TGR Quarterback rankings are based upon who the 8 Man Panel thinks will perform at the highest level during the 2018 college football season. We do not consider how a QB projects to the NFL Draft or how/if he’ll play on Sundays in the future.
1-Will Grier (West Virginia): As a redshirt freshman, Grier had led Florida out to a 6-0 record before getting slapped with a one-year suspension by the NCAA for testing positive for a banned substance. Grier never wore orange and blue again after Jim McElwain essentially ran him out of town. After missing the final six regular-season games of 2015 and the entire ’16 campaign, Grier finally returned to the field at West Virginia last season. He didn’t disappoint. Grier garnered third-team All Big 12 honors behind Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph. He completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 3,490 yards with a 34/12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He suffered a season-ending finger injury in the first half of a home loss to Texas in WVU’s 11th game. Grier also ran for a pair of TDs. For his career, he’s 12-3 in 15 career starts that he completed (excluding the ‘L’ vs. Texas) with a 44/15 TD-INT ratio. He has two of the nation’s top wideouts in Gary Jennings and David Sills returning.
2-Khalil Tate (Arizona): Former head coach Rich Rodriguez didn’t turn to Tate until a Week 6 game in Boulder. Better late than never, right? Tate promptly erupted for 327 rushing yards and four TDs on just 14 carries. He also completed 12-of-13 throws for 154 yards and one TD without an interception to lead UA to a 45-42 win at Colorado. In the next three games, all wins for the Wildcats, Tate had five TD passes compared to two interceptions and rushed for four TDs. A week after gashing the Buffaloes for 327 yards on the ground, he ran for 230 and a pair of scores on 15 attempts vs. UCLA. Tate had six games in a row with the following outputs of rushing yards: 327, 230, 137, 146, 161 and 206. For the season, he ran for 1,411 yards and 12 TDs with a 9.2 yards-per-carry average. Tate connected on 62.0 percent of his passes for 1,591 yards with a 14/9 TD-INT ratio. He threw for 302 yards and five TDs in a 38-35 loss to Purdue at the Foster Farms Bowl. Seven of Arizona’s top eight pass catchers are back in 2018, in addition to the Wildcats’ second-leading rusher in RB J.J. Taylor, who rushed for 847 yards and five TDs with a 5.8 YPC average last year.
3-Trace McSorley (Penn State): McSorley won’t have running back Saquon Barkley around anymore, but there are two five-star recruits to replace him in junior Miles Sanders and true freshman Ricky Slade. McSorley, a two-time second-team All Big 10 selection, is currently second in PSU history in passing yards and should surpass Christian Hackenberg’s numbers before the end of September. He has a 59/18 career TD-INT ratio along with 18 rushing TDs.
4-Drew Lock (Missouri): Lock, who is probably the best NFL prospect among these signal callers, is third in career passing yards at Missouri and will pass Brad Smith into second place in the first half of his team’s opener vs. UT-Martin. If he can duplicate his 3,964 passing yards from his junior campaign, Lock will surpass Chase Daniel and sit atop the school’s record books. The Tigers return nine starters from an offense that averaged 37.5 points per game in 2017. Lock had a 44/13 TD-INT ratio and directed an offense that scored 45 points or more in Missouri’s last six regular-season games. Yes, you can make an argument that his stats were padded against weak defenses (18/3 TD-INT ratio in games vs. SW Missouri State, vs. Idaho and at UConn), but he also had four TD passes at Georgia, which gave up more than 19 points to only two regular-season opponents.
5-Tua Tagoviailoa/Jalen Hurts combination (Alabama): Tua is a true sophomore that sparked a second-half comeback from a double-digit deficit against Georgia in the finals of the College Football Playoff. After making a colossal mistake by taking a sack for a huge loss on first down of Alabama’s possession in overtime (trailing by a field goal), the Hawaiian responded on the next play by throwing a bomb right on the money for the game-winning score. Tua finished the year with an 11/2 TD-INT ratio and two rushing scores. Hurts, who got most of the reps during the spring after Tua injured his hand, owns a 26-2 record in 28 career starts. He had a 17/1 TD-INT ratio last year with eight rushing TDs. Hurts, a second-team All-SEC pick in ‘17, has run for more than 1,800 yards and 21 TDs in two seasons. Nick Saban has a QB controversy on his hands. In this instance, that’s “one of those good problems.”
6-Jake Browning (Washington): Browning goes into his senior year with 39 career starts, producing a 24-6 record in his past 30 outings. He earned fourth-team All-American honors as a sophomore in ’16 by throwing for 3,430 yards and leading the Huskies to the CFP semifinals. Browning had a 43/9 TD-INT ratio during that 12-2 campaign. His numbers sagged a bit last year, although he connected on 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,719 yards with a 19/5 TD-INT ratio. With workhorse RB Myles Gaskin (21 rushing TDs LY) back in the mix along with an offensive line ranked 13th in the nation in Phil Steele’s preseason magazine, Browning is poised for a monster senior campaign.
7-Jarrett Stidham (Auburn): Steele’s mag ranks Stidham as the third-best NFL QB prospect. After a slow start in September (a game at Clemson in Week 2 can contribute to such an occurrence), Stidham really settled in and played outstanding football. He finished the year with an 18/6 TD-INT ratio, 3,158 passing yards and a 66.4 completing percentage. Before subtracting sack yardage, Stidham showed he can move by rushing for 383 yards and four scores. Stidham has his top-five pass catchers back, but the o-line could be a bit of a concern (ranked 53rd nationally in Steele’s Unit Rankings).
8-Justin Herbert (Oregon): Steele has Herbert as ‘The Uno’ in terms of draft-available QBs following this season. The Ducks went 6-2 in Herbert’s eight starts last year, 1-4 in the five games when he was sidelined with an injury. As a true freshman in 2016, Herbert started the Ducks last seven games and threw for 1,936 yards with a 19/4 TD-INT ratio. He also ran for 161 yards and two TDs. Then last year, Herbert was off to a blazing start (9/2 TD-INT ratio with three rushing TDs) before breaking his collarbone in the first half of a home win over California. He returned for Oregon’s last three games, throwing six TDs compared to three interceptions. Herbert threw for at least 233 yards in the seven games when he took most of the snaps. He also rushed for five TDs with a 4.2 YPC average.
9-Ryan Finley (North Carolina State): Finley led his team to its highest win total (nine) since 2010 by connecting on 65.1 percent of his attempts for 3,518 yards with a 17/6 TD-INT ratio. Since arriving in Raleigh as a transfer from Boise State, Finley has started 26 consecutive games and posted a 35/14 TD-INT ratio. The WR combination of Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers, which combined to grab 132 receptions for 1,744 yards and nine TDs in ’17, is back for another run with Finley and the Wolfpack.
10-McKenzie Milton (Central Florida): Milton led UCF to an unbeaten season by completing 67.1 percent of his passes for 4,037 yards with a 37/9 TD-INT ratio. With 613 rushing yards, eight TDs and a 5.8 YPC average as well, he deservedly garnered fourth-team All-American honors. The rising true junior already has 23 career starts to his credit.
Underrated: Jake Bentley (South Carolina), K.J. Costello (Stanford), Jordan Ta’amu (Ole Miss), Andrew Ford (UMass), Eric Dungey (Syracuse) and Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt).
Honorable Mention: Brian Lewerke (Michigan State), Brett Rypien (Boise State), Kelly Bryant (Clemson), Daniel Jones (Duke), Nathan Rourke (Ohio), Gus Ragland (Miami OH.) and Brent Stockstill (Middle Tennessee).
**Other Notable Signal Callers**
— Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald might have made my Top 10, but he’s still recovering from a gruesome leg/knee injury sustained in the Egg Bowl. His wheels, not his right arm, are his biggest asset so until I see him back at full strength (that is the expectation in Starkville by August), I couldn’t put him in my Top 10.
— Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson wouldn’t have been in my Top 10 regardless, but he’s certainly a Top-20 QB. Thorson is second in school history in passing yards, but he tore his ACL early in the first quarter of the Music City Bowl vs. Kentucky in late December. Whether or not he’ll be ready for the season opener (or play at all in September), remains a question mark at this point.
— FSU QB Deondre Francois had the look of a future star when he went 10-3 in 13 starts as a redshirt freshman in 2016. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second half of a Week 1 loss to Alabama in Atlanta. With his team struggling while he recovered from surgery, Francois alienated himself from teammates with social-media posts from locations outside of Doak Campbell Stadium during home games late in the season. He recently had other issues with the Tallahassee Police Department, so his standing with new coach Wille Target and his staff is a bit of a mystery. James Blackman had a 19/11 TD-INT ratio in 12 starts after being thrust into the action as a true freshman. We’ll see who wins this job.
— Virginia Tech’s Josh Jackson had an excellent redshirt freshman campaign, throwing for 2,991 yards with a 20/9 TD-INT ratio. He also ran for 498 yards (before subtracting sack yardage) and six TDs. There were reports out earlier this month that he could be facing a lengthy academic suspension. Since then, however, he’s been cleared of whatever academic matter was in doubt and is expected to be in uniform at FSU in the Monday Night opener.