Hello, and welcome to another edition of Quarterback Corner, supplied courtesy of the Devy Nerds! If you’ve followed our journey thus far, we’ve profiled the very best passers in the ACC, AAC, and FBS Independents. This week Quarterback Corner visits the Big 12. Though most of the programs in the Big 12 are located in what would be considered “southern” states from a geographical perspective, the connotation this conference gives me has a lot of overlap with Wild, Wild West imagery. In this conference — where defense is optional — it’s not strange to see scores that add up to the triple digits (ask Texas Tech). In the Big 12, the Spread is the only offense, and 300+ passing yards is a commonplace threshold for quarterbacks. Suffice to say; I couldn’t be more excited to cover this conference, especially through the lens of the signal-callers who populate it.
Starting QB: Spencer Rattler (Fr.)
NFL Draft Stock: Late First Round (2022)
A former blue-chip recruit, expectations were astronomically high for Rattler heading into his first season as the Sooners starting QB. Given the success of Oklahoma’s three previous starting quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, & Jalen Hurts), all of whom were drafted within the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, it’s easy to understand the excitement surrounding Rattler. The redshirt freshman managed to exceed those lofty expectations in his first start of the season. Rattler completed 82.4% of his passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns in a shutout victory over Missouri State. His enthusiasts were quick to overreact to this performance, crowning him as the Heisman front runner following his expected demolition of an FBS opponent.
Though it was expected that Rattler would come crashing back down to Earth in his first start against a division rival, few could have expected just how drastic of a fall it was. The Sooners lost to unranked Kansas State 38-35 in their second game of the season, mostly due to Rattler’s three interceptions. While Rattler did complete 73.2% of his passes for 387 yards and four more touchdowns, his trio of turnovers undercut an otherwise dominant performance.
Rattler once again came up short against Iowa State. The redshirt freshman was responsible for a pair of costly turnovers late in the game, essentially sealing the Cyclones upset victory. Though Rattler’s stat line of 300 passing yards and 3 total touchdowns on a 69.4% completion rate was solid, his inability to close games is concerning. With the Sooners now out of contention for the College Football Playoff, Rattler’s Heisman campaign may already be dead.
At 6’0, 200 lbs, Rattler is slightly undersized by NFL scout measures. However, we’ve seen similar-sized passers (Mayfield, Murray) develop into No. 1 overall picks working within Lincoln Riley’s offense. Rattler is not the athlete that Murray was, though he may be more mobile than Mayfield. He’s got decent arm strength and excellent accuracy for a young quarterback, and he should only improve upon both with time. While I question some of Rattler’s decisions with the ball, I also need to remind myself that he has only started three games thus far in his career. Perhaps we need to adjust our expectations for Rattler this season. As talented as he is, he’s not even close to being a finished product. That being said, he’s a first-round talent who finds himself in a situation that has proven to be incredibly constructive to the development of young quarterbacks. Don’t panic yet.
Starting QB: Sam Ehlinger (Sr.)
NFL Draft Stock: 3rd Round (2021)
Say what you will about Ehlinger, but he was in the midst of a tremendous senior season for the Longhorns. Before this week’s game, that is. The Longhorns scored 50+ points in each of their first two games this season, while Ehlinger accounted for at least five touchdowns and 300 total yards in each contest. Love him or hate him, Ehlinger has been impressive this season, albeit against Texas Tech’s shotty defense (gashed by Houston Baptist a week earlier) and UTEP.
Though Ehlinger fell flat in Texas’s upset loss to TCU, throwing four picks and completing only 45% of his passes. Sure the Horned Frogs have one of the best secondaries in the nation, but Ehlinger did them a few favors in this game. For years we’ve seen Ehlinger self-destruct in games like this, with the hope that he would someday put it together. Unfortunately, Ehlinger is who he is. While he’s capable of playing like a first-team All-American on his best days, his worst days are genuinely awful.
Ehlinger’s size (6’3, 235 lbs) and arm strength give him the look of a future NFL QB. However, his spotty accuracy and questionable decision-making have kept him from ascending further than “toolsy” development QB status, among draftniks. It’s tough to see Ehlinger ascending beyond a middle-round prospect at this point, though he’s a nice guy to have in C2C lineups.
Iowa State Cyclones
Starting QB: Brock Purdy (Jr.)
NFL Draft Stock: 5th Round (2021)
Purdy has hurt his draft stock more than any quarterback in the nation with his performance thus far. Many had pegged Purdy as a first-round pick, yet the junior has looked completely out of sorts for the Cyclones this season. In his first start of the year, Purdy and the Cyclones offense were completely stymied by Louisiana’s defense. Purdy followed up a putrid performance against the Ragin’ Cajuns with another stinker against TCU, during which he made this horrendous decision.
Expectations were much higher for Purdy heading into this season, as he was coming off an incredibly impressive sophomore campaign that saw him complete 66.3% of his passes for 3,760 yards and 35 total touchdowns. Two games into the 2020 season, Purdy had only accounted for 356 yards and one touchdown while completing just 58.6% of his passes.
In the Cyclones third game of the season, they upset No. 18 Oklahoma, though Purdy once again played a mediocre game. He completed only 50% of his passes for 254 yards and a touchdown, adding another score with his legs. Purdy played turnover-free football and led the Cyclones run-heavy attack to victory. At this point, it appears as though Purdy is more of a game manager who’s best suited for a backup role than a legitimate NFL starter.
At 6’1, 210 lbs, Purdy is rather petite for an NFL starter, though he showed a lot of grit and poise last season, which drew him comparisons to Baker Mayfield. Though Mayfield managed to overcome his size to earn the respect of NFL scouts, he did so by setting numerous passing records for an all-time great offense. Purdy is not nearly as accurate as Mayfield was in college. We’ve also observed as Mayfield struggled mightily at times during his NFL career. I’m selling any stock I have in him as a devy prospect.
Starting QB: Charlie Brewer (Sr.)
NFL Draft Stock: Seventh Round (2021)
Brewer is one of the tougher players in college football. He’s overcome numerous injuries to remain the starter for Baylor, running the offense to near perfection when he’s rolling. Brewer’s performance in 2019 was the key to the Bears run to make the CFB Playoff, a push that fell just short following a now-infamous blown lead against Oklahoma. In Brewer’s defense, he was out for that game. Had Brewer been active for this game, who knows what the result would have been.
Though it wasn’t what you would call a dominant performance, Brewer looked solid in his first start of the season, a 47-14 victory over Kansas. The senior completed 65.2% of his passes for 142 yards and a touchdown, running the offense intelligently. This performance was nothing spectacular, but that’s pretty much the best thing about Brewer. He gets the job done and rarely turns the ball over.
In some ways, Brewer’s performance in Baylor’s loss to West Virginia was better than his first outing of the season. Though his completion rate fell to 60% and he threw a pair of interceptions, Brewer showcased his playmaking ability by throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns. While the Bears lost this game in double overtime, Brewer kept the team in the game with his performance, accounting for all of their scores and most of their total yardage.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Brewer will be a backup QB in the NFL next season. Don’t be shocked if Matt Rhule (his former coach) and the Panthers bring him on board to backup Teddy Bridgewater. You’ll never confuse Brewer for Josh Allen, as he’s on the smaller end of the quarterback spectrum and lacks top-end arm strength. However, Brewer has some intangibles that lead me to believe that he will be a solid NFL player.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Starting QB: Spencer Sanders (Jr.), Shane Illingworth (Fr.)
NFL Draft Stock: Undrafted (Sanders), Undrafted (Illingworth)
Sanders is a terrific athlete by all measures, and he could be a special player if the Cowboys coaching staff can continue to tutor him to be a better passer. There were a lot of good things from Sanders’ first season as Oklahoma State’s starter. He averaged 269.3 total yards-per-game while accounting for 18 touchdowns, completing 62.8% of his passes along the way. Sanders had two games where he rushed for over 100 yards, averaging 4.6 yards-per-carry. The trouble comes with the interception issues, as Sanders averaged more than one pick per game.
Unless Sanders becomes a more precise passer and decision-maker, it’s hard to imagine him becoming an NFL level QB. At 6’1, 205 lbs, he’s not quite the size teams like in a developmental QB. Though he’s a superb athlete, Sanders is not quite in the Lamar Jackson category of dual-threat quarterbacks, and the difference shows up on film.
Illingworth has started the Cowboys’ last two games, both victories. The true freshman has looked solid, completing 73.5% of his passes for 483 yards and three touchdowns. At 6’5, 220 lbs, Illingworth is a typical pocket passer who perfectly fits into Oklahoma State’s offense. It’s possible that he could hold off Sanders and remain the starter. Illingworth has a strong arm and can put some nice touch on his passes. He’s got a great deal of potential, particularly working in a Mike Gundy offense.
Kansas State Wildcats
Starting QB: Skylar Thompson (Sr.)
NFL Draft Stock: Undrafted
Thompson has been a steady presence as the starter for the Wildcats these past few seasons. The Senior has led the team to a victory over Big 12 juggernaut Oklahoma two years in a row, demonstrating some impressive big game chops. Thompson is rarely asked to do too much for Kansas State’s offense, as the Wildcats tend to lean heavily on the run game. He left the Wildcats’ victory over Texas Tech after suffering an arm injury. It’s unclear how long he will be out.
With a career completion rate hovering around 60% and a very modest skill set, it’s hard to be very excited about Thompson as a devy prospect. He’s a practice squad player at best, and even that may be a high bar to set.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Starting QB: Alan Bowman (So.)
NFL Draft Stock: 5th Round (2023)
As a Mike Leach superfan, I’ve always been partial to Texas Tech quarterbacks. As a freshman, Bowman really impressed me, completing nearly 70% of his passes while throwing 17 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. Bowman’s breakout performance coincided with the breakout of former Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes, who’s backyard football style of play transformed the NFL. Unfortunately, Bowman’s follow-up was marred by a shoulder injury, though he managed to salvage this lost season by redshirting.
Many folks in the devy community had high hopes for Bowman this season, as the Red Raiders’ passing attack seems to bring out the very best in every QB that suits up for them. Through his first two starts this season, Bowman has been rather impressive, throwing for 300+ yards in each game. Other than the fact that he’s already thrown four interceptions, there’s been mostly positive takeaways from Bowman’s game tape. He squares up well for most of his throws and appears to have an excellent understanding of Texas Tech’s offense. Bowman nearly led the Red Raiders to an upset victory over No. 8 Texas, demonstrating a ton of poise by keeping his offense rolling. Bowman left Texas Tech’s loss to Kansas State with a leg injury. It’s unclear when he will return to the lineup.
At 6’3, 215 lbs, Bowman has the size and arm strength to get drafted by an NFL team. If Bowman continues to put up numbers in this prolific passing offense, don’t be surprised if he declares early. Though some will question his durability, Bowman is a highly skilled passer who plays well in big games.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Starting QB: Jarret Doege (Jr.)
NFL Draft Stock: Undrafted
A transfer from Bowling Green, Doege beat out former Oklahoma commit Austin Kendall for the starting role. He’s been efficient and effective running the Mountaineers offense this season, having completed 66.3% of his passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns. He’s played well against the Big 12 so far, helping lead the Mountaineers to a victory in double OT over Baylor this week.
It’s a bit early to speculate on Doege’s upside; however I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him. Doege has a solid arm, can throw the ball with decent accuracy, and seems to have solid instincts. At 6’2, 210 lbs, Doege has enough size for an NFL team to take a chance on him as a backup. Though it’s hard to see him becoming anything more than an extra arm on the practice squad, stranger things have happened.
TCU Horned Frogs
Starting QB: Max Duggan (So.)
NFL Draft Stock: Undrafted
Duggan’s performance as the starting quarterback for the Horned Frogs in 2019 was largely used to excuse Jalen Reagor’s regression in the pre-draft process. It’s never a good sign when a QB’s poor performance is dragged to promote his top receiver’s upside. Duggan had more lows than highs as a true freshman, completing only 53.4% of his passes for 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Duggan’s passing numbers beyond the sticks were putrid, as he completed only 41.7% of his intermediate throws and 35% of his throws of 20+ yards. There were some positive takeaways from Duggan’s first year on campus, as he began the season on a six-game streak with no interceptions. Unfortunately for Duggan, he threw 10 picks against only 6 touchdowns in his final six starts. Things only got worse in the offseason, when Duggan underwent heart surgery to treat a condition found during COVID testing.
Many expected the former Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year to miss this season to recover from his surgery. Instead, Duggan made a strong debut in TCU’s first game of the season. He entered the game to relieve Matthew Downing, completing 84.2% of his passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Though the Horned Frogs lost the game, Duggan was incredibly impressive, having turned in easily his college career’s best performance.
Duggan followed up his strong performance in TCU’s season-opener with another great performance against Texas. The Horned Frogs earned the upset win thanks mostly to Duggan’s effort. The sophomore completed 70.37% of his passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns, rushing for 72 yards and another touchdown. He looked much improved, demonstrating decisiveness in the pocket while looking dynamic on option plays.
If he can continue to demonstrate improved accuracy and decision making, Duggan could become a draftable passer. However, until we see these quality performances on a week-to-week basis, I’m hesitant to invest in Duggan as an asset for devy leagues.
Starting QB: Jalon Daniels (Fr.)
NFL Draft Stock: Undrafted (Daniels)
The Jayhawks are not a great football team. I feel bad for any QB that suits up for them. For a moment, their starting quarterback appeared to be Daniels, a true freshman. Daniels looked alright in his first start of the season, a 47-14 loss to Baylor. He completed 57.6% of his passes for 159 touchdowns and ended the game with no turnovers. Daniels was hurt and replaced by Miles Kendrick against Oklahoma State.
Kansas is clearly a few tiers below the second-worst team in their own conference, and it’s unlikely that Daniels will ever get the chance to be anything more than a tackling dummy for Big 12 pass rushers. I imagine that we will be seeing Daniels’ film on draft day, albeit as the victim of some brutal hit by some middle-round pick linebacker from West Virginia. Apologies to Thor Nystrom, but these Jayhawks are a mess and Daniels is screwed.