A year ago, not many people were talking about Georgia's Stetson Bennett, Utah's Cameron Rising, Oregon's Anthony Brown, Kentucky's Will Levis or Tennessee's Hendon Hooker. At the end of the year, though, those guys had posted exceptional seasons.
That's a great thing about college football: You never know which players will creep onto the radar and blindside you with a terrific campaign.
Whether it's guys who've always posted ho-hum stats, those who haven't gotten real opportunities to shine or others who've dealt with injuries, plenty of buzzless quarterbacks hold that same potential this year.
It wouldn't be a surprise if high-profile transfers Kedon Slovis, Dillon Gabriel or Jayden Daniels had a great season. In those cases, a change of scenery should do them well. Others, though, such as Clemson's DJ Uiagalelei are looking to re-grab headlines but aren't exactly flying unnoticed.
This list is about those guys many have forgotten about or are being slept on. They've got the tools (and the opportunity) to rebound and do big things.
After LSU head coach Brian Kelly got his new job in November, he set out to re-recruit several of the players who decided to leave Baton Rouge, including elite receiver Kayshon Boutte.
But a low-key huge win might be getting Myles Brennan to return for his final year with the program.
In 2020, Brennan was the heir apparent to Joe Burrow after the latter became the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. He was having a strong, COVID-shortened season when an abdominal injury truncated it further. Last year, a broken arm ended his campaign before it could start.
So, you're pardoned if you forgot about the veteran who should be considered the favorite for the Bayou Bengals' gig in a battle that features redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier and incoming freshman Walker Howard.
But Brennan has the skill set to be a quality SEC quarterback and even get picked in next year's draft. He has a strong arm, can make all the throws and will be an experienced presence in the huddle. He has to win the hotly contested job, but he didn't return to Baton Rouge to stand on the sideline.
Look for Brennan to take a huge leap and make LSU a much better team than the 6-7 squad from a season ago.
JT Daniels' career has been bumpy.
First, he left high school a year early to join the USC Trojans and then won the job as a freshman. His career appeared set to take off in 2019, but he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the opener, and Kedon Slovis took over and never relinquished the job.
When Daniels transferred to Georgia, he looked set to take over as the Bulldogs' starter in '20, but he spent much of the season waiting behind Stetson Bennett. Once he entered, he looked good but then couldn't wrest the job from Bennett last year as the latter led the Dawgs to a national title.
Daniels is in the portal again, this time as a graduate transfer, and some of the teams rumored to be a fit for him, according to DawgNation's Mike Griffith, are Missouri, USC, LSU, West Virginia, Notre Dame, TCU, Oregon State, Penn State and Florida State. Arizona State and Auburn could be prime destinations too.
It's hard to imagine Daniels not being a strong starter if he can stay healthy. If he posts a big year in 2022, he has the talent to be a high NFL draft pick.
The California native has completed 63.8 percent of his passes over parts of four years for 4,840 yards, 32 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His collegiate career hasn't gone the way he or anybody else expected, but he's got one last chance to make a lot of noise.
It seems he's being meticulous in making a decision about his next destination, and he's worth watching wherever he lands.
Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald couldn't find an answer at quarterback last season, as he shuffled between Andrew Marty, Ryan Hilinski and Hunter Johnson.
After he transferred from South Carolina, Hilinski's first year in Evanston was a huge disappointment.
He started as a true freshman for the Gamecocks, but Hilinski didn't even get on the field until Fitzgerald benched Johnson, and Marty suffered an upper-body injury. Now both are gone, and while Hilinski will have to fend off Carl Richardson, Cole Freeman, Brendan Sullivan and Jasper Stratton, he should be the favorite.
That is, unless the Wildcats grab somebody from the transfer portal.
Still, Hilinski has a lot of ability, even if his 54 percent completion rate, 978 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions from last year don't show it. That ineptitude went hand-in-hand with Northwestern's 3-9 overall record and 1-8 mark in the Big Ten.
Greg Biggins of 247Sports noted that, coming out of high school, Hilinski could make all the throws and displayed accuracy at all three levels of the field, which he showed glimpses of as a freshman with the Gamecocks.
Fitzgerald is too good of a coach to let those struggles continue. It's time for Hilinski to take a large leap and prove why he was a strong quarterback prospect coming out of high school and why it was a big deal when Northwestern got him.
He may be the longest shot on this list for a big year, but he's got it in him.
Adrian Martinez needed out of Lincoln, Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers needed a fresh start too.
Everybody will see in 2022 whether it was a good divorce for all parties, even with it being an amicable one. Coach Scott Frost's team replaced its longtime starter with transfers Casey Thompson (Texas) and Chubba Purdy (Florida State).
Meanwhile, Martinez landed in the Little Apple with the Kansas State Wildcats. That seems like a perfect fit for a strong program coming off a good year and that has to replace its own veteran starter in Skylar Thompson.
It's been a major up-and-down career for Martinez, who looked good at times a year ago, completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,863 yards, 14 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 525 rushing yards to go with 13 more scores on the ground.
Twenty-seven total TDs are a big deal. But Martinez had a ho-hum season. When you consider how he burst onto the scene in 2018 with more than 3,200 total yards and 25 total touchdowns, huge things were expected.
Those never came, and he has even been benched off and on throughout his career. Now, Martinez has another chance for a big year before trying his hand at the pros. He is going to an 8-5 team that returns six offensive starters, including elite running back Deuce Vaughn.
Everybody around college football knows his name, but nobody expects him to be anything more than a middling starter. This is his chance to prove them wrong.
When it comes to Wisconsin's blueprint for winning, it starts with defense, rushing and ball security.
That's why it's so hard to trust Graham Mertz; he's failed to take care of the ball and be the game manager the Badgers need. It's also probably why coach Paul Chryst and new offensive coordinator Bobby Engram tried to bring on Oklahoma transfer Caleb Williams in the offseason.
Mertz was a top-70 player, the nation's No. 3 pro-style quarterback and a 4-star prospect coveted by many when he headed to Camp Randall in 2019. But the 6'3" Kansas native didn't play elite competition in high school, and while he's had some brilliant moments, it's been a rocky transition.
In his 20 games starting for the Badgers, his team is just 13-7, while Mertz has completed a shade over 60 percent of his passes for 3,269 yards, 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
He has pro upside and a strong arm, but he has yet to put everything together. With three years of eligibility remaining, he still has plenty of time. But entering his fourth year with the program, the clock is ticking.
Mertz is the man for Chryst's team until he gets recruited over, and that hasn't happened yet. Everybody at Wisconsin wants him to live up to the massive expectations he had coming into college. They just might not expect it anymore. This is the year he turns all that around.
Another long shot who could shock everybody this season is TCU quarterback Chandler Morris, as most don't even think he'll be QB1 entering the year.
Max Duggan returns for the Horned Frogs, but he is a more athletic signal-caller who has yet to show he has the passing ability and accuracy new head coach Sonny Dykes has favored in his quarterback. This is the coach who helped develop Nick Foles, Davis Webb and Jared Goff, after all.
Could Chandler Morris be next?
The Oklahoma transfer completed 65.8 percent of his passes a season ago at TCU for 695 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, but he only had 76 attempts. He had a massive game helping the Frogs upset a Baylor team that went on to win the Big 12 title.
So, Morris has proved he has big-game chops, and he is more of the traditional passer Dykes is known for developing. He fits the system well, like Shane Buechele and Tanner Mordecai did during the coach's days at SMU.
First, of course, Morris needs to beat incumbent starter Duggan, but the latter had foot surgery following the season, and while reports are he will be ready for spring, will he be 100 percent? This is Morris' big chance to show he can lead the Horned Frogs into the season.
If he can seize the job, he will post big passing numbers in Dykes' air raid offense.
The image of Michael Penix Jr.'s outstretched hand with the ball breaking the plane of the goal line to lead Indiana to a huge overtime upset of Penn State in 2020 will be etched into the minds of Hoosiers fans for a long time.
But after surging through parts of 2019 and '20 with 3,039 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions, injuries shortened his 2020 season and wrecked him last year following an awful opening stretch in which he threw four touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Now, he will reunite with his former offensive coordinator, Kalen DeBoer, who left the Hoosiers to become the head coach at Fresno State, where he stayed a couple of seasons and then moved to Washington for this year.
With the Huskies desperately needing some continuity and talent at quarterback, Penix would be a nice bridge to the Sam Huard era if the youngster isn't ready to take over the job this year. Of course, he could be. The 2021 5-star prospect has a ton of talent.
Then there's the incumbent Dylan Morris.
But Penix is the most intriguing of the three. He's experienced major success in a Power Five conference and is going to a place where he has familiarity with the coach and system to go along with his veteran leadership. The QB race is wide-open in Seattle, but Penix has a major opportunity.
If he earns the job, he could have a similar transfer impact to the one Pac-12 North rival Oregon got from Anthony Brown a season ago.
Watching Iowa's offense last year was like enduring a bicycle with a rusty spoke struggling uphill.
Had the Hawkeyes been able to get some explosive plays and had a dynamic quarterback, they would have been able to back up their swift climb to No. 2 and contend more than half the season for the Big Ten title.
Entering 2022, unless the Hawkeyes make some noise with a transfer portal move, Spencer Petras will be the starter again following a season when he completed just 57.3 percent of his passes for 1,880 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
If those numbers don't inspire much confidence, you're not alone. But Petras is a 6'3", 233-pound strong-armed quarterback with a bunch of ability. He could turn things around, and no quarterback is ever going to be asked to do a ton in Kirk and Brian Ferentz's offense.
While Iowa's offense was bad last year, it did improve in November, and perhaps an open competition this spring will cause Petras to kick things up a notch. With freshman running backs Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson coming in and redshirt freshman Brody Brecht a potential upgrade at receiver, there are more weapons.
Ferentz says the battle is wide-open between Petras, Alex Padilla and Joey Labas, but it would be a surprise if Petras didn't win the job and have a quality rebound season. He's going to have to, or he won't be the guy for long.
"Yeah, we have to do better," Ferentz told SI.com's John Bohnenkamp. "There's several positions, and everybody knows that, we have to do better if we're going to move the ball and score points the way we want to."
There shouldn't be any shame in failing to start over Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones or Bryce Young. That's been Paul Tyson's unenviable position the past three seasons as he toiled in Tuscaloosa.
Not only was there a considerable shadow cast over him because of Alabama's elite quarterbacks but also being the great grandson of legendary UA coach Paul "Bear" Bryant probably followed him everywhere.
Tyson is heading to the Pac-12 where he has three years of eligibility remaining with the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Considering incumbent starter Jayden Daniels entered the transfer portal, the path to starting just got a whole lot clearer for Tyson, who attempted 16 total passes, completing 10 of them for 150 yards in five appearances in Tuscaloosa.
The clock was ticking down for Tyson to ever get meaningful snaps, and while the Sun Devils and head coach Herm Edwards could still go after somebody in the transfer portal, there's no guarantee another quality signal-caller would step into the uncertainty in Tempe caused by an NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations.
Tyson is 6'5" and 228 pounds and possesses good size, a strong arm and solid field vision. Considering he has learned the past few years under former offensive coordinators Steve Sarkisian and Bill O'Brien, he has a good basis. He just has to put all the pieces together.
One of the most intriguing new Power Five quarterbacks who fails to make most lists of exciting newcomers is Virginia Tech's Grant Wells. But that may not be fair.
While attention is (rightfully) focused on Caleb Williams, Dillon Gabriel, Jaxson Dart and even Cameron Ward and others, the Hokies quietly nabbed a guy from a Group of Five program who has a big upside if he can trim the miscues.
Wells has three seasons of eligibility remaining, and he was a big-time producer as the starter for the Marshall Thundering Herd the past two years.
During 2020 and 2021, Wells threw for 5,626 yards, 34 touchdowns, 22 interceptions and a 64.4 percent completion rate while rushing for nine touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough to earn him Conference USA Freshman of the Year and All-Conference USA First Team honors during the 2020 season.
He was an honorable mention for all-conference a season ago.
Still, the fact he played for a little-known school and had a high interception rate makes him a candidate for this list, and if first-year Virginia Tech coach Brent Pry can put him in a position to make the throws, Wells is a producer who could post big numbers.
This could wind up being one of the biggest sleeper pickups in the transfer portal.
All stats courtesy of CFBStats and Sports Reference. Player and recruiting class rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.
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