With less than six weeks left until the 2023 college football season kicks off, the time has come to start taking a serious look at the Big 12 landscape and where teams stack up against one another.
With 14 teams in the conference in 2023, there are a lot of new names and playmakers to get familiar with, but we are here to help. Leading up to the 2023 season, Heartland College Sports has taken the liberty of power ranking the position units in the Big 12 heading into the year.
Today, we finish the Power Rankings with the quarterback units from around the league. Let’s take a look.
Projected Starter: Dillon Gabriel
Projected Backup: Jackson Arnold
While it wasn’t to the standard that Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray set not so long ago, Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel was plenty good enough for the Sooners to be better than 6-7 a year ago. In 2022, Gabriel threw for 3,168 yards (62.7%) and 25 TDs to six interceptions, adding 315 yards and six scores on the ground, finishing the season as the highest-graded QB in the Big 12 (87.0), per PFF. In the 11 games that Dillon Gabriel played last season, OU averaged 510 yards and 37 points per game. In the games without him? 275 yards and 12 points. True freshman Jackson Arnold backs up Gabriel heading into 2023 and was the National High School Gatorade Player of the Year last year, accounting for 56 total touchdowns to just three interceptions in his senior season at Denton Guyer (TX).
Projected Starter: Jalon Daniels
Projected Backup: Jason Bean
Jalon Daniels was playing his way into Heisman contention in the first half of the season, leading KU to a 5-0 start with 16 total touchdowns in his first five games. Then, against TCU, Daniels suffered an injury that caused him to miss four games. He wasn’t as effective to close out the regular season, but looked back to his old ways in the bowl game, with a 544-yard, six-touchdown performance. If Daniels can play to that level consistently, there’s no ceiling to the Kansas offense in 2023. Behind Daniels is Jason Bean, who had a 14:4 TD-to-INT ratio as Daniels’ replacement in 2023.
Projected Starter: Quinn Ewers
Projected Backup: Arch Manning
Quinn Ewers came into Austin in 2022 with as much hype as any quarterback in the last decade (not named Arch Manning), but failed to live up to his five-star billing at times. Ewers missed three games due to injury, but in the time that he was on the field, he threw for 2,177 yards (58.1%) and 15 TDs to six interceptions. Ewers finished the season ranked ninth out of 10 starting Big 12 QBs with a 72.4 offensive grade, according to PFF. However, going into his second year, it’s reasonable to expect Ewers to take a massive step, and we believe that he will. If he doesn’t, the Longhorns could turn to Arch Manning, who ranks as the highest quarterback recruit in history.
4. Kansas State
Projected Starter: Will Howard
Projected Backup: Jake Rubley
In 2022, K-State starter Adrian Martinez went down, giving Will Howard a shot to take the reins. All he did was go 5-1 as a starter and lead the Wildcats to their first outright Big 12 Championship since 2003. Howard threw for 1,633 yards and 15 TDs to just four INTs, adding three scores on the ground. Howard is the unquestioned starter for K-State heading into 2023 and finished last season as the fifth-highest graded Big 12 QB (75.0) according to PFF. Behind Howard sits sophomore Jake Rubley, who attempted just five passes last season, with his lone pass in Big 12 play being an interception against TCU.
Projected Starter: John Rhys Plumlee
Projected Backup: Timmy McClain
John Rhys Plumlee enters the Big 12 as one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, with 3,448 total yards and 25 total touchdowns in 2022. Plumlee completed 63% of his passes last season and averaged 5.4 yards per carry, making him a true dual threat with the ball in his hands. His PFF offensive grade of 80.7 ranks only behind Dillon Gabriel in the Big 12. Behind Plumlee is sophomore Timmy McClain, who last played at USF in 2021, where he threw for 1,888 yards and scored nine total TDs as a freshman.
6. Texas Tech
Projected Starter: Tyler Shough
Projected Backup: Behren Morton
Tyler Shough suffered a collarbone injury against Murray State in the season opener in 2022, forcing him to miss the next six games. He started the final four games of the season though and went 4-0 in those games en route to Texas Tech’s best finish since 2013. Shough threw for 1,304 yards and seven TDs to four INTs, adding 269 yards and four scores on the ground. Behren Morton will serve as the backup heading into 2023 after starting four games in 2022, throwing for 1,117 yards and seven TDs to six interceptions. If Shough can stay healthy, he’s in for a big season in 2023.
Projected Starter: Blake Shapen
Projected Backup: Sawyer Robertson
In his first year as the unquestioned starter at Baylor, Blake Shapen struggled to find consistency, completing 63.3% of his attempts for 2,790 yards and 18 TDs to 10 INTs. This spring, Shapen showed enough improvement to earn the job over Mississippi State transfer Sawyer Robertson and is listed as the starter heading into the 2023 season. If Shapen struggles again in 2023, Robertson brings great athleticism to the table and could see some chances. However, it’s Shapen’s job to lose, and having some pressure behind him could help him figure things out this time around.
Projected Starter: Chandler Morris
Projected Backup: Chance Nolan
Replacing the heart and soul of a team is never easy, and that will be the task in Fort Worth with Max Duggan gone. The good news is, Chandler Morris originally beat out Duggan to begin the 2022 season as the starter before going down against Colorado in the season opener. In his career at TCU, Morris has started three games, completing 66% of his passes for 840 yards and four TDs with no interceptions, adding 107 yards and a score on the ground. Behind Morris is Chance Nolan, who started 22 games at Oregon State and threw for 4,153 yards and 32 TDs with 20 INTs.
Projected Starter: Kedon Slovis
Projected Backup: Jake Retzlaff
Kedon Slovis is coming off a relatively disappointing season at Pitt, completing 58.4% of his attempts for 2,397 yards and 10 TDs with nine INTs on the year. When comparing that to his freshman year at USC (3,502 yards, 71.9%, 30 TDs, 9 INTs), it’s hard not to wonder what changed. If Slovis can rekindle some of his old success, BYU’s QB situation would look a lot better in 2023. Behind Slovis is Jake Retzlaff, who played last season at Riverside City Junior College and threw for 4,596 yards and 44 TDs.
10. Iowa State
Projected Starter: Hunter Dekkers
Projected Backup: JJ Kohl
As of right now, Hunter Dekkers is projected to be the starting quarterback for Iowa State in 2023 and hopes to build on a decent year in 2022. As the starter in all 12 games, Dekkers threw for 3,044 yards (66.1%) and 19 TDs to 14 INTs. Behind Dekkers is freshman JJ Kohl, who comes into college at 6-7, 240 pounds and has impressive arm strength from all reports.
11. Oklahoma State
Projected Starter: Alan Bowman
Projected Backup: Garret Rangel
Oklahoma State’s quarterback situation is in question for the first time in several years with Spencer Sanders out of the picture. Former Texas Tech QB Alan Bowman looks like the starter heading into the 2023 season and has 24 games’ worth of experience coming in. In his career, Bowman has completed 67.1% of his passes for 5,329 yards and 34 TDs to 18 INTs. Behind Bowman is Garret Rangel, who played in four games in 2022, throwing for 711 yards (51.3%) with four TDs and five INTs.
Projected Starter: Emory Jones
Projected Backup: Brady Drogosh
Cincinnati is the only team in the Big 12 breaking in a new coach in 2023, and they’ll also break in a new quarterback as well. Emory Jones will start for his third team in as many years, after spending the 2022 season at Arizona and 2018-21 with Florida. For his career, Jones has thrown for 4,880 yards and 33 TDs with 18 INTs, adding 1,304 yards and 14 TDs on the ground over five seasons. Behind Jones is freshman Brady Drogosh, who had a good spring and could be the quarterback of the future for Scott Satterfield.
Projected Starter: Donovan Smith
Projected Backup: Lucas Coley
Houston will have to try and replace one of the best QBs in school history in 2023 as Clayton Tune is no longer with the program. Texas Tech transfer Donovan Smith played in 12 games last season, throwing for 1,505 yards (66.1%) and 12 TDs to eight INTs. Meanwhile, Arkansas transfer Lucas Coley spent the 2022 season with Houston but attempted just three passes on the season. This battle is still ongoing, but we give the early edge to Smith based on experience.
14. West Virginia
Projected Starter: Garrett Greene
Projected Backup: Nicco Marchiol
West Virginia enters the season with two real options at quarterback: Garrett Greene and redshirt freshman Nicco Marchiol. Greene has spent three seasons in Morgantown, and appeared in nine games last season, completing 55.1% of his passes for 493 yards and five TDs to three INTs, adding 276 yards and five scores on the ground. Marchiol, on the other hand, appeared in two games as a freshman and completed 4-13 attempts for 61 yards and one score. Greene looks like the starter for now, but will need to hold off Marchiol who looks to have the better arm.