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Dual-threat magician or deep-ball specialist? An EA Sports quarterback wish list

By Ashton Pollard | March 10
Dual-threat magician or deep-ball specialist? An EA Sports quarterback wish list
EA Sports recently announced the return of the college football video game. Former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow jumped into the conversation immediately. (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED)

After a nearly decade-long hiatus, EA Sports is *Sam Ehlinger voice* “baaaack!”

The game won’t be out for a few years, and according to ESPN, the current plan is to include “real details such as team names, mascots and uniforms but not anything that would resemble the real players on those rosters.” Things can, and likely will, change.

The NCAA is set to vote on Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) soon. Yes, I know, they have been saying this for a while. But this time a few events will likely force their hand. They are reportedly waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the Alston case. Additionally, Florida's NIL bill takes effect in July. The clock is ticking.

As it currently stands, five Power Five schools - Northwestern, Notre Dame, TCU, USC and Wisconsin - have said they will not participate in the game until NIL is resolved. Many others remain undecided.

For this exercise, let’s assume NIL is worked out in the next year and all teams are participating in the game in some capacity. Let’s also assume the players in the game are allowed to be recognizable faces.

I know this game gets people really riled up, so I want to preface the following list by saying I know there are several quarterbacks not listed that would absolutely be exciting options. This list would not be any fun if I just listed the Heisman winners, so there is a mix of those, Heisman finalists and guys that had notable careers even if they never reached a NY6 bowl.

Here are 10 quarterbacks that have played college football since the last version of the beloved NCAA football video game was released in 2013 that you should consider starting:

#10: Tyler Huntley

The former Utah quarterback and Florida native (you don’t see this often) was the No. 23 dual threat quarterback in the 2016 class. Most of his statistics don’t jump off the page, but his completion percentage is notable. His lifetime completion percentage is 67.2%, but he completed 73.1% of his passes his senior year, which was the best in the PAC-12 and the second-best in the country. In 2019, he was named first-team All-PAC-12 over Justin Herbert. This example of him shredding a defender is one of many.

#9: Ian Book

Notre Dame has had several great quarterbacks, but Ian Book was not expected to make that list when he committed to the Irish. To say the former three-star recruit exceeded expectations is a massive understatement, as he became the all-time winningest quarterback to ever dress in blue and gold. Over four years in South Bend, Book threw for 8,948 yards, 72 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. On the ground he had 1,517 yards and 17 scores.

At six-feet tall, Book is not the prototypical quarterback, but he was incredibly exciting. He kept plays alive with his feet, as is evidenced here by a touchdown pass to Ben Skowronek against Boston College in November 2020. He was never truly a threat to win the Heisman during his final season in South Bend, but his name crept into the conversation. At times he frustrated Irish fans, but I think they’re about to realize over the next couple of years without him just how good they had it.

#8: Drew Lock

Lock saw the field for the first time in the middle of his freshman season, and after a successful performance off the bench against Southeast Missouri State in September 2015, he became Mizzou’s starter. He was the first true freshman to start for the Tigers since 1995. In 2017, Lock broke the SEC single-season touchdown record, throwing 44 touchdown passes that year. That mark has been eclipsed only by Joe Burrow. In total, Lock threw for 12,193 yards and 99 touchdowns while in college. He had some accuracy issues (he threw 39 interceptions….), but when he was on target, there aren’t many deep shots much prettier than this.

#7: Deshaun Watson

Watson was the key to Clemson making the jump from nice story to national powerhouse. He was the top dual-threat quarterback in the 2014 class, and the Georgia native did not disappoint when he moved one state over to Clemson. He threw for over 10,000 yards for the Tigers, but he wasn’t a one-dimensional quarterback, as is evidenced by his 2015 rushing statistics: over 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns. When it came to the big stage, few players in recent memory have been as successful. He shredded Nick Saban’s defense two years in a row, posting 405 yards and four touchdowns in the 2015 national title game loss and 420 yards and three touchdowns plus a score on the ground in the 2016 win over the Tide. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, it would be quite fun to play with Watson and run over defenses in the video game.

#6: Marcus Mariota

Sports Illustrated once called him “the most boring player in college football.” This, of course, is largely a comment on his quiet personality and his ability to fly under the radar despite being one of the best to ever play at this position. His production on the field was a work of art. The former Oregon quarterback and 2014 Heisman winner had 30+ touchdown passes and 700+ rushing yards in each of the three years he started in Eugene. He steadily improved in the rushing touchdowns category each year, scoring five, nine and 15 times with his legs, respectively. In his final year with the Ducks, he threw for nearly 4,500 yards, 42 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He led the NCAA in passer rating that season with a 181.6, over 10 points higher than the second spot, held by former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. At 6-foot-4, Mariota is shockingly fast. Want to see him outrun the entire Virginia secondary? Here you go.

#5: Jalen Hurts

Hurts had a decent career at Alabama, but his success really began once he left Tuscaloosa for Norman. He does not have a rocket of an arm like many of the others on this list, but his ability to take off was terrifying for any opposing defensive coordinator. At Oklahoma he tallied 3,851 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 1,298 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 11.3 yards per passing attempt and 5.6 yards per carry. His passer rating in the season with Oklahoma was 191.2. Over his four years in college football, he had 9,477 passing yards, 80 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, 3,742 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns. He even caught a touchdown pass.

#4: Lamar Jackson

Jackson made the “Most Exciting CFB Players of All-Time” list last week for a reason.

He was a magician outside of the pocket. This hurdle against Syracuse in 2016 is….unreal. In his three-year college career, Louisville’s only Heisman winner had 4,132 rushing yards and 50 rushing touchdowns. He had over 1,500 yards rushing in each of his final two seasons, which as you are likely aware, is a great year for a running back. Oh yeah, and he had a decent arm, throwing for 3,660 yards and 27 touchdowns during his final year in Louisville.

#3: Kyler Murray

Murray was the top dual-threat quarterback in his class out of high school, but like Jalen Hurts, his success really began once he left Texas A&M for Oklahoma. Murray was OU’s second-straight Heisman winner following Baker Mayfield (a serious contender for this list as well). The top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft was elusive and had quite the arm, posting a passer rating of 203.3 while playing for the Sooners. The shifty, 5-foot-10 Murray is probably best known for breakaway runs like this 67-yard touchdown from the 2018 Cotton Bowl. “Look at the speed” is right.

#2: Joe Burrow

Burrow threw an FBS-record 60 touchdown passes during the 2019 season and finished that year with 5,671 passing yards. That is kind of all you need to know. Here are 16 minutes of YouTube clips showing every touchdown he scored in 2019 (it is 65 when you include the five scores with his legs). It is 16 minutes of my life I will not be getting back. I do not regret it.

In all seriousness, Joe Burrow’s 2019 LSU season was incredible. Granted, he was throwing to Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Thaddeus Moss and Terrace Marshall Jr. The running game, led by Clyde Edwards-Helaire, helped the passing game flourish as well. Burrow was not the dual threat that many others on this list were, but he could keep plays alive with his legs like he did here or here or here. If you play with him alongside a couple of even mildly competent receivers, you are sure to have a blast.

#1: Patrick Mahomes

Former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury really botched this situation, didn’t he? Mahomes threw for over 5,000 yards in his final year in Lubbock. You just read about another quarterback that threw for over 5,000 yards and won a national championship. Here are the results of Patrick Mahomes’ work:

Screen Shot 2021 03 10 at 10 23 45 AM

TTU went 5-7 this year. They dropped two games where they scored 55+ points, including a wild 66-59 loss to Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma where Mahomes threw for 734 yards. If Texas Tech had any semblance of a defense, the Red Raiders would’ve been nationally relevant. Play the game with Patrick Mahomes. There is no way your defense is worse than this.

Honorable Mention:

Baker Mayfield

Dorian Thompson-Robinson

J.T. Barrett

Kyle Trask

McKenzie Milton

Sam Darnold

Trace McSorley

Trevor Lawrence

Tua Tagovailoa

Zach Wilson

Ashton Pollard

Ashton Pollard

Hi! My name is Ashton Pollard, and I’ve been a college football fan as long as I can remember. My dad went to Notre Dame, so I was thrown into their wild fanbase from the start. I’m originally from Richmond, VA and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 where I was on the varsity swim team for a few years. I’m currently a graduate student at the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism specializing in sports media and living in Chicago.

Aside from college football, I’m an ND men’s and women’s basketball fan, a New York Giants fan and an Atlanta Braves fan. Feel free to ask me why I pull for seemingly random teams - I promise I have an explanation.

I’m excited to cover both ND football and college football on a national level!

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