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Five College Quarterback’s Poised To Breakout In 2022

Jun 2, 2022, 10:25 AM | Updated: 2:17 pm
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Courtesy of BYU photo

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The offseason hype machine is up and running as the lull of a summer without football settles in. NFL Draft analysts are beginning to look ahead to 2023 and stake their claims on who will be the stars of the sport next season.

We’re less than 100 days from the start of the 2022 college football season. Every year we see at least one college quarterback rise from relative obscurity to become the talk of the sport. Joe Burrow, Zach Wilson, and Kenny Pickett have proven that it’s not simply a coincidence.

So here I am in early June, trying to make my take for a few of the uber-talented signal callers in college football. This isn’t necessarily about NFL potential, although I do believe all these players could have successful NFL careers. Here are five college quarterbacks I believe are ready to breakout in 2022.

Five College Quarterbacks To Watch In 2022

KJ Jefferson, Arkansas

The player I am most excited to see in person next season, KJ Jefferson is a dual-threat quarterback with good size and athleticism to match. In his first year as the starter, Jefferson led Arkansas to a 9-4 record and he will look to build upon that in 2022.

Jefferson threw for over 2600 yards, ran for another 600 yards, and had 27 total touchdowns to just four interceptions. His 87.0 PFF grade was good for 23rd among qualifying quarterbacks in 2021. He’s one of the best running threats at the quarterback position while also show great poise and accuracy.

He wasn’t asked to do too much with his arm last season. With top weapon Treylon Burks, the Razorbacks relied on a short passing game that gave playmakers YAC opportunities. You’d want to see more from him as a passer to feel super comfortable with his NFL prospects.

Regardless, Jefferson is a good college quarterback who should take a leap in 2022 and join elite status among the sport. I’m higher on Arkansas this next season and a big year from Jefferson could help them reach double-digit wins while catapulting KJ into the Heisman conversation.

Brennan Armstrong, Virginia

Armstrong put up big numbers last season for the Cavaliers. One of the returning statistical leaders in college football, Armstrong threw for almost 4500 yards last season while completing 65% of his passes and throwing 31 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

Armstrong has deceptive athleticism, making plays with his legs when necessary. He scored nine touchdowns on the ground last season. Armstrong had a 91.9 PFF grade last season, good for 4th among qualifying quarterbacks.

He’ll be relied upon heavily in 2022 as Virginia brings in a new head coach in Tony Elliot. I hesitate to think Virginia will improve much on their 6-6 record in 2021. But that won’t stop Armstrong from having another big season in Charlottesville. He may not be a guy that receives a lot of NFL buzz, but he’s one of the best passers in college football.

Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland

The younger brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, Taulia followed his brother to Alabama out of high school. He transferred north to Maryland in 2020, earning four starts as a sophomore. In 2021, Tagovailoa set single-season records for Maryland in passing yards (3,860), completions (328), completion percentage (69.2%), passing touchdowns (26) and 300-yard passing games (7).

Taulia is very similar to his brother in size, skillset and NFL potential. He’s not the biggest guy and doesn’t have the biggest arm, but he gets the ball out accurately and knows how to play the position.

After leading the Terrapins to their first winning record since 2014, Tagovailoa is primed for a true breakout season. If he can put up similar numbers next season, win 9-10 games, and cut down on turnovers (18 interceptions in 17 starts) he could be a household name by season’s end.

Jaren Hall, BYU

Hall doesn’t make this list because I cover BYU football. Or because I spent every Monday night with him in his apartment throughout last season. Hall is a legit college quarterback with legit NFL potential.

Mel Kiper Jr, the inventor of the NFL draft, put out his 2023 NFL draft positional rankings last week and had Jaren Hall at QB6. The five quarterbacks ahead of Jaren Hall were all projected to be 1st round picks. Hall is a Day 2 pick with Day 1 potential.

After taking over for Zach Wilson in 2021, Hall threw for over 2500 yards, completed 63% of his passes and threw for 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 10 games. His 89.2 PFF grade ranked 18th among qualifying quarterbacks in 2021 and his 80.4 rushing grade ranked 11th. Hall averaged over eight yards per carry last season, watch his 56-yard TD run against Baylor in which he outran JT Woods who ran a 4.36 at the NFL combine.

Hall needs to show that year one as a starter was not a fluke and that he can have repeated success in 2022. He needs to stay healthy and lead the Cougars to another double-digit win season. If he continues to protect the ball and show off his dual-threat capabilities, he will be a first round pick next April.

Jake Haener, Fresno State

The lone Group of 5 representative on this list, Haener considered following his former head coach Kalen DeBoer to Washington. But after Fresno State hired Jeff Tedford, Haener decided to stay with the Bulldogs for his final season. He hopes to build upon a big season in 2021.

Last year, Haener threw for over 4000 yards while completing 67% of his passes. He added 31 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He doesn’t have the rushing ability that these other quarterbacks can fall back on. He’s a pocket passer who is reliant on accuracy and making plays within the offense.

But that’s not a negative. Sure, the NFL won’t be as high on a guy that lacks that physical upside. For Haener in 2022, he should be able to put up big numbers that feature at the top of college football.

I expect another 4000 yard season from Haener and if he can continue to grow as a passer, he should find his name called in the 2023 NFL Draft. Haener will be the best quarterback among the Group of Five next season.

Dallen Graff is a KSL Sports Contributor. He is the Producer of Cougar Sports Saturday (SUBSCRIBE) on KSL NewsRadio. Follow him on Twitter.

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Five College Quarterback’s Poised To Breakout In 2022