a dual-threat player by any means. But he's still confident in his ability to make plays with his legs when needed. Moving forward, his primary goal is consistent play.

“I'd say putting four quarters of solid play together and establishing consistency,” Plummer said. “I've had stretches of my career where I explode and I'm in a groove and the ball isn't touching the ground, and then I've had other quarters where we can't get any yards and the ball isn't moving. So, being able to be consistently accurate and making the right reads and getting yards, first downs, point for a team on a game in and game out basis.”

10. Emory Jones, Arizona State.

Jones has wowed with his athleticism and mobility but has struggled as a passer and with his decision-making. He's got a chance to improve now and fill a gap at quarterback with the transfer of Jayden Daniels to LSU this offseason. Jones has all of the physical traits a team could want in a quarterback and is almost guaranteed to win with his legs every time, but his ball placement and accuracy even on easy throws have been questionable. How he evolves as a quarterback and if he can go on to the next level is entirely dependent on how he improves as a passer -- this is a quarterback with a potentially high ceiling but an incredibly low floor.

Jones completed 64.7% of his passes for 2,734 yards with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2021 for the Florida Gators.

11. Michael Penix Jr., Washington.

There was a time when Penix Jr. was more highly-touted than he is now, but he's been plagued by injury issues and inconsistent play. He completed 53.7% of his passes for 939 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions over five games in his final season at Indiana. Coming over to Washington with a new change of scenery, Penix Jr. reunites with former Indiana offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, who now serves as the Washington head coach.

There's a lot for Penix Jr. to clean up, especially in terms of lower-body mechanics and improving poor footwork. On top of this, he's going to have to stay healthy, but there's a chance he could be in for one of the most positive seasons of his career.

12. Brendon Lewis, Colorado.

Lewis projects as a dual-threat quarterback who still has a good amount of room for development. He can be used to make plays on the ground and throws with solid velocity but needs to improve mechanically, specifically where footwork and quickness of release are concerned.

Lewis played in 12 games last season, completing 58% of his passes for 1,540 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.