April 23, 2024

College football’s 20 best quarterbacks of 2024

College Football's best quarterbacks of 2024

Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders scrambles for a first down during the second quarter against Nebraska Saturday September 9, 2023 at Folsom Field. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Spring ball is in the air, and the 2024 College football season will be uncharted territory for many reasons. From conference realignment, to an expanded Playoff system, everyone is expecting the unexpected. However, being a starting quarterback this fall means a new opportunity to build a legacy.

These 20 players displayed their worth last year, and are looking to build on the momentum they generated. Now the competition is stiffer, the games are bigger, and the stakes are higher, which should make for some great football.  Over the next six months we’ll get to see if these signal-callers can pick up where they left off, and put together more magic.

Which is why August can’t get here fast enough.

20. Haynes King, Georgia Tech: Last season he led the Yellow Jackets to a winning campaign for the first time since 2018, which included a bowl victory. King finished first in the ACC, and tied for 12th in the FBS in passing touchdowns. Not to mention he was second on the team in rushing yards, and recorded 10 touchdowns on the ground. King threw for 300-plus yards against Louisville and Ole Miss. The Texas native had four touchdowns passes apiece against South Carolina State, Bowling Green and North Carolina. However, he was picked off 16 times. If King can cut down on the interceptions, and use his dual-threat capabilities, the Yellow Jackets could be sleepers in the ACC.

19. Avery Johnson, Kansas State: Although the Kansas native played behind Will Howard last season, he took advantage of every opportunity and delivered when his number was called. Johnson dazzled fans with his mobility, and rushed for a jaw-dropping, five touchdowns in the road victory at Texas Tech. The signal-caller left a lasting impression when he scored three total touchdowns in the bowl win over NC State. For his heroics against the Wolfpack, Johnson was named the Pop-Tarts Bowl MVP. Now that Howard is at Ohio State, there’s a lot of hype surrounding Johnson, and what he can do as a full-time starter. He’ll also be operating under two Coordinators in Matt Wells and Conor Riley.

18. Graham Mertz, Florida: The former Wisconsin Badger made his mark as an accurate passer in the SEC last season. Mertz finished first in the conference, and third nationally in completion percentage. He ranked 17th in the FBS in passing efficiency. Mertz threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions against Vanderbilt, Arkansas and South Carolina. His 423 passing yards in the victory over the Gamecocks were a season-high. The Kansas native scored three total touchdowns against Georgia, and threw for 300-plus yards against Utah and LSU. Unfortunately, Mertz didn’t have much of a supporting cast, which resulted in a 5-7 campaign. However, new weapons should change that this fall.

17. Rocco Becht, Iowa State: The former four-star prospect was an unknown before the start of last season, but later took the Big 12 by storm. Not only did Becht help the Cyclones record seven wins, but he was also named the Big 12’s Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. The Florida native finished third in the conference in passing touchdowns. Becht’s 3,120 passing yards ranked fourth in the league. He threw for 348 yards, and three touchdowns in the victory over Oklahoma State. Becht also recorded three touchdown tosses in the win at Kansas State. The six-foot, 205-pounder left a lasting impression with a career-high, 446 passing yards in the Liberty Bowl against Memphis.

16. Drew Allar, Penn State: The former five-star prospect led Penn State to a 10-win season in 2023, but struggled in losses to Ohio State, Michigan and Ole Miss. Allar led the Big Ten, and tied for 18th in the FBS in passing touchdowns. However, he had some accuracy issues, and ranked 58th nationally in passing efficiency, and 74th in completion percentage. There’s no denying Allar had some bright spots. The Ohio native threw for a season-high, 325 yards, and three touchdowns in the season-opener against West Virginia. Allar recorded four touchdown passes in victories over Iowa and Maryland. He also threw for three touchdowns apiece against Massachusetts and Indiana.

15. Will Howard, Ohio State: The Pennsylvania native led Kansas State to a Big 12 Title in 2022. Not only did Howard finish second in the conference in passing touchdowns, but he also earned second-team, All-Big 12 honors. His accuracy can use some improvement after throwing 10 interceptions, and finishing 53rd nationally in passing efficiency, and 63rd in completion percentage. The six-foot-four, 237-pounder passed for a season-high, four touchdowns at Texas. Howard had three touchdown passes apiece against Troy, Missouri, TCU and Baylor. He has 32 touchdown tosses over the past two years. Howard is bringing production, experience and leadership to the Buckeyes.

14. Kyle McCord, Syracuse: Last year he led Ohio State to an 11-1 campaign during the regular season. Unfortunately, McCord was judged for his performance in the loss to Michigan. He still put together a stellar season, and capped it off with third-team, All-Big Ten honors. The New Jersey native finished 12th nationally in passing efficiency. McCord ranked 24th in the FBS in completions percentage, and passing yards per game. The six-foot-three, 215-pounder threw for threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions in victories over Youngstown State, Purdue, Western Kentucky and Michigan State. Now McCord is an Orangemen, and won’t have stud wideouts in his arsenal.

13. Jalon Daniels, Kansas: The Californian is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country when healthy. However, injuries has forced Daniels to miss multiple games for the past two years, including 10 in 2023. He was named the 2023 Preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year because everyone knew his capabilities. Daniels was plagued by back-tightness, but still played brilliant in victories over Illinois, Nevada and BYU.  The former three-star prospect threw for 277 yards, and two touchdowns against the Fighting Illini. His 298 passing yards against the Wolfpack, and three touchdown tosses against the Cougars, were both season-highs. No doubt Daniels is special.

12. Kaidon Salter, Liberty: Last season he led the Flames to a Fiesta Bowl berth, after a 13-0 start, and was responsible for 43 touchdowns during that span. Salter’s 32 touchdown tosses tied for fifth in the country. Not to mention he finished 22nd in the FBS in total offense. It’s no mystery that Salter is one of the game’s best dual-threat gunslingers. Salter threw for 2,876 yards, and rushed for 1,089. The 20-year old eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards against Middle Tennessee and Massachusetts. Salter was named the MVP of the Conference-USA Championship Game too. He capped off 2023 with first-team, All-CUSA honors. Salter should be a Heisman contender this fall.

11. Seth Henigan, Memphis: The 20-year old is coming off a monster campaign, in which he led the Tigers to 10 wins, including a bowl victory. Henigan finished fourth nationally in passing yards, fifth in touchdown tosses, and seventh in total offense. Not to mention he ranked 19th in the FBS in completion percentage, and 22nd in passing efficiency. Henigan threw for a season-high, 402 yards against SMU. The Texas native generated four touchdown passes apiece against South Florida, Temple and Iowa State. Henigan also threw for 300-plus yards, and three touchdowns against Missouri and Tulane. For his heroics in 2023, Henigan earned second-team, All-AAC honors.

10. Brady Cook, Missouri: Last season he led Missouri to 11 wins for the first time since 2014, which included a Cotton Bowl victory over Ohio State. Cook scored 29 total touchdowns, and finished 18th in the FBS in passing efficiency. Not to mention he ranked 22nd nationally in completion percentage, and passing yards. Cook even finished 26th in the country in total offense. The St. Louis native threw for a season-high, 411 yards against LSU. Cook passed for 395 yards and four touchdowns against Vanderbilt. On top of that, Cook threw for 300-plus yards in wins over Kansas State, Memphis and Florida. The 22-year old is one of the best returning gunslingers in the Almighty SEC.

9. Cam Ward, Miami: The Texas native paid his dues at the FCS level before he landed at Washington State. Ward threw for 6,968 yards, 48 touchdowns and 16 interceptions over the past two seasons with the Cougars. Last year he finished sixth nationally in total offense, including eighth in passing yards. Not to mention Ward ranked 20th in the FBS in completion percentage. He knows how to sling the ball, and shredded plenty of defenses. His 451 passing yards against Colorado State were a season-high. Ward also threw for 400-plus yards against Oregon, and Oregon State. Now Ward is down in South Beach, and this has been the most hype surrounding a Miami quarterback since D’Eriq King.

8. Jaxson Dart, Ole Miss: Coach Lane Kiffin is a quarterback guru, and Dart is his latest product. The former USC Trojan finished 11th nationally in passing efficiency in 2023. Dart ranked 16th in the FBS in total offense, including 20th in passing yards. The Utah native threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns against Mercer. Dart also recorded four touchdown tosses, along with a season-high, 389 passing yards in the win over LSU. The former four-star prospect threw for 300-plus yards against Texas A&M, and Louisiana-Monroe. Dart left a lasting impression with 379 passing yards, and four total touchdowns in the bowl victory over Penn State. He struggled in losses to Georgia and Alabama.

7. Cam Rising, Utah: The former four-star prospect is a winner, with back-to-back Pac-12 Titles, and Rose Bowl appearances with the Utes. Rising is electric with the ball in his hands, and can hurt defenses with his arm and legs. He has the experience, leadership and production to make a smooth transition for Utah in the Big 12 this fall. Unfortunately, Rising didn’t get to see the field in 2023 because of a leg injury he suffered in the first half of the 2023 Rose Bowl against Penn State. He’s expected to return to the lineup this season though. So if Rising can shake off the rust and stay healthy, the Utes can be Big 12 contenders in year one. Coach Kyle Whittingham will know when he’s ready.

6. Jalen Milroe, Alabama: Last season he led the Crimson Tide to an SEC Title, and a berth in the Playoffs. Although Milroe was benched against South Florida, he later became one of the best signal-callers in the league. Once the smoke cleared, Milroe finished fifth nationally in passing efficiency, and 23rd in completion percentage. The Texas native also has dangerous mobility, with 12 rushing touchdowns, including four in the victory over LSU. Milroe had three touchdown passes apiece against Texas A&M, Kentucky and Chattanooga. His touchdown pass against Auburn was the biggest play of the year. Milroe threw for two scores in the victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

5. Noah Fifita, Arizona: The former three-star prospect wasn’t even the starter to begin the 2023 season with the Wildcats. After playing mop-up duty for the first three games, Fifita quickly beat out Jayden de Laura and took the Pac-12 by storm. He’s a big reason why Arizona won 10 games for the first time since 2014, which included a bowl victory over Oklahoma. The Californian finished fifth nationally in completion percentage, and 10th in passing efficiency. Fifita threw for five touchdowns apiece against USC and Arizona State. His 527 passing yards against the Sun Devils were a season-high. The 20-year old was named the Pac-12’s Freshman Offensive Player of the Year for his heroics.

4. Shedeur Sanders, Colorado: Being the son of a Hall of Famer comes with pressure and responsibility, but he handled it well last season. Sanders got off to a hot start, and wowed fans with his accuracy, and big-play ability. His 27 touchdown tosses tied for 12th in the FBS. Sanders also finished eighth nationally in completion percentage, 18th in total offense, and 24th in passing efficiency. It’s even more impressive that Sanders put up those numbers behind horrible offensive line play. Once the smoke cleared, he was the most-sacked quarterback in College football. However, with better protection, he’ll set the Big 12 on fire, and is already projected as a first-rounder in the 2025 NFL Draft.

3. Carson Beck, Georgia: The Florida native didn’t make Bulldog fans forget about Stetson Bennett, but he set the SEC on fire last season. Beck led Georgia to a 12-0 start. He finished fourth nationally in completion percentage, eighth in passing efficiency and 15th in total offense. The former four-star prospect capped off his stellar campaign with second-team, All-SEC honors. Beck threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns against Kentucky, which were both career-highs. Not to mention Beck had three touchdown passes apiece against UAB and Tennessee. The six-foot-four, 220-pounder threw for 300-plus yards in four SEC games. The only knock on Beck is that he failed to beat Alabama.

2. Quinn Ewers, Texas: Last season he helped the Longhorns win 12 games, and a Big 12 Title for the first time since 2009. Ewers finished 10th nationally in completion percentage, and 13th in total offense. Not to mention he ranked 14th in the FBS in passing yards, despite missing two games. Ewers made good decisions with the football, and finished 16th in country in passing efficiency. He threw for three touchdowns apiece in victories over Rice and Alabama. The Texas native threw for 300-plus yards in six games, including the Playoff Semifinals against Washington. However, Ewers didn’t receive no All-Big 12 consideration. So expect him to come to the SEC with a big chip on his shoulder.

1. Dillon Gabriel, Oregon: The Hawaii native put together a monster campaign at Oklahoma last season. Gabriel was a scoring machine, and finished fourth in the FBS in total offense. He ranked sixth nationally in passing efficiency, and ninth in passing yards and completion percentage. Gabriel’s 30 touchdown tosses ranked 18th in the country, and he was only picked off six times. The gunslinger threw for five touchdowns apiece against Tulsa and West Virginia. Gabriel also led the nation in passing yards per game at UCF in 2019, and was the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year in 2022. He ended 2023 with first-team, All-Big 12 honors, and is the perfect replacement for Bo Nix with the Ducks.

Honorable Mention

Dylan Raiola, Nebraska: He’s the son of a Husker legend, and the program’s first five-star recruit since Marlon Lucky. Raiola turned down Georgia to come to Nebraska, and the hype machine is through the roof, despite the fact he has yet to play a down of College football. Raiola has tremendous upside and should make an immediate impact.

Cade Klubnik, Clemson: Tiger fans are looking for the gunslinger to take that next step with the program after he threw for 2,844 yards, 19 touchdowns, nine interceptions and finished last season on a six-game winning steak. Klubnik led Clemson to a 9-4 record, including a bowl victory over Kentucky, and a top-20 finish in the final AP Poll.

Riley Leonard, Notre Dame: He led the Blue Devils to a 4-0 start last season before getting injured. During that span Riley had complete command of Duke’s offense, and made the offense better as a whole. He was a big reason why the Blue Devils won nine games in 2022. Notre Dame fans are hoping he has a smooth transition.

Nico Iamaleava, Tennessee: The former five-star prospect gave the fans a glimpse of his athletic prowess in the bowl win over Iowa. Iamaleava torched the Hawkeyes’ vaunted defense for 151 yards through the air and a touchdown, to go along with three rushing scores. Now the hype is in full force in Rocky Top, and Iamaleava is poised for big things.

DJ Uiagalelei, Florida State: The former five-star prospect has a bunch of experience, starting multiple games at Clemson and Oregon State. Uiagalelei threw for 2,638 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions with the Beavers in 2023. He passed for 275 yards and five touchdowns in the victory over California, which were both season-highs.

Will Rogers, Washington: He broke several school and SEC passing records at Mississippi State. Rogers was molded by the late great Air Raid guru Mike Leach. He’s bringing a ton of production, experience and leadership to the Huskies. Coach Jedd Fisch made Noah Fifita a stud, so just imagine what he can do with Rogers’ skill set in Seattle.