If there’s an individual on the field who can make other players around him better it’s the signal-caller.
Often times teams can only go as far as their quarterback can take them, and you can’t coach moxie. Experience, leadership and production goes a long way in their maturation process. Most of them are naturals at identifying mismatches at the line of scrimmage and audibling plays in favor of the offense.
These 20 quarterbacks are all coming off successful campaigns in 2021. Now it’s time for them build on the momentum they generated and add more unforgettable moments in their careers.
20. Cade McNamara, Michigan: His numbers weren’t spectacular last season because of the Wolverines’ dominating ground attack, but he delivered for his team in the clutch. McNamara showed he’s a great leader and made other players around him better. The Nevada native led Michigan to its’ first Big Ten Title since 2004 and a berth in the College Football Playoffs. He threw for a season-high, 383 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan State. McNamara had another season-high, three touchdown tosses in the victory over Penn State. The former four-star prospect finished the season with third-team, All-Big Ten honors and will be one of the league’s most experienced quarterbacks in 2022.
19. Max Johnson, Texas A&M: The Georgia native finished fourth in the SEC in passing touchdowns at LSU last year. Johnson threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opener at UCLA. The following week he generated three more touchdown tosses in the win over McNeese State. Johnson passed for 372 yards and five touchdowns in the victory over Central Michigan, which were both season-highs. The former four-star prospect generated 999 passing yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions through LSU’s first four conference games. He also combined for 625 yards through the air and five touchdown passes over the Bayou Bengals’ final two contests of the regular season.
18. Cameron Rising, Utah: The former four-star prospect originally signed with Texas, but never took a snap during his time with the program. However, Rising transferred to Utah in 2019 and led the team to a Pac-12 Championship last season. He threw for three touchdowns against San Diego State. Rising followed up that performance with a season-high, 306 passing yards, and four total touchdowns in the win over USC. The California native scored three touchdowns apiece in victories over Arizona State, Arizona and Colorado. Not to mention Rising left a lasting impression in the Rose Bowl, with three total touchdowns. Rising displayed great mobility and capped off 2021 with first-team, All-Pac-12 honors.
17. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland: The former four-star prospect set a school record for passing yards in a single-season last year. Tagovailoa finished fourth in the Big Ten with 26 touchdown tosses. The Hawaii native was No. 13 in the FBS in passing yards per game. He threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opening win over West Virginia. Tagovailoa also passed for three scores against Howard, Kent State and Rutgers. The 5-foot-11, 211-pounder eclipsed 300 passing yards in five conference tilts, including a season-high, 419 against Indiana. Tagovailoa completed 20 of his 24 passes for 265 yards in the bowl victory over Virginia Tech, and earned third-team, All-Big Ten honors.
16. Payton Thorne, Michigan State: The Illinois native finished third in the Big Ten with 27 touchdown passes last season. Thorne stockpiled 3,240 passing yards, which ranked fourth in the conference and 23rd in the FBS. The former three-star prospect threw for four touchdowns in victories over Youngstown State, Miami and Maryland. He shredded Western Kentucky and Rutgers for three touchdown passes apiece. His 50 pass attempts, 29 completions and 354 yards through the air in the New Year’s Six Bowl win over Pittsburgh, were all season-highs. With No. 1 target Jayden Reed returning and no Kenneth Walker around to take off the pressure this fall, Thorne’s numbers should flourish.
15. Malik Cunningham, Louisville: The Alabama native can hurt defenses with his arm and legs. Cunningham has been the Cardinals’ starter for the past three seasons. He has stockpiled 7,619 passing yards for 61 touchdowns and 23 interceptions during that span. However, Cunningham rushed for 1,031 yards last year, which was the most by a Louisville quarterback since Lamar Jackson was behind center. Although his 2,941 passing yards ranked sixth in the ACC, Cunningham finished first in the league in rushing scores. Cunningham had his best performance against Duke, when passed for 309 yards, rushed for 224 and scored seven total touchdowns, which were all season-highs.
14. Casey Thompson, Nebraska: The former Texas Longhorn led the Big 12 in touchdown passes last year. Thompson threw for 303 yards, and scored five total touchdowns in the win over Texas Tech. Two weeks later he had a season-high, 388 yards through the air and five additional scores against Oklahoma. Not to mention Thompson shredded Kansas’ defense for a career-high, six touchdown passes, to go along with a rushing score. The Oklahoma native finished fourth in the Big 12 and 26th in the FBS in passing efficiency. Now he’s operating under Mark Whipple at Nebraska, who’s the same Offensive Coordinator that molded Kenny Pickett into the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm winner.
13. Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State: The Texas native is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the Big 12. Sanders has stockpiled 6,911 passing yards, for 50 touchdowns and 31 interceptions over the past three seasons. The former four-star prospect rushed for 1,565 yards during that span. Sanders finished third in the conference in passing yards and touchdown tosses in 2021. He threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Kansas State. The six-foot-one, 210-pounder scorched Iowa State’s defense with three touchdown passes. Sanders had a season-high, 371 passing yards and four touchdowns in the bowl victory over Notre Dame. He also earned third-team, All-Big 12 honors.
12. Tanner Mordecai, SMU: The former three-star prospect threw for 639 yards and four touchdowns in three seasons at Oklahoma. Mordecai transferred to SMU in December of 2020, and put together a monster campaign last season. He tied for fifth in the FBS in touchdown tosses and 12th in passing yards. The Texas native finished 16th in the nation in passing efficiency. Mordecai’s 39 touchdown passes were a single-season, school record. Not to mention Mordecai stockpiled a season-high, seven touchdown passes in the victory over Abilene Christian, which was a single-game Mustang record. He generated five scores apiece against Louisiana Tech and TCU. Mordecai earned second-team, All-AAC honors.
11. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers have won 23 games over the past two seasons, and he’s a big reason for their success. McCall finished No. 1 in the FBS in passing efficiency last season. He was also named the Sun Belt Player of the Year. Not to mention McCall has an NIL deal with Tom Brady. McCall threw for a season-high, five touchdowns in the victory over Texas State. The former two-star prospect also stockpiled a season-high, 365 yards through the air, and four touchdown passes against Arkansas State. The six-foot-three, 210-pounder left a lasting impression with four additional touchdown tosses in the bowl win over Northern Illinois. McCall finished 2021 with first-team, All-Sun Belt honors.
10. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest: The South Carolina native scored a jaw-dropping, 50 touchdowns in 2021. Hartman’s 4,228 passing yards and 39 touchdown tosses, were both single-season school records. Not to mention Hartman is the Demon Deacons’ active career leader in passing touchdowns. He averaged 302 passing yards per game, which ranked third in the ACC. Hartman threw for three touchdowns apiece in wins over Old Dominion, Virginia, Syracuse, Duke, NC State, Boston College and Rutgers. The former three-star prospect passed for five touchdown apiece against Army and North Carolina. Hartman also generated 11 rushing scores, and finished the year with second-team, All-ACC honors.
9. K.J. Jefferson, Arkansas: Not only did he finish 10th in the FBS in passing efficiency last season, but he also led the Razorbacks in carries and rushing yards. Jefferson threw for a season-high, 366 yards in the victory over Georgia Southern. The former four-star prospect also had a season-high, four touchdown passes against Arkansas Pine Bluff. Jefferson lit up Alabama’s defense for 326 yards and three touchdown tosses. Not to mention he scored a jaw-dropping, six total touchdowns against Ole Miss. Jefferson displayed how deadly he can be with his mobility, when he rumbled for 110 yards and a rushing score in the bowl victory over Penn State. Now he’s poised for a monster year.
8. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue: For an individual who had no stars out of high school, he made a name for himself in the Big Ten last season. O’Connell finished second in the league in passing yards per game, touchdown tosses and passing efficiency. The Illinois native also earned second-team, All-Big Ten honors. He threw for a season-high, 536 yards in the victory over Michigan State. The following week O’Connell torched Ohio State’s defense for 390 and four touchdowns. Not to mention he passed for a season-high, five touchdowns in the bowl win over Tennessee. O’Connell caught fire over Purdue’s final six games and threw for 2,394 yards, 21 touchdowns and three interceptions.
7. Brennan Armstrong, Virginia: The former three-star prospect put up video game numbers in 2021. Armstrong broke the Cavaliers’ record for passing yards and touchdown tosses in a single season. Not to mention he finished with third-team, All-ACC honors, and led the league in passing yards. Armstrong shredded North Carolina’s defense for a career-high, 554 yards, which was a single-game school record. He threw for 405 yards and a season-high, five touchdowns in the victory over Illinois. The Ohio native also had over 400 yards passing against Louisville, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. Armstrong is no statue in the pocket, and ran for 90-plus yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Tech and BYU.
6. Stetson Bennett, Georgia: The Georgia native began his collegiate career as a walk-on, but his amazing journey to winning the Natty last season was second to none. Bennett threw for 29 touchdowns, which ranked fourth in the SEC and 16th in the country. His 2,862 yards through the air was fifth-best in the league. Not to mention he finished fourth in the FBS in passing efficiency. He stockpiled a season-high, five touchdown tosses against UAB. Bennett also passed for a season-high, 340 yards in the SEC Championship Game. There’s no denying Bennett turned it up a notch over Georgia’s final five games, with 14 touchdown passes and three interceptions.
5. Devin Leary, NC State: He put together a monster campaign in 2021, and broke Phillip Rivers’ 18-year old school record for passing yards in a single season. Leary’s 35 touchdown passes ranked third in the ACC and tenth in the FBS. Not to mention his 286 passing yards per game ranked 15th in the country. The New Jersey native was No. 19 in the FBS in passing efficiency. Leary scorched Mississippi State and Syracuse with 303 passing yards apiece. The six-foot-one, 215-pounder threw for a season-high, 408 yards and four touchdowns against Wake Forest. Leary also passed for four touchdowns apiece in victories over Clemson, Louisville, Florida State and North Carolina.
4. Caleb Williams, USC: The former five-star prospect was thrown to the wolves as a true freshman last season and didn’t disappoint. Williams wound up replacing Spencer Rattler and finished the year with second-team, All-Big 12 honors. Not to mention he ranked fifth in the FBS in passing efficiency. Williams’ coming out party happened in the victory over Texas, when he racked up 300 all-purpose yards and scored three total touchdowns. The following week Williams got his first start and thew for four touchdowns in the win over TCU. However, he had a breathtaking performance against Texas Tech, with 402 passing yards for six touchdowns, which were both season-highs.
3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee: The former Virginia Tech Hokie flourished in Josh Heupel’s offense last season. Hooker finished first in the SEC in passing efficiency, third in touchdown tosses and fourth in yards through the air. The North Carolina native threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Kentucky. Hooker passed for three touchdowns apiece against Tennessee Tech, Missouri, South Carolina and Alabama. Not to mention he rushed for 108 yards and a score against Ole Miss. However, Hooker made a huge statement in Tennessee’s bowl clash against Purdue. He torched the Boilermakers for 378 passing yards and five touchdowns, which were both season-highs.
2. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State: The California native led the Big Ten in passing yards and touchdown tosses last season. Often times Stroud made everything look easy. He finished first in the Power five and second in the FBS in passing efficiency. Stroud ranked third in the country in passing yards per game. Not to mention Stroud’s 573 passing yards in the Rose Bowl was a single-game, school record. The former four-star prospect threw for a season-high, six touchdowns in the win over Michigan State. Stroud had five touchdown passes apiece in victories over Rutgers, Maryland and Purdue. Not only did Stroud earn first-team, All-Big Ten, but he also captured third-team, AP All-America honors.
1. Bryce Young, Alabama: The former five-star prospect had a million dollars in NIL deals before he ever took a meaningful snap for the Crimson Tide last season. It’s safe to say Young delivered on the investments, after he led Alabama to an SEC Title and won the Heisman Trophy. Young also took home the Davey O’Brien hardware. Not to mention he earned first-team, All-SEC and AP All-America honors. The California native finished first in the Power Five, plus second in the FBS in passing yards and touchdown tosses. Young averaged 369.5 passing yards per game, and threw for a season-high, 559 in the victory over Arkansas. Bottom line, he plays his best in the biggest moments.
Jayden Daniels, LSU: The former Arizona State signal-caller transferred to LSU in early March and will be immediately eligible for spring ball. Daniels, who’s considered by many as one of the best dual threats in the country, threw for 2,381 yards, rushed for 710 and scored 16 total touchdowns last season.
Will Rogers, Mississippi State: He led the SEC in passing yards per game last season. The former three-star prospect finished second in the conference in passing yards and touchdown tosses. Rogers broke nearly every single-season school record throwing the ball, and he’s the Bulldogs’ career leader in completions.
Frank Harris, UTSA: The Texas native tied for 18th in the FBS with 27 touchdown passes last season. Harris ranked 30th in the FBS in passing efficiency. He also scored seven total touchdowns, including six passing against Western Kentucky. Harris finished the year with second-team, All-C-USA honors.
Emory Jones, Florida: He led the Gators in passing and rushing yards last season. Jones rushed for 144 yards in the win over Tennessee. The former four-star prospect threw for 464 yards and six touchdowns in the victory over Samford, which were both season-highs. He also had four touchdown tosses against Vanderbilt.
Gerry Bohannon, Baylor: The former four-star prospect was a flat-out stud for the Bears when he was healthy last season. Bohannon scored five total touchdowns in wins over Texas Southern and West Virginia. The Arkansas native rushed for 107 yards and two scores in the win over Oklahoma.
Clayton Tune, Houston: The former three-star prospect finished 14th in the FBS in passing yards and touchdown tosses last season. Tune threw for four touchdowns apiece in victories over SMU and Connecticut. Not to mention he had a season-high, 412 yards through the air against the Mustangs.
Spencer Rattler, South Carolina: The Arizona native’s production decreased significantly at Oklahoma last year, and he was benched for a freshman. However, Rattler completed nearly 75 percent of his passes and finished the season with 11 touchdown tosses. He reunited with Shane Beamer and will be an upgrade to the Gamecocks’ offense.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA: The Las Vegas native is the Pac-12’s most experienced signal-caller. Thompson-Robinson has racked up 7,541 passing yards, for 61 touchdowns and 26 interceptions through the Chip Kelly era. He scored 30 total touchdowns last season and finished 29th in the FBS in passing efficiency.