Quarterback is far and away the most valuable position on a football team, and BYU will face a mix of veterans and newcomers in 2017.
With Tanner Mangum back under center in 2017, BYU will have the QB advantage in most of its games. If Mangum goes down with an injury (knock on wood) for an extended period of time, however, it could be a long season.
13. Josh Love (SO), San Jose State
Love is in a battle for the Spartans' starting QB job, but he is the only one with game experience. Love appeared in all 12 games as the primary backup, including one start at Iowa State. Love came to San Jose State in 2015 as walk on before earning a scholarship last season.
12. Josh Kraght (SR), Portland State
A converted wide receiver, Kraght is in a battle right now to be Portland State’s starting QB. Kraght was a starter at QB his freshman year, but moved over to receiver after BYU transfer Alex Kuresa beat him out. Kraght was the Vikings’ leading receiver in 2016, so he will see time at receiver if he doesn’t win the starting job.
11. Marcus McMaryion (SR), Fresno State
A graduate transfer from Oregon State, McMaryion will have to beat out incumbent Chason Virgil to win the starting job. McMaryion started the final six games in 2016 for the Beavers, and finished with 1,689, 11 TD’s, and 8 picks. His best game of the year came versus Arizona where he threw 5 touchdowns while completing over 80% of his passes. New Head Coach Jeff Tedford was a QB whisperer of sorts at Cal, so it will be interesting to see what McMaryion or Virgil can do in Tedford’s system.
10. Andrew Ford (JR), UMass
Ford returns to UMass after starting 9 games last year. For the season, he finished with over 2,600 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. In the BYU game, he started the game off with a 70-yard touchdown pass, and finished with 288 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INT's.
9. Armani Rogers (FR), UNLV
Rogers is just a freshman, but he is one of the most highly touted recruits in UNLV history. The 6’5”, 225 lbs dual-threat QB redshirted last season after being a 4-star recruit in the 2016 class. With a host of talented receivers and a year under his belt of learning the offensive system, Rogers could lead a potent UNLV offense and be one of the best QB’s BYU faces this season.
8. Kent Myers (SR), Utah State
Myers enters his senior year with 25 starts accumulated over the previous three seasons. Myers saw his passing yards increase in 2016 (from 1,593 to 2,389), but his completion percentage and touchdowns dropped while his interceptions went from three to eight. Myers will be one of the better runners BYU faces, as he rushed for nearly 500 yards and six TD’s in 2016.
Myers doesn’t have a great arm and is underwhelming at times, but his experience and the Logan crowd could make this year’s game competitive.
7. Dru Brown (JR), Hawaii
Brown started the last 10 games of the season and led the Rainbow Warriors to their first winning season since 2010. Although most of his damage comes through the air, Brown can run the ball when needed; he finished the season with 306 rushing yards and 4 TD’s.
With momentum in the program and another year in Nick Rolovich’s system, Brown will look to improve on last season’s stat line (2,488 yards, 19 TD’s, 7 INT’s) and pull of an upset over BYU on the islands.
6. Thomas Sirk (SR), East Carolina
A graduate transfer from Duke, Sirk is the odd-on favorite to be the starter. Sirk missed all of last season after rupturing his achilles tendon, but started 12 games for Duke in 2015.
A duel-threat quarterback, Sirk was one of four QB’s nationally to rush for over 800 yards and pass for over 2,500. Sirk was the QB when ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery was at Duke, so he has familiarity with the offense. If Sirk regains his 2015 form, he could be top 3 on this list. With health still a question, however, we’ll put him in the middle of the pack.
5. Alex Hornibrook (SO), Wisconsin
Hornibrook started nine games for Badgers in 2016, and enters this season as the undisputed starter. Hornibrook’s statline isn’t all that impressive (1,262 yards, 9 TD’s, 7 INT’s), but he has big game experience and will have a full offseason with starter’s reps.
With the BYU game one of the more difficult games on the Badgers’ schedule, Wisconsin likely won’t overlook its trip to Provo.
4. Danny Etling (SR), LSU
Etling is coming off off-season back surgery, but looks like he will be full go when the Tigers kick off their season versus BYU. Despite handing off to two of the nation’s best running backs in Leonard Fournette and Darius Guice, Etling failed to complete over 60% of his passes. Etling finished the year with 2,123 yards with 11 TD’s and 5 picks.
Etling still has the luxury of handing off to Guice, but he will need to take the next step in new coordinator Matt Canada’s offense (coming from Pittsburgh) if LSU is to make noise nationally.
3. Troy Williams (SR), Utah
The top two guys on this list are a cut above the rest of the QB’s, after which arguments can be made for where the rest should be ranked. We’ll give Williams the nod here based partly on what he has to work with. Williams will be breaking in a brand new offense and new offensive line, but he’ll have weapons to throw to, especially with the addition of Oregon graduate transfer Darren Carrington.
Williams’ stats aren’t much to get excited about, as he completed a paltry 53% of his passes for 2,757, 15 TD’s, and 8 INT’s. Williams does add a running element, as he added 235 yards and 5 TD’s on the ground.
Williams tossed 3 picks and threw 1 TD in last year’s game in Salt Lake City, but it was enough to give Utah the one-point victory (SORRY FOR THE REMINDER).
2. Brett Rypien (JR), Boise State
Wyoming’s QB Josh Allen gets much of the national attention as a top NFL prospect, but Rypien was the first-team, all-MWC QB in 2016.
A two year starter, Rypien threw for over 3,000 yards for the second straight season. He threw for a career high 442 yards versus BYU last season, but his two pick-sixes kept BYU in the game until the final play.
Rypien will get his 3rd start versus BYU and look to give the Broncos their first win in Provo since 2003.
1. Nick Fitzgerald (JR), Mississippi State
After leading the SEC in total offense in 2016, Fitzgerald will get another crack at the Cougars as the top QB BYU will face in 2017. One of the best dual-threat QB’s in the country, Fitzgerald threw for 2,423 yards and ran for another 1,375. He finished with 37 total touchdown (21 passing, 16 rushing) and 10 interceptions.
Fitzgerald was largely held in check in Provo last season, as he completed less than 50% of his passes for 214 yards, 1 TD, 2 picks, 41 rushing yards, and 2 rushing TD’s. With another year of experience and this year’s game in Starkville, BYU will have its hands full against one of the best quarterbacks in the country.