The Pac-12 season is just around the corner and some teams are still deciding which quarterback will be at the helm on opening day. With so many long-time starters moving on, this list has changed quite a bit from last season. Here is a ranking of each team’s quarterback situation, from worst to best.
The quarterback battle at Washington State began with the departure of Anthony Gordon. Redshirt sophomore Cammon Cooper and redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz lead the way, but true freshman Jayden de Laura isn’t out of the race yet. WSU’s offense will be facing an uphill battle since their top three receivers in yardage last season will not be on the 2020 roster and Mike Leach’s revolutionary air raid scheme left with him when he moved on to Mississippi State.
New head coach Nick Rolovich said on Oct. 14 that the Cougars offense could feature multiple quarterbacks at the start of the season and that each of the three potential starters have “inconsistencies” that need to be addressed. Until these “inconsistencies” are fixed, WSU’s quarterback trio will have to sit at last on this list.
Much like Washington State, Colorado will have to decide between multiple quarterbacks with little to no college experience. Junior Tyler Lytle and senior Sam Noyer are the main competitors, but neither have started a game at quarterback for the Buffs in the past.
Noyer played his fair share of snaps for Colorado, playing in eight games between his freshman and sophomore seasons as QB throwing 21-of-41 for 179 yards. In 2019, Noyer was moved to the safety position. Regardless, Noyer believes that this experience on the defensive side of the ball has helped him gain a better understanding of the quarterback role.
Should Lytle be named the starter, he would have only six previous career passes to his name, one of which was an interception. Both quarterbacks raise red flags with their lack of experience, so this quarterback tandem ranks low among the Pac-12 quarterbacks.
Oregon State will be transitioning from the team’s three-year starting quarterback Jake Luton to redshirt junior Tristan Gebbia. Gebbia has started just one game, but it was an impressive outing with 26 completions on 40 attempts for 243 yards against Oregon, the best defense in the Pac-12 last year. If Gebbia replicates this performance on a consistent basis, he could be a special quarterback in Corvallis.
New head coach Jimmy Lake has evaded questions about who will be the team’s starting quarterback, claiming each of the team’s four quarterbacks have an equal shot at the job. Redshirt freshman Dylan Morris and true freshman Ethan Garbers were given the distinction of being four-star quarterbacks out of high school. Both are solid options for the Huskies, although their youth may keep them from seeing action.
Redshirt sophomore Jacob Sirmon bided his time behind Jacob Eason and Jake Browning for two years, but graduate transfer Kevin Thomson from Sacramento State will be a hard player for Lake to sit. Due to the packed quarterback room, there is very little known about each of these quarterbacks. We do know that the talent is definitely present; whether that talent shows up on the field in this shortened season is still questionable.
Sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell split snaps with Khalil Tate in 2019 but will have the reigns all to himself in 2020. Even with less than half of the quarterback snaps, Gunnell threw for 1,239 yards and nine touchdowns. Although Gunnell has as much potential as any Pac-12 quarterback with his impressive accuracy and above average football IQ for a player of his age, he lacked the week-to-week consistency to become anything more than an average quarterback. In a year where Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin must win to keep his job, Gunnell will have to take a big step forward to keep the Wildcats afloat.
Following the departure of Justin Herbert, the Ducks find themselves in a peculiar situation with a two-quarterback battle between two players who couldn’t be more different. Anthony Brown is a senior transfer from Boston College who started 28 games, while Tyler Shough is a true sophomore who threw only 15 passes last season. Brown is an incredible athlete with proven in-game abilities, but starting Shough would set Oregon up with their starter for the future.
Both players are good options for the Ducks, and the competition for the starting spot will be close until the Ducks' opener against Stanford. Without seeing much of Shough’s passing ability, it is impossible to put this quarterback duo above the likes of proven entities such as Jake Bentley or Davis Mills. However, Shough could prove to be a great quarterback over the course of this season and lead the Ducks to a College Football Playoff berth.
Like many of the other quarterbacks on this list, Bentley will be taking over the starting job from a multi-year veteran. Tyler Huntley was Utah’s starting quarterback for most of the team’s games in the last three years, but Bentley isn’t without his own experience. Bentley started every game for South Carolina in 2017 and 2018, amassing 5,965 passing yards over those seasons. His passing touchdown total also grew from 18 in 2017 to 27 in 2018.
After Bentley suffered a foot injury last season, Ryan Hilinksi took over the Gamecocks' starting spot and Bentley decided to transfer. The weapons around him will be similar to what he had at South Carolina against weaker defenses, so similar production should be expected. The graduate transfer could jump up higher on this list if he adds some arm strength to throw behind some of the spotty Pac-12 defenses he will face in the seven-game season.
The senior quarterback will try to rebound from last season’s leg injury that forced him to miss a few starts in the middle of the season. Mills had several impressive games in 2019, most notably the victory over Washington where he threw for 293 yards and a touchdown. Critics of Mills claim he takes too much time to get through his progressions and is not as accurate as other quarterbacks on this list, but he has unquestionable arm talent. Being the top-ranked quarterback from the same recruiting class as Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa, Mills will have to make a lot of improvements to validate his high school ranking.
Widely considered to be one of the country’s most accurate quarterbacks, Garbers will be looking to lead the Golden Bears to a potential Pac-12 championship in his third season as the starting quarterback. In 2019, Garbers threw for 14 touchdowns and three interceptions through the nine games he started. Garbers' main point of concern is his arm strength, but this shouldn’t slow him down from having a great season.
Thompson-Robinson’s experience sets him above most of the conference’s quarterbacks. Even though UCLA has had two rough seasons with DTR as the starter, the junior quarterback has thrown for 4,012 yards and 28 touchdowns in 21 appearances. In his sophomore year, DTR added a strong rushing component to his arsenal that resulted in four rushing touchdowns.
DTR’s biggest challenge will be to play without running back Joshua Kelley who left for the NFL after two 1,000+ yard rushing seasons for the Bruins. This season will display DTR’s true ability to conduct the offense, without leaning on a star running back.
Daniels is the clear-cut second-best quarterback in the Pac-12. During his freshman campaign, Daniels threw for 2,943 yards, rushed for 355 and accounted for a total of 20 touchdowns. Even at his young age, Daniels led ASU to a major upset over No. 6 Oregon. He has shown great poise along with a passing vision that rivals that of former Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray. Daniels was one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in all of college football last season and will surely take a big leap as he enters his second season with the Sun Devils.
Slovis has been placed on many national award watchlists and was considered by Pro Football Focus to be one of the four most accurate quarterbacks from a season ago. Slovis has the highest expectations of nearly any returning college quarterback. He is coming off a strong freshman season that saw Slovis throw for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns over the span of just 12 games. With veteran receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns at his disposal, Slovis should be able to replicate his success from a year ago without an issue.