Miami football: Ranking the QBs Canes will face in 2022
Pitt’s Kenny Pickett is off to the NFL to play for the hometown Steelers as a first-round pick.
North Carolina’s Sam Howell is in the NFL, too, as a fifth-round selection of the Washington Commanders.
So … cross off those two top quarterbacks from the list of those the Miami Hurricanes will have to face in 2022.
Also among the ACC’s best QBs the Hurricanes could have faced during the regular season this year, scratch off Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman and North Carolina State’s Devin Leary because neither team is on Miami’s schedule.
On the other side of things, Miami returns Tyler Van Dyke, who is considered by numerous sources as a possible first-round pick in 2023. Van Dyke should give Miami the edge at quarterback in nearly every game this season.
Here then is our attempt to rank the quarterbacks Miami will face in 2022:
Brennan Armstrong, a lefty slinger, is the clear choice atop this list. He is listed at 6-2 and 212 pounds, Armstrong broke several school passing records last season, including most yards (4,449) and touchdowns (31). His 404.5 passing yards per game last season was the most ever by ACC quarterback.
His 4,700 yards of total offense last year also set a Virginia record. He needs 191 yards to break Bryce Perkins’ school record for total offense.
Armstrong is 1-1 in his starts against Miami. In 2020, Miami beat Armstrong 19-14. But Armstrong played fairly well, completing 16 for 30 passes for 181 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran 15 times for 91 yards. Last year, Armstrong led Virginia to a 30-28 win against Miami. He completed 25 of 44 passes for 268 yards, 1 TD and 1 pick. He ran 7 times for 19 yards.
Then again, that game would’ve been a Miami victory had it not been for freshman kicker Andy Borregales missing a 33-yard field-goal attempt as time expired. The ball clanked off the left upright.
Armstrong also got lucky on a 57-yard touchdown pass that went off both of Miami defensive back Marcus Clarke’s hands. Armstrong threw that ball into triple coverage but ended up as a miraculous catch by Dontayvion Wicks.
We’ll see who wins the rubber match this year between Armstrong and the Canes, which is set for Miami on Oct. 29.
Kedon Slovis – assuming he wins the starting job – gets the second spot on this list.
The 6-3, 215-pounder was a star as a Southern Cal freshman in 2019, when he completed 71.9% of his passes for 3,502 yards, 30 touchdowns and 9 picks in 12 games.
In 9 games last year, Slovis was less successful, completing 65% of his passes for 2,153 yards, 11 TDs and 8 picks.
It remains to be seen which Slovis shows up this fall. But it doesn’t help that superstar receiver Jordan Addison has gone in the opposite direction from Slovis, transferring from Pitt to Southern Cal.
3. Florida State
Over the past two years, FSU is 7-6 when Jordan Travis starts and 1-7 when he sits. And that one victory was actually won by Travis, who inherited a 14-0 deficit from Tate Rodemaker and rallied the Seminoles to a 41-24 to Jacksonville State.
Travis is a spectacular runner, but he also has improved his accuracy as a passer, going from 55.0% in 2020 to 62.9% last year.
The key issue is health. Travis missed two games to injuries last year. But he finished strong, completing 65.1% of his passes in FSU’s final 7 games. FSU went 5-2 during that stretch as Travis passed for 11 TDs with just two picks. Travis ran for 530 yards and 7 TDs last season.
In a 31-28 victory over Miami last year, he completed 18 of 26 passes for a career-high 274 yards with no picks. He also ran 22 times for 62 yards and a career-high-tying 2 scores.
D.J. Uiagalelei — one of the top two recruits in the nation in the Class of 2020, joined by Alabama QB and 2022 Heisman favorite Bryce Young – has been a disappointment so far.
Last year, he completed just 55.6% of his passes, tossing 9 TD passes and 10 picks in 13 games as Clemson went 10-3.
This year, the 6-foot-4 Uiagalelei is slimmer – down from 260 to 250 pounds – and he has so far held off the challenge of five-star QB Cade Klubnik, a freshman who was rated the No. 13 overall recruit in the nation.
5. Texas A&M
The Aggies, who lost starting QB Zach Calzada to Auburn as a transfer, now have a three-way QB battle between LSU transfer Max Johnson; projected 2021 starter Haynes King, who went down with a knee injury in the second game of the year; and five-star freshman Conner Weigman.
Johnson, the son of former Super Bowl hero/QB Brad Johnson, started 14 games in two years at LSU. He has excellent vision and does a good job protecting the ball. He also has ideal size at 6-5 and 220 pounds. His stats over two years are interesting – just a 59.8 completion rate but 35 TDs and 7 picks.
King, at 6-3 and 200 pounds, is faster than Johnson and has more knowledge of the Aggies offense. But King has barely played – 24-for-39 (61.5 percent) for 359 yards and 3 TDs with 4 picks.
Weigman, at 6-2 and 210 pounds, might be the most talented QB on campus. He was No. 22 among all recruits this year, including the 3rd-best passer.
6. Virginia Tech
Former Marshall star Grant Wells – who was Conference USA’s Freshman of the Year in 2020 and a first-team all-league player that same year — is expected to be the Hokies’ new QB.
It’s a new era for the Hokies. They have a new coach in Brent Pry. They have a new offensive coordinator in Tyler Bowen. And they have a new QB coach in Brad Glenn.
Wells, a 6-2, 203-pounder and a native of West Virginia, will be a blank slate for this new offense. Wells finished 15th in the nation last year with 3,532 passing yards. For his career, he has completed 64.3% of his passes for 34 TDs and 22 picks.
The Hokies also have South Carolina transfer Jason Brown, who was outplayed by Wells in the spring game. Brown went 2-2 as South Carolina’s starter last year, beating Florida and Auburn. He completed 55.6% of his passes for 8 TDs and 6 picks.
7. Georgia Tech
Jeff Sims, a 6-4, 219-pounder who has made 16 starts in two years for the Yellow Jackets, completed 60.1% of his passes for 12 TDs last season, getting intercepted 7 times. He also ranked 4th on the team with 372 rushing yards.
Miami struggled to beat Tech last year, prevailing 33-30 as Sims completed 21 of 38 passes for 194 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 pick.
Sims’ growth will be interesting to track. After 11 years of triple-option football at Georgia Tech, this is the 4th season under coach Geoff Collins and his pro-style spread offense.
It’s a drastic change, but there’s reason to believe the Yellow Jackets soon can be very dangerous. For starters, Collins – an Atlanta native – has a rich area to recruit. And, he has a talented and experienced quarterback in Sims.
8. North Carolina
The Tar Heels enter the fall with an even QB battle between 2 inexperienced passers: Jacolby Criswell and Drake Maye.
Criswell, the former Gatorade Player of the Year in Arkansas, is a 6-1, 225-pounder. He is considered a dual-threat QB.
Maye is the hometown hero from Charlotte, N.C. As a high school senior, he passed for 50 TDs and was intercepted just twice. He is not a runner, but he has been compared to former Clemson star Trevor Lawrence.
UNC coach Mack Brown is open to using both QBs, which seems like a bad idea. But … “I’ve done it,” Brown said of the two-QB system, “and it works.”
9. Middle Tennessee
The Blue Raiders went 7-6 last season – including a Bahamas Bowl win against Toledo – despite needing 4 QBs to get through the year.
This year, the QB competition likely will come down to 5-foot-11 Chase Cunningham, who missed spring ball because of a knee injury, or 6-1 Nicholas Vattiato. Coach Rick Stockstill also has two true freshmen, and he hasn’t ruled out adding a passer through the transfer portal.
Cunningham is the most experienced option. He has played 20 games in four years for the Blue Raiders. He has 18 TD passes and just 6 interceptions, but his career completion percentage is only 60.2%.
Vattiato completed 67.3% of his passes as a freshman last season. He had 7 TD passes and 6 interceptions. Vattiato led the Blue Raiders to their bowl win, completing 23 of 35 passes for 270 yards, 2 TDs and no picks. He played his high school ball at Fort Lauderdale’s University School, and he surely would love a chance to beat the hometown Hurricanes.
The Blue Devils will open the season with a new starting QB for the 5th straight year, and the top candidates are Jordan Moore and Riley Leonard.
Moore is the better runner, but he completed just 47.4% of his passes last year (9-for-19). Leonard completed 59.7% of his passes (37-for-62).
Both QBs will be playing for a new coach as former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko is now in charge. Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns comes over from Memphis, where he coached some good units.
But Duke just doesn’t have the talent – at the moment at least – to seriously challenge ACC powers.
11. Southern Miss
Because of injuries, Southern Miss used 10 QBs last season – more than any FBS program in the nation.
This spring, redshirt freshman Ty Keyes was declared the QB starter. He played just 4 games last season, completing 50.8% of his passes for 3 touchdowns. He was intercepted 4 times.
Indeed, it won’t be easy for Southern Miss, which went 3-9 last season, including an 8-game losing streak.
The offensive line needs work after the Golden Eagles ranked last in the nation in 2021 in 2 key categories: opposition sack yardage and opposition tackles for losses.
Seniors Shannon Patrick and Devin Black shared quarterback duties for Bethune-Cookman last year. No matter who plays QB against Miami, he will be overmatched.