Sun Belt Summer Content Series: Are Troy and Appalachian State Secretly Cool At QB?
Summer is for posing the college football observations that will be long forgotten by the end of Fall camp. Today, we prognosticate the fortunes of two Sun Belt programs reloading at quarterback.
Last week, Athlon Sports pumped out its preseason All-Sun Belt Football Team, revealing a hard truth about your favorite conference: the quarterback position is a bit sketchy. Unlike last season, which saw the conference led by a squad of talented and seasoned signal callers, this season sees transitions and question marks for nearly every SBC program.
You need only look at Athlon Sports’ first-thru-fourth team picks at QB to see the gaping void. At the top, Arkansas State Justice Hansen, who was awarded SBC Offensive Player of the Year honors after hurling 34 TD passes on 3,600 yards passing.
On the second team, ULM’s Caleb Evans, who spent 2017 sharing time with Garrett Smith. Evans wound up becoming the better option for Matt Viator’s offense, but he’s yet to see a full season as starter.
After Hansen and Evans, Athlon rolled the D&D dice on two newbies, neither who made more than 5 pass attempts in a game last season: Appalachian State’s Zac Thomas and Troy’s Kaleb Barker. If you’re going to go with a promising rookie, why not Aaron Winchester of Georgia State, or Louisiana’s Levi Lewis? Or better yet, pick Georgia Southern’s Shai Werts, who started as a freshman and improved with every game?
Perhaps the reputation of Appalachian State and Troy played a role. Scott Satterfield and Neal Brown are two talented head coaches who could squeeze offensive production out of a potato. Or maybe, just maybe, Thomas and Barker are truly the next generation of Sun Belt Super Quarterbacks.
Zac Thomas, QB, Appalachian State
Career Stats: 33 yards passing, 0 TDs
Thomas (6-2, 205) is a 2-star recruit from Trussville, AL who signed with the Mountaineers in 2016. The redshirt sophomore didn’t have much to do backing up Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State’s incredibly consistent starting QB for four solid years. Thomas has wheels; he rushed for 18 scores his junior year of high school.
Beyond that, we don’t know much about Thomas. Reportedly, he’s had a solid Spring He’s getting some competition from freshman Peyton Derrick and sophomore Jacob Huesman, but Satterfield has said that Thomas has “a leg up.”
Kaleb Barker, QB, Troy
Career Stats: 152 yards, 1 TD
Brandon Silver threw for 10,000 yards and 67 TDs for the Trojans, and his departure leaves a huge void behind center. In comes Barker (6-1, 210), a former 2-star recruit from Decatur, AL. Barker is a dual-threat guy who Brown liked to use on the ground. He had 101 yards on just nine carries last season. But he can chuck the pill, too, having notched a 59-yard scoring strike against Texas State last season.
Barker isn’t without challenge. Sawyer Smith (6-3, 212), who redshirted his freshman year last season, has put up starting credentials this Spring, and the position likely won’t be settled until deep into Fall camp.
There’s really not enough data to feel confident about either Barker or Thomas. Athlon Sports sees something in these guys, though. I would have still given Shai Wertz 3rd team nods, and maybe Levi Lewis the 4th.
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.