Big College Football Programs with the Toughest QB Decisions Entering 2024
Morgan MoriartyJanuary 31, 2024

Big College Football Programs with the Toughest QB Decisions Entering 2024

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 27: USC Trojans quarterback Miller Moss (7) looks to throw the ball during the Directv Holiday Bowl football game between the Louisville Cardinals and the USC Trojans on December 27, 2023, at Petco Park in San Diego, CA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The 2024 college football season may still be months out, but teams are preparing their rosters. As we gear up for next season, a number of programs will have to make tough decisions when it comes to who is the starter at quarterback.

    Some teams have to replace tenured starters, and others have talented transfers incoming. Other programs have talented true freshmen incoming to choose from, as well.

    We’re still a ways out from fall camp quarterback battles, but several big programs will have to pick between some talented guys.

    Let’s run through the college football programs that will have some of the toughest quarterback decisions to make for the 2024 season.

Oregon Ducks

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     Head coach Dan Lanning of the Oregon Ducks

    Head coach Dan Lanning of the Oregon DucksChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    As Oregon replaces two-year starter Bo Nix in 2024, head coach Dan Lanning has a couple of talented options to choose from.

    The first is Oklahoma transfer Dillon Gabriel, who is coming off the most productive season of his career in 2023. He finished with 3,660 yards passing and 30 touchdowns with six interceptions, adding a career-high 373 yards and 12 scores on the ground. He spent his first three seasons at UCF.

    Gabriel obviously has a ton of experience, but he’s not the only option Lanning has to choose from. Also in the mix for the starting job is UCLA transfer Dante Moore, the No. 3 overall quarterback prospect from the class of 2023. Moore was actually previously committed to the Ducks before flipping to the Bruins last February. Moore threw for 1,610 yards passing with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in nine games while dealing with some injuries last season.

    “Competition is the secret and those are guys that want to come compete, want to be the best version of themselves and they know they can come do it here,” Lanning said of both quarterbacks on an ESPN appearance earlier this month. “They see what I see in this place. And we want to get great players.

    “One thing we tell our players when they come, like the minute you get here we’re going to go try to bring better and continue to bring better and that’s how you get the best out of yourselves. We want competitors. Those guys are both great competitors, great quarterbacks and we’re going to have a bunch of them on this team that can make us great.”

    Whoever wins the starting job should be in for a big season in Eugene. At receiver, Tez Johnson is returning, and the Ducks are getting Texas A&M transfer Evan Stewart.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Head coach Ryan Day of the Ohio State Buckeyes

    Head coach Ryan Day of the Ohio State BuckeyesSam Hodde/Getty Images

    Sometimes too many options isn’t as much of a luxury as previously thought. As head coach Ryan Day prepares for Ohio State’s 2024 season, the Buckeyes have a plethora of quarterbacks to choose from. Thanks to 2023’s starter Kyle McCord transferring to Syracuse, OSU’s 2024 quarterback battle is wide open.

    From the transfer portal, the Buckeyes landed Kansas State transfer Will Howard last December. The four-year Wildcat quarterback threw for 2,643 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season and rushed for 351 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns.

    “Will Howard was planning on going to the NFL and reached out to Jim Nagy about getting an invite to the Senior Bowl,” 247Sports’ Dan Rubin said. “The Senior Bowl is very selective with their quarterbacks. Nagy built out the roster for the Senior Bowl and had a spot for Will Howard. He called him back, and Howard said, ‘Sorry, I just got off the phone with Ryan Day, and I’m going to Ohio State.'”

    But Howard will have to compete against some talented young guns for the starting job. One of the biggest names is Julian Sayin, a 5-star 2024 Alabama signee who transferred to the Buckeyes following Nick Saban’s retirement. The Buckeyes also already had 4-star quarterback signee Air Noland in their 2024 class, as well.

    McCord’s backup, Devin Brown, will also compete for the job, as well as rising sophomore Lincoln Kienholz.

Florida Gators

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    Florida Gators commit DJ Lagway

    Florida Gators commit DJ LagwayJames Gilbert/Getty Images

    Florida is still in rebuilding mode with head coach Billy Napier, who enters year three with back-to-back losing seasons. The Gators may not be on the national radar, but there may be quite the intriguing quarterback battle looming in Gainesville between returning starter Graham Mertz and true freshman DJ Lagway.

    We’ll start with Mertz, who had a breakout season with the Gators after transferring in from Wisconsin last year. He threw for 2,903 yards with 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He led the SEC in completion percentage, too (72.9). His season was cut short after he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury late against Missouri in Week 11.

    Mertz is returning for 2024, and he’ll be joined by Lagway, the No. 1 quarterback prospect from the class of 2024, per 247Sports. As a senior in 2023, he threw for 4,604 yards with 58 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He rushed for 957 yards and 16 touchdowns, too. Earlier this month, he was named the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year for 2023.

    “I think that’s one thing that I knew,” Mertz said of his decision to return and mentor a young quarterback, per 247Sports. “Down the road I’d be able to really mentor the whole team across the board. I’m looking forward to that because I’m the old guy now.”

    Mertz obviously has the edge in the experience department. But Lagway’s raw talent just might be strong enough to make him a serious contender for the starting job, especially if he shows more of a spark under center that Florida desperately needs.

Michigan Wolverines

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    Jadyn Davis of the Michigan Wolverines

    Jadyn Davis of the Michigan WolverinesAaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

    As Michigan starts a new era under head coach Sherrone Moore, the Wolverines will also have to replace quarterback J.J. McCarthy in 2024. Moore will have a few options to choose from in doing so heading into next season.

    Jack Tuttle is seeking a seventh year of eligibility from the NCAA to return in 2024. Tuttle has been on a unique journey throughout his collegiate career, starting at Utah in 2018 and then spending four seasons at Indiana. He played in just 16 games over four years in Bloomington—with just five starts—completing 104 passes for 901 yards and five touchdowns with six interceptions. He transferred to Michigan before the 2023 season. He played in six games for Michigan last year, completing 15 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.

    Jadyn Davis, a 4-star quarterback signee from Michigan’s 2024 class, will also be in the mix for the starting job. Per the 247Sports Composite, Davis is the No. 9 signal caller from 2024.

    Sophomore Alex Orji didn’t attempt a pass in 2023, but he rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown. He’d bring dynamic running ability to the quarterback position.

    Also expected to compete for the starting job is Jayden Denegal, a former 3-star quarterback signee from the Wolverines’ class of 2022. Michigan also has walk-on Davis Warren heading into next season.

    Picking a starting quarterback is one of the biggest tasks Moore will have in front of him as he replaces Jim Harbaugh in 2024.

Washington Huskies

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    Quarterback Will Rogers transferred from Mississippi State to Washington.

    Quarterback Will Rogers transferred from Mississippi State to Washington. Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Replacing head coach Kalen DeBoer and talented signal-caller Michael Penix Jr. is no easy task. But that’s the job that new Huskies head coach Jedd Fisch has heading into 2024.

    From the transfer portal, Washington landed Mississippi State transfer Will Rogers. Rogers had big seasons as a sophomore and junior in Starkville, throwing for a combined 8,713 yards passing with 71 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. But while dealing with injuries in 2023, he played in just eight games and finished with just 1,626 yards passing with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions.

    Rogers actually briefly entered the transfer portal following DeBoer’s departure to Alabama, but ultimately withdrew his name to remain in Seattle for 2024.

    “The team went 14-1 last year,” Rogers told ESPN of his decision to stick with Washington. “If we can pick up where we left off, obviously it’s going to be a tough task, but I think it’s why you come to Washington.

    “It’s obviously a new conference and things like that. But I have a lot of faith in Coach Fisch and feel like he’ll be ready to have us compete at a high level.”

    Rogers will compete for the starting job alongside rising sophomore Austin Mack, a 4-star quarterback signee from the Huskies’ class of 2023.

    The Huskies also have some talented true freshmen incoming under center. Fisch managed to flip 4-star QB Demond Williams from Arizona to Washington’s 2024 class. Washington also has 4-star signal-caller Dermaricus Davis, who has already enrolled at UW.

    Washington’s quarterback battle looks like it could get interesting in the months to come.

LSU Tigers

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    Garrett Nussmeier

    Garrett NussmeierMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    LSU head coach Brian Kelly has to replace Heisman winner Jayden Daniels in 2024. While his options may not have the explosive playmaking ability that Daniels did, he has several talented guys to choose from.

    For starters, Daniels’ backup last season, Garrett Nussmeier, is expected to compete for the job. He played well in LSU’s 35-31 win over Wisconsin in the ReliaQuest Bowl, going 31-for-45 with 395 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

    “I think once he got a good sense of what was going on out there, the speed of the game,” Kelly said of Nussmeier’s comfort level against the Badgers. “You saw him later in the game—he made some really good checks, he changed protections, and it just took some time for him to get there. I knew eventually he would, it was just a matter of we needed to slow him down on defense, and we did, and he was able to get our offense going. The big throws down the field, the 98-yard drive was the big one where that’s what he can do. He can get the ball down the field.”

    Nussmeier appears to be the favorite for the job based on this outing alone, but he isn’t the only one competing for it. LSU added Vanderbilt transfer AJ Swann to the mix. Having dealt with injuries throughout his career, he’s thrown for 2,731 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

    Also expected to compete for the job is Rickie Collins, a 4-star quarterback prospect from the class of 2023. Collins completed two passes last season. LSU also has 4-star 2024 signee Colin Hurley incoming this fall.

Oklahoma Sooners

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    Quarterback Jackson Arnold of the Oklahoma Sooners

    Quarterback Jackson Arnold of the Oklahoma SoonersBrian Bahr/Getty Images

    Oklahoma had a successful season in Brent Venables’ year two, finishing 10-3. But with two-year starter Dillon Gabriel transferring to Oregon, the Sooners will have to reload under center in 2024.

    Gabriel’s backup last season, Jackson Arnold, made his first start in Oklahoma’s bowl game against Arizona last month. His outing was a bit of a mixed bag, as he went 26-of-45 with 361 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Overall, he threw for 563 yards and four touchdowns in 2023.

    But aside from Arnold, Venables has a few other options to choose from.

    Oklahoma also added FAU transfer Casey Thompson to its 2024 class. Thompson, who will be playing his seventh season this year, has made a few stops along his collegiate career, suffering numerous injuries throughout.

    He spent his first four seasons at Texas, where he played in 12 games in 2021, throwing for 2,113 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He suffered a thumb injury that he played with through the end of the season. He transferred to Nebraska prior to the 2022 season and threw for 2,407 yards with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for the Huskers in 10 games, dealing with a shoulder injury throughout.

    Spending last season at Florida Atlantic, Thompson was the Owls’ starter for the first three games before a torn ACL ended his season early.

    Redshirt junior walk-on General Booty will also compete for the job, although he has appeared in just two games over the last two seasons. With quarterback Davis Beville transferring to South Carolina, Oklahoma is expected to have true freshman signee Michael Hawkins and commit Andy Bass compete under center for the job, as well.

USC Trojans

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    USC Trojans quarterback Miller Moss

    USC Trojans quarterback Miller Moss Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    USC may not have as many options to choose from as some of the other schools listed. But Lincoln Riley has a big decision to make, as the Trojans enter 2024 without Caleb Williams.

    Malachi Nelson, the former 5-star USC quarterback from the Trojans’ 2024 class, was a surprise transfer from Los Angeles last month. He has since landed with Boise State. There were also reports that USC would land K-State transfer Will Howard, but as we mentioned, he landed at Ohio State. It looks like the starting job is now a two-man competition between 2023 backup Miller Moss and UNLV transfer Jayden Maiava.

    Moss finished 2023 with 46 completions for 681 yards with seven touchdowns and an interception. In his first start against Louisville in the Holiday Bowl, he finished with 372 yards passing with six touchdowns and an interception.

    “Miller has had a passion for this university and program for a long time, Riley said of Moss after the win. “You’ve seen that in his ability to hang in there, to continue to get better. Part of the reason I think he played well tonight is the consistency that he has brought. He could have bolted off at different times. He has stayed here and he has gotten better. That’s why a night like tonight happened.”

    Riley was fortunate to also land UNLV transfer Jayden Maiava, who previously committed to Georgia, earlier this month. Maiava is coming off a successful redshirt freshman season with the Rebels. He threw for 3,085 yards with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while helping lead the Rebels to the Mountain West Championship Game.

    Barring any additions on national signing day, USC’s 2024 class currently has no other quarterback prospects. USC also has Jake Jensen, Gage Roy and Isaac Ward returning, but none of them saw any playing time last season.

    Deciding who will start at quarterback for the Trojans this season might be the biggest decision Riley has had to make since he’s been at USC.

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