June 16, 2024

Ranking the Big 12’s best quarterbacks of 2024

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Big 12's best quarterbacks of 2024

Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht drops back to attempt a pass in the third quarter against Texas Saturday November 18, 2023 at Jack Trice Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Although Oklahoma and Texas moved on to the SEC, the Big 12 has plenty of talent at the quarterback position for this upcoming season.

High-caliber gunslingers like Shedeur Sanders and Noah Fifita will quickly make Big 12 fans forget about Dillon Gabriel and Quinn Ewers. At the end of the day, the conference will field some of the country’s best signal-callers, which should make for some entertaining football this fall.

With the league expanding to 16 teams in July, competition should be at an all-time high.

16. Sam Leavitt, Arizona State: The former three-star prospect played in four games as a true freshman at Michigan State last season. Leavitt’s action mainly came in mop-up duty. However, he made the most out of his opportunities behind center. Leavitt completed two passes against Maryland. He completed eight of his 12 passes for 73 yards, a touchdown and an interception at Minnesota. The Oregon native posted a 25-yard touchdown pass in the victory over Nebraska. Leavitt ran for a touchdown, and completed over 70 percent of his passes in team periods during the Sun Devils’ spring game. Now that Jadan Rashada has transferred to Georgia, the starting job is Leavitt’s to lose.

15. Brady Lichtenberg, Cincinnati: The Ohio native played in seven games last season, but was mainly Emory Jones’ backup. Lichtenberg also took care of business in the classroom, and earned Academic All-Big 12 honors. He completed all four of his passes, including a four-yard touchdown in the opener against Eastern Kentucky. Lichtenberg threw a 21-yard touchdown at Oklahoma State. The former three-star prospect passed for 50 yards against UCF. Lichtenberg completed four of his seven passes for 33 yards in the victory at Houston. Now he’s trying to win the starting job in a deep quarterback room that includes Brendan Sorsby, Brady Drogosh, Samaj Jones and Will Kocher.

14. Jake Retzlaff, BYU: The Californian was Kedon Slovis’ backup for most of last season, but started the final four games. Retzlaff put up solid numbers in his limited time behind center. He completed 24 of his 42 passes for a season-high, 210 yards at West Virginia. Retzlaff threw for 14 yards and a touchdown against Iowa State, but was picked off twice. The former three-star prospect completed 15 of his 25 passes for 173 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Oklahoma. Retzlaff posted 161 yards through the air at Oklahoma State. He’s also competing with Gerry Bohanon, who last played at South Florida in 2022. Bohanon has Big 12 experience, with 12 starts at Baylor in 2021.

13. Donovan Smith, Houston: The 22-year old has a ton of Big 12 experience. Smith spent three seasons at Texas Tech before he landed at Houston. He started all 12 games last year for the Cougars, threw for 2,801 yards and 22 touchdowns. Smith had some bright moments too. The Las Vegas native threw for four touchdowns apiece against Texas Tech and West Virginia. His 378 passing yards against Texas were a season-high. Not to mention he scored five total touchdowns at Rice. However, Smith became a turnover machine over the second half of the season. The former three-star prospect threw 10 interceptions over the final six games, and the Cougars lost five of those matchups.

12. Josh Hoover, TCU: The Texas native was Chandler Morris’ backup for the first half of last season. However, Hoover started the final six games, and led TCU to two wins in Big 12 play. He threw for 302 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Texas. The former three-star propset passed for 412 yards, and scored three total touchdowns in the victory over Baylor. Hoover threw for a season-high, 439 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in the win over BYU. Not to mention he left a lasting impression with 344 yards through the air, and five total touchdowns at Oklahoma. Hoover earned first-team Academic All-Big 12, but sat out spring ball with an injury.

11. Behren Morton, Texas Tech: The 22-year old played musical chairs with Tyler Shough early on, but started eight games last season. Morton led the Red Raiders to five wins in Big 12 play, and a bowl victory. He threw for 161 yards, and two touchdowns against Houston. Morton passed for 180 yards, and scored four total touchdowns at Baylor. His 282 passing yards against TCU were a season-high, and he scored three touchdowns. Morton threw for 256 yards, and an interception against UCF. The former four-star prospect also had 256 yards through the air, to go along with three touchdown tosses in the bowl game against California. Morton should be able to build off last year’s success.

10. Alan Bowman, Oklahoma State: The 24-year old was granted a rare seventh season of eligibility this past January, and will make the Cowboys Big 12 contenders again. Bowman played for Michigan and Texas Tech before he landed in Stillwater. He’s coming off a successful campaign, in which he finished third in the Big 12, and 15th nationally with 3,460 passing yards. Bowman led Oklahoma State to a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Texas native threw for 336 yards, and two touchdowns against Kansas. Bowman passed for 334 yards in the win over Oklahoma, and a season-high, 402 in the bowl victory over Texas A&M. However, he led the entire Big 12 with 14 interceptions.

9. K.J. Jefferson, UCF: The former four-star prospect has spent the past five seasons at Arkansas, where he started 38 games. Last season Jefferson scored 21 total touchdowns, but was picked off eight times, and the Razorbacks lost eight games. He got off to a hot start, with four total touchdowns in the opener against Western Carolina. Jefferson threw for a season-high, 289 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions at LSU. The Mississippi native also posted three touchdown tosses in the victory over Florida International. Jefferson passed for two touchdowns apiece against Kent State, Ole Miss and Alabama. The six-foot-three, 247-pounder had three total touchdowns in the win at Florida.

8. Dequan Finn, Baylor: The Detroit native has played in 45 games over the past five seasons at Toledo. Finn is coming off a stellar campaign, in which he led the Rockets to an 11-1 record during the regular season. He also capped off the year with first-team, All-MAC honors. Finn threw for 238 yards, and three touchdowns against Texas Southern. The former three-star prospect passed for 281 yards, and scored three total touchdowns against Northern Illinois. Finn also scored three total touchdowns against Illinois, Massachusetts, Miami-Ohio and Bowling Green. Not to mention Finn passed for a season-high, 407 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in the victory over Eastern Michigan.

7. Garrett Greene, West Virginia: The Florida native is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the Big 12. Last season he led the Mountaineers to five wins in Big 12 play, a bowl victory and scored 29 total touchdowns. West Virginia won nine games, which were the most in the program since 2016. Greene threw for four touchdowns against Duquesne. He passed for a season-high, 391 yards, and scored four total touchdowns at Houston. Greene threw for 249 yards, and rushed for 117 against Oklahoma State. The former three-star prospect posted 364 yards of total offense, including 154 on the ground and four scores against Cincinnati. Greene also went over 100 yards rushing at Baylor.

6. Avery Johnson, Kansas State: The 19-year old backed up Will Howard as a true freshman last season, but made the most out of his opportunities behind center. Johnson wowed the fans with his breathtaking mobility, and displayed a nice touch on the football. He completed three of his four passes for 55 yards in the opener. Johnson completed eight of his nine passes, and rushed for 90 yards and five touchdowns in the victory at Texas Tech. The former four-star prospect threw a 13-yard touchdown against TCU. Johnson posted a 28-yard touchdown pass against Baylor. The Kansas native threw for a season-high, 178 yards and scored three total touchdowns in the bowl win over NC State.

5. Rocco Becht, Iowa State: The 20-year old started all 13 games in 2023, and led the Cyclones to six wins in Big 12 play. Becht threw for 3,120 yards, scored 26 total touchdowns, and guided his team to bowl eligibility. He was named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, and was the second Iowa State player to earn that honor. The Florida native passed for 348 yards, and three touchdowns in the victory over Oklahoma State. Becht threw for 241 yards, and scored three total touchdowns at Cincinnati. The former four-star prospect had three touchdown tosses at Kansas State. Becht left a lasting impression with a season-high, 446 passing yards, and three touchdowns in the bowl against Memphis.

4. Jalon Daniels, Kansas: The 21-year old helped the Jayhawks reach bowl eligibility in 2022, which was the first time they played in the postseason in 13 seasons. Daniels became the first-ever Kansas player to be named the 2023 Preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, back tightness limited him to three games last season. Daniels did dazzle fans when he played. He completed 21 of his 29 passes for 277 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the win over Illinois. Daniels passed for a season-high, 298 yards at Nevada. The six-foot, 220-pounder threw for three touchdowns in the victory at BYU. Now Jayhawk fans are hoping Daniels can stay healthy this fall.

3. Cameron Rising, Utah: The former four-star prospect didn’t play at all last season because of a knee injury. However, Rising has been very successful with the Utes. He led Utah to back-to-back Pac-12 Titles, and Rose Bowl appearances in 2021-22. The 25-year old is tough as nails, and can take huge hits. Rising passed for 2,493 yards and scored 26 total touchdowns in 2021. The Californian threw for 3034 yards, scored 32 total touchdowns, and was named the MVP of the Pac-12 Championship Game in 2022. Rising will make the Utes Big 12 contenders in their first season in the conference, if he can return fully intact. Kyle Whittingham must find ways for him to avoid unnecessary contact.

2. Noah Fifita, Arizona: The Californian is coming off a stellar campaign with the Wildcats, and is one of the best returning gunslingers in the country. After all, Fifita led the Wildcats to the postseason for the first time since 2017, and a bowl win for the first time in eight years. Not to mention he was named the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, and finished fifth nationally in completion percentage. Fifita even ranked 10th in the FBS in passing efficiency. The 20-year old posted five touchdown passes apiece against USC and Arizona State. Fifita threw for a career-high, 527 yards against Arizona State. He left a lasting impression, with 354 passing yards and two scores in the win over Oklahoma.

1. Shedeur Sanders, Colorado: The former four-star prospect posted video game numbers in the two seasons he played at Jackson State. It’s no mystery that Sanders made an instant impact on the Buffaloes in 2023. After all, he passed for 3,230 yards, and scored 31 total touchdowns, including 27 through the air in 11 games. Sanders was only picked off three times. The Texas native finished eighth nationally in completion percentage, 18th in total offense and 24th in passing efficiency. His 27 touchdown tosses tied for 12th in the FBS. Sanders set a school record, with 510 passing yards in the win over TCU. Unfortunately, he’ll need better protection up front after taking 52 sacks last year.

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