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 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.

  • Utah Utes Scoreboard

  • Utah Utes Team Leaders

  • Utah Utes Standings

  • BYU Cougars Scoreboard

  • BYU Cougars Team Leaders

  • BYU Cougars Standings

College Football


Jeremy Mauss

Is ‘Colorado Looking For A Lifeboat;’ Is Big Ten Possible Landing Spot?

Colorado is one of the schools that is seemingly looking at all of its options. Could the Buffaloes join another league not named the Big 12?

1 day ago


Michelle Bodkin

2024 Utah Quarterback Commit To Compete In Elite 11 Finals

Days after announcing his intention to play for the Utes, Isaac Wilson was invited to compete in the Elite 11.

2 days ago

BYU Football, Transfer Portal, George Udo...

Chandler Holt

Former BYU DB George Udo Switches Commitment To Big 12 School

Former BYU defensive back and graduate transfer George Udo announced that he switched his commitment on Thursday.

3 days ago

Zach Charbonnet - UCLA Bruins vs. Utah Utes...

Michelle Bodkin

An Early Look At Utes’ 2023 Football Opponents: UCLA Bruins

Spring ball is over making it a great time to take an early look at Utah football’s week four 2023 opponent, the UCLA Bruins.

3 days ago


Michelle Bodkin

Former Ute David Kozlowski: Kryptonite To Depression Is Connection

Former Ute wide receiver David Kozlowski is one of those rare humans who has taken his near downfall and has turned it into his superpower.

3 days ago

BYU Football, 100 Days Until Kickoff, 2023 Season...

Mitch Harper

100 Days Until BYU Football: Three Reasons Beyond Big 12 To Get Excited

BYU’s most anticipated season in the Kalani Sitake era.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.


KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.

Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.

ksl sports logos...

KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.


KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.

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