The second installment of our 2019 quarterback comfort quotient isn’t markedly different than the initial version.
There were no significant injuries through the spring; nor have there been any transfers (in or out conference) in the past few months that altered the outlook for any particular team.
For those unfamiliar (or formerly familiar) with the quarterback comfort quotient (QBQC), a quick explanation of what it is not:
It’s not a ranking of the talent and long-term potential of the presumptive starting quarterbacks.
Rather, it’s an assessment of the overall capability of each team’s personnel at this point in the offseason cycle.
Ideally, the depth chart would feature both an elite starter and a backup who has proven himself capable of limiting the downside if the starter were lost for an extended period.
That’s rarely the case, however, so we’re left to use a highly subjective sliding scale — a scale that calculates what we know of the starter and what we project from the backup.
We’ll take another swing at the QBCQ at the close of training camp.
12. Arizona State
Projected starter: Dillon Sterling-Cole
Key backup: Jayden Daniels and Joey Yellen
Don’t forget about: Ethan Long
Pre-spring ranking: 12
Why the Sun Devils are No. 12: Because the Sun Devils are the only team with an unproven starter and rookie reserves. Sterling-Cole takes on a vastly larger role after three years as a backup; the other quarterbacks are all freshmen. Daniels is a major talent and could well end up starting in 2019, but as we saw last year with Thompson-Robinson and Daniels (USC’s Daniels), true freshmen are bound to have inconsistent seasons.
11. Oregon State
Projected starter: Jake Luton
Key backups: Jack Colletto and Tristia Gebbia
Don’t forget about: Adian Willard
Pre-spring ranking: 11
Why the Beavers are No. 11: Colletto is capable of spot-duty success, with his junior college career and eight games played for OSU last season. And Luton has more than enough arm talent to rank higher on this list … except for the health issue. We’re not convinced the sixth-year, 6-foot-7 senior will be available every week. Nor are we confident that Colletto can be effective on a long-term basis. Gebbia, the Nebraska transfer, might be the future but has no experience.
Projected starter: Dorian Thompson-Robinson
Key backup: Austin Burton
Don’t forget about: Chase Griffin
Pre-spring ranking: 9
Why the Bruins are No. 10: Thompson-Robinson could be one of the top quarterbacks in the conference by the start of the 2020 season, if not the end of ’19. But until proven otherwise, the true sophomore is solidly on the conference’s second tier. Then add the lack of experience behind Thompson-Robinson — Burton hasn’t played in his two years with the program, and Griffin is a newcomer — and the Bruins are wobbly on both ends of the QBCQ equation.
Projected starter: Chase Garbers
Key backup: Devon Modster
Don’t forget about: Jack Newman
Pre-spring ranking: 10
Why the Bears are No. 9: If you watched them play last season, the explanation should be obvious. Garbers opened the season as a reserve, became the starter, completed just 61 percent of his passes and had almost as many INTs as TDs. He should be more efficient in ’19, but to what extent? We’re presuming Garbers wins the starting job, but Modster, the former UCLA backup with 79 career passes, will have a chance to impress in training camp.
Projected starter: JT Daniels
Key backup: Jack Sears
Don’t forget about: Kedon Slovis
Pre-spring ranking: 8
Why the Trojans are No. 8: Daniels would be set for a breakout season were he returning to the same playbook, but the transition to the Air Raid stumped him repeatedly during the spring and we’re of the wait-and-see mindset with Daniels in the fall. Sears has thrown 28 career passes, all from his single start against Arizona State. Relative to other backups across the conference, that counts as solid experience. Slovis, while a bright talent, was in high school a few months ago.
Projected starter: Steven Montez
Key backup: Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle
Don’t forget about: Blake Stenstrom
Pre-spring ranking: 5
Why the Buffs are No. 7: Montez was erratic in the scrimmage but solid for much of the spring, and he enters training camp as the clear favorite. Few quarterbacks in the conference can match his experience and arm strength … or his confounding swings in performance. Lytle and Noyer have limited experience, which leaves the Buffs with not quite enough at either the starter or backup sports to warrant a higher placement. Then again, Laviska Shenault can mask mistakes like few others.
6. Washington State
Projected starter: Anthony Gordon
Key backup: Gabe Gubrud and Trey Tinsley
Don’t forget about: Cam Cooper
Pre-spring ranking: 7
Why the Cougars are No. 6: Gordon was impressive in the spring scrimmage — very, very impressive — and the Hotline needs proof Gubrud’s the better player before projecting him as the No. 1. In fact, it’s safe to conclude that Gardner Minshew’s success is responsible for many concluding that Gubrud, a transfer from Eastern Washington, will win the job. Either way, the Cougars will have a solid backup plan and loads of options at the other end of the passes from either quarterback.
Projected starter: Jacob Eason
Key backup: Jake Haener
Don’t forget about: Jacob Sirmon and Dylan Morris
Pre-spring ranking: 6
Why the Huskies are No. 5: Eason is a massive talent, but the Hotline has been skeptical of his ability to play at a high level immediately — mostly because of his two-year layoff during and after his Georgia tenure — and the Huskies’ spring game sure didn’t erase our doubts. In fact, we’d be only mildly surprised if Haener starts the opener. Over the longer haul, however, the Huskies are in terrific shape. Eason won’t have much time to find his rhythm with Cal’s defense looming in Week Two.
Projected starter: K.J. Costello
Key backup: Davis Mills
Don’t forget about: Jack Richardson
Pre-spring ranking: 4
Why the Cardinal is No. 4: Costello could very well emerge as the top quarterback in the conference. He has the experience and physical tools and supreme comfort with the playbook — but not the proven playmakers around him that existed last season. The rust could be significant for Mills, who has played in one game since high school (2016) and has suffered multiple knee injuries. He’s a major talent but also a major unknown. Richardson provides a quality third option.
Projected starter: Khalil Tate
Key backup: Rhett Rodriguez
Don’t forget about: Grant Gunnell, Kevin Doyle and Jamarye Joiner
Pre-spring ranking: 3
Why the Wildcats are No. 3: We’re expecting a substantial improvement in Tate’s efficiency, partly due to increased comfort with the Sumlin/Mazzone system, partly to a healthy ankle and partly to general maturity that comes with being a senior. At his best, he’s a playmaker nonpareil, but the smart money is on Tate again spending most of his time in the pocket. Rodriguez has thrown 80-something passes and would give the Wildcats a chance to win in short-term situations.
Projected starter: Tyler Huntley
Key backup: Jason Shelley
Don’t forget about: Cameron Rising and Drew Lisk
Pre-spring ranking: 1
Why the Utes are No. 2: Huntley should be one of the top four or five quarterbacks in the conference given his package of skills and experience. And if he gets injured — it wouldn’t be the first time — the Utes have a replacement who has won big games: Shelley threw for more than 200 yards in November wins over Oregon and Colorado. Rising, the Texas transfer, is awaiting word from the NCAA on his waiver for immediate eligibility. Hard to imagine he beats out Shelley, however.
Projected starter: Justin Herbert
Key backup: Tyler Shough
Don’t forget about: Cale Millen
Pre-spring ranking: 2
Why the Ducks are No. 1: Herbert is the top talent in the conference, a nearly ideal blend of arm strength, touch, accuracy, elusiveness and experience (fourth year starting.) He can place the ball in small windows a long way from the line of scrimmage and create something from nothing. Shough, although a redshirt freshman, is one of the most physically gifted backups in the conference. And if pressed into action, he would have a first-class line to help ease the transition.