The offseason is a time to get excited about the new faces leading programs, and it usually revolves around the coaching carousel. However, this year, the Pac-12 is in the midst of an unprecedented shuffle at the most visible position on the field, QB. Transfers have always been a part of college football, and many Pac-12 programs have dealt with QB controversy due to transfers in the past, but it has become increasingly prevalent in the era of the Transfer Portal. UW is no different, and after last week’s announcement that Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. won the starting job, let’s look at where our QB situation stands compared to the rest of the conference.
I’ve decided to focus on two factors in QB production for every Pac-12 program, do they have a returning starter, and do they have a returning play caller. Obviously there are tons of other influential factors when it comes to QB production, but in the context of the coaching & QB carousel, these were the two easiest to assess. I’ve tried to take each program’s entire QB situation into account, but I’m not going to act like I know the ins and outs of every program.
* indicates assumed starter
Returning QB & Play Caller
Utah: Cam Rising & Andy Ludwig
Stanford: Tanner McKee & David Shaw
UCLA: Dorian Thompson-Robinson & Chip Kelly/Brian Norwood
Oregon State: Chance Nolan & Brian Lindgren
The headliner of this group is reigning Pac-12 Champion Utah, who finally seems to have identified a QB who can elevate their ground-based offense. After Rising’s elite performances against Oregon and Ohio State to finish last season, as well as the stability of a fourth season under Andy Ludwig, the expectation is that he’s on track to compete for all-conference honors again in 2022. Of course, the irony is that while Utah is a favorite to have the best QB situation in the conference because of their stability, Rising was once a transfer QB from Texas. In this group, DTR at UCLA is the other favorite to have the best QB situation. Despite the departure of DTR’s favorite targets to the NFL, having a multi-year dual-threat starter in Chip Kelly’s option-heavy offense, the foundation is set for a big year from the QB position.
Stanford and Oregon State are perfect examples of why stability at the QB-OC combo is important. While neither program is expected to compete for the conference title, their stability has set a high floor for their offenses (at least relatively speaking). Tanner McKee has the elite talent to develop into an upper tier QB for Stanford, and Nolan arguably has a more QB-friendly supporting cast and system, but even if neither take a big step forward, both offenses are on track to be decent in 2022.
New QB or Play Caller
**indicates new play caller
Arizona: Jayden De Laura* & Brennan Carroll
Cal: Jack Plummer* & Bill Musgrave
Colorado: Brandon Lewis & Mike Sanford**
UW will face a familiar foe when we head down to Tucson. As the most prominent intra-conference QB transfer, 2021 Pac-12 OFOY Jayden De Laura significantly upgrades Arizona’s QB situation. However, it’s yet to be seen how he fits into Brennan Carroll’s offense. A significant factor in De Laura’s immediate success at WSU was his deep understanding of the Run ‘n Shoot offense from high school and then transitioning into Nick Rolovich’s Run ‘n Shoot offense. Transitioning into a Pro Style offense will be the first schematic change for him since middle school, but he’s a proven playmaker with dual-threat abilities that should smoothen the transition. Given how new the Arizona staff is and how poorly they played on offense, it’d behoove Carroll to mold his system around De Laura’s skills.
Cal and Colorado are in a tough QB situation. They don’t have complete stability to lean on at QB or OC, and they also don’t have the offensive system or roster talent to weather QB/OC transitions. Cal brought in transfer Jack Plummer from Purdue to shore up the experience in their QB room after the departure of long-time starting QB Chase Garbers, but he’s been inconsistent through his time with the Boilermakers. Brandon Lewis is the presumptive starter at Colorado, but he’s been similarly inconsistent and wasn’t so effective in his starts last year that he avoided an open competition this fall.
New QB & Play Caller
UW: Michael Penix Jr. & Ryan Grubb
USC: Caleb Williams & Lincoln Riley
Oregon: Bo Nix* & Kenny Dillingham
Washington State: Cam Ward* & Eric Morris
Arizona State: Emory Jones* & Glenn Thomas
This is the toughest group to assess because of all the nuances in the individual situations. Some teams like UW, USC, Oregon, and WSU have new play callers and QBs, but the QB-OC duo have history together at previous programs. USC and WSU’s situations are probably the best since both QB-OC combos worked together last year, where as Bo Nix and Kenny Dillingham worked together several years ago. Penix and Grubb haven’t personally worked together, but Penix worked with DeBoer at Indiana, and Grubb is a DeBoer disciple who runs his system. Then there’s ASU’s situation with Emory Jones and Glenn Thomas who have never worked together.
All 5 starting QBs in this group are extremely talented, and most will be working with proven QB gurus, which is to say that even without stability or prior chemistry with their supporting cast, they could still have some of the better QB situations in the conference. In my opinion, Penix is the 5th most talented of this group of QBs, but he has more experience than most of the projected starting QBs in the conference, and both of his past two play callers are on the staff. Combined with our experienced offensive line, talented WR corp, and a revamped RB room, we have all the pieces for Penix to perform beyond his individual talent, and with few obvious holes in our offensive roster, I’m expecting him to perform in the top third of the conference.
Coach B’s Preseason QB Situation Rankings: