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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Richard Johnson

Who Will Replace College Football’s Top Departing QBs?

The 2021 quarterback draft class was billed as generational. You could find reasons to think any one of Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields or Mac Jones would lead their pro teams to glory. But they had another thing in common: With the exception of Lance, when they left school their replacement was already waiting in the wings. The top of the 2023 class is in the opposite situation: There’s little clarity on who will follow some of the draft’s top QB prospects.

There will be a raging debate about whether Will Levis is really as good as his projected draft status, but it’s pretty clear that NC State’s Devin Leary will be the guy for the Cats heading into next season. Leary had his own draft buzz around him before getting injured during the 2022 season. At BYU, Jaren Hall is heading to the NFL and he’ll likely be replaced by Kedon Slovis, who is on his third school after initially starting his career at USC. But Levis and Hall’s replacements are about the only firmly settled ones following the exits of the QBs at the top of the board.

Here’s a look at how some of college football’s other top quarterbacks may be replaced after they move on to the pro ranks.

Milroe showed promise in some playing time in 2022-23, but he’ll compete with Simpson for the starting role.

Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports


With Bryce Young gone, Jalen Milroe (who started against Texas A&M when Young sat out with an injury) may have pole position in the QB room, but redshirt freshman Ty Simpson will also take his crack at QB1 before next season kicks off.

Ohio State

Kyle McCord may have the inside track to the starting job as a player who’s been around the program for multiple years and has a deep rapport with Marvin Harrison Jr. after playing with him in high school. But last season’s third-string QB, Devin Brown, will also figure in the race.


There may not be a more unclear quarterback situation in the country than what Anthony Richardson leaves behind at Florida. As the Jaden Rashada saga continues behind the scenes, the Gators have Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz and bowl game starter Jack Miller on the depth chart. That’s a relatively bare cupboard unless Florida plans to hit on someone in the spring transfer portal cycle.


With Tanner McKee’s exit to the NFL draft, sophomore Ashton Daniels and junior Ari Patu should be duking it out through spring. But four-star signee Myles Jackson’s reclassification to the class of 2023 makes things even more interesting for new head coach Troy Taylor.


At Tennessee, it is likely that Joe Milton gets another crack at the job he ceded to Hendon Hooker now that Hooker has declared for the draft. Milton showed flashes in the Orange Bowl win over Clemson of being a more well-rounded QB than the raw arm-strength dependent one that got benched in 2021. But on his heels is Nico Iamaleava, a freshman with a massive NIL deal and expectations to one day be the guy. 

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