10 best quarterbacks in college football
5) J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Barrett seems like he’s been with the Buckeyes forever.
He’s still never quite topped his freshman season as far as touchdown tally goes, but he’ll have a chance to do so next year. He’s the only player on this list to have won a championship, even though it was as a backup to Cardale Jones in 2015. He’s more than capable of doing the job himself, though.
Barrett is coming off a playoff season of his own — albeit controversially — in which he threw 24 touchdown passes and tallied 2,555 yards, adding in nine rushing touchdowns. He’s an accomplished senior leader with 69 career touchdown passes and a wealth of experience to draw upon. His team will be playoff contenders again, and he will undoubtedly want to win a title of his own in his final season at Columbus.
4) Jake Browning, Washington
Browning loses some help with John Ross heading to the NFL, but the junior should once again post big numbers for the Huskies.
Browning helped turn the Washington program into a playoff team in 2016, throwing for 43 touchdowns, a tally good enough for second in the nation. Add 3,430 yards passing to that, and you have one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks, one who threw at least one touchdown in all 14 games he played.
Browning struggled in his final two games, throwing for a combined 168 yards against Colorado and Alabama, but the fact that he required surgery on his throwing shoulder after the season ended may be an indicator as to why. He’ll have some serious work to do if he wants to replicate those numbers again in 2017, but Chris Petersen’s offense should give him the tools to at least challenge his marks.
3) Sam Darnold, USC
Darnold was a revelation for the Trojans in 2016 after he seized the starting job in the team’s fourth game. He completely changed everything, turning the USC offense into a juggernaut, surpassing 3,000 yards in a season where he made only 10 starts. Had he been the starter from day one, he could have come close to 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns instead of the 31 he actually came up with.
Darnold will get that chance as a sophomore in 2017.
His five-touchdown, 453-yard performance in the Rose Bowl win will have Trojans fans salivating. After losing his first game as starter, the Trojans won nine straight games with Darnold leading the charge, and it’s for that reason that USC is being cited as a potential championship team, with Darnold likely to appear on a few preseason Heisman watch lists. Expect a big season from him.
2) Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mayfield is the best pure quarterback in the nation. As he enters his senior season, it’s worth looking back on the first three remarkable years of his college career — 9,980 yards and 88 touchdowns in three seasons. He’s coming off a season in which he threw 40 touchdowns and fell just short of 4,000 yards, completing nearly 70 percent of his pass attempts. Like Browning, he, too, completed a touchdown pass in every game he played.
Mayfield loses wide receiver Dede Westbrook in 2017, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t be every bit as good as he was the year before. The Oklahoma offense will provide him plenty of opportunities to throw, and another 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns are well within the realm of possibility. He figures to be involved in the Heisman chatter.
1) Lamar Jackson, Louisville
The Heisman winner is the obvious choice at the top of the list.
Jackson did everything and then some for Louisville in 2016, with 3,543 yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 1,571 rushing yards, and 21 rushing touchdowns. Perhaps even more impressively, he did it all as a sophomore in his first full season as the Cardinals’ full-time starter.
Is there more to come from Jackson? Why not? We already know that the quarterback holds himself to incredibly high standards, and you can bet he won’t be satisfied with one Heisman.
5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns are well within the realm of possibility once more, and he will be the preseason Heisman favorite again — as well as the best and most exciting quarterback in the nation.
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