Breaking Down the 'New Guys' Likely Starting at QB for Top 25 Teams
The most important player on any football team is the quarterback. And in 2022, nearly 40 percent of college football's early Top 25 teams will have a new signal-caller.
Most notably, projected Top 10 programs Texas A&M, Notre Dame and USC each have a vacancy behind center for next season. While most players here are reasonably familiar thanks to recruiting status, previous QB competitions or otherwise, at least a couple of them likely need an introduction to much of the CFB world.
From there, we've highlighted the programs that do not return their starting quarterback in 2022.
Composite ranking: 25
For the last four seasons, Desmond Ridder guided the Cincinnati offense. He capped an excellent college career with a trip to the College Football Playoff.
The school's next quarterback might be an old friend.
Ben Bryant served as the third-stringer in 2018 and backup for two years before transferring to Eastern Michigan. Last season, he threw for 3,121 yards and 14 touchdowns while helping the MAC squad make a bowl game. Bryant returned to Cincinnati this offseason.
The other option is Evan Prater, who arrived as the highest-rated recruit in program history two cycles ago. He's logged 11 pass attempts and 14 carries over the last two seasons.
As spring practice ended, per Keith Jenkins of the Cincinnati Enquirer, UC coach Luke Fickell noted he doesn't see a leader in the competition yet.
Composite ranking: 24
The highest-profile QB battle is at Texas.
Casey Thompson started for most of the 2021 season but has since headed to Nebraska. He had replaced Hudson Card, who initially won the starting job—which he's trying to do again opposite Quinn Ewers, the high-profile transfer from Ohio State.
Once committed to Texas, Ewers reclassified into the previous recruiting cycle and flipped to OSU. He served as the fourth-stringer and entered one game.
Ewers, nevertheless, seems to have become the consensus choice. That's not a surprise, considering he was the No. 1 overall prospect of the 2021 class.
But this competition won't be decided until fall camp.
Ole Miss Rebels
Composite ranking: 22
Ole Miss has the inglorious honor of replacing Matt Corral, one of the most productive QBs in school history.
In his place, the Rebels will probably be turning to star transfer Jaxson Dart. He made six appearances for USC last season, throwing for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns to five interceptions. Dart rushed for 43 yards and two scores, as well.
However, the position isn't being gifted to him.
Luke Altmyer, the backup in 2021, earned more praise from Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin following the spring game. Altmyer is familiar with the offense as a returning player, which is surely beneficial for him.
As with Cincinnati and Texas, this competition remains undecided—and might even linger into September.
Composite ranking: 16
In one corner, Pitt has Nick Patti. He's a longtime backup with two career starts, though his most recent—last season's Peach Bowl against Michigan State—ended abruptly when Patti broke his collarbone.
The challenger is USC transfer Kedon Slovis, who enjoyed a breakout year as a true freshman in 2019 but struggled to match that performance in 2020 and 2021.
Slovis is expected to win the right to replace Kenny Pickett, but Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi hasn't tipped his hand, either.
One extra note: Pitt added Dartmouth transfer Derek Kyler on Wednesday. Although he's not likely to start, Kyler won a pair of Ivy League titles and threw 42 touchdowns to six interceptions. Tuck that one away, perhaps.
Composite ranking: 13
Isn't it great when a coaching staff doesn't pretend to have a pseudo-competition when the answer is obvious?
Oklahoma had a massive void at the position after Caleb Williams transferred to USC and Spencer Rattler went to South Carolina. New coach Brent Venables hired Jeff Lebby as the offensive coordinator, and the Sooners swiped UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel from his commitment to UCLA.
Lebby previously coached the southpaw at UCF in 2019. Gabriel put together back-to-back seasons of 3,500-plus yards and 29-plus touchdowns before a broken collarbone limited him in 2021.
And, as a result, Lebby announced Gabriel as the starting QB in February—you know, weeks before he even took a practice rep.
Two plus two indeed equals four in Norman. How refreshing.
Composite ranking: T-14
Experience does not always tell the story, but it's hard to observe this sequence and ignore the signs.
Oregon hired former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning early in December and landed Bo Nix one week later. Nix struggled in all three matchups with UGA, yet Lanning and the Ducks quickly made the Auburn transfer a top priority.
If anyone other than Nix suits up for Oregon in the season opener against Georgia, it'd be a surprise.
Nix has more than 1,000 career pass attempts in college. Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield have combined for just 18, which all happened in their backup roles last season.
Composite ranking: 12
Hey, we already know this one!
After spring practice, SicEm365 reported Blake Shapen had earned the QB1 label. He beat out Gerry Bohanon, who totaled 2,517 yards and 27 touchdowns last season.
Bohanon put the Bears on the brink of a Big 12 title, but a hamstring injury sidelined him for the championship game. Shapen led Baylor to that victory, won the competition this spring and ultimately compelled Bohanon's transfer to South Florida.
Shapen completed 72.1 percent of his 86 passes last season, finishing with 596 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Composite ranking: 10
Even though USC coach Lincoln Riley won't admit it, we certainly know this answer, too.
When preseason Heisman Trophy favorite Spencer Rattler faltered early in 2021, Riley and Oklahoma turned to Caleb Williams. The 5-star freshman responded with 2,184 total yards and 26 touchdowns to only four interceptions in the Sooners' last eight games.
Riley bolted for USC, and Williams soon followed. There's no question he'll be the starter this season.
Williams officially needs to beat out Miller Moss in the fall, but that's merely a formality.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Composite ranking: 7
Notre Dame fans are undoubtedly eager to see Tyler Buchner in a full-time role. He was a coveted 4-star prospect who amassed some preposterous numbers—more than 6,000 offensive yards with 81 touchdowns—in his final high school season.
They'll probably get that opportunity in 2022, but it's not finalized.
Buchner needs to separate from Drew Pyne, who logged meaningful snaps against Wisconsin and Cincinnati last season. Pyne also served as Ian Book's backup in 2020.
Because an ankle issue sidelined the dual-threat Buchner in the spring game, we missed a much-anticipated chance for comparison. Clarity will arrive in the fall.
Texas A&M Aggies
Composite ranking: 4
If there's a more intriguing battle on the list, let us know. Our vote is soundly on Texas A&M's competition.
Haynes King initially landed the nod in 2021 before a broken right tibia halted the dual-threat QB's year in the Aggies' second game. Zach Calzada replaced him and sparked the upset of Alabama, but he otherwise had mixed results and transferred to Auburn in the offseason.
Calzada's decision also followed Max Johnson leaving LSU for Texas A&M. The left-hander, who's more of a pocket passer, threw for 2,814 yards and 27 touchdowns with six interceptions last year.
Additionally, the Aggies inked 5-star freshman Conner Weigman in their historic recruiting class. He enrolled early and participated in the spring.
King and Johnson are the leading contenders, and A&M's competition will probably run deep into August.
All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.