In 2018, Big 12 Football feels a lot like Will Grier’s world. While several players on this list have a start or two under their belts, no one has the resume of Grier, who was a top three passer in the conference before a grotesque finger injury prematurely ended his junior season. But now that Grier has announced he’s returning for his senior season, he easily takes the top spot in our way-to-early 2018 Big 12 QB rankings. It’ after Grier where things get truly interesting.
Let’s dive in.
- Will Grier (WVU): It’s not crazy to think that the Mountaineers will be favorites to make it to the Big 12 Championship game in 2018; once Grier and wide receiver David Sills announced they were coming back for their senior seasons, they locked up the best 1-2 punch in the conference for the coming season. Grier is the most experienced quarterback of the group by far, the only senior expected to start on day one, and in some ways, the only really known commodity. Grier through for nearly 3500 yards and 34 touchdowns before an injury cost him two full games and most of a third. He’s big, strong, and accurate, and can run enough to be a problem for opposing defenses. Though he was terrible against Oklahoma State - throwing four interceptions - he was otherwise not prone to making a big mistake at a bad time, and showed plenty of moxie in a couple of tough wins. Grier is a pro, and if he has a big 2018, he might end up one of the top QBs in the draft next spring.
- Charlie Brewer (Baylor): So, this is where things get interesting, and controversial. There are more questions than answers surrounding the rest of the list, as most of these guys don’t have more than a handful of passes to their names. And that’s one of the reasons Brewer rises to the top - sure, he’s 1-3 as a starter, but he showed a ton of potential as a true freshman and his ceiling is infinite as a passer in the Baylor offense. Brewer completed 68% of his passes, threw 11 TDs and just four picks, and averaged almost 200 yards per game - and that was despite playing behind a patchwork offensive line and an offensive unit comprised primarily of first and second year players. Baylor fans have plenty to be excited about for the future, and while there are more growing pains to endure, Brewer just has that “it factor” that makes me think they’ll surprise some folks next year.
- Kyler Murray (Oklahoma): You never want to be the guy after THE GUY, and Kyler Murray is about to be just that. Though he avoided having to follow Manziel at A&M (thanks, Kenny!), he know steps into the biggest pair of Nike’s in the country, as he looks to replace the best player in college football in Baker Mayfield. While Murray is a ridiculous athlete, there are plenty of questions about his accuracy as a passer and his ability to withstand the punishment of a 12+ game season as a smaller guy. He’s not Baker Mayfield, not by a long shot, and his head coach will be under a microscope after getting outclassed by Kirby Smart in the second half and overtime of the Rose Bowl earlier this week. But, Murray stays near the top of the list because of his reputation (one of the best Texas High School football players, ever) and the talent around him. Murray has just four career collegiate starts (lol one for two whole plays), has accumulated 1500 total yards, and nine total TDs. One other wrinkle in Murray’s story - he’s a baseball player as well for OU, and if he chooses to continue playing both sports, that’s less time in the playbook and working on his passing in the spring.
- Sam Ehlinger (Texas): The next three QBs are all kind of the same guy, but Ehlinger gets the nod at the top of the pile due to having far more experience than the two guys behind him. Of course, knowing more isn’t always a good thing, and there is plenty of tape on Sam making really questionable decisions - but that’s what true freshmen do. Ehlinger is a big time leader, plays with a chip on his shoulder, and is utterly fearless - but he’s also a 57.5% passer, threw seven picks in 275 attempts, and took a ton of big hits, missing time with a couple concussions. If the Horns can’t protect him in 2018, it won’t matter how good he can be - he will spend more time in the med tent than on the field.
- Shawn Robinson (TCU): We don’t know a whole lot about the likely future starting QB for the Horned Frogs, other than fans have been clamoring for him to get behind center since basically the moment he stepped foot on campus a year ago. Robinson is a grown man - he showcased his ability to run over and through opponents in his first and only start of 2017 at Texas Tech. He also has an absolute cannon for an arm and can make all the throws, though his accuracy is a work in progress. Robinson has that IT factor - he’s a natural born leader that quickly earned the respect of the locker room in Fort Worth, and he certainly has all the tools to help the Frogs maintain their position of one of the B12’s best. Appearing in six games in 2017, Robinson went 13-27 for 184 yards and three touchdowns, and added another 159 yards on the ground at a 6.9 yards per carry clip. I’m a big fan of Shawn, and think he’s going to be great. But he has some work to do before he ascends farther up the list.
- Skyler Thompson (Kansas State): Skyler is the most intriguing passer on this list; his insertion into the lineup ignited the Cats, even if it was a move born out of desperation instead of creativity. Thompson began the year as a third string QB, but as injury after injury decimated the quarterback depth chart, he was thrust into duty. And boy, did he make the most of his opportunities. Thompson came off the bench to save KSU against both Kansas and Texas Tech, rallying the Cats from down 11 to an overtime victory in the latter. After a rough start against WVU, he led K State to three straight victories, including a stunner in Stillwater and a last second victory against Iowa State - plus a bowl win over UCLA. Thompson isn’t the most dynamic runner, but he’s more than capable, and made several big plays with his feet in the second half of the season. He was decent as a passer, completing 61.5% of his passes, but throwing just five touchdowns and three interceptions in 83 attempts. How he will do with a full season at the helm remains to be seen, but there is reason for hope in the Little Apple.
- Zeb Noland (Iowa State): Zeb Noland is certainly talented; the 6’3”, 215 pound pro style QB has a big arm and plenty of smarts. He played in four games in 2017, including a start at Baylor, combining to hit on just over 50% of his passes, tossing two TDs and a pick, and accumulating 533 yards through the air. Matt Campbell is a heck of a coach, and he and his staff have done a good job of designing an offense that doesn’t ask too much of their QBs. The return of superstar tailback David Montgomery in the backfield certainly won’t hurt things, nor does a corp of super-sized wide receivers. While Noland will face some competition in the fall, he should win out, but the rising redshirt sophomore will likely experience growing pains in his first year as the full-time starter.
- Keondre Wudtee/Taylor Cornelius/Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State): Few teams have a bigger question mark behind center than Oklahoma State, who will be looking to a very inexperienced starter to replace all-world gunslinger Mason Rudolph next fall. Cornelius and Wudtee had a combine 10 passing attempts in 2017, and neither tossed a TD in garbage time. It will be an open competition during spring ball and fall camp between these two and several other names already on the roster, but the guy to watch is incoming freshman Sanders. The Denton area stud is a four star prospect and just wrapped up a very proficient and successful high school career. I imagine Cornelius wins the job out of camp, mostly due to his experience, arm, and accuracy, while Wudtee gets in on special packages due to his athleticism and running ability. But if Sanders is starting sometime in October, I won’t be surprised one bit.
- McLane Carter/Jett Duffey (Texas Tech): If you thought the Cowboys’ QB situation was dicey, take a look west at the Red Raider’s. Ick. McLane Carter was a near disaster in Austin, saved only by Nic Shimonek’s desire to save Kliff Kingsbury’s job. Carter played in four games, started one, completed 50% of his passes, tossed two picks, and handed over two interceptions. He looked far from ready for prime time, but KK has a great track record of developing QBs, so there’s no reason to think he couldn’t get better. Jett Duffey is the more intriguing prospect - he nearly out-dueled Shawn Robinson in a state championship game in high school, but found himself in trouble early in Lubbock and sat out for the better part of a year after being found responsible in a sexual assault trial. He has just two career passing attempts and might be a scumbag, so not exactly what you want to build your team around - especially when you’re a head coach on the hot seat. Incoming freshman Alan Bowman is intriguing, but unlikely to win the job as a true freshman. I’m guessing it’s Duffey’s to lose.
- Peyton Bender/Carter Stanley (Kansas): The Jayhawks have clearly the worst QB situation in the conference, and it might be more than even Doug Meacham can help with. Bender and Stanley both completed 54% of their passes is 2017, and between the two of them, combined for 17 picks and 14 TDs. Bender is the better long-term prospect, at least according to the stats, but there’s not a lot of reason to believe he can get the Jayhawks back to respectability any time soon. The good news is, David Beatty doesn’t have a QB in the class of 2018... oh wait, that’s not good news. It’s going to be another long year for the seven KU Football fans still hanging on to hope.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts on the best of the best and the worst of the worst in the comments below!