Top 10 college football quarterbacks entering the 2021 season

By Chris Gharagozlo
Jan 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) walks off the field after being defeated by the Texas A&M Aggies at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 college football season represented the conclusion of amateur careers for some of the most talented quarterbacks in the past decade. Clemson quarterback, Trevor Lawerence, seems like the sure-fire No. 1 overall pick, and his college resume solidifies him as one of the most talented and accomplished quarterbacks in college football history. 

Heading into the 2021 season, Clemson is not the only big program to lose a top-end college football quarterback. Ohio State lost one of the most gifted and winningest quarterbacks Columbus has ever seen. BYU and Florida both lost quarterbacks who were in the Heisman discussion. 

The 2021 college football season is going to provide a lot of new faces on some big-time programs. The quarterback position is becoming increasingly important in college football, and new faces will have a chance to solidify themselves as the best in the nation. 

Here are the top 10 college football quarterbacks heading into the 2021 season.

10. Grant Wells, Marshall 

2020 college football stats: 165-of-270, 2,091 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, nine interceptions 

Wells started the season as one of the most-surprising quarterbacks in the country. He led Marshall to a surprising 7-0 start, including an impressive win against Appalachian State. 

Following an undefeated start to open the year, Marshall ended it with a three-game losing skid and Wells looked abysmal. The redshirt freshman threw five interceptions in a shutout loss to Rice, was dominated by UAB in the conference title game and didn’t look sharp in the Camellia Bowl. 

Former Alabama associated head coach, Charles Huff was named the new head coach. Even though Huff is a former running back coach, his presence will take the pressure off of Wells. Huff is praised as a tremendous recruiter and was an integral piece of recruiting and developing former Nittany Lion star Saquon Barkley. Despite the rough play in the season’s final three games, Wells still finished with over 2,000 passing yards and 18 touchdowns.  With a year under his belt and a highly touted coach, Wells should be poised for a breakout season in 2021.

9. D.J Uiagalelei, Clemson

2020 college football stats: 78-of-117, 914 passing yards, five touchdowns, zero interceptions

The true freshman was thrust into the spotlight after Trevor Lawerence tested positive for COVID-19. In just two starts, he threw for over 700 yards with four touchdowns. He went toe to toe with one of the best defenses in the nation in Notre Dame. Despite the overtime loss to the Fighting Irish, he showed everyone why he will be ready to fill Lawerence’s shoes. 

He will not get the luxury of starting the season off with some easy opponents. Uiagalelei will have a huge test week one versus Georgia, who consistently produces some of the best defenses in all of college football.  There are a lot of players who have garnered hype but have not played meaningful snaps. Uiagalelei has shown he can play against the best and deserves a place on this list. 

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8. Kedon Slovis, USC

2020 college football stats: 177-of-264, 1,921 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, seven interceptions

At the start of every college football season, USC is usually projected to be the leader of the Pac-12 and a legitimate national championship contender. However, it seems like the hype fades as the season progresses. 

Slovis has been a part of this hype and has attracted a lot of eyes to himself. However, he might be one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the country. 

He threw for 17 touchdowns in just six games in 2020, but his numbers are inflated due to a high passing rate from the Trojans’ offense. He led all of college football with 44 passes per game. 

Slovis might be one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the country, leading USC to multiple fourth-quarterback comebacks. He is projected as one of the best quarterback prospects heading in the 2022 NFL draft but still does not make him one of the best quarterbacks in the nation like some may feel. 

7. Brock Purdy, Iowa State

2020 college football stats: 243-of-365, 2,750 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, nine interceptions

Purdy has solidified himself as the best quarterback in Iowa State history. He threw for over 2,700 yards along with 19 touchdowns in 2020. He did struggle with turnovers throwing nine interceptions but nevertheless led Iowa State to the Big 12 championship. 

Purdy led Iowa State to a 3-2 record against ranked teams including a win in the Fiesta Bowl versus Oregon. 

If Purdy wants to be one of the best quarterbacks in 2021, he will need to improve his record against ranked teams.m If he can start winning against ranked teams, Iowa State might be an under-the-radar national championship contender. 

6. Carson Strong, Nevada

2020 college football stats: 249-of-355, 2858 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, four interceptions

Strong is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football. He threw for over 2,800 yards with 27 touchdowns and four interceptions in nine games. He was simply dominating throughout the season and led the No.12 passing offense. 

He averaged over 300 yards in the air and most importantly led Nevada to a 7-2 record and a bowl victory. 

Strong threw for five touchdowns with only six incompletions in the 38-27 victory over Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. 

Strong might not get the attention he deserves due to playing in the Mountain West, but if schedules return to normal in 2021, Strong might be able to put his name on the national stage with a few upset victories. 

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5. JT Daniels, Georgia

2020 college football stats:  80-of-119, 1,231 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, two interceptions 

No other quarterback on this list has had as unique of a journey as Daniels. He is also the most hyped up quarterback going into the 2021 season. 

Daniels played only four games and he absolutely shined. He threw for over 1,200 yards with 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Georgia might finally have the quarterback fans have been looking for. 

Daniels did all this while transferring during a pandemic and rehabbing from a torn ACL. With the addition of Daniels, Georgia’s offense might be one of the best in the country. If Georgia’s defense remains elite and Daniels elevates the offense in 2021, the national championship might be on the horizon for the Bulldogs. 

4. Dillion Gabriel, UCF

2020 college football stats: 248-of-413, 3570 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, four interceptions

Due to the prolific nature of UCF’s offense, many take for granted the greatness of Dillion Gabriel. He threw for over 3,500 yards with 32 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Those numbers are worthy of a Heisman, yet, he was not really in the discussion. 

Gabriel will continue to lead the electric UCF offense, and if the team can improve from their 2020 6-4 record, then Gabriel will get the recognition he deserves. UCF will have a difficult schedule in 2021, and this will be the true test of Gabriel taking the next step. 

3. D’Eriq King, Miami

2020 college football stats: 211-of-329, 2686 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, five interceptions 

There is no other quarterback on this list who was as vital to their team as D’eriq King was to the Miami Hurricanes. King was one of the most electrifying players in the country and completely carried Miami throughout the season. He suffered a knee injury in the Cheez-It Bowl and will return for another season.

Before the knee injury, he threw for almost 2,700 yards with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. He was also a playmaker with his feet rushing for 538 yards and four touchdowns. He put up these numbers while playing behind a porous offensive line and throwing to a weak receiving corps.

King will be in the 2021 Heisman Trophy competition all year and he will continue to be one of the best players in the country. 

2. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma 

2020 college football stats: 214-of-317, 3031 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, seven interceptions

Heading into the 2020 season, Rattler had a lot of pressure. Rattler possessed the talent of many great quarterbacks and was coached by Lincoln Riley, who is one of the best offensive minds in all of football. In addition, he followed in the footsteps of Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

Now, he is the frontrunner to win the Heisman in 2021. His 2020 season started off rough after Oklahoma fell to 1-2. However, the team rallied behind the redshirt freshman and won eight straight games, won the Big 12 title, and demolished Florida in the Cotton Bowl. 

He accounted for 34 touchdowns and threw for over 3,000 yards. The nation will be watching Rattler, and the pressure will be on, but he will be behind one of the best offenses in football. 

1.Sam Howell, North Carolina 

2020 college football stats: 236-of-348, 3586 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, seven interceptions 

Some already predict Howell will be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. So, the pressure will be on the North Carolina star. He accounted for 35 touchdowns in 2020 and passed for over 3,500 yards with only seven interceptions. Howell makes playing quarterback look easy. However, heading in the 2021 season, he lost all of his top targets.

However, this should not put a dent in Howell’s numbers or his draft stock. He is the type of quarterback who makes others around him better, and therefore, is the type of quarterback NFL teams will want on their team.
If Howell mimics or even beats out his 2020 numbers, he will be almost no doubt the No.1 pick in 2022.

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