Five to watch in college football 2022: Quarterbacks
As summer scouting continues apace, the pre-season rankings for the 2023 draft prospects are being released relentlessly. Usually, I would be putting pen to paper on my own top 5’s at each position right around now, but this year we are trying something different.
Instead of basing my rankings on predicted draft position. I will highlight five guys I am excited to watch in 2022. These lists will include some big names, some second tier prospects but also a few under-the-radar candidates too:
5. Hendon Hooker - Tennessee
Hooker did battle with Joe Milton for the Tennessee job in 2021. Having seen off the prospect that garnered early buzz last year Hooker remains the starter for the Vols in 2022. Will Levis gets a lot of love at Kentucky, and in a way Hooker is not too dissimilar. His arm talent may not be up to the standard of Levis but size and mobility are major positives for Hooker.
The SEC is not an easy stomping ground for quarterbacks. However, in his second year of this system and with a quality target like Cedric Tillman, there is scope for Hooker to make a leap.
4. K.J. Jefferson - Arkansas
KJ Jefferson is a tough evaluation considering the Arkansas offense featured a lot of quick throws. The idea being to allow the likes of Treylon Burks receive the ball in space. That paired with a tough ground game and plenty of designed runs for Jefferson mean it’s fair to question how it all translates to the NFL.
That said, Jefferson has shown ability to push the ball downfield. Even more impressively, the physicality of his running style is reminiscent of Cam Newton. Burks will be a major miss for the Hogs’ QB but he is blessed with a basketball sized roster at receiver and tight end. Arkansas will be a tough side to beat and Jefferson could play a significant role in a major upset this season.
3. Dillon Gabriel - Oklahoma
I was high on UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel going into the 2021 season. A little undersized but a neat combination of playmaking ability and arm velocity to dominate the quick game and keep an offense moving. His season was derailed early due to a broken collarbone and he utilises the transfer portal to get a fresh start in Oklahoma.
The big benefit for Gabriel is that he will be back under the tutelage of former coach Jeff Lebby. Lebby was offensive coordinator in Gabriel’s freshman year when UCF’s offense was ranked 5th in the country. Can the Sooners continue to produce successful QBs without Lincoln Riley at the helm? Gabriel might not possess everything an NFL team looks for but he could light up the Big 12.
2. Anthony Richardson
I would have found it difficult to squeeze Richardson into a top 5 piece simply because of sample size. While it’s too early to throw weight behind Richardson as a draft prospect it’s clear to see why so many admire him. In all likelihood, it could be two years until he actually declares for the draft.
He possesses ideal size, 6’4 and 236lbs and is a true dual-threat quarterback. As Emory Jones’ backup the Gators used Richardson sparingly, throwing for just over 500 yards and rushing for 415 yards at an average of 8.3 yards per attempt. He showed enough for Florida to promote him to starter this year and he has the opportunity to lead a premier program and perhaps graduate to the pros early.
1. Cameron Ward - Washington State
It’s going to be a big ask to see a player one year removed from playing QB for Incarnate Word to become an early round pick. It might not happen in next year’s draft but that will the ultimate aim for new Washington State signal caller Cameron Ward. Like Dillon Gabriel, Ward will be hoping for a seamless transition as his former college coach Eric Morris takes on offensive coordinator duties for the Cougars.
Ward offers bags of potential. He is fleet-footed which helps him navigate the pocket as well as being able to take off on long runs. He has a quick release and can push the ball downfield. He threw for 4,650 yards and 47 touchdowns last year and Washington State should give him the chance to put up big numbers also. The question will be if he can make the huge step up to Power 5 football.
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com