2017 Could Be "The Year Of The Quarterback" In College Football

Nov 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during a NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Notre Dame 45-27. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Could Be "The Year Of The Quarterback" In College Football

NCAAF

2017 Could Be "The Year Of The Quarterback" In College Football

We’ll get more numbers as we approach the 2017 college football season. But, one thing we can say early is 2017 should be an excellent year for quarterback play (all five of our preliminary Heisman favorites were quarterbacks). That could make things interesting near the top of the polls.

Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight (3) hands off the ball against the Michigan State Spartans during the second half at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Returning Starters… Having an experienced quarterback back tends to work out well in college football. Clemson loses DeShaun Watson. The remaining 13 of the final AP Top 14 have a starting quarterback (or someone who spent a significant amount doing it) returning. Two of those are Danny Etling and Luke Del Rio, but still.

Oct 22, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs the ball against North Carolina State Wolfpack linebacker Airius Moore (58) during the first quarter at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Underclassmen… Many of the star quarterbacks coming back were young. Four 2016 underclassmen who ranked Top 20 nationally in passer rating – Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Trace McSorely (Penn State), Brett Rypien (Boise State) – should be back and, one presumes, better. That list does not include Deondre Francois (FSU), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), or some dude named Lamar Jackson (Louisville) who won the Heisman.

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 04: Shane Buechele #7 of the Texas Longhorns celebrates with teammates after a second quarter touchdown against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 4, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

 

Last Year’s Freshmen… There’s an important crop of freshmen beyond the big names who either did make an impact in 2016 or should make one in 2017. Shane Buechele is now working with Tom Herman at Texas. Justin Herbert put up Top 30ish numbers at Oregon. The two big SEC recruits – Jacob Eason (UGA) and Shea Patterson (Ole Miss) will be sophomores. Zach Smith put up solid numbers for Baylor.

Nov 19, 2016; Morgantown, WV, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) smiles after a penalty during the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Seniors… Five of the Top 10 rated passers nationally in 2016 were juniors. Two, Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) decided to come back. That makes things far more interesting at the Top of the Big 12. Ohio State has work to do in its passing game. But, now maligned J.T. Barrett is 26-4 as a starter at Ohio State.

PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 01: Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins walks off the field after defeating the Arizona Wildcats 45-24 in a game at the Rose Bowl on October 1, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Best NFL Draft Prospect… We should mention UCLA’s Josh Rosen. His 2016 season was derailed by injury. Getting back on track for 2017 could see him become the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. With new OC Jedd Fisch coming over from Michigan, Rosen will probably be getting the best pro-style coaching he’s had since being on campus.

Harbaugh likes the way this AP voter thinks

 

What Does All This Mean… Losing a talented, longtime starting quarterback can be devastating (see MSU as an extreme example in 2016). This isn’t to say teams don’t have issues with returning linemen and returning receivers that could have an impact. But, you would expect many of the same top teams from 2016 to be relevant again in 2017.

Having quarterbacks come back does not guarantee a crazy, competitive season with a lot of great teams. But, it’s more auspicious than 13 of the top 14 teams having a quarterback leaving.

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