Since 2000, 16 of the 19 players to win the Heisman Trophy were quarterbacks. In other words, the best player in college football is usually adjudged to be the nation’s top signal-caller, underlining the importance of the position if a school wants a chance at claiming a conference or national title. Just ask the Oklahoma Sooners, who boast back-to-back Heisman-winning quarterbacks, both of whom played in the College Football Playoff.
Which quarterbacks are going to be the ones competing for those honors this season? Here are the ten best quarterbacks in college football in 2019.
10. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska
Any rebirth of Nebraska football is tied to Martinez, who was handed the quarterback job as a freshman and acquitted himself well. He threw for 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns while adding 629 rushing yards. A better supporting cast should help those numbers go up, and some have even mentioned him as a potential dark horse Heisman candidate. That may be premature, but given Martinez’s natural talent and Scott Frost’s reputation for developing players, it may be realistic eventually.
9. D’Eriq King, Houston
King suffered a knee injury toward the end of 2018, and his recovery and health will be paramount to him reaching his potential. If King does reach his potential, he’ll easily become one of the country’s most dynamic quarterbacks. As a junior, King threw 36 touchdown passes and added 14 more rushing scores, bringing him to an even 50 on the year despite playing in only 11 games. Dana Holgorsen’s offense has the chance to make him one of the most prolific stat-producers in the entire nation.
8. Jordan Love, Utah State
After passing for 32 touchdowns and 3,567 yards last season, there’s no reason to believe Love won’t be able to turn in a repeat performance in 2019. Ranking as one of the Group of Five’s top quarterbacks, Love had a pair of 400-yard passing games in 2018, and nearly beat Michigan State in East Lansing. He has a new coach in Gary Andersen, but don’t expect that to slow him down as one of the best returning quarterbacks.
7. Shea Patterson, Michigan
Michigan was likely headed for a College Football Playoff appearance last season had they not lost to Ohio State, and that defeat largely was not Patterson’s fault. The senior enters 2019 with a lot of pressure on his shoulders given the prevailing narrative that Michigan is long overdue for a Big Ten title and has the talent to win one. They certainly have the quarterback to do it, as Patterson was good for 2,600 yards last season. The hope is that a more expansive offense will boost Patterson’s numbers and make the team even better.
6. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
After an up-and-down Alabama career, Hurts has moved to Oklahoma. Coach Lincoln Riley has made clear that Hurts is expected to compete with Tanner Mordecai for the starting job, but most expect Hurts to win it. Known primarily for his mobility, the key for Hurts will be to show improvement as a passer. However, Riley and Oklahoma’s high-powered approach to offense could make Hurts yet another Oklahoma Heisman candidate. He’d love to make it three years in a row for the Sooners.
5. Sam Ehlinger, Texas
It’s comical to now think that Ehlinger was once part of a quarterback controversy at Texas. Nobody is questioning him now. He racked up 41 total touchdowns in 2018 — 25 passing and 16 rushing — while quarterbacking the Longhorns to their first ten-win season since 2009. The junior is only getting better, and as long as there are no injuries or other issues, a Big 12 title and Heisman consideration is not out of the question for Ehlinger.
4. Justin Herbert, Oregon
Herbert surprised many when he passed on the NFL Draft despite the fact that scouts are said to be drooling over his pro potential. The beneficiary of that decision is Oregon, which will subsequently be able to play one more season with one of the nation’s best quarterbacks. Herbert is a classic pocket passer with size and a big arm, as evidenced by his 63 touchdown passes in three years with the Ducks. Don’t be surprised if he has a 30-touchdown, 3,000-yard season in the pipeline.
3. Jake Fromm, Georgia
Georgia’s second season with Fromm under center wasn’t quite as successful as the first, but it certainly wasn’t down to the quarterback, who continues to develop at an elite level. Fromm posted a 30-touchdown season and improved his completion percentage as a sophomore despite falling short of 3,000 yards. There’s no reason to believe Fromm’s development won’t continue as a junior. A higher national profile could follow if the Bulldogs can make the College Football Playoff.
2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Tua was everything the Crimson Tide hoped for and then some until a poor performance and injury in the SEC Championship helped derail his Heisman hopes. His season ended with two interceptions against Clemson, where he was outplayed by Trevor Lawrence. Losing that game gives Tagovailoa something to prove, which Nick Saban knows. Tua is entirely capable of making another run at the Heisman, and it’s worth remembering that he fell just 34 yards shy of 4,000 and added 43 passing touchdowns despite the fact that he was rarely playing the entirety of Alabama blowouts.
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
For the bulk of the 2018 season, Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray were dominating the college football quarterback conversation. Lawrence proceeded to make the title game his personal coming out party. The freshman capped off a 3,000-yard season by throwing for 347 yards and three touchdowns against a shell-shocked Crimson Tide defense. With no questions about his starting job and a talented team around him, Lawrence has the chance to surpass those numbers and win a Heisman Trophy as a sophomore. Another national title isn’t out of the question either.