Pac-12 QB reset: Jayden Daniels, Caleb Williams headline likely 2022 starters

Feb 14, 2022, 7:30 AM | Updated: Feb 15, 2022, 9:37 am

Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels walks off the field after the team's 35-30 win over Washin...

Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels walks off the field after the team's 35-30 win over Washington in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

New faces in new places. The transfer portal is stealing the headlines for most of college football, particularly with the quarterback position.

In the Pac-12, the signal caller outlook is appealing again, as the conference has historically delivered plenty of professional-caliber players to the NFL.

Here’s a look at every team’s quarterback room heading into spring before the 2022 college football season, broken into tiers of jobs that look locked up to the most uncertain competitions:

Definite starters

Arizona State Sun Devils

Jayden Daniels / Paul Tyson / Trenton Bourguet

The recent departures from Arizona State’s coaching staff left a lot more questions than answers as to what the Sun Devils will look like in 2022.

One thing is clear heading into Herm Edwards’ fourth season as head coach: Jayden Daniels is the starting quarterback.

Through three seasons, he has accumulated 6,024 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, 1,288 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.

However, 2021 was a letdown for Daniels and Sun Devil fans. Entering the year as a potential Heisman candidate, Daniels regressed, throwing 10 interceptions over 13 games after tossing just three in his previous 16 games.

Next season will not be easier for Daniels either. Offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas, hired following Zak Hill’s resignation, will be the third OC Daniels will play under in four seasons.

If his play continues to regress, there is a slim possibility of new faces taking over for the Sun Devils. Alabama transfer Paul Tyson is looking for an opportunity to play after sitting behind the likes of Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones and Bryce Young.

There is also Trenton Bourguet, Daniels’ backup over the past three seasons, who will look to fend off Tyson and hold onto his position.

Entering 2022, the expectations are seemingly low for the Sun Devils. Daniels’ performance in his senior season could keep ASU in Pac-12 title talks or send them tumbling down into the basement.

USC Trojans

Caleb Williams / Miller Moss

(Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP, File)

Potentially the best quarterback in all of college football, Williams will contend for the Heisman Trophy this season in a Trojan uniform. Williams threw for 1,912 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions, making eight starts in 2021 for the Oklahoma Sooners.

Following his head coach to Southern California, Williams should continue the Lincoln Riley legacy of quarterbacks and possibly place USC back into national championship conversations.

Since Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart transferred out of USC following last season, the only player left on the roster with experience in 2021 is Miller Moss. He played one game against California, throwing eight completions on 13 attempts for 74 yards and a touchdown. He will be the backup for Williams heading forward.

UCLA Bruins

Dorian Thompson-Robinson / Ethan Garbers

After the 2021 season, UCLA knew Dorian Thompson-Robinson would hold onto the position heading into next season.

The featured arm for the Bruins since 2018, Thompson-Robinson will look to continue the gradual improvement of the program and contend for a Pac-12 title. Last season, Thompson-Robinson threw for 2,409 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions while rushing for 609 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

Ethan Garbers, brother to Cal’s 2021 starter Chase Garbers, was DTR’s backup last season and is likely to remain as such in 2022. He had one start for the Bruins in 2021 against Utah, completing 27 of 44 passes for 265 yards, two touchdowns with an interception in the 44-24 loss.

Pending any significant injury to him, Thompson-Robinson is finishing his collegiate career as the starting quarterback for UCLA.

Utah – Cameron Rising / Bryson Barnes 

Cameron Rising took over for the Utes in the third game of the season and from then on became the starter. He finished the season with 2,493 yards passing, 499 rushing yards, 26 total touchdowns and five interceptions.

Utah made it to the Rose Bowl, facing off against Ohio State. Rising kept the Utes in the game in the fourth quarter but suffered a head injury that allowed freshman Bryson Barnes to take over.

Barnes only threw two passes the whole season, both against Ohio State. One of those passes was a signature moment for him.

Down by seven, Barnes completed a perfectly lobbed pass into the back of the end zone to Dalton Kincaid for a game-tying touchdown with 1:54 left in the game.

Ohio State ended up winning the game 48-45, but the clutch throw from Barnes might hint at his chances at starting for the Utes within the next few seasons.

Not locked-in, but one favorite above the others

Arizona Wildcats

Jayden de Laura / Jordan McCloud / Will Plummer / Gunner Cruz

(AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Throughout the 2021 season, Arizona searched for its identity under first-year head coach Jedd Fisch. That included the use of three quarterbacks with Will Plummer receiving the most starting time following injuries to Jordan McCloud and Gunner Cruz.

After one win in 12 games, Fisch needed a new player to continue building the winning culture he wants to establish in the years to come.

Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Jayden de Laura was the answer. He enjoyed success with the Washington State Cougars last season, completing 63.2% of his passes for 2,798 yards and 23 touchdowns to nine interceptions. On Jan. 10, he announced his transfer to Tucson.

Out of the four quarterbacks, de Laura impressed the most in 2021. The starting job is his to lose, with McCloud’s brief time as starter putting him second if he can recover from season-ending injuries.

California Golden Bears

Jack Plummer / Zach Johnson / Kai Millner

After Chase Garber’s departure, California has to find a new answer at quarterback. Jack Plummer, brother of Will, transferred from Purdue and is the easy decision for the Golden Bears.

An ankle injury forced Plummer out of playing in 2019. In 2021, he was benched in favor of Aidan O’Connell. Plummer threw seven touchdowns and no interceptions in four starts last season for the Boilermakers.

While Plummer is likely to win the job, head coach Justin Wilcox has made it clear the position is not his just yet.

Zach Johnson, a redshirt sophomore, was named the backup to Garbers in 2021 and never saw playing time. Kai Millner’s name is also in the competition. From Higley High School, Millner was among the top recruits in Arizona and will have the opportunity to move up on the depth chart during spring ball.

Plummer is the favorite for the position due to his experience with Purdue.

Colorado Buffaloes

Brendon Lewis / Drew Carter / J.T. Shrout

The Buffaloes took a step back in 2021 after making an appearance in the Valero Alamo Bowl in 2020 against Texas. Having a freshman as the quarterback is one reason.

Brendon Lewis started all 12 games and finished the season with a 4-8 record, 1,540 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. While head coach Karl Dorrell believes Lewis will grow and improve in Year 2, there are other young quarterbacks who are vying for an opportunity.

Fellow freshman Drew Carter served as Lewis’ backup in 2021, throwing five completions on 12 attempts for 35 yards in three games. Sophomore J.T. Shrout is also in the mix to back up Lewis but has seen no playing time during his career at Colorado.

Lewis’ experience last season is likely to be the determining factor of the starting position heading into 2022.

Oregon State Beavers

Chance Nolan / Tristan Gebbia / Ben Gulbranson

Oregon State’s 2021 was one of the best the school has seen in recent memory, capped off with the Beavers’ first bowl game since 2013. Utah State defeated the Beavers 24-13 in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.

The optimism from last season is carried over thanks to quarterback Chance Nolan. In Year 2, Nolan earned the starting job full-time and flourished with it, throwing for 2,677 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season.

If Nolan continues to improve, the Beavers could sneak into the conversation for the Pac-12 North title.

However, Oregon State has two quarterback who missed the entire 2021 season due to injury. They could give Nolan a run for his money.

Tristan Gebbia threw for 824 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in four games during 2020. Ben Gulbranson also played in 2020, making one appearance against Arizona State, completing six of nine passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Nolan is the favorite to be the starter heading into next season due to his success last year but will have to continue playing at a high level in the coming months.

Stanford Cardinal

Tanner McKee / Ari Patu

Stanford’s 2021 football season began with a decent start, winning three of five games, including an upset over No. 3 Oregon in overtime. After the win over the Ducks, the Cardinal recorded seven consecutive losses to end the season.

Tanner McKee was the starter for a majority of the season, throwing 2,327 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Entering his junior season, McKee should be the favorite for head coach David Shaw and Stanford.

Ari Patu is the only player on the roster with playing time last year. As a freshman, he saw one start against Oregon State where he completed 7 of 14 passes for 51 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Patu will most likely spend Year 2 behind McKee again.

Too close to determine

Oregon Ducks

Bo Nix / Ty Thompson

(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Oregon enters the 2022 season with a new starting quarterback for the fourth consecutive season. The Ducks will also have a new head coach in Dan Lanning, who is the former Georgia defensive coordinator.

Lanning’s first starting quarterback in his time at Eugene could also come from the SEC in Auburn transfer Bo Nix.

Nix was the featured quarterback at Auburn for three seasons, and he even beat the Ducks 27-21 in his first collegiate game in 2019. In three seasons, Nix threw for 7,251 yards, 39 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He added 18 touchdowns on the ground. Nix reunites with offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who was Auburn’s OC in 2019.

While the previous connection will likely help Nix get the starting job, there is still a talented quarterback behind him to beat out for the job.

Ty Thompson is the backup as of now but can earn the starting position if he impresses his new coaches. A former Mesquite Wildcat and top recruit of Arizona’s 2021 high school class, Thompson is already on the radar for NFL teams and played a majority of backup snaps for Anthony Brown Jr. in 2021, throwing for 87 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

This is the most anticipated quarterback competition in the conference and could produce one of the top signal callers in all of the Pac-12.

Washington Huskies

Michael Penix Jr. / Dylan Morris / Sam Huard

The Washington quarterback situation in 2021 was similar to Colorado; trusting a young quarterback with starting duties. Dylan Morris and the Huskies had expectations to compete for the Pac-12 title but ended up falling flat with a 4-8 record.

Morris started 11 of the 12 games, missing the final start against Washington State. Sam Huard took the field for Washington in the Apple Cup game and threw four interceptions in the 40-13 loss.

After firing Jimmy Lake midseason in 2021 and finishing 0-3 with interim head coach Bob Gregory, the Huskies made the decision to hire Kalen DeBoer.

DeBoer comes in off two seasons as head coach at Fresno State. But before arriving at Fresno State, he was the offensive coordinator at Indiana.

At Indiana, he coached Michael Penix Jr., who transferred to Washington in December. Penix Jr. is coming off a rough 2021 season, completing a career low 53.7% of his passes and throwing for four touchdowns and seven interceptions in five starts. He missed the second half of the season with an ACL injury.

While Penix Jr. is the most experienced QB at Washington, his spot as the starter is not guaranteed. If he can recover from his injury, he should be the leader of Washington. If he is still recovering, Morris and Huard are the two that will compete again for the top spot.

Washington State Cougars

Victor Galabis / Cameron Ward

Losing Jayden de Laura to the transfer portal left a significant hole at the position. The Cougars had a sneak peek in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in what Victor Galabis can produce.

In his lone start of the season, Galabis threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns, coming up just short of a 21-point comeback.

With 2022 being the first full season for head coach Jake Dickert, filling the hole de Laura left is a difficult challenge. However, an FCS transfer might make it easier than it seems.

Cameron Ward comes off a career season where he threw for 4,648 yards, 47 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 13 games with the Incarnate Word Cardinals. He announced his transfer to Washington State in early January.

Ward still has to compete for the job, but if he continues to perform the way he did at the FCS level, he will be the next starting quarterback for the Cougars.

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