The “slow” part of the off season is here as college football is finally at a standstill. The NFL Draft is over, the transfer portal is closed, and spring ball has come to an end. It is officially time to think about the 2022 season. Now is your chance to gather your surroundings, buy a few preview magazines and figure out who is on which roster and what players to key on. If you don’t know where to begin, B1G Thoughts is here to give you five players at each position to watch in the 2022 season.
Quarterback is the most important position in football — even more so in college football. A great college quarterback can change the direction of a program. Dwayne Haskins did that with Ohio State. Drew Brees and Tom Brady will always be remembered for what they did at their respective college programs. Lest we forget what Joe Burrow was able to do in two seasons at LSU. The Big Ten has been home to some of the best quarterbacks in football history (and some of the worst), so who are the names to watch in 2022 and who can continue the legacy of great Big Ten quarterbacks?
Redshirt Junior - Ohio State
C.J. Stroud being mentioned among top five players to watch in 2022 is a given. You will see him on every list imaginable, from early Heisman Trophy watch, mock drafts, All-American watch, and any other type of preseason accolades list. He is one of the most exciting players in football, and is a top-three player in the sport alongside Alabama’s Will Anderson and Bryce Young.
Stroud had a slow start to the 2021 season as a freshman, and ultimately missed a game due to injury, yet still finished as a Heisman finalist with 4,435 yards passing, 44 touchdowns and just six interceptions with a 71.9% completion percentage. In 2022, Stroud enters the season as a favorite for the No. 1 overall pick. He is the first quarterback in a long time to lose to Michigan, but it’s hard to blame him for what happened in Ann Arbor. He will hope to end this season with a National Championship before heading to the NFL. Can he build upon his 2021 season and lead the Buckeyes to the promised land?
Only time will tell, but either way he’ll be must-see TV.
Check out Stroud’s 2021 highlights:
Fifth-Year Senior - Purdue
Aidan O’Connell started his career at Purdue as a walk-on. He’s now entering the 2022 season as the incumbent starter and a fringe NFL prospect. Last season, he led Purdue past two teams ranked No. 2 in the nation, throwing for 3,712 yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 71.6% completion percentage. Heading into the NFL, you can’t teach size and you can’t teach accuracy. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he certainly has the size. If he has another season pushing 70% accuracy, a team will take a chance on him.
Without top pass-catcher David Bell it may be a tough hill to climb, but Purdue has a chance to play spoilermaker again due to the cannon he calls an arm.
Check out O’Connell’s 2021 highlights:
J.J. McCarthy/Cade McNamara
Sophomore/Senior - Michigan
Michigan’s quarterback room is waiting for a controversy. Cade McNamara won the job in 2021, and had a quintessential game-manager season with 2,576 yards passing, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. His accuracy needs to improve from 64.2%, but he consistently made plays to keep Michigan close until their running backs or defense could win the game. Behind him is five star sophomore J.J. McCarthy, who played in every game last season and has shown the ability to make throws that McNamara is incapable of making.
This is the classic scenario of choosing between the reliable older player versus the super talented younger player. McNamara has the lower ceiling, but is probably the more consistent player. McCarthy has all the talent in the world, but with that talent comes living with mistakes. Who Michigan chooses will have ripple effects, and a non-clear decision can split the locker room. Add to this the desire to beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten for the second year in a row, and this will be a battle worth watching all season.
Check out McNamara’s 2021 highlights:
Check out McCarthy’s 2021 highlights:
Redshirt Junior - Maryland
Taulia Tagovailoa, younger brother to Tua Tagovailoa, is entering his third season as the starter for the Maryland Terrapins. He’s had an up and down career so far, but has consistently improved each season. Last year he showed his growth, but had to deal with injuries in his wide receiver core. That didn’t stop him from throwing for 3,860 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 69.2% completion percentage. He led Maryland to victory in a winner-take-all game against Rutgers for a bowl bid, and then showed out in their bowl game for a 44-point victory.
Tagovailoa is almost impossible to defend as a dual-threat quarterback, and with another offseason he could unleash his abilities against opposing defenses. Maryland may not be good in 2022, but their offense will be entertaining with Tagovailoa behind center. Can he lead Maryland to back-to-back bowl games and improve his draft stock? Time will tell, it will be worth watching.
Check out Tagovailoa’s 2020 highlights:
Redshirt Junior - Nebraska
Casey Thompson is the only transfer on this list, landing at Nebraska after starting his career at Texas. As the starter for the Longhorns in 2021, Thompson threw for 2,113 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 63.2% completion percentage. He will need to improve his accuracy, but Husker fans are looking at that nine interception number and leaping for joy. The Adrian Martinez experiment did not work out, with a supremely talented quarterback who kept them in many games but turnover proclivities that lost them even more.
Thompson is a solid quarterback who many will hope can take a jump in 2022. Scott Frost tied his future to Thompson when adding him from the transfer portal. The Cornhuskers are hoping to finally breakthrough and reach a bowl game in 2022. They’ve made changes to the roster and coaching staff, but nothing will matter if Casey Thompson is not the man to lead the charge.
Check out Thompson’s 2020 highlights: