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Ranking the Mountain West starting quarterbacks from best to worst

Jordan Love
Jordan Love is as good as it gets at the quarterback position in the Mountain West. (Utah State athletics)

Nine Mountain West teams return their starting quarterback this season, but the position is still one of uncertainty. Outside of Utah State's Jordan Love, Hawaii's Cole McDonald and UNLV's Armani Rogers, there aren't a lot of proven players at this position in 2019, which makes predicting how the season will play out more difficult than usual. Here are my rankings of the conference's starting quarterbacks from worst to best.

12. Tevaka Tuioti, New Mexico: The Lobos haven't named a starting quarterback, although most expect it to be Tuioti, who has missed a number of practices to be with his ailing grandfather in California. That has allowed Sherion Jones, a former Tennessee transfer, and junior-college transfer Brent Hughes to work their way into the mix. Tuioti is a solid runner (5.6 yards per carry in his career) but has completed just 50.3 percent of his passes, doesn't exactly stretch the field (7.1 yards per attempt) and has a nearly one-to-one touchdown-to-interception rate (nine TDs to eight INTs). Odds are New Mexico uses a couple of quarterbacks this season.

11. Josh Love, San Jose State: Love has experience with 21 games played at the FBS level. He hasn't had a lot of help around him (SJSU couldn't run the ball at all last season), so it's hard to completely judge his performance. But Love hasn't done anything to distinguish himself. He's completed just 54.9 percent of his passes, averages 6.3 yards per attempt (a low number) and has 21 touchdowns against 21 interceptions. He's also rushed for minus-194 yards in his career and ranked ninth in quarterback rating (122.9) last season. Love has a solid grasp on the job and has improved each year, but he needs a big jump as a senior to rank higher than this.

10. Ryan Agnew, San Diego State: SDSU's offense doesn't exactly allow its quarterbacks to put up big numbers, but the Aztecs have promised tweaks to its scheme to add some spread and shotgun wrinkles. This could help open things up for Agnew, who got some unexpected experience last season when Christian Chapman hurt his knee. He's a decent runner who completed 51.6 percent of his passes for 1,651 yards and 7.4 yards per attempt. He tossed 10 touchdowns against six interceptions and ranked eighth in the conference in quarterback rating (123.2). Agnew is one of four senior starters in the MW. Oddly, the four seniors sit in spots 9-12 on this list. So much for being a veteran.

9. Jorge Reyna, Fresno State: Reyna has the unenviable task of replacing Marcus McMaryion, who played at an elite level (39 touchdowns against 10 interceptions) while leading the Bulldogs to 22 victories and two West Division titles, including one overall MW championship, in the last two seasons. Reyna, a junior-college transfer, was his backup the last two seasons, so he at least has experience in the system. He completed 8-of-12 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 75 yards on nine carries in 2018. Small sample size, but he played well. Only 6-feet tall, he doesn't have prototypical size but threw for 3,646 yards and 39 touchdowns in his last JuCo season and will get great coaching from Jeff Tedford.

8. Sean Chambers, Wyoming: Chambers is technically a freshman, but only because he broke his fibula after earning the Cowboys' starting job while playing in four games in 2018. He's 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds with a strong arm and the ability to run, so he could move up this list. Last year, he rushed for 329 yards and 5.6 yards per carry with two touchdowns while completing 15-of-25 passes for 266 yards (10.6 yards per attempt) and three touchdowns against zero picks. He's going to do his damage on the ground, but to be a top-half quarterback in the MW he'll have to prove he's capable of moving the ball with his arm, too.

7. Donald Hammond III, Air Force: The Falcons haven't announced a starter, but Hammond and Isaiah Sanders both have starting experience. Hammond ended 2018 as the starter, so the guess is it's job. And while it's hard to evaluate Air Force quarterbacks by stats given the team's triple-option, Hammond did a good job balancing the pass and run. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry and accounted for 14 touchdowns (nine rushing, five passing) in eight games (five starts). It's likely both players see time in the backfield, but Hammond is the more dynamic option based on last season's play.

6. Collin Hill, Colorado State: Hill looked like a future star playing as a true freshman in 2016 but tore his ACL that season and re-tore it playing pickup basketball. After missing the 2017 campaign, he returned last season and eventually won the starting job over Washington transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels. Hill, however, struggled in his return. He completed 58.9 percent of his passes, but his yards per attempt fell from 8.5 as a freshman to 6.9 last year and his quarterback rating dipped from 146.9 to 121.1. He also threw as many interceptions (seven) as touchdowns (seven). He was the third-highest-rated recruit among this year's MW starters, so the feeling is he was knocking off the rust and will return to his 2016 form this season.

5. Carson Strong, Nevada: With only one passing attempt in his college career, Strong has the least experience of any player on this list, and I'm guessing a lot of non-Nevada fans reading this believe this ranking is homer-ism, especially considering Strong only had one scholarship offer coming out of high school (that being Nevada). But he's 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and has NFL-level arm strength. He also appears to have that intangible "it factor" coaches look for in quarterbacks. As a freshmen, Strong will surely encounter some bumps in the road, but he has the talent, receiving corps and offensive scheme to put up 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns this season.

4. Chase Cord, Boise State: Boise State is the third and final MW team yet to name a starting quarterback, but it'd be a shock if it wasn't Cord, a sophomore who torn his ACL last October and missed spring camp as a result. Cord has actually torn his ACL twice (he did so playing basketball in high school; stop playing basketball quarterbacks!). Jaylon Henderson, who is on his third program, and four-star true freshman Hank Bachmeier also are in the mix. But Cord should be under center for the season opener against Florida State. He's a dual-threat play-maker and completed 6-of-9 passes last year for 67 yards, one touchdown and one interception while rushing eight times for 109 yards and another score. He's unproven but has a high ceiling.

3. Armani Rogers, UNLV: In a normal MW season, Rogers would typically not rank this high given his struggles throwing the ball, but there is a lot of uncertainty at quarterback in the conference. The 6-5 Rogers is an elite runner with a big-time arm. He's rushed for 1,345 yards, 5.6 yards per carry and 16 touchdowns in 16 games at UNLV (he's also had 11 fumbles). But the former MW freshman of the year hasn't made a ton of progress throwing the ball (his throwing grade is the eighth-lowest among returning quarterbacks, per Pro Football Focus' rankings). A career 49.3 percent passer (he was at 44.4 percent last year), Rogers must take a big step forward in the pass game to live up to this placement. The potential is gigantic, though, as he showed in the comeback win against Nevada in last year's regular-season finale when he accounted for all five touchdowns in a 34-29 victory.

2. Cole McDonald, Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors have a long history of stats-producing quarterbacks and McDonald put up big numbers last season. As a first-time starter, he completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 3,875 yards, 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His quarterback rating (146.5) was fourth in the conference and is second among returning players. He was pushed this fall for the starting job by Chevan Cordeiro but kept the top line. McDonald can improve his accuracy, but he throws a great ball and can do damage with his legs, too (359 rushing yards, four rushing TDs in 2018). He had seven 300-yard games in 2018, including three contests of 418-plus yards.

1. Jordan Love, Utah State: Love might be the Group of 5's best quarterback (Houston's D'Eriq King and North Texas' Mason Fine also are in the mix), although he lost most of his supporting cast this offseason, putting even more weight on his shoulders. He can really get the ball down the field (8.6 yards per attempt last year) and tossed 32 touchdowns against just six interceptions, so he avoided mistakes while maximizing explosive plays. Love, who also rushed for seven scores, connected on 64 percent of his passes last season, throwing for 3,567 yards while ranking first in the MW in quarterback rating (158.3) and leading the second-highest-scoring offense in the country. Like McDonald, Love had seven 300-yard games, peaking with a 491-yard performance against San Jose State. Only a junior, this could be Love's last season in Logan as he might play his way into being an early NFL draft pick.

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