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Zach Wilson, Alex Smith Ranked As Two Of College Football’s Best QBs In 21st Century

Feb 26, 2021, 12:50 PM | Updated: 12:50 pm
Zach Wilson - Alex Smith...
Former BYU QB Zach Wilson and Utah QB Alex Smith are among the best college football quarterbacks since 2000. (Photos: Getty Images)
(Photos: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Former local college football stars Zach Wilson and Alex Smith left impressive legacies for their respective programs. Those legacies and impactful careers put them among the best college signal-callers of the past 20 years.

ESPN’s Bill Connelly ranked the top 60 college football quarterbacks of the 21st century (since 2000), and both Smith and Wilson appeared on the list.

Zach Wilson: No. 58

BYU gunslinger Zach Wilson is one of the hottest commodities in the NFL Draft right now, snuck into the rankings at No. 58. After putting together a 3,692-yard season and leading BYU to its highest final ranking in 24 years, Wilson displayed intangibles that drew comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes.

Connelly dubbed Wilson “the best BYU quarterback since Steve Sarkisian.” That’s impressive as the Cougars have had Wilson’s mentor, John Beck, and BYU’s winningest quarterback of all-time Max Hall sandwiched between Sark and Wilson.

A three-year starter at BYU, and the youngest starting quarterback in the history of the BYU football program, Wilson overcame adversity with injuries and people on the outside, doubting his abilities to become one of college football’s top players in 2020.

Wilson finished the 2020 season ranked eighth in the final Heisman Trophy rankings.

Alex Smith: No. 37

Former Utah star Alex Smith appeared in Connelly’s rankings at No. 37. After taking over the starting quarterback job for an injured Brett Elliott in 2003, Smith took Utah football to unprecedented heights in Urban Meyer’s innovative spread offense.

Smith led Utah to a pair of outright Mountain West Conference championships and his signature moment on the Hill was an undefeated BCS Busting season in 2004. Utah finished No. 4 in the final AP poll that season and became the first Non-BCS program to play and win a BCS bowl game.

Smith finished fourth in the 2004 Heisman voting and capped off his legendary Utes career with 5,203 passing yards, 47 touchdowns, and 1,072 rushing yards.

Like Wilson, Smith declared for the NFL after his junior season, and he became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Smith just wrapped up his 14th season in the NFL and was named comeback player of the year this past season after returning from a gruesome leg injury suffered in 2018 with the Washington Football Team.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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