1. Khalil Tate (Arizona Wildcats)
I know most people are probably not agreeing with this pick, because after all, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate went from potential Heisman contender to one of the league’s most inconsistent offensive leaders in just a handful of months last season. But let’s remember now that Tate was balancing a new playbook under Wildcats head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and he was injured (or recovering) more than he was healthy. I’m not judging Tate too hard on his 2018 performance. What I instead prefer to look at is how the 6’ 2”, 215-pounder can carve apart a defense with his versatility on the ground and through the air, while he’ll also have another season of tutelage and growth under his belt. So long as his nagging injuries don’t pile up again, I sense that Tate’s 2019 campaign will be reminiscent of his first breakthrough moments as Arizona’s gunslinger.
2. Jacob Eason (Washington Huskies)
The hard part about projecting just what kind of quarterback Jacob Eason will be in 2019 for the Washington Huskies is that the former Georgia starter hasn’t attempted more than three passes in a game since December of 2016, when he helped the Bulldogs to a Liberty Bowl victory over TCU. The question now for the Lake Stevens, Washington native is how much has changed for since then. Eason’s story in Athens has been well documented as an early injury in 2017 paved the way for freshman Jake Fromm to take the reigns of the team’s offense and never look back, forcing Eason to look for a move to greener pastures. Expected to flourish in his new role under Chris Petersen, as many previous quarterbacks have, Eason could improve upon the 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns that he tossed for during the 2016 season at Georgia.
3. Cole McDonald (Hawaii Rainbow Warriors)
Hawaii has historically been considered an offensive powerhouse and under head coach Nick Rolovich (a huge Oregon State fan himself), the Rainbow Warriors have stayed true to that dynamic approach. So it’s no surprise that they bring one of the strongest quarterbacks on Oregon State’s schedule to the mix in junior gunslinger, Cole McDonald. Last season, the 6’ 4”, 205-pounder threw for 3,790 yards and 35 touchdowns through the air, while also scampering in for 4 touchdowns on the ground. McDonald led Hawaii to an 8-5 overall mark and with eight other starters around him returning on offense, he’s in for a likely All-Mountain West campaign. He may not be the biggest name on this list, but if McDonald isn’t the main priority on the Beavers scouting report when they head down to the Aloha State in early September, Oregon State will be in for some serious problems.
4. Justin Herbert (Oregon Ducks)
Depending on which exit you get off on Interstate-5, Oregon’s Justin Herbert is either the best thing since sliced bread or the antithesis of another over-hyped Ducks star. However, warranted or not, the 6’ 6”, 230-pound gunslinger is beloved by most NFL personnel and will be playing his final season in Eugene with some heavy expectations on his shoulders. The bad part of Herbert for opponents is that his style fits into the current Ducks offense, as he’s thrown at least one passing touchdown in 28 straight games (the longest active streak in college football) and last season, he tallied over 3,000 yards through the air along with 29 scores, a mark that put him in the top ten nationally. With his final showdown against his cross-state rivals looming in late November, expect Herbert to bring his “A” game when the Beavers head south this upcoming campaign.
5. K.J. Costello (Stanford Cardinal)
When you think of Pac-12 quarterbacks, the first name that comes to mind is probably not Stanford’s KJ Costello. The Cardinal are typically not known for their high-octane passing attack or a field leader who slings the ball regularly over 30 times a contest, but in Costello, Stanford is beginning to find the early building blocks of a strong potential pro-style quarterback. With prototypical size at 6’ 5”, 215-pounds, Costello somewhat quietly tallied 3,540 passing yards and 29 touchdowns last year, emerging as one of the Conference of Champions undisputed statistical leaders. However, some of both his own personal (and the team’s) subpar showing in crucial contests in 2018, leave many to wonder if Costello has what it takes to help David Shaw’s program back to a Pac-12 title. Make no mistake about it though, if the Cardinal get to that level, it’ll be on the improved overall play of Costello.
Also Considered: JT Daniels (USC), Gabe Gubrud (Washington State), Tyler Huntley (Utah)