B/R CFB 250: Top 17 Pro-Style Quarterbacks

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2015

B/R CFB 250: Top 17 Pro-Style Quarterbacks

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    Bleacher Report's CFB 250 is an annual ranking of the best players in college football, regardless of NFL potential. Through interviews with B/R Experts Matt Miller, Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer, authors Brian Leigh and Brian Pedersen have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country, narrowed that list to 250 and sorted by position. Today, we present the Top 17 Pro-Style Quarterbacks.

    The college quarterback today is very different from the one we saw even a decade ago, as the push for more uptempo attacks has put a premium on mobility at the position and lessened the need for a big-armed pocket passer. But the pro-style QB isn't completely dead, though, as many schools continue to stick with this kind of a player.

    In fact, those who do tend to have some prolific passing offenses and overall success thanks to a player whose arm remains a deadly weapon.

    At the beginning of the 2015 season, our ranking of the top 250 players in the country included 15 pro-style quarterbacks. We're up to 17 after the regular season has completed, with some previously ranked QBs falling by the wayside and others moving onto our radar after a big year.

    The rankings are based primarily on players' skills as college quarterbacks rather than how they'd fare in the NFL. Though they may be using this time to develop their game for the pro level, their goals, first and foremost, are centered around helping their teams succeed.

    Ratings are based on a tabulation of four different categories (accuracy, arm strength, mobility and intangibles) and on evaluations made by our writers in conjunction with Bleacher Report football experts.

    NOTE: Any ties in overall grade were broken based on which player would give a hypothetical college all-star team the best chance to win. 

17-14. Lamb, Falk, Terrell, Hackenberg

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    Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

      17. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State

    81/100

    Arm Strength: 21/25; Accuracy: 20/25; Mobility: 16/20; Intangibles: 24/30

    Appalachian State has successfully made the transition from FCS to FBS thanks to Taylor Lamb. Though the Mountaineers are a run-first offense, Lamb provides them with a reliable arm to keep defenses honest.

      16. Luke Falk, Washington State

    83/100

    Arm Strength: 21/25; Accuracy: 22/25; Mobility: 15/20; Intangibles: 25/30

    Head coach Mike Leach's pass-happy offense has been a perfect fit for Luke Falk, a former walk-on who threw for a school-record 36 touchdowns this season. The sophomore isn't just prolific; he's also quite accurate, completing 70.7 percent of his throws with only eight interceptions in 591 attempts.

      15. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan

    83/100

    Arm Strength: 21/25; Accuracy: 21/25; Mobility: 16/20; Intangibles: 25/30

    Western Michigan's rise from a Mid-American doormat to one of its contenders has been mostly credited to head coach P.J. Fleck, but Terrell's play on the field has been just as important. The junior completed 66.8 percent of his passes during the regular season with a career-high 27 touchdowns.

      14. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

    84/100

    Arm Strength: 24/25; Accuracy: 20/25; Mobility: 16/20; Intangibles: 24/30

    Though still highly regarded for his NFL prospects, Hackenberg's college career seems to have peaked in his first season. He wrapped up a second straight disappointing performance as a junior, though he did cut down on the number of interceptions he threw.

13. Josh Rosen, UCLA

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “The ceiling on him is as high as we've had on a freshman in a long time. I really like his leadership; he's not afraid to call plays. He has a wonderful grasp of what they want to do.”

    —Adam Kramer

     

      Arm Strength


    22/25

    He might be a true freshman, but Josh Rosen's arm resembles that of someone who's been throwing the ball in college for years. He wasn't afraid to attack double-teams, trusting that he could put enough on the throw that only his receiver would have a shot at it.

      Accuracy


    22/25

    Until getting picked off twice in the season-ending loss to USC, Rosen had gone six full games without an interception. He failed to complete 60 percent of his passes in eight of 12 games but only occasionally made an ill-advised throw.

      Mobility


    17/20

    Rosen was one of the least sacked quarterbacks in FBS, and though his line deserves plenty of credit for this, it's also due to Rosen's ability to escape danger in the backfield. He hardly ever ventured out on a run, but on several occasions a few steps one way or the other gave him time to make a throw.

      Intangibles


    24/30

    Teams are reluctant to place too much on a freshman's shoulders, but Rosen didn't act like a first-year player most of the time. It helped that he grew up playing in the spotlight thanks to a high-profile prep career, making him more able to handle extra responsibilities than most players his age.

      Overall


    85/100

    Rosen had one of the best true freshman seasons ever for a quarterback, and he figures to only get better. We've only watched the pilot episode of what figures to be a whale of a long-running series for him at UCLA.

12. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

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    Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “I think my biggest thing about him is he's really tough. He's been playing on one leg all year, and he runs better than he's been given credit for. One of the most underappreciated quarterbacks in the country.”

    —Adam Kramer

     

      Arm Strength


    21/25

    The Iowa passing game isn't one that calls for a lot of big throws, so C.J. Beathard didn't have many opportunities to show off his arm in 2015. He wasn't bad when given the chance to put power behind a throw; it just wasn't a regular part of the game plan.

      Accuracy


    21/25

    Only 23 schools attempted fewer passes than the Hawkeyes, who turned to the pass almost as much to keep opponents honest than to move the line. Beathard would do his best when he wasn't expected to throw, and though his 60.7 percent accuracy wasn't great, he didn't throw an interception in November.

      Mobility


    17/20

    Beathard's mobility helped earn him playing time in 2014 and contributed to him beating out Jake Rudock for the starting job last winter. He scored six times on the ground, all coming on 13 red-zone carries.

      Intangibles


    27/30

    Head coach Kirk Ferentz saw something in Beathard to warrant naming him the starter in between Iowa's January bowl game and spring practice. Whatever that is might not jump off the page, but it is among the many reasons Iowa had a perfect regular season.

      Overall


    86/100

    Beathard might not be able to start for many other teams, but in the confines of what Iowa asked of him, he was as successful as any other quarterback in the country.

11. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

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    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “I think he's kind of a guy we're all trying to figure out. They've done a really good job of coaching him up. He can really become a star if he gets the chance.”

    —Adam Kramer

     

      Arm Strength


    23/25

    Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy liked Mason Rudolph's arm so much that he decided to pull the young quarterback out of a redshirt in November. This paid off with a hot finish to 2014 and a breakout season this fall, one in which Rudolph had some of the best deep-ball connections in the country.

      Accuracy


    22/25

    The Big 12 didn't have a lot of defenses that tested quarterbacks and prompted them to throw into a bucket, yet West Virginia and its strong secondary handed Rudolph his worst game of the season.

      Mobility


    16/20

    Oklahoma State turned to senior J.W. Walsh when it needed mobility from the quarterback position. This wasn't just because of that player's experience, but also because Rudolph has yet to develop much of a knack for eluding pressure. Rudolph took 27 of the team's 29 sacks allowed in 2015.

      Intangibles


    25/30

    Though he'd get pulled in the red zone and when OK State was most in need of a dual-threat element, Rudolph's absence due to injury in the season-ending loss to Oklahoma State was evident. What he's able to do at this point in his career, he does really well, and without it, the Cowboys lacked their full arsenal.

      Overall


    86/100

    Rudolph should have this job all to himself next year, which is when we can really see what he's capable of. The early returns are good, but he has to show he can command all aspects of the position.

10. Jacoby Brissett, NC State

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    Lance King/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “I think he's a pretty good athlete who's pretty robotic. He's not someone who has ever really jumped off the page to me. He's a powerful runner, but I don't see great arm strength.”

    —Matt Miller

     

      Arm Strength


    23/25

    At 6'4” and 235 pounds, Jacoby Brissett has good size, and he uses this to his advantage when throwing the ball. There's good power behind every attempt, but North Carolina State's offense doesn't call for many deep routes where he can show this off.

      Accuracy


    21/25

    Brissett completed 61.3 percent of his passes during the regular season, which is a slight improvement from the year before and coincides with more attempts per game. He didn't throw his first interception until the Wolfpack's sixth game, but once they started facing tougher competition, his efficiency took a noticeable drop.

      Mobility


    17/20

    His numbers might make him seem like a dual-threat quarterback, but while Brissett will take off more than the normal pro-style passer, he's learned to use his mobility in a different way. Most of his scrambles are to buy time for receivers to get open rather than to advance the line of scrimmage.

      Intangibles


    25/30

    Based on sheer athleticism, Brissett is right up there with the best of them. He just hasn't figured out how to also be a great leader, one who can guide his team through tough stretches, which explains NC State going 3-5 in the ACC after a promising 4-0 start.

      Overall


    86/100

    Brissett began his career at Florida, where he didn't get much of a chance to shine. His two seasons at NC State went as well as he could have hoped, enabling Dave Doeren to have success after a rough first year as head coach in 2013.

9. Brad Kaaya, Miami (Florida)

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “There are certain throws he makes that wow me. With all the turmoil at Miami, he's done a really good job. I'd love to see them give him an offensive coach that can really use him.”

    —Adam Kramer

     

      Arm Strength


    22/25

    Brad Kaaya isn't very big, still weighing in at the same 210 pounds or so he had on his 6'4” frame as a true freshman. His throws reflect this, lacking the kind of push that would come with extra strength developed over time.

      Accuracy


    23/25

    Along with increasing his completion rate a few percentage points, Kaaya became much better at hitting his spots during his sophomore year. As a result, he only threw four interceptions after getting picked off 12 times last season as a freshman.

      Mobility


    16/20

    This is still an area that deserves an "incomplete," as Kaaya has rarely ventured out of the pocket unless forced to do so. He was working behind a young line this season but managed to only get sacked 12 times, so he can avoid the rush when needed.

      Intangibles


    26/30

    A starter since the first game of his true freshman season, Kaaya has had to grow up in games as much as on the practice field. He's more experienced than most players his age, and that also translated into leadership traits that made the 20-year-old a valuable asset during the midseason coaching change from Al Golden to interim head coach Larry Scott.

      Overall


    87/100

    The biggest improvement for any quarterback is between his first and second seasons, and while Kaaya didn't make much of a leap, he also didn't regress. If he's reached his ceiling, it's still pretty high.

8. Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky

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    Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “In a year without a ton of clear prospects or guys that fit that [pro-style] mold, I think he certainly does. He throws a beautiful football.”

    —Adam Kramer

     

      Arm Strength


    21/25

    Brandon Doughty had to completely remake his game after suffering a pair of season-ending knee injuries early in his career, focusing more on quickness rather than strength with his throws. His deep ball is good, and he can hit a moving target. But he's not going to get far compared to some of the best arms in the country.

      Accuracy


    23/25

    What Doughty lacks in arm strength, he more than makes up for in precision. To average roughly 40 attempts per game over the past two seasons and complete nearly 70 percent of his throws is phenomenal, particularly when Western Kentucky rolls him out to avoid contact in the pocket.

      Mobility


    16/20

    The aforementioned knee issues have kept Doughty from ever being much of a scrambler, but his lateral movement is still strong. Knowing the risks of getting hit, Doughty has learned how to anticipate pressure and get far enough away from it to keep out of harm's way.

      Intangibles


    27/30

    A sixth-year senior, Doughty has been through a lot in his career. That time off the field enabled him to better study the game, and that's translated into two straight monster seasons. He's made the Hilltoppers' system fit his skills and limitations as well as any other passer in FBS.

      Overall


    87/100

    Doughty threw for more than 300 yards against an undefeated LSU team in October, one of only two quarterbacks to reach that mark this season. He's as big a reason as anyone why Western Kentucky had its best season since moving up from FCS in 2007.

7. Cody Kessler, USC

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “I think Kessler does a great job of just doing what's asked of him. He reminds me a lot of AJ McCarron; he's not going to be a gambler. And he never gives up in a game; I've never seen him come in with that look like he'd given up.”

    —Matt Miller

     

      Arm Strength


    21/25

    For a quarterback who's been asked to throw deep as much as Cody Kessler has the past two years, he doesn't have that big of an arm. It looks like he's putting every ounce of himself into each of those throws, but it still gets there. But on passes where he has to get it there quickly, the zip is far more noticeable.

      Accuracy


    24/25

    He completed 68.4 percent of his throws this season, a slight dip from a year ago, when he was at 69.7 percent. But considering that his 2014 completion percentage set a school record, being only a little under that is nothing to complain about.

      Mobility


    16/20

    A rash of injuries on USC's offensive line caused Kessler to take 35 sacks this season, including four against Stanford in the Pac-12 title game, but several of those were also a result of him trying to hang in the pocket instead of grab a few yards. He also scored four touchdowns in 2015.

      Intangibles


    26/30

    Kessler had the bad luck of having his career coincide with the three most tumultuous seasons in USC history, playing for four different interim or permanent head coaches. Yet none of that could be seen in his play; instead, he seemed to thrive amid the chaos by keeping his composure and pushing aside the distractions.

      Overall


    87/100

    The USC quarterback position is one of the most high-profile gigs in the game, and Kessler has handled it as well as any of the highly decorated players before him. Though he never seemed to get his full due—the coaching turmoil certainly didn't help—he should go down as one of the best in the program's storied quarterback history.

6. Kevin Hogan, Stanford

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “I think he's just a gamer, a guy that's probably never going to look great in practice, but when the lights come on, here's there. He's gotten a lot better this year.”

    —Matt Miller

     

      Arm Strength


    22/25

    Coaches aren't going to teach their players to throw like Kevin Hogan, whose delivery could best be described as a mix between a shot put and a sidearm sling. He can't go very deep, often underthrowing long routes, but Stanford didn't take that approach enough to make it an issue.

      Accuracy


    22/25

    The Cardinal became an offensive juggernaut over the course of this season, and a big part of that rise was Hogan's ability to have some amazingly efficient games. He completed at least 70 percent passes in six of his 12 starts during the regular season, five of which involved at least 21 attempts.

      Mobility


    17/20

    The most underrated part of Hogan's game is his running ability. He's far from a dual-threat passer, but he's quite mobile for a 6'4” guy. When Stanford's run game slowed down, he'd get things going with a perfectly timed carry—most notably during the Cardinal's come-from-behind win at Washington State on Halloween, when he ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

      Intangibles


    27/30

    Hogan's numbers will never jump off the page, but when the game is over, you'll know he was key to the win. He made major improvement this year in the red zone—an area of major concern in his past—and during the regular season, he threw 14 touchdown passes on 35 attempts inside the opponents' 20-yard lines.

      Overall


    88/100

    The successor to Andrew Luck, Hogan has faced that comparison throughout his career. Ultimately, though, he'll finish his time at Stanford as the school's winningest quarterback.

5. Matt Johnson, Bowling Green

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “I think he's incredibly underrated. He's done really great things with that team. I am enamored with him. To me, he's required weekly viewing.”

    —Adam Kramer

     

      Arm Strength


    21/25

    A broken hip knocked Matt Johnson out for nearly the entire 2014 season and also forced him to have to relearn how to walk and step into throws. That affected his ability to put his entire body into the throw, so he instead now relies more on the release, which is among the best in the country.

      Accuracy


    24/25

    With as much as Bowling Green throws, the fact that Johnson is so precise with his targeting has made the team's offensive attack more deadly. The system, which is an offshoot of what Baylor runs under head coach Art Briles, is as much about anticipating where a receiver will be as it is getting the ball to that spot.

      Mobility


    17/20

    Johnson gets the ball out so quickly that scrambling hasn't often been necessary. But when faced with pressure, he's agile enough to sidestep and then effectively get back into position to throw.

      Intangibles


    26/30

    Quick thinking is key in an uptempo system, and Johnson's injury might have made him even better at this. Because he couldn't play past the 2014 opener, the senior spent his time on the sidelines, analyzing the defense and coming up with how he'd attack it. The fruits of that effort were evident this year.

      Overall


    88/100

    Bowling Green had one of the best passing attacks in the country this year, and while it's a system that figures to put up good numbers no matter what, Johnson exceeded all benchmarks. He might have challenged the FBS single-season passing record had the Falcons not thoroughly blown out so many opponents, thus causing them to ease off the gas in the fourth quarter.

4. Brandon Allen, Arkansas

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “I always thought he was a good quarterback…but I didn't think [offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach] Dan Enos could turn him into the college football version of Tom Brady. You can make a legitimate case he's the first-team All-SEC quarterback this season.”

    —Barrett Sallee

     

      Arm Strength


    22/25

    Brandon Allen has the kind of passing motion that makes it possible for him to hit any receiver on the field from any spot, but this year he finally harnessed that power to the point where he was hitting teammates' chests and hands with the ball instead of having it sail over their heads. Not surprisingly, this translated into Arkansas transitioning from a smashmouth run team to one that had one of the most potent passing games around by the end of 2015.

      Accuracy


    23/25

    By being able to focus on his aim, Allen elevated his play as a senior. His 65.1 percent completion rate was a huge improvement from his previous two seasons. Had he not sputtered in the middle of the 2015 campaign, Allen might have challenged Arkansas' single-season passing record.

      Mobility


    17/20

    Thanks to an NFL-sized offensive line protecting him, Allen hasn't had to worry about scrambling much. He's not a robot, but he isn't going to do much with his legs and thus has never put much effort into this part of his game.

      Intangibles


    27/30

    Arkansas had two 1,000-yard rushers in 2014, but injuries depleted the backfield this season, putting more pressure on Allen to be a leader both statistically and with his actions. He responded masterfully, helping turn the Razorbacks into an offensive juggernaut down the stretch.

      Overall


    89/100

    Allen was often looked at as a liability earlier in his career, but he put everything together during his final season. Not counting Dak Prescott, he was the most dangerous quarterback in the SEC this fall.

3. Paxton Lynch, Memphis

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “He's a surprising athlete for his size. He just has a knack for making plays. He attacks down the field really well with an ability to force the ball down the field and make something happen.”

    —Matt Miller

     

      Arm Strength


    23/25

    Paxton Lynch's 6'7”, 245-pound frame makes him look like a lanky quarterback, but then he shows off an arm that has no limitations. The deep ball is his speciality, resulting in four games this season where he averaged better than 10 yards per pass attempt.

      Accuracy


    22/25

    By towering over his offensive line, Lynch can see the whole field and thus makes the most of checking out all of his options. This has led to great efficiency, as he completed more than 60 percent of his passes in every game this season. He only had three interceptions in 407 attempts, going without a pick until the sixth game of 2015.

      Mobility


    18/20

    Lynch has 17 career rushing touchdowns, 13 of which came in 2014 as a sophomore. He was less willing to take off and scramble for yards this year but still managed to avoid too many negative plays. In three seasons, he's taken only 55 sacks, including 15 this season.

      Intangibles


    26/30

    Lynch's development under head coach Justin Fuente—who prior to coming to Memphis turned Andy Dalton into a star at TCU—has been stellar from his freshman year to now. His decision-making was seen regularly in leading the Tigers to a 15-game win streak that included an 8-0 start this season.

      Overall


    89/100

    Memphis wouldn't have spent much of this season in the headlines if not for Lynch, an example of a quarterback who has seemed to improve on a game-by-game basis. He looked significantly better at the end of 2015 than at the beginning.

2. Jared Goff, California

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    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “He reminds me a lot of Teddy Bridgewater in that he moves so well in the pocket, and he makes decisions so quickly. He's almost unfazeable.”

    —Matt Miller

     

      Arm Strength


    23/25

    California's Bear Raid offense calls for both quick, short passes but also deep shots when the opportunity presents itself. Jared Goff can sling it wherever its needed thanks to one of the strongest arms in the game, one that gets plenty of use. The junior has attempted more than 1,500 passes in 36 career games.

      Accuracy


    23/25

    Considering he's averaged 42.5 passes per game over his career, having a completion rate above 60 percent is quite impressive. Goff is great at hitting the spot where his receiver is going to be, not just where he currently is, which also means when the target makes the wrong cut, it affects his accuracy numbers.

      Mobility


    16/20

    If Goff takes off beyond the line of scrimmage, it's a last resort, but that doesn't mean he's a statue. Rather, he's constantly keeping his feet in motion in order to avoid pressure when the pocket collapses. In Cal's season finale against Arizona State, Goff showed just how elusive he can be during a massive second-half comeback.

      Intangibles


    27/30

    Goff had a five-interception game this season at the start of a four-game losing streak, and he was sacked 25 times. Yet not once during the year did he show much frustration in Cal's struggles. If anything, the lack of team success drove Goff to keep fighting harder, leading to a career-best 542 yards in what might be his final college game.

      Overall


    89/100

    Bleacher Report NFL draft expert Matt Miller has long had Goff as the top player on his 2016 big board, and the signal-caller solidified this spot following a third straight lights-out season. The only thing that might keep him from being the No. 1 pick in the spring would be the needs of the team holding that selection.

1. Connor Cook, Michigan State

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    Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    “I think he just has really good poise. You can tell he's experienced; you're not going to rattle him. He's got that game manager thing down. He's going to run the system as well as anyone.”

    —Matt Miller

     

      Arm Strength


    23/25

    Connor Cook can make all the throws, something he's shown during three seasons as Michigan State's starter. He won't make them all look pretty, but he gets the ball to his target regardless of the distance. One of his best attributes is the ability to cock back and fire deep without a pronounced windup, making it difficult to anticipate where he's going.

      Accuracy


    23/25

    For a player who's had as much success as Cook, he throws a lot of incomplete passes. All three of his seasons as starter have seen him complete fewer than 60 percent of his throws, but the vast majority of those misses are to places where no defender can get the ball. He threw just five picks in 369 attempts this season, the third-fewest of any quarterback with at least that many passing attempts.

      Mobility


    17/20

    Cook isn't going to run for many yards, nor is he going to run away from defenders. Instead, he uses his mobility to slip away from pressure, which often leads to him throwing on the run (and more accurately than normal).

      Intangibles


    28/30

    Despite the accuracy issues, Cook always seems to make key throws in clutch situations. When Michigan State's youthful backfield needed propping, he responded with four straight 300-yard games. A shoulder injury kept him out of the Spartans' win over defending national champion Ohio State, but he was still there to mentor the younger quarterbacks who played in his place (Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry).

      Overall


    91/100

    Michigan State has sent several quarterbacks to the NFL in the past decade, including Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer and Drew Stanton. Cook is similar to his predecessors in his ability to win and show the traits that make him desirable.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com or ESPN.com.

    All slides written by Brian J. Pedersen. Follow the author on Twitter at @realBJP.