- Bryce Young (Alabama)
2. Hendon Hooker (Tennessee)
The Tennessee quarterback started off the 2021 season as the backup, but finished the season bringing hope to fans in orange. When Hooker came in against Pittsburgh, the coaching staff saw something out of him that they had wanted to see out of the previous starter, Joe Milton. Hooker’s ability to scramble and make plays with his feet on broken plays is key for this offense, especially if they are designed runs. He handles the RPO well, something that head coach Josh Heupel enjoys calling, especially with a few talented receivers returning in 2022.
Hooker threw for 2,945 yards and 31 touchdowns, with only three interceptions in 2021. Those type of numbers can go a long way in the SEC. He also rushed for 620 yards and five touchdowns, giving the Vols an extra dose of separation on offense. This could be the encore to his breakout year for Tennessee. At least that’s what the coaches and fan base are hoping. I imagine you’ll be seeing a lot of Hendon Hooker highlights in 2022.
It also has to feel nice for Tennessee fans who won’t have to check every practice report to see who is taking first team reps.
3. Will Rogers (Mississippi State)
The junior quarterback has taken control of this Mike Leach offense and run with it. His offensive output in 2021 was through the roof, and he’s just getting started. Rogers passed for 4,739 yards and 36 touchdowns last season, lighting up opposing defenses in the process. Don’t take the overall record of the Bulldogs in 2021 to heart. It’s not as though Rogers could help the defense. He also didn’t get much help from his receivers last season, especially with the plethora of dropped passes. Another year in this air raid offense will only increase Rogers’ draft stock and could make him one of the best quarterbacks in the country in 2022, at least numbers wise. The Mississippi State quarterback will have his time to shine next season, but let’s hope his defense can help him out this season a bit more.
4. Will Levis (Kentucky)
There are few Power Five quarterbacks who meant more to their football team in 2021 than Will Levis. The Kentucky quarterback threw for 2,826 yards and 24 touchdowns. Yes, the 13 interceptions didn’t help, but he also rushed for 376 yards and nine touchdowns. His ability to be a bruiser at quarterback, especially running the football when needed, is another reason why Mark Stoops should be ecstatic the former Penn State QB is back for 2022. He will be without Wan’Dale Robinson next season, but the Wildcats have enough downfield targets to keep Levis busy. Having Chris Rodriguez return at running back will also help alleviate some of the pressure on Levis, who should be surrounded by another talented offensive group. He needs to be more consistent next season, but he has the talent to fix his mistakes. I liked how he played in 2021, and hopefully he can build on the year and become more comfortable within this offensive scheme this year.
The biggest concern for me is if his offensive coordinator Liam Coen bolts back to the NFL.
5. K.J. Jefferson (Arkansas)
I absolutely loved watching Jefferson play in 2021, especially when he was bulldozing defenders while rushing the ball. There’s something special about this kid, which OC Kendall Briles saw immediately in the game versus Texas. He threw for 2,676 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, along with 664 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. He’s bulky and should scare opposing defenses when he’s running downhill. This Arkansas team took another step in the right direction last season, and Jefferson was a huge part of that success. This team has a chance to take the final record of 2021 and add a few more to the win column in 2022. The Razorbacks have added a few playmakers on offense, including WR Jadon Haselwood from Oklahoma. I like what Jefferson brings to the table, and he should be fun to watch next season.
Stetson Bennett: Overall, this young man is a winner. He led his team to a National Championship after dealing with a bunch of noise during the season. He was the type of quarterback Kirby Smart needed in 2021 and could be that guy again in 2022. His decision to come back to Georgia was a no-brainer, especially if he could continue to play with accuracy. I love me some Stetson Bennett and his story, so let’s see if he can back it up next season. He’ll have plenty of playmakers around him, if he is the starting quarterback in the season opener.
Spencer Rattler: I know the Oklahoma transfer will be a spark to the South Carolina offense, but I at least want to see him working with this group in the spring before I make any further predictions. During the 2020 season in Norman, Rattler threw for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns. Even though he was replaced by Caleb Williams last season, he still threw for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns. Either way, Spencer will help this Gamecock team in 2022, as long as the accuracy issues are put to bed. But he’s a winner and will bring his confident attitude — and former teammate Austin Stogner — with him to South Carolina.
Anthony Richardson: From the little that we got to see from Richardson last season, he definitely looks the part. But how will the new Florida staff work with him on crafting his game in 2022? That’s the question for me. He most definitely has the skills they need.
That’s my list and I am sticking to it, until after spring practice and we hear stories out of camp.