Evaluating 2018 College Football Quarterbacks on the Hour Glass
Quarterback – we all know the value of a quarterback, be it at your local high school, your favorite college or the National Football League. You have to have a good quarterback if you want to succeed in football and that’s as true as ever in the college game.
It matters so much, that we made returning quarterback play a part of our analytics a year ago and it showed.
Last year we expected big things out of Florida State, but after quarterback Deondre Francois went down in the season opener, all bets were off for the Seminoles. The Seminoles struggled to a 7-6 record, and while having superb talent, just couldn’t get it done; without their quarterback. Backup quarterback James Blackman had a mediocre year, completing 58 percent of his passes, but worse, the Seminoles struggled on third down, having a ten year low on offensive conversions, converting only 35 percent of the time on the games biggest play.
Sure, there were other issues that contributed to a colossal collapse by the Noles, but none bigger than losing their trigger man.
We saw how Jake Fromm stepped up and took Georgia the other way after Jacob Eason went out and we saw on the last play of the season, how Tua Tagovailoa won the National Championship for Alabama.
Trigger Man! It’s the most important position on the field, it’s not even close and good to great quarterback play can take an average team to heights unseen; while poor play can take a great team to just good, or even worse.
And – we define quarterback success by production – running or throwing. The best quarterback in our analytics may not necessarily be the best passer.
Take Georgia Tech’s TaQuon Marshall – while he won’t wow you with his throwing ability, he can flat produce touchdowns and should again in 2018. Just last year Marshall rushed for 17 touchdowns and over 1100 yards and threw another 10 touchdowns for the Yellow Jackets.
This year we have expanded our quarterback coverage to include all 130 programs in Division One Football and it’s an impressive list.
As a refresher, like coaching and recruiting, we develop a stamp or analytics number for each quarterback to feed into their respective team’s formula and those numbers help us calculate a baseline for quarterbacks. This year our average quarterback will be defined by a value of 8.3. Our three quarterbacks sitting right on this line are Alex Hornibrook of Wisconsin, Frank Nutile of Temple and D’eriq King of Houston.
Obviously any of these quarterbacks can play their way above or below this baseline, but it’s the standard expected of all these quarterbacks heading into 2018.
We will start with the top ten on Power Five quarterbacks –
Missouri’s Drew Lock is our top dog this year, and while we can argue over inflated stats and all – Lock is a gamer, will play at the next level and his presence alone, keeps Missouri above 500 in 2018 and sends the Tigers back to a bowl game.
Will Grier of West Virginia could be the most intriguing player to watch this year, as his play could keep West Virginia in the College Football Playoff discussion; and Iowa’s Nate Stanley gives the Hawkeyes a chance to get to the BIG10 Championship game.
In the Group of Five, we have some stomp down quarterbacks as well. Here is our top ten on the G5.
We already know what McKenzie Milton means for the success of UCF, and the same can be said for Oklahoma transfer Justice Hansen at Arkansas State. And, likewise for Louisiana Tech’s J’Mar Smith, who could provide the spark needed to keep the Bulldogs in contention for the Conference USA Title.
When we talk about conference play, we always look at the state of the state of leagues and quarterback play. So who should have the best quarterback play in 2018 in both the Power and Group of five leagues?
In the Power Five you can look at two conferences, and the first being the Southeastern Conference. The SEC has quietly become a good quarterback league again, boasting a conference high on our quarterback stamp average in the league of 11.75. From Drew Lock to Jordan Ta’amu and several in between, the SEC should be a great quarterback league in 2018.
It is also to note - there are several quarterback battles that will go into the summer, so we assume some guys will start on teams like at Tennessee and elsewhere, but those may change come September.
The PAC-12 should also have a great year at the quarterback position as they have also eight quarterbacks above our national average of 8.3. Look for Chip Kelly, Mike Leach and Kevin Sumlin to develop and improve their teams quarterback situation.
Jake Browning has a chance to get Washington back to the College Football playoff and he is a big reason we think the Huskies will; while Herm Edwards and Kevin Sumlin inherit above average signal callers. Justin Herbert should again flourish in Eugene, Oregon and KJ Costello should operate David Shaw’s offense almost flawlessly at Stanford.
Don’t expect to see a USC quarterback as low as 11th either – as you can expect their quarterback numbers to improve throughout the year.
In the G5, the best league for quarterback play in 2018, pound for pound is the AAC.
The American Conference has four quarterbacks above our baseline and several others that could play their way above it.
We will address the other conferences and their quarterbacks in our conference previews.
Here are our rankings on all 130 programs for quarterback play.
Up next, we dive into coaching and take a look at the national landscape.