Quarterback play is always under the microscope for every college football team. Finding and developing a reliable starter isn’t easy for some programs, but for other schools, the next quarterback steps in and the offense doesn’t miss a beat.
With the 2015 season just days away, who has the best quarterback situations in college football? And which teams should be concerned? We ranked all 128 quarterbacks – with a few stipulations. This is not a list of career achievements or NFL Draft stock. Both of those elements were considered, but we also weighed value to the team, scheme, projection for 2015, recruiting background, talent and production so far. Anything you can think of to evaluate quarterbacks was used in this ranking.
Ranking All 128 College Football's Starting QBs for 2015
1. J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones, Ohio State
Urban Meyer isn’t going to name a starter for the opener against Virginia Tech, and both players are likely to see snaps against the Hokies. Regardless of who starts or finishes a game, this is the best quarterback situation in college football.
2. Trevone Boykin, TCU
Boykin was arguably the most improved quarterback in the nation last season. He’s a Heisman frontrunner in 2015.
3. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Prescott guided Mississippi State to just its third season of double-digit wins in program history in 2014 and earned first-team All-SEC honors. Prescott’s return for his senior year is a big reason why Mississippi State will remain a factor in the SEC West.
4. Connor Cook, Michigan State
Cook is 23-3 as a starter at Michigan State and will keep the Spartans in the mix for a playoff spot this fall. Cook is also regarded as one of the top quarterback prospects in next season’s draft.
5. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Watson could rank among the top three quarterbacks on this list by the end of 2015. Injuries limited Watson to just eight games last season, but he finished with 1,466 yards and 14 passing scores.
6. Cody Kessler, USC
Kessler closed 2014 on a high note by recording nine touchdown passes over the final two games and at least 300 yards through the air in four out of the last five contests. Additionally, Kessler’s 69.7 completion percentage ranked third nationally.
7. Jared Goff, California
Sonny Dykes’ Bear Raid offense is in good hands with Goff at the controls. The junior is rising on NFL boards for next year’s draft after throwing for 3,973 yards and 35 scores last season.
8. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
High expectations surround Johnson. All signs point to a breakout year from the junior in coach Gus Malzahn’s high-powered offense.
9. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Didn’t have the best sophomore season, but there’s no question about talent. Hackenberg needs more help from his supporting cast.
10. Taysom Hill, BYU
A leg injury sidelined Hill for the second half of 2014, but the senior is back at full strength this fall. While he’s always garnered attention for his rushing ability, Hill quietly showed marked improvement as a passer last year, completing 66.7 percent of his passes through five games.
11. Brad Kaaya, Miami
Kaaya was among the nation’s most impressive freshman quarterbacks in 2014, throwing for 26 scores and 3,198 yards. Expectations are even higher for the sophomore in 2015.
12. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
Thomas was nearly flawless in his first season as the starter in coach Paul Johnson’s option attack. He led the team with 1,086 rushing yards and connected on 14 passing plays of 30 yards or more.
13. Marquise Williams, North Carolina
North Carolina’s defense has been an issue in recent years, but the offense should be among the best in the ACC once again. Williams slightly averaged under 300 total yards (296.6) a game in 2014 and recorded 34 overall scores.
14. Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
Kiel had a prolific debut as Cincinnati’s starter, throwing 14 scores in his first three games and finishing the season with for 3,254 yards and 31 touchdown tosses. With a loaded receiving corps, Kiel is poised for another huge year in 2015.
15. Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Brissett sparked a turnaround at NC State last season, guiding the Wolfpack to a five-win improvement in the win column. The Florida transfer tossed 23 scores to only five picks in 2014.
16. Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Reynolds is the perfect match for Navy’s option attack and has the Midshipmen among the favorites to win the American Athletic Conference this season. The Tennessee native has recorded back-to-back seasons of 1,000 yards on the ground and has 54 rushing scores in that span.
17. Vernon Adams, Oregon
Adams could be the most intriguing quarterback in college football this season. Replacing Marcus Mariota won’t be easy, but the senior had a prolific career at Eastern Washington and should be a good fit in Eugene.
18. Brandon Doughty, WKU
Doughty shattered the WKU single-season passing record by throwing for 4,830 yards and 49 scores last year. The senior enters 2015 as the nation’s leading passer among active quarterbacks (7,800 yards).
19. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Rudolph had the redshirt removed in late November and started the final three games of 2014. A rising star in the Big 12 ranks.
20. Seth Russell, Baylor
Russell has only one career start, but coach Art Briles has a strong track record with quarterbacks and the supporting cast is among the nation’s best. The junior will try to become the fourth Baylor quarterback to throw for at least 4,000 yards in five years.
21. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
Dobbs’ late-season emergence is a big reason why Tennessee is on the rise in the SEC East.
22. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
Allen faced a challenge for the starting job from talented freshman Kyler Murray, but the sophomore was named the No. 1 quarterback and should build off a promising end to the 2014 season (four touchdowns in the Liberty Bowl).
23. Anu Solomon, Arizona
Solomon was steady in his first year as Arizona’s starter and recorded 4,084 total yards and 30 scores. A leg injury slowed Solomon at the end of 2014. He should benefit from another year under coach Rich Rodriguez.
24. Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
Led Arizona State to a 2-1 record in three starts last season. Strong-armed senior should thrive in his first full year as a starter.
25. Everett Golson, Florida State
Golson left Notre Dame after spring practice and will spend the final year of his eligibility at Florida State. After guiding the Fighting Irish to an appearance in the national championship in 2012, Golson was ineligible in 2013 and threw for 3,445 yards and 29 scores last season. Coach Jimbo Fisher picked Golson as Florida State's No. 1 quarterback on Monday.
26. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Will Hogan pick up where he left off at the end of 2014? Over the last three games of last season, Hogan tossed only one interception and completed at least 70 percent of his passes in each contest. Here’s the most important stat for Hogan and coach David Shaw: Stanford went 3-0 in that stretch.
27. Malik Zaire, Notre Dame
With Everett Golson off to Florida State, Zaire is the unquestioned starter in South Bend. The sample size is limited, but all signs point to a huge year for the sophomore.
28. Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Knee injuries have sidelined Keeton for significant chunks of time in each of the last two seasons. Will the senior return to full strength and regain his form from 2012 (3,992 yards, 35 scores)?
29. Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Lynch was one of the nation’s most improved passers in 2014. After throwing for 2,056 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman, Lynch threw for 22 scores and 3,031 yards last season.
30. Blake Frohnapfel, UMass
Graduate transfer provided an instant boost for UMass’ offense last season. Frohnapfel’s season was cut short by a leg injury, but he threw for 3,345 yards and 23 scores and earned first-team All-MAC honors.
31. Maty Mauk, Missouri
Mauk had his share of ups and downs in his first full year as a starter but guided Missouri to the SEC East title. Needs to improve completion percentage in conference games (48.9 last year).
32. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
The next star quarterback at Texas Tech? Mahomes tossed 14 scores over the final three contests last season.
33. Fredi Knighten, Arkansas State
Dynamic dual-threat quarterback led the Sun Belt by averaging 312 total yards per game last season.
34. Kevin Ellison, Georgia Southern
Ellison is sidelined for the first two games due to suspension this year. Led all Sun Belt quarterbacks with 1,082 rushing yards last season and averaged 6.3 yards per carry.
35. Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Johnson’s 2014 season was cut short after a hip injury in the opener. Expect a huge statistical season at the controls of coach Dino Babers’ “Falcon Fast” offense.
36. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
Terrell led the MAC by completing 67.9 percent of his passes last season and should have a huge 2015 with one of the conference’s top receiving corps at his disposal.
37. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
How quickly Armstrong adapts to new coach Mike Riley and coordinator Danny Langsdorf will play a huge role in how high Nebraska climbs in the Big Ten West.
38. Sefo Liufau, Colorado
Rising star for coach Mike MacIntyre after throwing 28 touchdowns and completing 65.3 percent of his passes in his first full year as Colorado’s starter.
39. Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh
Quietly closed 2014 on a high note, finishing with seven touchdowns to just one interception over final five games.
40. Brandon Allen, Arkansas
Won’t post huge numbers in Arkansas’ run-first offense but poised for his best overall season.
41. Patrick Towles, Kentucky
Towles was steady as a passer last season (2,718 yards, 14 passing scores) and added 303 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. New coordinator Shannon Dawson is tasked with taking Towles’ game to the next level.
42. Drew Hare, Northern Illinois
Hare is poised to emerge as the next star quarterback at Northern Illinois. Threw for 18 scores and added 900 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games last year.
43. Wes Lunt, Illinois
Talented passer but has yet to start for a full season. Missed nearly half of 2014 due to a leg injury but passed for 1,763 yards and 14 scores in eight games.
44. Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Missed half of 2014 due to a shoulder injury. Sudfeld’s return should be a huge boost for Indiana’s bowl hopes in 2015.
45. Joe Licata, Buffalo
Licata is one of the nation’s underrated quarterbacks, passing for 53 touchdowns over the last two years. Should thrive under new coach Lance Leipold.
46. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
From walk-on at Texas Tech to earning the starting job at Oklahoma after leaving Lubbock, Mayfield has one of the most interesting backstories for a starter at the FBS level. Should be a good fit in new Oklahoma’s new offense under coordinator Lincoln Riley.
47. Travis Wilson, Utah
Returned from injury-shortened 2013 campaign to post career high in touchdown passes (18) last season. Working under new co-coordinators Jim Harding and Aaron Roderick this year.
48. Justin Holman, UCF
Emerged as a solid replacement for Blake Bortles last season and should take another step forward in 2015.
49. Skyler Howard, West Virginia
Junior college recruit showed promise as West Virginia’s starter at the end of 2014. Howard passed for 346 yards and three scores in the Liberty Bowl but needs to improve completion percentage (50.9 in 2014).
50. Reggie Bonnafon, Louisville
Bonnafon has yet to be named the starter, but the sophomore is the favorite to take the first snap of Louisville’s opener against Auburn.
51. Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech
Guided Virginia Tech to an upset win over Ohio State in early September but had an up and down debut. Should be better in his second season as the starter.
52. Josh Rosen, UCLA
There’s plenty of pressure on Rosen as a true freshman starter, but the five-star recruit isn’t lacking for confidence or talent.
53. Greg Ward, Houston
Started the final eight games of 2014 at quarterback and should thrive under new coach Tom Herman - if he wins the job over Adam Schulz.
54. Jake Rudock, Michigan
Rudock is making the rare intra-conference transfer from Iowa to Michigan. Expected to beat Shane Morris for the starting job.
55. Sam Richardson, Iowa State
Richardson should benefit from another offseason under coordinator Mark Mangino. Quietly threw for 2,669 yards and 18 scores last year.
56. Tyler Jones, Texas State
Jones nearly led Texas State to its first bowl appearance last season, recording 3,209 total yards and 28 overall scores.
57. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State
Emerging star in the Sun Belt helped Appalachian State close 2014 on a six-game winning streak.
58. Thomas Sirk, Duke
Sirk is coach David Cutcliffe’s next star quarterback.
59. Phillip Ely, Toledo
Alabama transfer was off to a solid start (4 TDs, 541 yards) but suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 2.
60. Driphus Jackson, Rice
Jackson accumulated 3,243 total yards last season en route to leading Rice to its third consecutive bowl.
61. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota
Leidner is a good runner, but he has to progress as a passer for Minnesota to win the Big Ten West.
62 Cooper Rush, Central Michigan
Rush turned in a solid sophomore campaign and finished the season with seven touchdown tosses in the 49-48 loss to WKU in the Bahamas Bowl.
63. C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Iowa coaches hope the switch to Beathard gives the offense more big-play ability.
64. P.J. Walker, Temple
Walker had a solid freshman season (20 TDs, 8 INTs) but regressed in 2014 (13 TDs, 15 INTs). A better supporting cast in 2015 should help.
65. Nick Arbuckle, Georgia State
Solid junior college pickup for coach Trent Miles in 2014. Arbuckle recorded three games of at least four touchdowns for the Panthers last season.
66. Cody Clements, South Alabama
UAB transfer should have a seamless transition to South Alabama with Bryant Vincent (last year’s coordinator at UAB) calling the plays.
67. Ryan Finley, Boise State
New starter at quarterback? That's usually no problem for the Broncos. Finley completed 12 of 27 passes for 161 yards and two scores last year and will be tested right away with matchups against Washington and BYU to start the season.
68. Jaquez Johnson, FAU
Johnson was a bright spot for FAU’s offense last year, recording 2,728 total yards and 17 passing scores in 11 games.
69. Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech
Driskel’s career didn’t pan out at Florida, but he’s got one more opportunity after transferring to Louisiana Tech.
70. Jake Coker, Alabama
Alabama’s Week 1 starter is a mystery. However, Coker seems to hold a slight edge over Alec Morris and Cooper Bateman.
71. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Kelly was named the starter by coach Hugh Freeze on Monday. The former Clemson passer and junior college product is an intriguing talent. Can he put it all together in 2015?
72. Will Grier, Florida
While Grier – a redshirt freshman and four-star recruit – is considered the favorite to start, Treon Harris will also see time in the opener. New coach Jim McElwain should help the offense take a step forward after managing only 24.9 points in SEC games last year.
73. Brandon Harris, LSU
LSU’s passing attack is in desperate need of a spark. Talent certainly isn’t the issue for Harris, and he showed improvement throughout the offseason.
74. Luke Falk, Washington State
Should post huge numbers in coach Mike Leach’s offense. However, Falk also needs to take better care of the ball (seven picks in last four games of 2014).
75. Matt Davis, SMU
Breakout candidate to watch in new coach Chad Morris’ high-powered offense.
76. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
Thorson was a huge catch on the recruiting trail for coach Pat Fitzgerald, ranking as a four-star recruit and the No. 188 overall player in the 2014 247Sports Composite. The redshirt freshman is an intriguing player to watch this fall.
77. Dane Evans, Tulsa
Evans had a nice statistical season last year (3,102 yards and 23 scores) and should thrive under new coach Philip Montgomery.
78. Tyrone Swoopes, Texas
Quarterback play will be under the microscope for Texas in 2015. Will Swoopes improve enough to hold off Jerrod Heard?
79. Terrel Hunt, Syracuse
Hunt never had a chance to build off a promising end to the 2013 season. A leg injury limited Hunt to just six games, while the rest of the Syracuse offense also had its share of issues. Despite playing in just six contests, Hunt finished 2014 as the leading passer for the Orange (983 yards).
80. Joel Stave, Wisconsin
Which Stave will Wisconsin get in 2015? The version that threw for 22 touchdowns and 2,494 yards in 2013? Or the one that struggled last year?
81. Perry Hills, Maryland
Hills started seven games for the Terrapins in 2012 but suffered a torn ACL and used 2013 as a redshirt. Edged Caleb Rowe and Daxx Garman for the job this fall.
82. Matt Johns, Virginia
Johns made three starts last season and edged Greyson Lambert for the starting job in spring ball. Willing to take chances downfield (seven passing plays of 30 yards or more) but also needs to raise completion percentage (54.9).
83. Nick Stevens, Colorado State
New coach Mike Bobo and coordinator Will Friend should keep Colorado State’s offense among the best in the Mountain West. Stevens only has 25 career pass attempts, but he has one of the best receivers in the nation at his disposal in junior Rashard Higgins.
84. Jack Milas, Ball State
Milas is a rising star to watch in the MAC this year. Threw for 1,302 yards and nine scores in six appearances in 2014.
85. John Wolford, Wake Forest
Wolford was placed into a no-win situation last season with a lackluster rushing attack and struggling offensive line. Threw for 2,037 yards and 12 scores in 12 games.
86. Darius Wade, Boston College
Promising sophomore with all of the necessary physical tools to thrive under coach Steve Addazio.
87. Jake Browning, Washington
Browning isn’t guaranteed to start the opener against Boise State. However, he’s the most talented quarterback on the roster.
88. Hayden Rettig, Rutgers
LSU transfer is slated to start the opener after Chris Laviano was suspended. Rettig ranked as a four-star recruit in the 2013 signing class.
89. Seth Collins, Oregon State
Collins and fellow freshman Marcus McMaryion will play in the opener against Weber State.
90. Greyson Lambert, Georgia
In a mild surprise, Lambert was picked as Georgia’s starter over Brice Ramsey. The Virginia transfer struggled with the Cavaliers last year (10 TDs, 11 INTs).
91. Nate Romine, Air Force
Air Force doesn’t have much trouble replacing starting quarterbacks under coach Troy Calhoun. Romine is an interesting player to watch, as he is regarded as a better passer than runner.
92. Max Wittek, Hawaii
Big-time pickup for Hawaii coach Norm Chow. Will Wittek live up to his recruiting hype this season? Could be much higher on this list by the end of 2015.
93. Maxwell Smith, San Diego State
Kentucky transfer returns home for last season of eligibility. Started 11 games with the Wildcats and should be an impact addition for coach Rocky Long.
94. Cameron Coffman, Wyoming
Indiana transfer should be an upgrade for Wyoming’s quarterback spot in 2015.
95. Brooks Haack, UL Lafayette
Breakout candidate? Haack was solid in limited action last year (20 of 23 for 179 yards).
96. Michael Birdsong, Marshall
James Madison transfer has the tough task of replacing Rakeem Cato.
97. Connor Mitch, South Carolina
Mitch steps into the starting lineup under the watchful eye of coach Steve Spurrier. Keep an eye on true freshman Lorenzo Nunez.
98. Lamar Jordan, New Mexico
Regarded as an excellent runner (612 yards last season), but Lobos hoping for more from passing attack. Junior college transfer Austin Apodaca – a better passer – is expected to see snaps in the opener.
99. Reginald Bell, Eastern Michigan
Promising sophomore emerged as playmaker for Eastern Michigan last season. Bell led the team with 562 rushing yards and threw for 409 yards in a loss to Ball State. Could be much higher on this list by the end of 2015.
100. Austin Appleby, Purdue
Purdue hopes to take a step forward in coach Darrell Hazell’s third season. The Boilermakers need better quarterback play to escape the Big Ten West cellar.
101. Brandon Silvers, Troy
New coach Neal Brown should help Silvers’ development. Threw for 1,836 yards and 11 scores last season.
102. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Mystery in Manhattan. Will Ertz, Joe Hubener, Jonathan Banks or Alex Delton start at quarterback? Ertz is the favorite to take the first snap and has yet to throw a pass on the FBS level.
103. Tanner Lee, Tulane
Lee had an up and down season as a freshman and did not throw a touchdown pass in the final three games after tossing eight in the first three weeks.
104. Nick Mullens, Southern Miss
Southern Miss is trending in the right direction under third-year coach Todd Monken. Mullens is also on the hot seat with TCU transfer Tyler Matthews also expected to play.
105. Brent Stockstill, MTSU
Son of the head coach (Rick Stockstill) edged Austin Grammer for the starting job this fall.
106. Kyle Pohl, Akron
Will Pohl hold onto the starting job? Former Pittsburgh signal-caller Tra’von Chapman is making a push for snaps.
107. Derrius Vick, Ohio
Ohio’s passing attack needs a spark after managing only 11 passing scores last season.
108. Shuler Bentley, Old Dominion
Taylor Heinicke won’t be easy to replace, but Shuler – the two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in South Carolina – is an intriguing replacement.
109. Alex McGough, FIU
McGough showed promise as a true freshman last season, throwing for 1,680 yards and 14 scores in 12 games. Should be better as a sophomore.
110. Tyler Stewart, Nevada
Inherits big shoes to fill in replacing Cody Fajardo.
111. Johnny McCrary, Vanderbilt
New play-caller Andy Ludwig should help a Vanderbilt offense that managed only 12.8 points in SEC games last year. McCrary is competing with Wade Freebeck for the No. 1 spot.
112. Quinton Flowers, USF
Beat Penn State transfer Steven Bench for the starting job this fall, only completed 8 of 20 passes for 111 yards last year.
113. Joe Gray, San Jose State
Gray finished 2014 as the starter, but junior college recruit Kenny Potter is making a push for the job this offseason.
114. Tyler Rogers, New Mexico State
Should have plenty of opportunities to throw the ball in 2015 (436 attempts last year) but needs to cut the interceptions (23).
115. Montell Cozart, Kansas
Pressed into starting role after Michael Cummings was lost for the year in the spring game. Has eight career starts.
116. Zack Greenlee, Fresno State
Greenlee started one game in 2014 and finished the year with 213 yards after completing 18 of 41 passes. Former West Virginia quarterback Ford Childress is also expected to see time for the Bulldogs this season.
117. Bryant Shirreffs, UConn
NC State transfer needs to spark a UConn offense that averaged only 15.5 points per game in 2014.
118. Colin Reardon, Kent State
Reardon has passed for 26 scores over the last two seasons and should benefit from the addition of Don Treadwell at coordinator and the return of Trayion Durham at running back.
119. Blake Decker, UNLV
Junior college transfer passed for 2,886 yards in his first season in Las Vegas.
120. Matt Linehan, Idaho
Getting receiver Dezmon Epps back, as well as another year of experience should help Linehan after he tossed 18 picks in 2014.
121. Andrew McNulty, North Texas
Three quarterbacks received snaps for the Mean Green last season. McNulty is expected to start over DaMarcus Smith this fall.
122. Blake Kemp, East Carolina
Projected starter Kurt Benkert suffered a torn ACL in fall practice. Kemp – a junior college transfer from Mesa Community College – is the new projected No. 1. He’s yet to throw a pass on the FBS level.
123. Mack Leftwich, UTEP
Started four games for the Miners in 2013 and used a redshirt year last season. Miners plan to lean heavily on one of C-USA’s best offensive lines and running back Aaron Jones.
124. Matt Johnson, Charlotte
49ers join the FBS ranks in 2015. Johnson threw for 1,941 yards and 13 scores before a season-ending knee injury.
125. Blake Bogenshutz, UTSA
Bogenshutz played in four games last season before taking a medical redshirt. Completed 8 of 14 passes for 82 yards against Oklahoma State in 2014.
126. Garrett Smith, ULM
Promising redshirt freshman topped senior Brayle Brown for the No. 1 spot this offseason.
127. Gus Ragland, Miami, Ohio
Redshirt freshman is locked into battle with Drew Kummer for the starting job.
128. Ahmad Bradshaw, Army West Point
Bradshaw did not play last season and passed A.J. Schurr for the top spot this offseason.
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