NFL News & Analysis

College Football: Top-10 quarterback rooms in the country

2JWB5PJ September 03, 2022 USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams #13 in action during the NCAA football game between the Rice Owls and the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Coliseum, California. Mandatory Photo Credit : Charles Baus/CSM

  • USC leads the pack: The Trojans’ quarterback room features the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Caleb Williams in addition to two former highly-rated recruits.
  • LSU comes in second: The Tigers have the best one-two punch between Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier. 
  • Texas rounds out the top three: The Longhorns have two of the five highest-rated quarterback recruits since 2010 in Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Quarterback is not only the most important position in football, but it’s also arguably the most important in team sports, which is why they wear a different color jersey in practice — their teammates know not to contact them since an injury to your signal-caller can derail an entire season.

If an injury does occur, it helps to have some quality options behind the starter. With that in mind, here are the 10 best quarterback rooms in college football heading into the 2023 season.

1. USC Trojans

The best quarterback room in the country starts with the best quarterback in the country. Caleb Williams is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and could be mentioned in the same breath as previous elite quarterback prospects, such as Andrew Luck and Trevor Lawrence once the 2024 NFL Draft rolls around. 

If disaster was to strike the Trojans, redshirt sophomore Miller Moss was a former top-100 recruit and completed 86% of his passes in reserve duty last season. Five-star true freshman Malachi Nelson also begins his collegiate career this season and looks like the future of the program.

2. LSU Tigers

LSU’s 1-2 punch at quarterback is the best in the nation. 

Jayden Daniels is my No. 6 returning signal-caller in the country and led all FBS quarterbacks in rushing yards (1,079) and turnover-worthy play rate (0.6%). Garrett Nussmeier returns to Baton Rouge for his redshirt sophomore campaign despite the fact that he could’ve started for a number of schools if he entered the transfer portal. Among Power Five quarterbacks with at least 85 dropbacks last season, his 8.0% big-time throw rate placed fourth. The Tigers also brought in a four-star quarterback from the 2023 class in Rickie Collins. 

3. Texas Longhorns

If there’s one word to describe Texas’ quarterback room, it would be “hype.” Both incumbent starter Quinn Ewers and incoming freshman Arch Manning are among the five highest-rated quarterback recruits since 2010, according to On3’s industry rating.

Highest-rated quarterback recruits in the On3 industry rating (Since 2010)
Name Class Industry Rating
Trevor Lawrence 2018 99.69
Justin Fields 2018 99.67
Arch Manning 2023 99.53
Bryce Young 2020 99.51
Quinn Ewers 2021 99.24

Ewers was a gunslinger during his first season as a starter, which was a double-edged sword. While his 6.3% big-time throw rate ranked 12th among Power Five quarterbacks, his 67.5% adjusted completion rate stood just 59th. If he doesn’t live up to the hype this season, the Longhorns could turn to Manning, who was the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2023 class and is the next in line to his family’s quarterback dynasty. He might not even be Ewers’ backup though, as that job could belong to redshirt freshman Maalik Murphy, who impressed in the spring game and was a top-15 quarterback recruit in the 2022 class.

4. Ole Miss Rebels

Lane Kiffin has a dilemma over who his starting quarterback will be this season, but not for a lack of options. 

Incumbent starter Jaxson Dart returns for his junior season and led all SEC quarterbacks in 2022 with a 6.4% big-time throw rate. Spencer Sanders transfers in after starting for Oklahoma State in each of the last four seasons. In 2021, his 84.5 grade ranked third among Big 12 signal-callers. Walker Howard comes in from LSU and was a top-50 recruit in the 2022 class. To top it all off, four-star recruit Austin Simmons just flipped his commitment from Florida to Ole Miss and will be joining the Rebels this summer after reclassifying from 2025.

5. Oregon Ducks

Bo Nix is back for another year at Oregon after enjoying a career resurgence in 2022. The redshirt senior’s 82.3% adjusted completion rate ranked second in the country this past season after placing just 108th across his first three years at Auburn. He’s my No. 5 returning quarterback in college football and is the second-best quarterback prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft, according to PFF’s lead draft analyst Trevor Sikkema.

Nix’s backup is a former five-star recruit in Ty Thompson, who’s remained loyal to Oregon despite entering his third season on the bench. The Ducks also bring in Austin Novosad, who was one of the top-10 quarterback recruits in the 2023 class. 

6. Washington Huskies

Michael Penix Jr. returns for another go-around with the Huskies after leading the Power Five with 4,641 passing yards last season. His 1.3% turnover-worthy play rate was also the fifth-lowest in the country. Penix is my No. 4 quarterback in the nation heading into this season.

His backup is Dylan Morris, who was Washington’s starter both in 2020 and 2021. His 81.9 passing grade in 2020 led all Pac-12 signal-callers that season. The Huskies also bring in a four-star recruit from the 2023 class in Austin Mack

7. Tennessee Volunteers

The arm talent in Tennessee’s quarterback room is unrivaled. Sixth-year senior Joe Milton III takes over from Hendon Hooker and has the strongest arm in the country. Among FBS quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks in 2022, Milton led them all with an 11.1% big-time throw rate. The Volunteers also bring in a top-10 overall recruit in Nico Iamaleava, who possesses the best physical tools of any quarterback in the 2023 class. 

8. Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia must replace Stetson Bennett, who became the first starting quarterback since A.J. McCarron to win two national championships. Luckily for the back-to-back champs, they have a few options to replace him. Carson Beck was the backup last season and earned an impressive 87.0 passing grade on 39 dropbacks. Brock Vandagriff is entering his third season with the Bulldogs and was a five-star recruit in the 2021 class. The Bulldogs also have redshirt freshman Gunner Stockton, who was a top-10 quarterback recruit in the 2022 cycle.

9. Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners return Dillon Gabriel under center, who was second among all quarterbacks in the country last year with a 1.1% turnover-worthy play rate. He’s a top-15 quarterback in the country heading into the 2023 season.

Oklahoma also welcomes Jackson Arnold into the fold, who was a top-10 recruit in the 2023 class. 

10. North Carolina Tar Heels

Outside of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye is the best returning quarterback in college football. His 45 big-time throws were 10 more than the next-closest FBS quarterback while his 899 rushing yards were second among Power Five signal-callers. Overall, Maye was the most valuable player in the country last year according to PFF’s wins above average metric

The options behind Maye are less than inspiring, but the Tar Heels earned a spot on this list for the sole reason of having No. 10 under center. 

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