5 Top Returning College Quarterbacks in 2023

There will be plenty of returning talent under center in college football in 2023 and here are five of the top returning college quarterbacks.

5 top returning college Quarterbacks

Riley Leonard, Duke

Leonard helped lead the Blue Devils (and 1st-year head coach Mike Elko) to a 9-4 record, including a 30-13 win over UCF in the Military Bowl. It was the first time Duke had won eight games in a season since 2018, after three straight losing seasons.

5 quarterbacks to watch in 2023: Duke QB Riley Leonard
Duke QB Riley Leonard/Image Credit: goduke.com

Leonard completed 63% of his passes for 2967 yards and 20 touchdowns, with just 6 INTs. He also rushed for 699 yards (5.6-yard average) and 13 more scores (gaining over 3700 yards of total offense and scoring 33 total TDs).

He posted three games with over 300 yards passing.

Leonard passed for 4 touchdowns in a 35-31 win over Wake Forest and scored four total touchdowns against Pitt, Miami, and North Carolina A&T. He rushed for 130 yards (9-yard average) in a 38-35 loss to North Carolina.

Leonard had a great spring practice, capped off by a solid performance in the Blue-White game. He completed 19 of 28 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, with his first TD pass coming on the opening drive in which he was 5 for 5 passing.

Duke hosts Clemson on Labor Day, September 4th.

John Rhys Plumlee, UCF

A 2-sport star (he is the starting outfielder for the UCF baseball team), Plumlee passed for 2586 yards (63% completion percentage) and 14 TDs, and eight INTs. He also rushed for 862 yards and 11 scores (a 5.42-yard average).

Plumlee was recruited out of high school by a host of schools, and he originally committed to Georgia. But he ended up at Ole Miss from 2019-2021, whereupon the arrival of Matt Corral forced him into a role as a wide receiver. He transferred to UCF in January 2022.

5 Quarterbacks to Watch in 2023
QB John Rhys Plumlee-UCF/Image Credit: ucfknights.com

Plumlee recorded four games with over 300 yards passing for the Knights. He passed for 4 touchdowns against South Carolina State and Temple (18 of 22 passing, 81% completion percentage. Plumlee also rushed for three TDs against Temple, accounting for seven total TDs, setting a school record.

Against South Carolina State, he scored five total touchdowns and gained 408 yards of total offense. Against South Florida, he was 9 of 9 passing and rushed for 133 yards and 2 TDs against the Bulls. Plumlee gained 460 yards of total offense against Florida Atlantic.

UCF hosts Kent State on Thursday, August 31st.

Frank Harris, UTSA

Harris will be the “Stetson Bennet” of 2023, as this will be his seventh season with the Roadrunners.

He completed 69% of his passes for 4063 yards, 32 touchdowns, and only nine INTs (in 471 pass attempts). Harris also rushed for 602 yards and 9 TDs. He ranked second in C-USA with 290 yards passing per game.

5 Quarterbacks to Watch in 2023
QB Frank Harris-UTSA/Image Credit: goutsa.com

Harris led the Roadrunners on a 10-game winning streak. During that streak, he threw 25 touchdown passes against only 5 INTs.

The stats Harris posted last season were impressive:

  • Six games over 300 yards passing.
  • 414 yards, 2 TDs, in a 45-30 win over Middle Tennessee State.
  • Three games with 4 passing touchdowns.
  • Games with 3 passing TDs= 3
  • Three games with four passing touchdowns.
  • Five total touchdowns in a 41-7 win over Rice.
  • Against Texas Southern, he accounted for five touchdowns.
  • In a 48-27 win over North Texas, Harris accounted for five TDs.

Harris led UTSA to an 11-3 record and a Conference USA championship. He was named the MVP of the C-USA championship game, C-USA MVP, and 1st team All-CUSA.

2022 will be the final year in C-USA for UTSA. They move to the American Athletic Conference (AAC) in 2024.

UTSA travels to take on Houston on Saturday, September 2nd.

Tanner Mordecai, Wisconsin

Mordecai, a transfer from SMU, will look to be the starter at the most important position on the field for the Badgers. The Badgers will have a new head coach, former Cincinnati head man Luke Fickell, and a new Offensive Coordinator, Phil Longo, formerly of North Carolina.

5 Quarterbacks to Watch in 2023
QB Tanner Mordecai/Image Credit: uwbadgers.com

Longo coached both Sam Howell and Drake Maye while calling plays for the Tar Heels. Fickell posted a 57-18 record in 6 years with the Bearcats.

Wisconsin will most certainly move on from their run-heavy offense of previous years in favor of a vertical passing scheme. Mordecai wants to be the catalyst for that offense.

At SMU in 2022, Mordecai completed 65% of his passes for 3524 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 10 INTs (in 443 pass attempts). In week one against North Texas, he completed 71% of his passes for 432 yards and 4 TDs. Mordecai recorded six games of over 70% completion percentage. He ranked second in the AAC with 293 passing yards per game.

He missed one game last season, against Tulsa. From that point forward, Mordecai threw 17 touchdown passes and only three INTs.

In a 77-63 shootout win over Houston, Mordecai accounted for 10 touchdowns (9 passing, 1 rushing). He tied an NCAA record with seven first-half TD passes. And he was the first player in FBS history with seven TD passes and a rushing touchdown in the first half of a game. For this stellar performance, he was named AAC Player of the Week.

For Wisconsin this spring, Mordecai has emerged as a leader of the field. And in a crowded quarterback room, he is the only one with starting experience.

The Badgers host Buffalo on Saturday, September 2nd.

Jayden Daniels, LSU

In 2022, Daniels completed 68% of his passes for 2913 yards, 17 touchdowns, and only 3 INTs. He also rushed for 885 yards and 11 scores. Daniels accounted for three rushing touchdowns in back-to-back weeks against Florida and Ole Miss.

LSU QB Jayden Daniels/Image Credit: LSU Football

He led the Tigers on a five-game win streak, with victories against Florida (45-35), Ole Miss (45-20), Alabama (32-31), Arkansas (13-10), and UAB (41-10).

The Tigers finished with a 10-4 record that included an SEC West Division Title and a berth in the SEC Championship Game.

Daniels 2022 stats include the following:

  • Six total touchdowns against Florida.
  • Five total touchdowns against Ole Miss.
  • Four total touchdowns against Southern, 10 of 11 passing for 90%.
  • Eight games over 70% completion percentage.

Daniels has received a ton of praise from head coach Brian Kelly this spring. Kelly wants to improve the Tigers’ vertical passing game in 2023, and Daniels has shown just that over the entire spring practice.

In the LSU Spring Game, Daniels passed for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has also shown improved leadership skills, as well as added 10 pounds to his frame.

LSU travels to Orlando to take on Florida State on Sunday, September 3rd.

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