Power Ranking College Football's Best 2016 Pro-Style Quarterbacks
College football continues to morph into its own type of game, distancing itself from the NFL thanks to its varied playing styles. Yet one place where the two continue to intersect is at the quarterback position.
Though more and more NFL teams are willing to dabble in some spread tendencies, by and large, that league remains rooted in what's most commonly known as "pro-style" offenses. And no player adheres more to this standard than a quarterback who focuses almost solely on throwing the ball.
The pro-style quarterback is slowly fading out in college, but it's far from extinct. Of the 15 QBs selected in last month's NFL draft, the top five were pro-style passers, and all but two were known primarily for their arms when in college.
Who are the best at dropping back and slinging it in college in 2016? Check out our list of the best pro-style passers based on what they've done to this point and what's expected from them this season.
12. Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
Year: Redshirt sophomore
Height, weight: 6'0", 209 lbs
2015 stats: 4,005 passing yards, 66.7% comp., 30 TD, nine INT
Head coach Rick Stockstill took a major risk last year when he passed over returning starter Austin Grammer for his son at quarterback. In hindsight, it was the best decision possible for Middle Tennessee based on the way Brent Stockstill performed.
"He had to know how it would look if Brent struggled," SB Nation's Bill Connelly wrote. "But any sense of unease vanished because the young QB was a revelation."
Stockstill finished only 53 yards shy of Jameis Winston's FBS record for passing yards by a freshman, but his 327 completions established a new freshman passing mark. Along the way, he set a slew of Blue Raiders records despite facing a schedule that included games against Alabama, Illinois and Vanderbilt.
11. Brett Rypien, Boise State
Height, weight: 6'2", 195 lbs
2015 stats: 3,350 passing yards, 63.6% comp., 20 TD, eight INT
Brett Rypien entered college mostly known as the nephew of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, but after his first appearance, it was evident he was going to make a name for himself. An injury relief appearance against FCS foe Idaho State was followed by a masterful debut in his first start, setting the stage for Boise State's next great passer.
Rypien's first start came on the road at Virginia, and all he did was throw for 321 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-35 passing. He averaged 322.4 yards as a starter, with four three-TD games, and other than a nightmare performance in a loss at Utah State, he was nearly flawless the rest of the year.
Despite not appearing until Boise's third game in 2015, Rypien led the Mountain West in passing.
10. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
Height, weight: 6'2", 204 lbs
2015 stats: 3,526 passing yards, 67.0% comp., 29 TD, nine INT
Head coach P.J. Fleck has built Western Michigan into a strong mid-major program with his fun system, intense personality and aggressive recruiting. He also inherited the quarterback who has made everything click, but it wasn't until midway through Zach Terrell's redshirt freshman season in 2013 that Fleck turned to him as the starter.
The Broncos have gone 19-15 with Terrell at the helm, including back-to-back 8-5 seasons, with Terrell topping the 300-yard mark eight times and throwing at least three touchdowns on 11 occasions.
Another 2,763 yards, and Terrell will surpass Tim Hiller for Western Michigan's career passing lead.
9. Dane Evans, Tulsa
Height, weight: 6'1", 210 lbs
2015 stats: 4,332 passing yards, 62.9% comp., 25 TD, eight INT
Tulsa ran one of the fastest offenses in the country in 2015, averaging 83.3 plays per game, which translated to a snap every 20 seconds. Dane Evans handled the up-tempo pace so well that he made it look easy, helping the Golden Hurricane to their first bowl appearance since 2012.
Evans had nine 300-yard passing games, including a 427-yard, four-touchdown effort against Oklahoma and 374 yards and three TDs against Virginia Tech in the Independence Bowl. He picked up head coach Philip Montgomery's Baylor-style offense right away, and now he's in line to be Tulsa's career passing leader.
With 2,605 passing yards in 2016—which he should get before October is over—he'll pass Paul Smith's 10,936 tally from 2003-07.
8. Nick Mullens, Southern Miss
Height, weight: 6'1", 196 lbs
2015 stats: 4,476 passing yards, 63.5% comp., 38 TD, 12 INT
Southern Miss was one of the best stories in college football last year—a team that had won four games in the previous three seasons went 9-5 and won Conference USA's West Division. Nick Mullens was as integral to that leap as anyone else, shattering numerous school records against both mid-major and Power Five opponents.
Mullens was 81-of-125 for 1,089 yards and five touchdowns against the trio of Mississippi State, Nebraska and Washington, though all three games resulted in losses for the Golden Eagles. He had seven other 300-yard games, and during a six-game win streak that helped Southern Miss win its division, he averaged 326.5 yards per game with 20 TDs and five interceptions on 66.7 percent passing.
Southern Miss lost its coach to an NFL job in late January, but with Mullens back for a fourth year as starter, the Golden Eagles will again be a C-USA contender.
7. Jake Browning, Washington
Height, weight: 6'2", 205 lbs
2015 stats: 2,955 passing yards, 63.1% comp., 16 TD, 10 INT
Jake Browning set national high school passing records in California, but none of that mattered when arriving to Washington last winter. He won the starting job based on his ability to pick up head coach Chris Petersen's offense during training camp, not because he threw 91 touchdown passes in 2014 and 229 in three prep seasons.
A shaky debut aside, Browning's freshman year was a rousing success and one that saw improvement throughout the year. He was 55-of-74 (74.3 percent) in his final three games, all wins, as the Huskies rallied late to be bowl-eligible and then win the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Browning and running back Myles Gaskin formed the best freshman offensive duo in the country last year, and with another year of practice under his belt, Browning figures to continue to rise.
6. Tanner Mangum, BYU
Year: Redshirt sophomore
Height, weight: 6'3", 215 lbs
2015 stats: 3,377 passing yards, 59.9% comp., 23 TD, 10 INT
Long before he won the Heisman Trophy, led Florida State to a national title and was the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft, Jameis Winston shared MVP honors at the 2011 Elite 11 quarterback competition. The co-MVP was Tanner Mangum, who basically disappeared after that point until popping up in a big way last September.
A redshirt year in 2012 and a two-year LDS mission to Chile delayed Mangum's collegiate debut until BYU's 2015 opener. After Taysom Hill suffered a foot injury against Nebraska, Mangum came off the bench and orchestrated a comeback win that was capped off with a Hail Mary touchdown pass. A week later, his late TD pass on another desperation heave helped the Cougars beat Boise State.
With Hill lost for the year, Mangum started 12 games and averaged 272 yards in those starts. The season ended with a nightmare performance against rival Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl, with two of his three interceptions returned for scores, but otherwise, it was a strong debut that should serve as the foundation of a productive career.
5. C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Height, weight: 6'2", 209 lbs
2015 stats: 2,809 passing yards, 61.6% comp., 17 TD, five INT
A seemingly rash decision at the time, it turns out Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz had a good reason for naming C.J. Beathard his starting quarterback for 2015 less than a week after the 2014 season ended. This led to Jake Rudock transferring to Michigan—which worked out well—and set the stage for one of the best seasons in Hawkeyes history.
Beathard's numbers don't wow, but he had no trouble doing what was asked of him last season. In piloting Iowa to a 12-0 start, he was intercepted only three times in 303 attempts, completing at least 60 percent of his throws on eight occasions.
He did that despite a lingering hip injury, which kept him in the pocket more than expected, and this offseason, he had sports hernia surgery that limited his participation in spring ball. He's in line to be healthy for the fall, and with a similar season to 2015 from him, Iowa should again be in the mix for the Big Ten title and College Football Playoff.
4. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Height, weight: 6'5", 235 lbs
2015 stats: 3,770 passing yards, 62.3% comp., 21 TD, nine INT
Oklahoma State had the luxury of two strong quarterbacks in 2015 in Mason Rudolph and senior J.W. Walsh. To maximize their talents, coach Mike Gundy employed an effective rotation that called for Rudolph to do most of the heavy lifting but then defer to Walsh near the goal line.
Walsh's mobility made this work, as he ran for 13 red-zone touchdowns, but it was Rudolph's work getting into scoring position that deserves just as much praise. And with Walsh moving on, Rudolph now gets to show off his ability to perform all over the field.
Eleven of his 21 TD passes in 2015 were in the red zone, but he also completed 39 passes of at least 25 yards, and 45 percent of his third-down passes led to conversions. A foot injury held him out of most of OK State's regular-season finale and limited him in the Sugar Bowl, but at full strength and in full command of the Cowboys offense this season, he should challenge Brandon Weeden's school record of 4,727 yards in 2012.
3. Luke Falk, Washington State
Height, weight: 6'4", 214 lbs
2015 stats: 4,561 passing yards, 69.4% comp., 38 TD, eight INT
No one is ever going to accuse Mike Leach of running a pro-style offense, not when his aversion to running the ball borders on spiteful. But there's no questioning that the Washington State coach gets the most out of his quarterbacks' arms, and Luke Falk might be the best one he's had if he can stay healthy.
Falk has averaged nearly 410 yards in the 15 games he's played at least three quarters, starting in 2014, when, as a redshirt freshman, he stepped in for an injured Connor Halliday and threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns against USC. He's topped the 400-yard mark seven times, with three 500-yard games and a career-best 601, and his 38 TDs last year set a school record despite him missing a game-and-a-half because of a head injury.
WSU's offense is built for big numbers, but where Falk makes it his own is with his accuracy. Last year, he completed at least 70 percent of his throws in seven games, in all of which he attempted at least 35 passes.
2. Josh Rosen, UCLA
Height, weight: 6'4", 210 lbs
2015 stats: 3,669 passing yards, 60.0% comp., 23 TD, 11 INT
Super-early 2018 NFL mock drafts have Josh Rosen pegged as the No. 1 pick once he's eligible to turn pro—the product of a tremendous freshman year in which he often played like a seasoned veteran. He also had the expected bouts of first-year mistakes, which is what kept him from being at the top of our pro-style list.
Rosen unleashed a debut for the ages when he was 28-of-35 for 350 yards against Virginia, the first of six 300-yard games in 2015. He benefited from an experienced receiving corps, which won't be the case this season, but Rosen's throws were often to places that only his target could get to.
Being able to eliminate the interceptions—he threw at least two in four different games, with seven picks in the Bruins' five losses—and upping his overall completion rate is all that's keeping Rosen from being a surefire No. 1 pick in two years.
1. Brad Kaaya, Miami (Florida)
Height, weight: 6'4" 210 lbs
2015 stats: 3,238 passing yards, 61.2% comp., 16 TD, five INT
Brad Kaaya arrived at Miami in the summer of 2014 as somewhat of a long shot to play much that first season, let alone become its starter. When picking him over Jake Heaps and Kevin Olsen, then-Hurricanes coach Al Golden called it "a battle that none of us ... could have foresaw at the end of June or beginning of July or maybe even at the beginning of camp," per Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald.
The rest has been history and quite a bit of production from the quarterback position. While the program has been up and down during his tenure, changing coaches along the way, Kaaya has remained a stable and consistent force.
He's started 25 of 26 games in his career, missing one in 2015 while recovering from a concussion, and his 1.29 percent interception rate last season trailed only Paxton Lynch and Dak Prescott among quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts.
New coach Mark Richt inherits college football's top pro-style passer, one that's in the mold of some of the strong quarterbacks he had while at Georgia. With back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons, Kaaya is in line to be Miami's career passing leader with another strong year.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.