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The PAC-12 Returns Elite QB Talent in 2023

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

There is one Power 5 conference that returns some elite QB talent in 2023, and that is the PAC-12. Six teams return experienced and talented signal callers that accounted for 22,721 passing yards last season. The conference itself may be dying on the vine, but their football teams are going to be fun to watch this year.

Caleb Williams, USC Trojans

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Williams was also named:

  • PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year

  • Walter Camp Player of the Year

  • Maxwell Award Winner

  • 1st Team AP All-American

  • AP College Football Player of the Year

  • 1st Team All PAC-12

Williams followed Head Coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma and picked up where he left off in Norman. He passed for 4537 yards, 42 TDs, and only 5 INTs (in 500 pass attempts), and completed 66% of his passes. In addition, Williams added 10 scores on the ground.

Michael Penix, Jr., Washington Huskies

A 2nd Team All PAC-12 selection, Penix threw for 4641 yards, 31 TDs, and 8 INTs (in 554 pass attempts). He completed 65% of his passes.

Penix posted 10 games with multiple TD passes, including four games with four TD passes.

To start the 2022 season, Penix threw for over 300 yards in eight consecutive games. Included in those was a 516-yard, four-touchdown effort in a 49-39 win over Arizona.

He was the Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP, passing for 287 yards and 2 TDs, 1 INT in a 27-20 win over Texas.

Penix will have many of the same weapons from last year's team that churned out over 6700 yards of total offense.

Bo Nix, Oregon Ducks

A transfer from Auburn, Bo Nix passed for 3593 yards, 29 TDs, and 7 INTs. He completed 71% of his passes. Nix also rushed for 510 yards and 14 more scores.

Over the course of last season, the Ducks went on a seven-game winning streak. Nix completed over 70% of his passes in six of those games.

Nix posted several games with multiple touchdowns, both through the air and on the ground:

  • 428 yards passing, 3 TDs, and 1 INT in a 44-41 win over Washington State.

  • 412 yards passing, 3 TDs, 2 INTs in a 42-24 win over CAL.

  • 327 yards, 2 TDS, 0 INTs in a 38-34 loss to Oregon State.

  • 5 passing TDs in a 70-14 win over Eastern Michigan.

  • 4 total TDs in a 45-27 win over Stanford.

  • 5 passing TDs in a 45-30 win over UCLA.

  • 4 total TDs in a 49-10 win over Colorado.

  • 5 total TDs in a 41-20 win over BYU.

He will be looking to more of the same in 2023.

Cameron Ward, Washington State Cougars

Ward transferred in before the start of the 2022 season from FCS school Incarnate Word. Against the Power 5 competition, Ward passed for 3231 yards, 23 TDs, and 9 INTs (in 497 pass attempts). He completed 64% of his passes.

Over the final eight games of the 2022 season, Ward threw 10 TD passes and only 2 INTs.

In 2021 at Incarnate Word, Ward was named the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for over 4700 yards and 47 touchdowns, and 10 INTs. He also won the Jerry Rice Award as the best freshman in the FCS.

Cameron Rising, Utah Utes

Rising is coming off a 2022 season that included a PAC-12 championship and two wins over the mighty Trojans of USC.

He passed for 3034 yards, 26 TDs, and 8 INTs. Rising also rushed for 465 yards and 6 scores. He averaged six yards per rush.

Rising threw three or more touchdown passes six times last season.

In the two wins over USC, Rising threw for a combined 715 yards, eight touchdowns, and zero INTs. In addition, he was named the MVP of the PAC-12 title game.

Jayden de Laura, Arizona Wildcats (Transfer)

From a production standpoint, Jayden De Laura threw for 3685 yards, 25 TDs, and 13 INTs. He completed 62% of his passes.

The junior QB posted four games with three or more TD passes, and three games over 400 yards passing.

Against Colorado, de Laura threw six touchdown passes in a 43-20 win.

But his character has been put into question resulting from his involvement in an incident while still in high school in Hawaii. You can read that article here.

It will be interesting to see how the University of Arizona administration and football coaching staff handle de Laura going forward regarding this issue.

More Potentially Elite Quarterbacks in the PAC-12 in 2023

Ethan Garbers/Collin Schlee (Transfer)/Dante Moore, UCLA Bruins

The one question about UCLA football everybody wants to know: Who will replace Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback? Head Coach Chip Kelly will make a decision among three candidates.

Ethan Garbers: the backup to DTR for 2 years, Garbers has played in 7 games, throwing four TD passes and four INTs.

Collin Schlee: a transfer from Kent State, Schlee passed for 2598 yards, 17 TDs, and 5 INTs for the Golden Flashes.

Dante Moore-Elite QB Recruit: the highest-rated recruit in the history of the Bruins football program, Moore is a 5-star recruit out of Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, MI.

The #3 ranked QB prospect in the Class of 2023 (according to 247Sports), Moore passed for 2392 yards, 32 TDs, and just 3 INTs in his senior season. For his high school career, Moore passed for 9,880 yards, 135 TDs, and 20 INTs.

D.J. Uiagalelei, Oregon State Beavers (Transfer)

D.J. transferred in from Clemson. He passed for 2521 yards, 22 TDs, and 7 INTs. And, he completed 61% of his passes. In addition, he added 545 rushing yards and 7 scores.

After sitting behind Trevor Lawrence, D.J.'s career as the starter at Clemson didn't live up to the hype.

In five games last season, D.J. completed LESS than 60% of his passes. Glaring examples include:

  • 8 of 29 passing (27%) for just 99 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT in a 31-30 loss to in-state rival South Carolina.

  • 2 of 5 passing (40%) for a mere 10 yards against North Carolina. He was benched early in favor of true freshman Cade Klubnik. Klubnik went on to complete 20 of 24 passes (83%) for 279 yards, 2 total touchdowns.

D.J. looks for a fresh, and more productive start, under Co-PAC-12 Coach of the Year Jonathan Smith.

Drew Pyne (transfer) and Jaden Rashada, Arizona State Sundevils

Pyne was a 10-game starter at Notre Dame in 2022, where he passed for 2021 yards, 22 TDs, and 6 INTs. During a 5 game-winning streak late in the season, he threw 9 TD passes vs 3 INTs.

Rashada is a true freshman (ranked #31 on ESPN 300) and a 4-star prospect. He was the 6th ranked quarterback prospect in the Class of 2023, according to 247Sports.

At 6-4, 185 pounds, Rashada threw for 3055 yards and 32 TDs, completing 60% of his passes during his senior year of high school. In addition, he added 419 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

He is a legacy recruit. His father Harlen played at Arizona State from 1992-1994.

Shedeur Sanders, Colorado Buffaloes (Transfer)

Sanders is of course Coach Prime's son, a transfer from Jackson State. In 2 years at JSU (2021-2022), Sanders passed for 6963 yards, 70 TDs, and 14 INTs.

In 2021, Sanders was named SWAC Freshman of the Year and the winner of the Jerry Rice Award, recognized as the best freshman football player in the FCS.

He was named SWAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2022 and was named 1st Team All-SWAC.

Ari Patu and Ashton Daniels, Stanford Cardinal

2022 starter Tanner McKee has moved on to the NFL (6th round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles). So, it appears it will be Ari Patu and Ashton Daniels battling out for the starting job. Between both, they have completed 11 passes for 104 yards and 2 TDs.

California Golden Bears: Unknown

Here is where the transfer portal raises its ugly head in a negative way.

Jack Plummer was the starter in 2022, passing for 3095 yards, 21 TDs, and 9 INTs. But the Bears changed offensive coordinators, moving from a pro-style offense to the Air Raid scheme. As a result, Plummer jumped into the transfer portal.

In addition, another backup Kai Millner has also entered the portal. Now, both of these players could also remove themselves from the portal. But for now, who will be throwing the pigskin around the yard at Berkeley is anybody’s guess.

Yes indeed, this year’s class of PAC-12 of quarterbacks is outstanding. And come the 2024 NFL Draft, the conference could have six or more quarterbacks hear their names called on draft day.

This article was originally published on It is republished here with permission.


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