Predicting the Starting QBs: Big 12
The Big 12 sees a lot of change at the quarterback spot while being home to two of the best quarterbacks in the country. Brock Purdy and Spencer Rattler are the faces of the conference, but there are a lot of new faces to watch out for in 2021.
Image credits: Baylor University Athletics
2020: Charlie Brewer (Transfer)
The 2020 season was disastrous for the Baylor Bears and first-year head coach Dave Aranda. After going 2-7, the Bears move into 2021 with a new quarterback, something they haven’t done since 2017. Longtime starter Charlie Brewer transferred to Utah this past offseason, paving the way for an open quarterback competition. Overall, the starting spot is down to two candidates: rising junior Gerry Bohanon and rising sophomore Jacob Zeno. Neither have a lot of in-game experience. In three seasons, Bohanon has thrown for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 296 yards and three touchdowns. On the other side, Zeno has thrown for 241 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his career with an additional rushing touchdown. Majority of these stats for both quarterbacks came in the 2019 season. There is no clear-cut and obvious choice for the starting spot, but if there is an edge, it will more than likely go to Jacob Zeno. Zeno is the more rounded quarterback out of the two as Bohanon is a better runner than passer. Along with this, Zeno’s in-game experience, although brief, was valuable. In the 2019 Big 12 championship game, Zeno threw an 81-yard touchdown pass in relief of an injured Brewer. In 2020, Zeno played more than Bohanon, but again, it was very brief. Overall, Baylor is a compelling team to watch in 2021. Coming off of a bad season and going in with a new quarterback, keep an eye out for Baylor to make some noise in the Big 12.
Image credits: Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press
One of the best quarterbacks in the nation returns to lead the Iowa State offense for his fourth year. Brock Purdy announced he would return for the 2021 season after the Fiesta Bowl victory over Oregon, despite being a mid-round NFL Draft prospect. Coming off of a 9-3 2020 season, the Cyclones finished ninth in the final AP poll and look to only get better. The previous season’s success can largely be attributed to Purdy, who threw for 2,750 yards and 19 touchdowns against only nine interceptions in the shortened season. Career-wise, Purdy has thrown for nearly 9,000 yards and 62 touchdowns against 25 total interceptions. Also returning is star running Breece Hall, who had over 1,500 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. With Purdy coming back as well as the returning talent, Iowa State has a better chance than the other teams in the conference to unseat Oklahoma for the Big 12 title.
Image credits: Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports
2020: Miles Kendrick, Jalon Daniels
The Kansas quarterback room, like the rest of the program, is a mess. Early in the spring, the competition was described as “an all-out race” by interim coach Emmett Jones. Not much has changed with recently hired coach Lance Leipold. However, the one that stands out the most is rising sophomore Jalon Daniels. In his freshman season, Daniels threw for 718 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions. He also added three touchdowns on the ground. On paper, the stats do not show much. On tape, Daniels showed flashes of potential, but his failure to produce touchdowns is concerning. However, there are positives such as his age and experience. Experience, whether good or bad, is valuable. Along with this, Daniels still has a few years of eligibility where he can learn and grow. As far as competition goes, Kansas has the largest competition in the country with seven guys who could win the spot. Daniels’ biggest competitor comes from senior Miles Kendrick, who has the most experience on the team. In seven games last season, Kendrick threw for 647 yards and six touchdowns against five interceptions, but it is time for Kansas to pick a young quarterback and stick with him. Overall, Kansas is in a difficult position as a program. The last time they won at least five games was in 2009. With a new coach coming in, Kansas needs to find someone who has enough natural talent, game experience, and years of eligibility to grow. That guy is Jalon Daniels. Don’t expect Kansas to compete for anything in 2021, but Daniels could be an under-the-radar guy to watch, but he must beat out the plethora of other quarterbacks if he is to do so.
Image credits: Kansas State University Athletics
2021: Thompson, Will Howard
After missing a majority of the 2020 season due to a shoulder injury, Skylar Thompson makes his long-awaited return to the field in 2021. In only three games in 2020, Thompson threw for 626 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He added three touchdowns on the ground. His best game was the win against Oklahoma where he threw for 334 yards and a touchdown and added three touchdowns on the ground. Thompson seemed destined to have his best season in 2020, but a shoulder injury on Oct. 3 ended his season prematurely. Over the past four years, Thompson has thrown for over 5,000 yards with 30 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. On the ground, he has over 1,000 career rushing yards with 22 total touchdowns. As far as competition goes, there isn’t much other than Will Howard, who started most of 2020. Howard threw for 1,178 yards and eight touchdowns. However, he threw a concerning 10 interceptions last season. Overall, Thompson is still the leader of the Wildcats’ offense. The shoulder injury is still of concern as it is on his throwing arm, but Thompson should return to the high production he briefly showed during the 2020 season.
Image credits: University of Oklahoma Athletics
There are many ways to describe Spencer Rattler and what he has accomplished. He was a star on the popular Netflix reality show QB1: Beyond the Lights in high school. He is a two-time Big 12 Champion and Cotton Bowl winner. As for what he has yet to accomplish, the potential is limitless. Regarded by many to be one of the top quarterbacks in this upcoming draft, he also has plenty of Heisman-finalist potential, something Oklahoma is good at in recent years (see Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts). As far as stats go, Rattler had a very successful first year as the starter. In a shortened season, Rattler still managed to throw for over 3,000 yards and threw 28 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He also added six touchdowns on the ground. Rattler will also have a lot of help on the offense as Oklahoma returns starting wide receivers Marvin Mims and Theo Wease and starting tight end Austin Stogner, who returns from an injury. Also expected to take on a bigger role is wide receiver Jadon Haselwood, the highest rated receiver in the 2019 recruiting class. Needless to say, Rattler is the best quarterback in the Big 12 and has all the tools to continue Oklahoma’s streak of quarterback and overall success.
Image credits: Brian Bahr, Getty Images
2020: Sanders, Shane Illingworth
Oklahoma State already has an established starter at the quarterback position, but there is still much improvement to be made. Rising junior Spencer Sanders has shown a lot of raw talent the last two seasons. However, Sanders has had an interception issue with 19 total interceptions thrown the last two years, but he has improved. As a freshman in 2019, Sanders threw for just over 2,000 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In two less games in 2020, Sanders threw for just over 2,000 yards again with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. So, the improvement is there, and he did that in a shortened season without a spring season and true summer offseason. He does face some push from backup Shane Illingworth. In 2020, Illingworth threw for 554 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Although talented, Illingworth showed he wasn’t quite ready to take control of the offense. He came in late in the season opener against Tulsa and led them to victory. His best game was the win against Kansas where we threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns. However, he struggled mightily against Oklahoma after only completing five passes in 21 attempts with 71 yards and one touchdown. Needless to say, Sanders will be the starter come week one, and there is no reason that he should not improve in his upcoming third season at the helm of the Cowboys’ offense.
Image credits: Eric Gay, AP Photo
2020: Sam Ehlinger (NFL)
The Sam Ehlinger era is over for Longhorn nation. After the 2019 Sugar Bowl win, he famously declared, “Longhorn nation, we’re baaaaaaaack.” However, that wasn’t the case as Texas went 8-5 in 2019. A 7-3 record last season led to head coach Tom Herman being fired at the end of the season. His replacement is Steve Sarkisian, who leaves Tuscaloosa after winning a national title with Alabama. Heading into 2021 with a new head coach is also a new quarterback. Casey Thompson, a four-star recruit from the 2018 class, will be the new face of the Longhorn offense. In limited action, Thompson was very successful. In 2020, he threw for 225 yards and six touchdowns on only 12 completions. His best game was the 2020 Alamo Bowl against Colorado, where he completed eight passes on 10 attempts, threw four touchdowns and had zero interceptions. The stats are not necessarily eye-popping, and he goes into the season as one of the least experienced quarterbacks in the conference, but there is a lot of positives for Thompson. First off, Thompson has spent two years learning behind Sam Ehlinger, who was a very successful quarterback in the Big 12 despite what critics say. Secondly, Sarkisian is a great offensive mind who has all the tools to help Thompson succeed. Finally, there is raw talent that Thompson has, which was shown during that Alamo Bowl victory. Again, he was very successful in limited action. Thompson does face some competition from Hudson Card, but the overall playing time in 2020 made it clear that Thompson was Ehlinger’s heir. Only time will tell if Texas is truly back with Thompson, but the hype is legitimate, and Texas could very well be back.
Image credits: John E. Moore III, Getty Images
2020: Duggan, Matthew Downing
TCU is home to arguably the best rushing quarterback in the Big 12 with Max Duggan at the helm. Entering his third season, Duggan has improved over time, and looks to take that next step to entering the top tier of quarterbacks in the conference. In 10 games in 2020, Duggan threw for nearly 1,800 yards and 10 touchdowns against only four interceptions. On the ground, he led the Horned Frogs with 526 yards and 10 touchdowns. Along with the productivity, he faces hardly any push for the job. Behind him is 2020 backup Matthew Downing, who played okay in a limited role last season, and Oklahoma transfer Chandler Morris. Duggan has proven that the job is his to keep, but if the Horned Frogs want to return to being Big 12 title contenders, Duggan must take that next step as a passer while keeping his production as a runner. With full spring, summer and fall camps, Duggan has all the tools and abilities to continue to improve his game.
Image credits: Christian Peterson, Getty Images
2020: Alan Bowman (Transfer), Henry Colombi
From Eugene, Oregon to Lubbock, Texas comes highly touted quarterback Tyler Shough. A four-star recruit in the 2019 class, he was the heir apparent to the starting role behind Justin Herbert during his first year on campus. 2020, his first season as the starter, was an inconsistent season. In seven games, Shough threw for 1,559 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. The bright side is that he managed to put these numbers up without a full offseason and during a shortened regular season. The negative side is his poor play in the Fiesta Bowl which led him to being benched. Entering his junior season, Shough transfers to Texas Tech, where he joins a crowded and talented quarterback room. His biggest competition is Henry Colombi, a 2020 transfer from Utah State who started multiple games for the Red Raiders. In six games, Colombi threw for 1,065 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Overall, Shough should win the starting spot from Colombi. There is a reason he was a four-star recruit and was highly recruited in the transfer portal. With the learning experience from the 2020 season as well as a full offseason to continue to develop, Tyler Shough has all of the tools and potential to be successful at Texas Tech, but he must be more consistent if he wants to keep the starting spot.
Image credits: Ben Queen, USA TODAY Sports
Experience wins the quarterback spot for the Mountaineers. Jarret Doege, a 2019 transfer from Bowling Green, has started the past 13 games for West Virginia, and that streak should continue going into the 2021 season. Doege, who is going into his fifth season in college, played well last season after beating out Austin Kendall for the starting spot. In 10 games, he threw for 2,857 yards and 14 touchdowns against only four interceptions. The big thing for Doege is consistency. Kendall, who started most of the 2019 season, replaced a struggling Doege in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The change worked as West Virginia defeated Army 24-21. However, Kendall has transferred to Louisiana Tech, leaving redshirt freshman Garrett Greene and true freshman Goose Crowder battling for the backup spot. Neither of them is quite ready to take the reins of the offense just yet. Doege has experience and decent talent on his side, but should he show inconsistency like he did in the Liberty Bowl, he could easily lose the spot to either Greene or Crowder. For now, Doege is the man for West Virginia.