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Top 25 College Football QBs for 2021: Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell Lead the Way

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Top 25 College Football QBs for 2021: Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell Lead the Way

Who will fill the void left by Trevor Lawrence in 2021?

Lawrence, who was No. 1 in the 2021 NFL Draft, who was No. 1 on Sporting News’ list of the top 25 quarterbacks in each of the past two seasons. He was part of a class that sent five quarterbacks to the first round of last year’s draft, a class that included Justin Fields of Ohio State and Mac Jones of Alabama.

MORE: SN Preseason Top 25

The three dominant powers in college football have new quarterbacks this season, and all three made our top 25. The No. One option, however, is an open debate between Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma and Sam Howell of North Carolina. That will also extend to the 2022 NFL Draft.

With that in mind, Sporting News breaks down the top 25 college football quarterbacks for 2021:

  • Thompson-Robinson enters his third season as a starter alongside Chip Kelly in what is a spectacular year for the Bruins. DTR showed signs of progress last year with increases in completion percentage, yards per attempt and rushing yards, and has the potential to be Kelly’s next prolific college quarterback. Can you put it all together for UCLA in 2021?

  • Nix stalled last season from a statistical perspective, and is 15-9 as a starter heading into his junior season. He is averaging 14 TD passes and seven TD passes per season, and it will be interesting to see what first-year coach Bryan Harsin brings to Nix’s game. Opinions vary on the third-year starter, but the ability to make plays is there.

  • Doege ranked 16th in the FBS with 2,587 yards, and the Bowling Green transfer returns for another year on Troy Brown’s offense with the Mountaineers. Doege has maintained a consistent completion percentage at both stops and has one last chance to lead a race in the Big 12.

  • Morgan struggled last season, but that was part of a season that was cut short by COVID-19 outages. Possible is the possibility of a rebound to the form of 2019, in which Morgan threw for 3,253 yards and 30 TDs. Morgan must prove himself without Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman, who have moved to the NFL since ’19.

  • It’s finally Jones’ turn in Florida after a three-year wait, and he showed flashes of success in a niche role with Dan Mullen. Jones completed 64 percent of his passes and averaged 5.6 yards per carry in that limited role, and he has the potential to be the SEC’s standout player by 2021.

  • Sanders was injured in Game 1 last season at Tulsa, and had a bumpy second year with the Cowboys. Sanders has resurfaced as a running threat in the past four games, and his performance in the Cheez-It Bowl, which included 350 total yards of offense and four TDs, is a reminder of what he can produce on Oklahoma State’s offense.

  • Cunningham is a seasoned three-year starter returning for Scott Satterfield’s third season with the Cardinals. Cunningham’s accuracy improved in 2020, but he threw more interceptions in the process. Cunningham played well in losses to Virginia Tech and Miami, and had two 100-yard rushing games.

  • This is a presumed placement knowing that Stroud has yet to win the starting job in a three-way battle with Kyle McCord and Jack Miller III. That said, Stroud had the upper hand in the spring and whoever starts with the Buckeyes will have the deepest group of wide receivers in the nation to work with. Stroud can work with that on Ryan Day’s offense, and that could get him into the top five on this list by the end of the season.

  • Jurkovec, a transfer from Notre Dame, turned out to be a perfect fit with Jeff Hafley at Boston College. He had four 300-yard games and led the Eagles to a 6-4 record. Jurkovec needs to be more of a running threat to take the next step, and he struggled with accuracy in big games against Clemson and Notre Dame last season.

  • Willis has the most rushing yards of any QB on this list after amassing 944 yards and 14 TDs in 2020. He also threw for 2,250 yards, 20 TDs and six interceptions. That two-way production is drawing the attention of NFL scouts, and it will continue to evolve with another year on Huge Freeze’s offense at Liberty against a fairly tame slate in 2021.

  • Get to know Strong now, because he has a chance to be that first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft that you’ll learn about later. He completed 70.1 percent of his passes with 27 TDs and four interceptions last season. The Wolf Pack was 5-0 when passing for 300 or more yards in 2020. Strong has high-level potential and should continue to deliver in the Mountain West Conference.

  • Daniels played in four games last season, making it difficult to see how much he improved in his sophomore year. He’s an efficient passer who has 22 TDs and three interceptions for the Sun Devils, and he averaged 6.8 yards per carry on the ground. The double threat talent is there, and he’s capable of leading Arizona State to the Pac-12 championship game.

  • Penix’s thrilling run to the goal line against Penn State was the trademark play in a breakthrough season for the Hoosiers. He finished with 1,645 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions before suffering a torn ACL. Penix is ​​the best returning quarterback in the Big Ten, and will need to improve his completion percentage in 2021.

  • McCall put Coastal Carolina on the college football map with a freshman season of red jerseys. He finished with 2,488 passing yards, 26 TDs and three interceptions. He also added 569 rushing yards and seven TDs. McCall had five games with at least four total TDs, and the Chanticleers were 4-1 in those games. What will you do for a second encore?

  • Young has a tough act to follow after Mac Jones led Alabama to a national championship in 2020. Young played primarily in cleanup duties last season, averaging 7.1 yards per pass attempt with a 59.1 completion percentage. Improvements will be needed, but new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and the same loaded cast should lead to big numbers for Young.

  • Purdy was ranked No. 8 on this list in 2020. He opted to stay at Iowa State for his senior season, and expectations at Ames are higher than ever. Purdy’s numbers have been consistent, and the Cyclones are 6-3 the past two seasons when he throws for 300 yards or more. Purdy emerged as a more effective running back last season, and the opportunity to lead a Big 12 championship race is on the table.

  • Georgia’s offense conceded once Daniels assumed the starting job in 2020. He averaged 10.3 yards per attempt, and his 178.5 quarterback rating would have ranked in the top 10 with the most attempts. Daniels brushed off interceptions that hampered him at USC as a freshman, and he should be more comfortable with a full offseason at Georgia.

  • King emerged as the answer as Miami’s quarterback last season. He matched well with new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, especially early in the season. King finished with 2,686 passing yards, 538 rushing yards and 27 total TDs. That success was tempered by a premature ACL injury in the Cheez-It Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. King is expected to make a full recovery before Game 1 against Alabama.

  • Ridder is back to lead Cincinnati, which is the top eliminator in the college football playoffs heading into 2021. Ridder is 30-5 as a starter, having passed for 57 TDs and 20 interceptions. He also averages 6.0 yards per carry. That double-threat production elevated the show, and Ridder will be able to show off those skills in a challenging pair of non-conference games at Indiana and Notre Dame.

  • Slovis should follow in the footsteps of Sam Darnold, Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart as the next USC first-round quarterback. The 6-2,200-pounder is a third-year starter and has completed 70 percent of his passes with 47 TDs and 16 interceptions. Slovis is 1-3 against the top 25 teams as a starter, and is tasked with leading the Trojans back to the Pac-12 championship game.

  • Gabriel is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in FBS. He’s averaged 3,611 passing yards and 31 TDs over the past two seasons, and that comes with just 11 total interceptions. He needs to improve his completion percentage and get a little more active in the running game, but that will happen with the arrival of first-year coach Gus Malzahn.

  • Who would have guessed that Lane Kiffin has the best returning quarterback in the SEC? Corral led every quarterback on this list with 3,843 yards of total offense last season. He finished with 29 TDs and 13 interceptions, and rushed for 506 yards. The Rebels averaged 39.2 points per game and should be even more entertaining in Kiffin’s second season. Corral’s game-making skills make him an intriguing sleeper Heisman.

  • Uiagalelei follows Trevor Lawrence at Clemson, and fans got to see the five-star talent in two high-profile starts against Boston College and Notre Dame. Uiagalelei showed up with 914 passing yards, 5 TDs and no interceptions as a freshman, and the 6-4, 250-pound quarterback is a career option in the red zone who scored four TDs. That experience should lead to another great year for the Tigers, and Uiagalelei is Clemson’s next first-round star at the position.

  • Howell averages 10.3 yards per pass attempt the past two seasons, and he’s amassed 7,224 yards, 68 TDs and 14 interceptions in that stretch. He’s been the centerpiece of a quick rebuild under Mack Brown at Chapel Hill, and the third-year starter should be even better as a junior. Five ACC quarterbacks have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft the past five seasons, a list that includes Deshaun Watson (2017), Mitchell Trubisky (2017), Lamar Jackson (2018), Daniel Jones ( 2019) and Trevor Lawrence (2021). Howell is next in line.

  • Rattler is the favorite for the Heisman Trophy, and that’s a good bet given that Lincoln Riley has worked with two winners in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. He struggled with turnovers early in the season, but in Oklahoma’s last eight games, all wins, he averaged 255.8 passing yards with 18 TDs and two interceptions. Rattler doesn’t run much, but he did hit six TDs on the ground in 2020. Another year with Riley should produce even more, especially with the supporting cast loaded at skill positions at Oklahoma.

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