July 20, 2024
College Football's best quarterbacks of 2023

USC quarterback Caleb Williams prepares to take a snap during the first quarter against Utah Friday December 2, 2022 at Allegiant Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

The month of March is approaching, and that means spring ball will soon be in the air.

Quarterbacks will be the focal point surrounding the hype for the 2023 season. And rightfully so. After all, there are a plethora of studs from each Power Five conference, to go along with some stars out of the Group of Five. These 20 signal-callers have displayed what it takes to win in the clutch.

They come in all shapes and sizes, and bring different skills to the gridiron. These gunslingers have all had their moments when they picked up their team and carried them to the finish line. Having a winning mentality, making others around you better and being the face of the program isn’t easy. Yet and still these individuals make it look easy, and College football fanatics can’t wait to see what they have in store this fall.

20. Will Rogers, Mississippi State: Thanks to the late Mike Leach’s Air Raid system, the gunslinger has broken nearly every passing record in school history. Rogers is already the Bulldogs’ career leader in completions, passing yards and touchdown tosses. He threw for 3,974 yards last season, which ranked ninth in the FBS. Not to mention Rogers finished first in the almighty SEC, with 35 touchdown passes. The former three-star prospect threw for over 400 yards against Memphis, Bowling Green and Arkansas. Rogers had a season-high, six touchdown passes in the victory over the Falcons too. Now he’s going to be one of the most experienced signal-callers in the SEC for 2023.

19. Jalon Daniels, Kansas: The Californian emerged from the shadows, and made a name for himself last year. Daniels raised several eyebrows after he led the Jayhawks to a 5-0 start. Not to mention he threw for 983 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns during that span. Although he got banged up against TCU, and missed four conference games, Daniels finished strong down the stretch. Daniels left a lasting impression when he threw for a school-record, 544 yards against Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl. The former three-star prospect capped off the season with second-team, All-Big 12 honors. He’s the main reason why there’s some buzz surrounding year three under Lance Leipold.

18. Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma: The Hawaii native had a solid first season with the Sooners in 2022. Gabriel finished second in the Big 12 in both yards through the air, touchdown tosses and passing efficiency. He made an impact in the conference, and was named the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year. Gabriel threw for 449 yards and six touchdowns at Texas Tech, which were both season-highs. The former three-star prospect passed for 403 yards and scored three total touchdowns in the shootout victory over Kansas. Not to mention Gabriel had four touchdown tosses against Kansas State. It’s going to be Gabriel’s second year in Jeff Lebby’s system, so there should be improvement.

17. Will Howard, Kansas State: He was arguably the nation’s most-improved quarterback last year, and showed his maturation process over the second half of the season. Howard threw for 1,633 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions over the Wildcats’ final eight games. His 296 yards through the air and four touchdown tosses against Oklahoma State, were both season-highs. The Pennsylvania native passed for three touchdowns at Baylor, and added three scores in the Big 12 Championship Game. Although Howard was humbled in the Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama, he faced that SEC speed and physicality, which should benefit him, and the reigning Big 12 Champs in 2023.

16. Kurtis Rourke, Ohio: The former two-star prospect put together a magnificent campaign with the Bobcats in 2022. Rourke wowed fans with his arm strength and accuracy. So much so, that Rourke was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, after he threw for 3,257 yards, 25 touchdowns and four interceptions. The six-foot-five, 216-pounder ranked fifth in the FBS in completion percentage. Rourke was sixth in the country in passing efficiency. For his success, Rourke generated first-team, All-MAC honors. The Canadian is still recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered against Ball State. However, once Rourke returns back fully healthy, Ohio will become a legit threat to win the MAC.

15. Austin Reed, Western Kentucky: The gunslinger led West Florida to a Division II National Championship before he invaded the FBS last season. Reed guided the Hilltoppers to nine wins, including their bowl game and finished fourth in the nation in total offense. The Florida native was No. 1 in the country with 4,756 passing yards. Reed’s 40 touchdown tosses ranked third in the nation. The six-foot-two, 230-pounder threw for a season-high, six touchdowns in the victory at Charlotte. Reed left a lasting impression with 497 passing yards in the bowl win over South Alabama, which was also a season-high. For his heroics, Reed was named C-USA’s Newcomer of the Year.

14. KJ Jefferson, Arkansas: The former four-star prospect has been the Razorbacks’ starter for the past two years. Jefferson finished second in the SEC and eighth in the FBS in passing efficiency last season. He threw for 24 touchdowns, and ranked 13th in the country in completion percentage. The Mississippi native had a season-high, five touchdown tosses in the victory at BYU. Jefferson threw for 385 yards against Missouri State, which was also a season-high. The six-foot-three, 242-pounder displayed his dangerous mobility when he eclipsed the century mark in rushing against Texas A&M and Kansas. Jefferson passed for three touchdowns apiece in wins over Cincinnati and Ole Miss.

13. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina: There’s no denying that he’s been one of College football’s most successful signal-callers over the past three years. After all, the Chanticleers have won 31 games during that span. In 2022 McCall was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year for a third-straight season. The North Carolina native finished third in the FBS in passing efficiency. Not to mention McCall earned first-team, All-Sun Belt honors three years in a row. The six-foot-three, 215-pounder is already Coastal Carolina’s career leader with 78 touchdown tosses. All McCall needs is 1,833 passing yards this fall to break Alex Ross’ record. His experience, leadership and production is rare in today’s game.

12. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan: Coach Jim Harbaugh played musical chairs early on with McCarthy and Cade McNamara last season. However, McCarthy emerged as Michigan’s primary starter. He led the Wolverines to an undefeated regular season, Big Ten Title and a Playoff berth. For his heroics, McCarthy earned second-team, All-Big Ten honors, and ranked second in the conference in passing efficiency. McCarthy had three touchdown passes, and rushed for another score in the victory at Ohio State. The Illinois native added three additional touchdown tosses in the Big Ten Championship Game. McCarthy threw for a season-high, 343 yards in the Playoff Semifinals against TCU.

11. Tanner Mordecai, Wisconsin: The former four-star prospect is coming off two stellar seasons at SMU. Mordecai set a single-season, school record, with 39 touchdown passes in 2021. He followed that up with 33 touchdown tosses last year, which ranked second in the AAC, and tied for eighth in the FBS. Mordecai finished 18th in the country with 3,524 passing yards, and was 15th in the nation in total offense. Mordecai set a single-game record for SMU, when threw for a jaw-dropping, nine touchdowns against Houston. The Texas native is also the Mustangs’ career leader in passing touchdowns. Now Mordecai is a Badger, and looking to unleash his talented arm on the Big Ten.

10. Michael Pratt, Tulane: The former three-star prospect is coming off a stellar campaign, in which he led the Green Wave to their first 12-win season since 1998. Pratt showed off his arm talent, and finished 10th in the FBS in passing efficiency. He threw for 27 touchdowns, which tied for 18th in the country. Pratt passed for over 300 yards against Alcorn State, East Carolina, South Florida and Central Florida. His 394 yards through the air, and four touchdown tosses in the AAC Championship Game, were both season-highs. The Florida native threw for 234 yards and rushed for 83 in the Cotton Bowl victory over USC. Pratt’s heroics earned him second-team, All-AAC honors.

9. Frank Harris, UTSA: The former three-star prospect threw for a jaw-dropping, 4,063 yards last season, which ranked eighth in the FBS. Harris tied for 10th in the nation, with 32 touchdown tosses. It was also a single-season record for the program. The six-foot, 205-pounder was 13th in in the country in passing efficiency. Harris led the Roadrunners to 11 wins, including a second-straight C-USA Title. For his heroics, Harris was named the league’s MVP, and earned first-team, All-C-USA honors. The Texas native owns nearly every passing record in school history, and has scored 99 total touchdowns in his career. Now Harris is looking for a third-straight conference championship in 2023.

8. Cam Rising, Utah: The Californian is tough as nails, and led the Utes to a second-straight Pac-12 Title last season. Not only did Rising pass for 3,034 yards, but his 26 touchdown tosses ranked fifth in the Pac-12. He was also fifth in the conference in completion percentage. The former four-star prospect threw for 415 yards, and scored five total touchdowns in the first win over USC. Rising passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Although Rising tore his ACL in the Rose Bowl against Penn State, Utah fans are hoping he’ll be back fully healthy by the fall. After all, Rising needs 2,303 yards of total offense in 2023, to become the Utes’ all-time leader.

7. Bo Nix, Oregon: The former Auburn Tiger made his presence felt in the Pac-12 last season. Nix led the Ducks to a 10-win campaign, and finished second in the FBS in completion percentage. The Alabama native was third in the Pac-12, with 29 touchdown passes. Nix’s 3,593 passing yards was fifth-best in the country. Not to mention he ranked second in the league, and seventh in the nation in passing efficiency. The former five-star prospect threw for five touchdowns apiece against Eastern Washington and UCLA. He passed for a season-high 428 yards in the victory at Washington State. Nix displayed dangerous mobility when he rushed for 142 yards and two scores in the win over Stanford.

6. Jayden Daniels, LSU: The former Arizona State Sun Devil is one of the most experienced signal-callers in College football. Daniels made an impact in the almighty SEC last season. After all, he led the Bayou Bengals to a 10-win campaign, and a berth in the SEC Championship Game. Daniels led all FBS quarterbacks in rushing yards. He finished second in the conference, and ninth in the country in completion percentage. Daniels threw for 349 yards, and scored six total touchdowns in the victory at Florida, which were both season-highs. Not to mention he scored three total touchdowns in the win over Alabama. Daniels went over 100 yards rushing against Florida State, Ole Miss and UAB.

5. Jordan Travis, Florida State: The former three-star prospect led the Seminoles to 10 victories in 2022, and closed out the year on a six-game, win streak. Travis caught fire midway through the season, with 1,807 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions over Florida State’s final seven games. He left a lasting impression when he threw for a season-high, 418 yards in the bowl victory over Oklahoma. Travis ranked first in the ACC, and 14th in the FBS in passing efficiency. The Florida native was third in the league in passing yards. Travis showed off his legs when he rushed for 108 yards against NC State. The cherry on top for Travis was earning second-team, All-ACC honors.

4. Sam Hartman, Notre Dame: He’s one of the most productive gunslingers in the country. Hartman set several records at Wake Forest. The former three-star prospect is the Demon Deacons’ career leader in passing yards and touchdown tosses. Hartman finished third in the ACC, and 11th in the FBS in passing yards last season. He threw for 38 touchdowns, which tied for first in the conference, and fifth in the nation. The North Carolina native was second in the league in passing efficiency. Hartman posted a single-game, school record, with six touchdown passes against Clemson. Not only did Hartman finish the season with third-team, All-ACC honors, but he was also MVP of the Gasparilla Bowl.

3. Michael Penix Jr., Washington: Last year he showed what he’s capable of when healthy for an entire season. Penix had a stellar first season with the Huskies, and led them to an 11-2 campaign. Not to mention he led the FBS in total offense. Penix led the Pac-12 with 4,651 passing yards, which broke Washington’s single-season record. His 31 touchdown tosses tied for 13th in the nation. The Florida native threw for a season-high, 516 yards against Arizona, which was also a school single-game record. Penix had over 300 yards passing in each of the Huskies’ first eight games. He went over 400 yards passing against Colorado and Washington State, and earned second-team, All-Pac-12 honors.

2. Drake Maye, North Carolina: The former four-star prospect led the Tar Heels to a 9-1 start in 2022. Maye broke North Carolina’s single-season record, with 4,321 passing yards, which was also No. 1 in the ACC. He tied for first in program history with 38 touchdown tosses. The signal-caller ranked first in the league in completion percentage, and 18th in the FBS in passing efficiency. Maye threw for five touchdowns apiece against Florida A&M, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. His 448 passing yards against Wake Forest were a season-high. Maye left a lasting impression with three touchdown passes in the Holiday Bowl against Oregon. Not to mention he finished with first-team, All-ACC honors.

1. Caleb Williams, USC: The former Oklahoma Sooner set the Pac-12 on fire in 2022. Not only did the Trojans win 11 of their first 12 games, but Williams became the program’s eighth Heisman Trophy winner. He set single-season school records, with 4,537 passing yards and 42 touchdown tosses, which also led the nation. Williams ranked first in the conference, and fifth in the FBS in passing efficiency. The former five-star prospect had a season-high, 470 passing yards in the victory over UCLA. Williams scored four touchdowns, including three rushing in the victory over Notre Dame. The gunslinger left a lasting impression after he threw for 462 yards, and five touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl.

Honorable Mention

Jayden de Laura, Arizona: The former four-star prospect threw for 3,685 yards last season, which ranked third in the Pac-12, and 14th in the FBS. de Laua had 25 touchdown passes and finished 11th in the country in total offense. Not to mention he tied the school’s single-game record with six touchdown tosses in the victory over Colorado.

Drew Pyne, Arizona State: He threw for 2,021 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions at Notre Dame last season. Pyne ranked 20th in the FBS in passing efficiency. The Connecticut native had a season-high, four touchdown tosses in the victory over Navy. Pyne had three touchdowns passes apiece against North Carolina, BYU and USC.

Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland: The Hawaii threw for 3,008 yards last season, which ranked third in the Big Ten. Tagovailoa passed for 18 touchdowns, and earned second-team, All-Big Ten honors. Not to mention the former four-star prospect is already the Terrapins’ career leader in passing yards, touchdown tosses and total offense.

DJ Uiagalelei, Oregon State: He has been Clemson’s starting gunslinger for the past two seasons. Uiagalelei threw for 22 touchdowns in 2022, which ranked fourth in the ACC. Now Uiagalelei will be clicking up with Jonathan Smith, the quarterback guru out west, who just led the Beavers to a 10-3 campaign in 2022.