THE LOOKOUT LIST: QB
By Simon Carroll
You won’t find Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence or Justin Herbert on this list. Here we pinpoint ten not-so-familiar names that will make a big impact this season:
Mason Fine, North Texas Mean Green
The stats tell you everything you need to know about Mason Fine, a 5’11” Quarterback who has bloomed in North Texas’ spread offense. A three-year starter after being inserted into the first game of the 2016 season for the fourth quarter and never relinquishing the spot. Fine has totalled almost 10,000 yards through the air and has 64 Touchdowns to his name. 2018 was a standout year for him – PFF gave him an overall grade of 91.2, with him performing extremely well under pressure.
Fine was just a two-star recruit coming out of high school in Oklahoma. He flirted with the thought of being a walk-on at Oklahoma State before accepting the only scholarship offer he got. What a decision that turned out to be. Under the tutelage of Graham Harrell he’s put himself firmly on the NFL radar despite his diminutive stature. His game reminds me a lot of Derek Carr and it will be interesting to see if he has the same success under new Offensive Co-Ordinator Bodie Reeder.
Jordan Love, Utah State Aggies
As far as first years go, Jordan Love couldn’t have asked for a much better one in Logan. Used sporadically as a freshman Love exploded in 2018, throwing for more than 3,500 yards and 32 touchdowns against just 6 interceptions. A physical specimen (6’4”, 225lbs), Love also has a set of wheels on him. He can move when he needs to, adding another seven scores on the ground.
Offensive Co-Ordinator David Yost credits Love’s rise to his high football IQ and ability to understand concepts quickly. The application of this knowledge translated to the field, The Aggies finishing with an 11-2 record and a bowl win against North Texas. Love is noted for his ability to spread the ball around and hit his guy in stride. His accuracy allows him to routinely maximise yards after the catch (YAC). Scouts expect to see Love take his game to an even higher level in 2019. He’ll have an opportunity to showcase his skills on the big stage as Utah State head to Death Valley to face LSU in early October.
D'Eriq King, Houston Cougars
Talk about a guy who took College Football by storm last season. D’Eriq King may be the most electric Quarterback on this list, a guy who can carve up defenses in any way he pleases. And the remarkable thing about it is he started his Cougar career as a wide receiver! He was still taking snaps as a receiver until the final four games of his sophomore year where he was named QB1.
2018 was King’s first full year as a starter and he tore it up. He racked up 3,600 total yards and 50 total touchdowns as he became the sole focus of the Houston offense. Check out this video to see both his arm strength (1:56) and his scrambling ability (5:02):
King has some adversity to overcome before he can reproduce last year’s form. He suffered a significant knee injury that kept him out of their Bowl Game last year. They lost that bowl game to Army 70-14, further highlighting his importance to the team. The injury could linger into 2019.
He also loses Kendal Briles as his co-ordinator. Briles is the man credited for installing the high-tempo offense that King flourished in. But with Dana Holgorsen coming over from West Virginia as Head Coach he should be allowed to shine once more.
Adrian Martinez, Nebraska Cornhuskers
The excitement in Lincoln regarding the Cornhusker’s chances in 2019 is almost palpable. A talented Head Coach, easy schedule and of course a potential star at Quarterback. After a real struggle to open his freshman year starting 0-6, Martinez had a breakout game against Northwestern where he threw for over 250 yards against the eventual division champions. He was one of the reasons why this Cornhusker program turned around, going 4-2 in their final six games. Both losses were narrow ones against tough oppositions in Ohio State & Iowa.
Despite the rocky start, Martinez finished with 2,600 yards and a touchdown to interception ratio of 17:8. Those are excellent numbers for a freshman. In a Quarterback friendly offense and with Scott Frost at the helm he should take the next step in 2019.
KJ Costello, Stanford Cardinal
Stanford is a hard place to leave; After the 2010 season Andrew Luck decided to stick around for his senior year rather than explore an NFL career straight away. And the best Quarterback to grace the famous cardinal jersey since Luck has done the same thing. KJ Costello made the right decision to return for another tilt – his game developed nicely in 2018 but with the infrastructure around him he has the ability to take it to a whole new level this season.
After starting nearly two full seasons now Costello more than doubled his production last year in all categories. And with Bryce Love gone there should be an even greater movement to the passing game at Stanford in 2019. The prototypical pocket passer, Costello will definitely be of interest to NFL teams if he has a strong season. But he’ll have to do it with some younger weapons as his top three receivers all left this January.
Brock Purdy, Iowa State Cyclones
The job that Matt Campbell has done since taking over in Ames has been nothing short of miraculous. Going from Big 12 cannon fodder, to pesky underdog, to giant killers and finally to an established, respected program. Iowa State is a school that constantly churns out NFL talent and has a raft of good footballers.
Despite being a freshman last year, Quarterback Brock Purdy showed he is one of the names on that list. 2,200 yards, 16 touchdowns and a completion rate of 66.4% is impressive, and he is expected to go on to be one of the best players in his position not just in the Big 12, but in all of college football.
He operates a high tempo offense with a quick release and has shown insane accuracy downfield. He’ll have to contend with the loss of both David Montgomery at running back and Hakeem Butler at wide receiver, but the ceiling is high and in this offense he has every opportunity to realise his potential.
Tyler Huntley, Utah Utes
Huntley is an interesting add to this list. He’s the only one that isn’t guaranteed to have sole custody of the starting Quarterback job heading into 2019. The reason for that is a broken collarbone he suffered against Arizona State in November. His misfortune allowed Jason Shelly to come in and stake a claim at the end of last year.
Talent-wise though, Huntley is a class apart and assuming he bounces back from the injury he’s primed to improve his game even further under new Offensive Co-Ordinator Andy Ludwig. 6’1” and 200lbs, Huntley is a robust dual-threat Quarterback whose preference is to throw first, run second. His 2018 stats of almost 1,800 yards and 12 TD’s in just 8 games helped establish the Utes as the team to beat in the South division. And with a favourable schedule he could easily double those figures and lead Utah to Pac-12 glory for the first time in their history.
Kelly Bryant, Missouri Tigers
What is a man to do when you look to be the starting Quarterback of the Clemson Tigers heading into your senior year, only to find Trevor Lawrence stealing your job? The answer is red-shirt and head elsewhere to play one final year of college football before hopefully heading to the pro’s. Such is the whirlwind rise of Lawrence that Bryant’s strong 2017 year as Clemson’s starter is often forgotten; almost 3,500 total yards and 24 touchdowns on a team built on defense is no mean feat.
But fate has caused Bryant to exchange one set of tiger stripes for another and he’ll be hoping to pick up the mantle that Drew Lock left behind in Missouri. SEC football is no cakewalk but Bryant will benefit from one of college football’s premier offensive lines and has an elite weapon in Tight End Albert Okwuegbunam. Check out this highlight video to see the skillset he’s taking with him to Columbia, and you can see why the Mizzou faithful are excited:
Khalil Tate, Arizona Wildcats
Identifying Tate as a candidate to shine in 2019 requires a look back at 2017 and a leap of faith that he’ll recapture the form that took college football by storm as a sophomore. Stepping in for the injured Brandon Dawkins against Colorado, Tate proceeded to shatter the FBS rushing record for a QB in a single game with 327 yards. That’s not a typo. He also threw just one incompletion in that game as the Wildcats won 45-42.
From that moment on he was anointed the starter. And despite some setbacks in key moments he was electric throughout the year. 1,600 yards through the air, 1,400 yards on the ground and 26 total touchdowns all told. Tate nearly matched those figures again in 2018 but was hampered by a nagging ankle injury incurred in week 2 that really held him back, and there’s a feeling he didn’t quite make the impact as a junior that he and new Head Coach Kevin Sumlin was hoping. If he’s fully healthy and can recapture his 2017 form then the Pac-12 better watch out.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M look primed to make some considerable noise in the SEC this season. A lot of that can be attributed to Jimbo Fisher heading into his second year as Head Coach. But he really has landed on his feet with Kellen Mond at Quarterback. Fisher weaved his usual Quarterback magic and Mond had a breakout year in 2018 – almost 3,600 total yards and 31 touchdowns, a massive leap from his freshman season.
Fisher speaks glowingly of his Quarterback, calling him a leader, a student of the game and “one tough sucker”. In the best conference in football and in the division with Alabama, Mond’s task is not easy. And it’s further compounded with an out-of-conference schedule that includes a trip to Clemson. Playing the two premier programs in one year is the perfect test to see just how good Kellen Mond is.
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.