Finding the right quarterback is essential in college football. It’s a vexing task.
Florida took a chance in the grad transfer market last season with former Notre Dame signal-caller Malik Zaire and it didn’t pan out. The Gators instead rode through the growing pains of strong-armed Feleipe Franks for most of the 2017 season. There is hope that Franks, under new Florida coach Dan Mullen, can continue to progress as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. But as Florida has learned since Tim Tebow left in 2009, there are no guarantees when it comes to quarterback development.
Here’s a look at five established college quarterbacks to watch in 2018, including one name that’s familiar to Florida fans:
1. Justin Herbert, Oregon: Herbert has the size and arm strength to follow in the line of NFL quarterbacks produced by the Ducks, a list that includes Dan Fouts, Joey Harrington and Marcus Mariota. As a sophomore last season, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Herbert completed 67 percent of his passes, passing for 1,750 yards with 13 TDs and 3 interceptions in 8 games. Herbert also rushed for 5 TDs. More is expected from him this year as a junior if he can stay healthy.
2. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn: The Baylor transfer helped lead Auburn to the SEC title game last season, passing for 3,158 yards with 18 TDs and 6 interceptions. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Stidham also showed he was a good fit for coach Gus Malzhan’s spread offense with his mobility, rushing for 153 yards with 4 rushing TDs. Stidham should be even more comfortable this upcoming season in his second year running Malzhan’s offense.
3. Drew Lock, Missouri: Lock could have declared for the NFL draft, but with an already crowded NFL QB draft class, opted to return for his senior season. As a junior, the 6-foot-4, 225 pound Lock threw an SEC-record 43 TD passes to just 12 interceptions while passing for 3,695 yards. Lock has a big-time arm and led Missouri to six straight wins to close the regular season after a 1-5 start.
4. Will Grier, West Virgina: Could Grier have flourished if he remained at Florida? That remains up for debate. But Grier certainly showed he was the right fit in coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense last season, passing for 3,490 yards and 34 TDs to just 12 interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Grier should be able to feast on Big 12 defenses again this season.
5. Shea Patterson, Michigan: There’s a certain curiosity surrounding Patterson, who was given immediate eligibility after transferring from Ole Miss to Michigan this offseason. With Ole Miss on probation last season, the 6-foot-2, 203-pound Patterson still performed admirably, passing for 2,259 yards with 17 TDs and 9 interceptions. Patterson will need to adjust from a spread offense at Ole Miss to a pro style offense at Michigan, but should benefit from the tutelage from former Michigan and NFL QB Jim Harbaugh.