QB Country’s FBS Quarterbacks: 2020 Season in Review

 In College QB News, Featured News, Latest News

Despite a pandemic that ravaged the college football season, QB Country’s FBS quarterbacks made the most of their opportunities in 2020. Here are top performers and highlights from a season we will never forget:

Sam Howell, UNC
Sam excelled in his sophomore campaign, ranking fourth in the country in passing yards (3586), sixth in touchdowns (30), and completing more than 68% of his throws. Despite a shortened season, he set the record for most career touchdown passes through a sophomore season in ACC history (68) and tied the UNC record for most career passing touchdowns in history. He earned 2nd Team All-ACC recognition and was named a Maxwell Award Semifinalist, Manning Award Finalist and Davey O’Brien Award Semifinalist. He was a recipient of multiple ACC Player of The Week honors, highlighted by a record-breaking performance against Wake Forest, in which he set single game records for passing yards and touchdowns going 32-45 for 550 yards, six touchdowns and a rushing score to seal a 21-point comeback in a 59-53 UNC victory.

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
Grayson had a breakout redshirt freshman year, leading Coastal Carolina to its first-ever Sun Belt title, first undefeated regular season (the first in conference history), first national ranking (as high as No. 9 — a program and conference record) and the program’s first FBS postseason bowl game appearance. He was the Sun Belt Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, First-Team All Conference, and was a Maxwell Award semifinalist, a Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award semifinalist, a Manning Award Finalist, a semifinalist for the FWAA Freshman of the Year and a freshman All-American (The Athletic). He finished the year among the nation’s passing leaders with 26 passing touchdowns and just three interceptions, and led the Sun Belt in passing efficiency and total passing yards.

Luke Anthony, Louisiana Tech
Luke Anthony made a successful jump from FCS Abilene Christian to FBS Louisiana Tech, starting eight of Tech’s nine games this season and earning C-USA Newcomer of the Year honors. Luke ranked fourth in C-USA in passing efficiency and sixth in passing average per game and garnered numerous weekly honors, including C-USA Offensive Player of the Week, Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award honorable mention, Manning Award Star of the Week, Davey O’Brien Award Great 8, and LWSA Co-Offensive Player of the Week. He was named to the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Midseason Watch list.

Zach Smith, Tulsa
Zach led Tulsa to the AAC conference championship game, a top-25 national ranking and its first bowl appearance since 2016. Zach earned two Davey O’Brien Great 8 honors, a Manning Passing Award Star of the Week and was named to the Davey O’Brien Award midseason watch list. He led the Golden Hurricane to two comeback wins over top-25 opponents completing 17 of 29 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-26 upset of No. 11 UCF and completing 26 of 38 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-24 upset of No. 19 SMU.

Zac Thomas, Appalachian State
Zac concluded an historic career with another strong season, completing 187 of 291 passes for 2,189 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushing for 312 yards and two scores in leading App State to another winning season and his third consecutive bowl victory as a starter. Zac finished 32-6 overall as a starter (third-most wins in App State history) and earned numerous individual awards, including three straight All-Sun Belt awards (third team as a senior), Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year (2018), multiple Sun Belt Player of the Week honors, as well as Unitas Golden Arm Award and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award watch list recognition.

Cornelious Brown IV, Georgia State
Cornelious earned game MVP honors as he led Georgia State to a 39-21 win over Western Kentucky in the Lending Tree Bowl, securing the program’s second bowl victory in four years and first back-to-back winning seasons. He finished the season second in the Sun Belt in passing (227.8) and total offense (257.9) per game. Over the last three games, all GSU wins, he averaged 313 yards passing and 336 yards of total offense while completing 65 percent of his passes. He was a Manning Award Star of the Week for November 30, when he threw for 372 passing yards in a win over Georgia Southern and notched Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week honors after a dominant performance against ULM. Cornelious made the 2020 FWAA Freshman All-America Watch List and FWAA Fresh Four.

Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia
A former walk-on, Stetson started five games for the Bulldogs this season and led the team to wins against Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky. Stetson earned Manning Award Star of the Week and Davey O’Brien Great 8 recognition and was named to the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Midseason Watch List.

Collin Hill, South Carolina
After overcoming the third ACL surgery of his career and missing most of the 2019 season, Collin earned the starting job for the Gamecocks out of training camp. He started eight contests this season and passed for 1,411 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for four touchdowns. He opened the season by throwing for 290 yards against Tennessee had 28 completions for 212 yards and two touchdowns at Florida. For his courage and perseverance, Collin was named a Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of The Year Semifinalist.

Tyler Johnston, UAB
Tyler overcame injury and returned to the starting lineup for UAB’s two championship games, throwing for 470 yards and four touchdowns in wins at Rice (C-USA West Division) and Marshall (C-USA Championship). He has now won two Conference USA championships as a starter. In four full games, he threw for 843 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception.

Desmond Trotter, South Alabama
In his first year as a regular starter, Desmond battled through injuries to finish 160-248 (64.5%) with 11 touchdowns, four interceptions, 1917 yards and two rushing scores in ten contests. Desmond had seven games where he threw for more than 180 yards and four multiple touchdown throwing performances. He led the Jaguars to four victories, including their first road win since 2017 in a season-opening victory at USM. The performance earned him a Manning Award Star of the Week.

Jack Abraham, Southern Miss
In a shortened season that saw him announce his transfer to Mississippi State to finish his college career, Jack started five games for the Golden Eagles, going 97-149 (65.1%) for 1224 yards and seven touchdowns. Jack was named a preseason All-Conference USA selection by the league’s coaches and named to the Manning Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm preseason Watch Lists. In his two-plus years at Southern Miss, Jack emerged as one of the top passers in the country, ranking among FBS leaders in completion percentage, completions, and efficiency in 2018 and 2019.

Jake Bentley, Utah
Jake helped lead the Utes to three straight wins to close a shortened season. His best performance of the season came in an upset of then-No. 21 Colorado 38-21, as he threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 31 yards on the ground.

Austin Aune, North Texas
Austin made the most of his opportunities this season, throwing for 300+ yards in all three of his starts and earning a Manning Award Star of the Week for the week of December 14. He went 101-185 for 1650 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions on the season and rushed for a pair of scores.

Chance Lovertich, South Alabama
Chance proved a capable back-up this season at USA, going 45-83 for 555 yards and four touchdowns in limited action. He went 18-29 for 247 yards and two touchdowns in the Jaguars’ opener against Tulane.

KJ Jefferson, Arkansas
KJ made the first start of his redshirt freshman campaign a memorable one, completing 18-of-33 passes for 274 yards with three touchdowns and running 13 times for 32 yards and a touchdown at Missouri on December 5. He became the first Arkansas quarterback since 2010 to throw for at least 270 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for a score and the first Razorback quarterback to throw for two or more touchdowns and rush for a score in SEC play since 2017.

Austin Kendall, West Virginia
Austin shone brightest in the biggest moment of the season, coming off the bench to lead West Virginia to a 24-21 comeback victory in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl — the Mountaineers’ first postseason victory since 2014. With WVU trailing 21-10, Austin orchestrated a ten-play 80-yard drive, throwing for 69 yards and a touchdown on 4-7 passing capped off by a three-yard touchdown pass to get back within a possession. In the closing minutes of the game he connected on a 20-yard TD pass to seal the victory.

Stone Norton, FIU
Stone impressed in limited action as a true freshman, finishing the year 25-of-52 for 252 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He completed 9-of-13 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns off the bench in the second half of a 36-34 loss to nationally ranked Liberty.

Miller Mosley, Georgia Southern
After a strong career at Wofford, Miller transferred to FBS Georgia Southern and contributed to the Eagles’ winning season and run to a bowl victory. He played in five games in multiple roles, rushing 13 times for 49 yards and completing six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. He also chipped in on special teams. 

Other notables:

  • Former QBC quarterback-turned wide receiver Kadarius Toney capped his outstanding Florida career with a stellar senior season. Kadarius started all ten games for the Gators, setting career highs in catches (62), receiving yards (831), and all-purpose yards (1,228). He finished the regular season ranked ninth in the SEC with 122.8 all-purpose yards per game and was one of just three FBS players with a rushing, receiving and punt return touchdown this season. He becomes the first Gator with three 100-yard receiving games in a season since 2015.
  • Two QBC-trained QBS, Braxton Barker and Logan Burnett, were members of the 2021 Alabama Crimson Tide National Championship squad, backing up Mac Jones.
  • QBC quarterbacks were regulars on the nation’s top quarterback award lists this season, garnering 12 Manning Award Star of the Week honors and 12 Davey O’Brien Great 8 awards. Sam Howell and Grayson McCall were named Manning Award Quarterback of the Year finalists, Maxwell Award finalists and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback of the Year semifinalists.