College football's new starting quarterbacks to watch in 2017 (Updated)

Kelly Bryant takes over for Deshaun Watson at Clemson. (Getty)

It’s the year of the quarterback in college football. With the season just days away, you know of guys like USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Alabama’s Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. But, as always, there are a lot of fairly new faces starting at programs around the country.

Here’s your chance to get familiar with some of the new starting quarterbacks you’ll see over the next two weeks. This list doesn’t include transfers, so if you’re looking to figure out which quarterbacks are in new places, we suggest you look at our post about impact transfers from earlier in the summer.

By Nick Bromberg and Sam Cooper

KNOWN STARTERS

• Zach Abey, Navy

Abey became Navy’s third starting quarterback in 2016. Will Worth took over the starting job after Tago Smith was lost for the season during the first game of the year. Then after Worth went down, Abey stepped in and started vs. Army and Louisiana Tech.

Those two games turned out to be losses for the Midshipmen. While Navy has a lot of turnover on offense, a whole offseason of starting reps should go a long way to making Abey another productive quarterback. He scored six rushing touchdowns in 2016. He just needs to not throw an interception every nine passes.

• Kelly Bryant, Clemson

Bryant takes over as the very likely starter for now-Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Bryant beat out Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper for the job and doesn’t have to be as excellent as Watson was over the past two years.

Will Clemson’s chances improve if Bryant is Watson 2.0? Absolutely. But with four offensive line starters returning and Tavian Feaster at running back — he averaged six yards a carry in 2016 — he doesn’t have to be spectacular. He merely has to be efficient. And we think he can do that. Bryant can be a boon to Clemson’s title hopes, but he’s not going to be a drag on them either.

• Chayce Crouch – Illinois

Illinois fans got a small taste of what Chayce Crouch can do last year, when he played in four games with one start before going down with an injury. Before the season, coach Lovie Smith flat out stated that Crouch would be the guy when 2017 begins. Crouch threw for only 249 yards last season, but showed he is a true dual-threat by racking up 137 yards and two touchdowns rushing against Purdue.

Crouch will receive a boost in 2017 with the return of wideout Mike Dudek, his roommate. Dudek caught 76 passes in 2014 as a true freshman but missed the last two seasons with ACL tears. Smith declared Dudek “100 percent healthy” at Media Days last month. Crouch and Dudek should be a tough duo to contain in the Big Ten West.

Tyler Huntley, Utah

Huntley’s elevation to the starting role over captain Troy Williams is one of the surprises of preseason quarterback competitions. Williams was seemingly entrenched as the starter for the Utes and said he felt like he had a great camp.

Enter Huntley, a talented sophomore who threw just seven passes last season and was a three-star prospect in the class of 2016.

He’ll need to be more efficient than Williams was in 2016. Williams completed less than 54 percent of his passes a year ago and that was with the benefit of running back Joe Williams running for over 1,400 yards. The running back named Williams is gone too, and Zack Moss and Armand Shyne will take over the primary running duties. With just three senior starters on offense, Utah is clearly playing for the future and the present at the same time.

• Josh Jackson, Virginia Tech

Jackson emerged from a three-way competition to be named Virginia Tech’s starting QB. He was in the same recruiting class as Huntley and was ranked two spots ahead of the new Utah QB in Rivals’ 2016 dual-threat quarterback rankings.

Jackson will serve as a good barometer of second-year coach Justin Fuente’s system. After moving from Memphis, where he had a strong offense with a quarterback named Paxton Lynch, Fuente was able to rely on QB Jerod Evans and WR Isaiah Ford in 2016.

They’re both gone. A much stronger running game from VT’s running backs will go a long way to easing Jackson’s transition into the offense. Evans served as the Hokies’ leading rusher last season, accounting for a third of the team’s rushing total.

• Jake Luton, Oregon State

The Pac-12 North is one of the deepest divisions in college football. It’s hard to make headway when you’ve got Oregon, Stanford, Washington and Washington State on your schedule. But Luton, a junior college transfer, should provide a spark to Oregon State’s pass game. And that spark could be good enough to get the Beavers to 6-6.

Luton beat out Marcus McMaryion (who transferred to Fresno State) and Conor Blount for the starting job. With running backs Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce back for 2017, Luton doesn’t have to carry the offensive burden.

Steven Montez is now the full-time starter in Boulder. (Getty)

• Steven Montez, Colorado

Montez may be the most familiar name on this list. He started three games in place of Sefo Liufau last year and was 83-140 passing for 1,078 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions in 2016. His quarterback rating in that limited sample size was better than Liufau’s.

With Liufau gone, the team is Montez’s and he has a lot of offensive help. Running back Phillip Lindsay, who ran for 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago, returns for his senior year. Five Colorado receivers had at least 30 catches last season and they’re all back as well including Shay Fields, who had nine touchdowns and averaged nearly 16 yards a catch. If Colorado takes a step back in 2017, it shouldn’t be the offense’s fault.

• Malik Rosier, Miami

Rosier takes over for Brad Kaaya, who left after his junior season to head to the NFL. He beat out Evan Shirreffs, who will serve as the backup. Tuesday, when announcing Rosier as his team’s starting quarterback, Miami coach Mark Richt told reporters that it was “apparent” Rosier was having the best training camp of all of the Hurricanes’ quarterbacks.

His elevation to the starting role also gives him a chance to be more than just a footnote in college football history. Rosier’s first start of the season will be the second of his career. The first came in 2015, when he filled in for an injured Kaaya. That game was against Duke, when the Blue Devils beat Miami on a lateral-filled kick return that shouldn’t have counted.

• Nic Shimonek, Texas Tech

As Patrick Mahomes wows Kansas City fans as the first Kansas City Chiefs first-round quarterback draft pick in over 34 years, Shimonek takes over as the starter in Lubbock and will undoubtedly put up absurd statistics.

An Iowa transfer, Shimonek played in four games in 2016 and threw for six touchdowns to just one interception. Mahomes accounted for 53 total touchdowns a year ago and it’s hard to see Shimonek putting up those types of numbers. But it’ll be fun to compare his numbers to whoever ends up as Iowa’s starting quarterback. We’re guessing the offensive styles of each team will lead to quite the discrepancy.

• Brandon Wimbush, Notre Dame

Brian Kelly waffled between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire under various circumstances the last few seasons, but he made it clear entering 2017 that he’s going with Brandon Wimbush. The redshirt sophomore was the No. 60 overall prospect in the 2015 class, but he’s barely seen the field so far in South Bend. Unlike many other top recruits, he waited his turn and now gets his chance to run the Notre Dame offense, now run by new offensive coordinator Chip Long.

At just under 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, he has the size and athleticism, plus a huge arm. He can run, too, and will be surrounded by a good group of playmakers and a veteran offensive line. Things are set up well for Wimbush to succeed from the get go.

Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush will make his first start against Temple. (AP)

STILL UP IN THE AIR

• Baylor – Zach Smith or Anu Solomon

Update 8/29 – 3:30 p.m. ET – Our Pete Thamel is reporting that Anu Solomon has been named the starter for Baylor’s opener against Liberty on Saturday.


– – –

When Baylor landed Anu Solomon as a graduate transfer from Arizona, many assumed (us included) he wouldn’t have much trouble earning the starting role for his final season of college football. After all, Solomon played a ton for Arizona and had pretty good success, including leading the Wildcats to the Pac-12 title game as a redshirt freshman. Solomon was Arizona’s starter to open the last three seasons, but has dealt with a variety of injuries throughout his career. He threw for 6,922 yards, 49 touchdowns and 16 interceptions altogether at Arizona, but a knee injury limited him to just five games in 2016.

Solomon has been competing with Zach Smith, a sophomore who started Baylor’s final four games in 2016, including the Cactus Bowl win over Boise State. He finished the season with 1,526 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Smith is more of a traditional pocket-passer with a strong arm while Solomon is more mobile. New coach Matt Rhule isn’t expected to announce a starter until next week.

• Tennessee – Quinten Dormady or Jarrett Guarantano

Junior Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano are both expected to see playing time when Tennessee opens its season against Georgia Tech on Monday, Sept. 4. The 6-foot-4 Dormady was Josh Dobbs’ backup the past two seasons and appeared in 10 games, completing 24-of-39 passes for 357 yards and a touchdown.

Guarantano, a native of New Jersey, was the third-ranked dual-threat QB in the 2016 class and the No. 37 overall prospect. If both indeed play for the Vols, Guarantano could provide a change of pace running threat. Above all, coach Butch Jones has told reporters he wants consistency from his quarterbacks. That will be the difference if one emerges as the starter.

• Iowa – Nathan Stanley or Tyler Wiegers

(Update 8/28 – Nathan Stanley has been named Iowa’s starting QB)

Entering preseason camp, Iowa listed sophomore Nathan Stanley as the No. 1 quarterback ahead of junior Tyler Wiegers, but Kirk Ferentz insisted nothing was settled at the position. With the competition continuing deep into August, he definitely wasn’t kidding. Stanley was the No. 2 option behind C.J. Beathard in 2016 and is still considered the favorite over Wiegers, 2015’s second-stringer, but reps have been fairly even throughout camp.

Neither have much experience. Wiegers has four career attempts in four games as a backup while Stanley is 5-of-9 on attempts in seven appearances. Neither has pulled away in camp ahead of the Sept. 2 opener against Wyoming. Iowa’s offense is expected to have a few new wrinkles now that Brian Ferentz is the OC, but a starting quarterback needs to emerge before we see the Hawkeyes really excel on offense.

• Texas A&M – Jake Hubenak, Nick Starkel or Kellen Mond

It’s a crucial season for Kevin Sumlin at A&M. Will he go with the veteran option or a youngster? Jake Hubenak, a senior, has played in 13 games with three starts for the Aggies and has thrown for 1,283 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Nick Starkel, a three-star recruit from 2016, redshirted last season but has reportedly been pushing Hubenak throughout the preseason. The Aggies also haven’t ruled five-star recruit Kellen Mond out from the competition ahead of Sunday’s opener against UCLA. If A&M opts not to redshirt Mond, he will likely see action as a runner at some point.

• Kansas – Carter Stanley or Peyton Bender

This is another battle that looks like it’ll go right up until Week 1. Stanley started Kansas’ last three games in 2016, but Peyton Bender, a junior college transfer, was brought in to bolster the position. Bender was Luke Falk’s backup at Washington State, so you know he is capable of winging the ball around like coach David Beaty would like in his Air Raid offense.

Stanley, a sophomore, started for the Jayhawks in their big win over Texas. Overall, he threw for 959 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 59.6 percent of his passes. Bender started a few games in 2015 for Wazzu when Falk went down with a concussion, throwing for a total of 498 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. As of Tuesday, Kansas OC Doug Meachem said the coaches aren’t close to naming a starter.

Maryland’s Tyrrell Pigrome appeared in 11 games in 2016. (Getty Images)

• Maryland – Tyrrell Pigrome or Kasim Hill or Max Bortenschlager

(Updated 8/28 – Tyrrell Pigrome was listed atop Maryland’s depth chart at QB, will start vs. Texas)

Caleb Henderson, a transfer from North Carolina, was expected to play prominently in this competition, but a foot injury has sidelined him for much of camp. That left three: sophomores Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager and freshman Kasim Hill. They all have different styles. Pigrome is very mobile. Bortenschlager is not. Hill, a true freshman, splits the difference and brings both elements to the table.

D.J. Durkin has been tight-lipped about who is ahead in the competition. Of the three, Pigrome is the most experienced and he reportedly had most of the first-team reps at a recent scrimmage. Pigrome played in most of Maryland’s games last year, throwing for 322 yards and rushing for 254 with six combined touchdowns. Bortenschlager made two appearances last year and threw for 209 yards and a score. Hill was a four-star, Top 100 recruit. It would not be a surprise if he sees the field at some point this season.

Whoever wins the job will have a tough task with the Terps traveling to Texas in Week 1.

• Minnesota – Conor Rhoda or Demry Croft

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck already told reporters that both Conor Rhoda and Demry Croft will see significant playing time when Minnesota opens its season against Buffalo next Thursday. Croft is a sophomore while Rhoda is a senior and former walk-on. Rhoda served as Mitch Leidner’s primary backup in 2017 and completed 8-of-16 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. Croft was a three-star recruit in the class of 2015 who is considered more of a dual-threat. Croft played in three games in 2015 as a true freshman, completing 7-of-17 passes for 34 yards.

Neither pulled ahead of the other throughout preseason camp, so for now, Fleck considers them co-starters. Fleck has not revealed who will take the first snap.

“We’re gonna play ’em both. That’s my decision,” Fleck said via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “In terms of a starter, they’re both the starter.”

Also considered: Johnathan Banks (Tulane), John Wassink (Western Michigan), Darius Wade or Anthony Brown (Boston College), Ross Bowers (Cal), Matthew Jordan or TaQuon Marshall (Georgia Tech)

What to Read Next