The 2017 Sun Belt Quarterbacks RANKED
As we hurtle at light speed towards the start of the season, we’re reminded that Sun Belt titles are won by two things: 1) Tremendous Defenses and 2) Quality QB Play. Because it’s more fun to rank quarterbacks than defenses, I submit the Best QBs in the Belt ranked by their awesomeness.
The Sun Belt isn’t exactly a renowned NFL incubator for quarterbacks. When was the last Sun Belt QB to start in the NFL? Cleo Lemon?
This year’s fraternity of Sun Belt quarterbacks are something special, though. Whoever wins the conference will likely be led by excellent play behind center. So who are these guys? Strong armed, mobile gunslingers who may not be household names now, but several will be legit stars by Bowl Season. Let’s start ranking:
The “Jimmy Garoppolo” Division
We really don’t know what we’ve got with these guys. Some are obviously very talented. Some certainly have the look of a top tier QB. All are untested and unknown.
12. Willie Jones or Damian Williams, Freshman/Senior, Texas State
No Stats / 706 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs over three seasons
As of this writing, Everett Withers and Texas State has yet to declare a starter under center, but the two contenders couldn’t be less alike. Jones (6’2″ I81) is a 2-star talent who just turned 18 in August. Williams (6’1″ 215) is a transfer from Mississippi State who missed a big chunk of fall camp to work on his academics. Jones has raised eyebrows during camp, but look for the more seasoned Williams to win the gig.
11. Shai Werts (6’0″ 184), Freshman, Georgia Southern
Signed as a dual-threat, two-star prospect in 2016
The Eagles are recommitted to running a pure triple option, and they’ve tabbed freshman Werts to run the damn thing.
10. Austin Wilson (6’2″ 220), Senior, Coastal Carolina
Appeared in one game in 2016
A graduate transfer from Syracuse, Wilson (an ESPN 3-star recruit) appeared in one game for the Orange last year – a 54-0 loss to Clemson. In all, Wilson played nine games for Syracuse, throwing only a single touchdown in three seasons.
9. Jordan Davis (6’3″ 217), Junior, Louisiana
Davis only completed two passes in three attempts last season
With only one career touchdown to his name, Davis has bided his time behind (the legendary) Torrence Broadway and LSU transfer Anthony Jennings. Now it’s finally Davis’ turn.
The “Bobby Herbert” Division
We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from these guys. Is 2017 the year they transmogrify potential into stardom?
8. Caleb Evans (6’4″ 195), Junior/Sophomore, ULM
2016: 834 yards, 4TDs/6 INTs, 102.3 QB Rating
On Monday, head coach Matt Viator named Evans the starting QB over Garrett Smith, who was injured midway through the 2016 campaign. (Evans took over and finished out the season.) Viator has hinted both could play during the opener with Memphis, but for now Evans is man.
7. Cole Garvin (6’1″ 205), Junior, South Alabama
2016*: 463 yards, 4 TDs/1 INTs, 133.0 QB Rating
Garvin, the substitute QB who took down San Diego State in 2016, claimed signal caller’s job from last year’s starter Dallas Davis, who had major issues with interceptions. If Garvin can protect the ball, and if the Jags can find a reliable target to take the place of TE Gerald Everett,
6. Tyler Rogers (6’3″ 218), Senior, New Mexico State
2016: 2,589yards, 16 TDs/12 INTs, 117.0 QB Rating
Rogers is a real puzzle. Last year, he threw for 445 yards yards against Troy – and lost 52-6, giving up 5 INTs. When you have a guy like Larry Rose III toting the rock out of the back field, you don’t need a stud at quarterback. But the Aggies would love more production from Rogers.
5. Conner Manning (6’1″ 205), Senior, Georgia State
2016: 2,684 yards, 16 TDs/13 INTs, 121.1 QB Rating
Manning had a tough task, taking over for the great Nick Arbuckle. Manning isn’t Arbuckle, but he can put up stats, posting several 300+ yard games in 2016. If Manning can be more careful with the pill, he and WR Penny Hart could be one hell of a tandem.
The “Peyton Manning” Division
These guys are the studs of the Sun Belt, and you can rank any one of these guys #1.
4. Taylor Lamb (6’2″ 200), Senior, Appalachian State
2016: 2,281 yards, 15 TDs/8 INTs, 129.9 QB Rating
Lamb is a model of consistency. Look at his completion percentages in his three seasons with the Mountaineers: 61.4, 60.1 and 60.6. Lamb’s stats took a sizable dip in 2016, throwing only 15 TDs versus 31 in 2015. But his reliability and poise is exactly what Appalachian State needs challenge for the Sun Belt title this season.
3. Justice Hansen (6’4″ 207), Junior, Arkansas State
2016: 2,719 yards, 19TDs/8 INTs, 138.9 QB Rating
After spending the first two and half games in 2016 behind Pit transfer Chad Voytik, Hansen took over the second half during the loss to Utah State and never looked back. Though still learning the system, the former 4-star from Oklahoma still led the Sun Belt in QB rating in 2016. Hansen has had a good fall camp and looks to add to his stats.
2. Brandon Silvers (6’3″ 219), Senior, Troy Trojans
2016: 3,180 yards, 23 TDS/12 INTs, 133.0 QB Rating
The preseason First Team All-Sun Belt QB, Silvers was golden in 2016, completing 63% of his passes while absorbing only seven sacks behind Troy’s awesome offensive line. Silvers gets all his toys back this season, including dynamic receiving duo Emmanuel Thompson and Deondre Douglas. If the O-line is anywhere near as good as it was last year, Silvers should enjoy a storied season.
1. Matt Linehan (6’3″ 239), Senior, Idaho Vandals
2016: 3,184 yards, 19 TDs/10 INTs, 136.7 QB Rating
Silvers and Lamb were named the preseason First and Second Team QBs in the Sun Belt, but Matt Linehan may be the best of the bunch. Tucked deep in the tundra of Moscow, Idaho, Linehan has quietly carved out a superstar career in the Sun Belt. His performance against Colorado State in the Idaho Potato Bowl was nothing short of epic: 67% comp, 4 TDs and 381 yards for a QB rating of 213.6. Linehan is currently 6th all-time in the Sun Belt for career passing yards (8,696). An average season for him should have him finish as the conference second most prolific passer of all time.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.