The website 247Sports ran a list last weekend projecting the top 25 quarterbacks in college football in 2020. Their list was as good as any, assembled by folks who study these things and know their stuff.
Ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the 247Sports story are Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Pretty easy call, right? Fields threw 40 touchdowns and just one interception last season. Lawrence has a crazy 29-1 win-loss record in his two seasons of college ball.
There were plenty of other qualified quarterbacks on their list, including three from the Pac-12. Jayden Daniels of Arizona State and Kedon Slovis of USC — both coming off superb freshman seasons — earned high marks at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively.
Stanford’s Davis Mills, who was 247Sports’ No. 1-rated pro-style prospect in the high school class of 2017, checks in at No. 19. As a redshirt sophomore last fall he broke Stanford’s single-game passing record with 504 yards.
Two Pac-12 quarterbacks — Oregon sophomore Tyler Shough and Utah grad transfer Jake Bentley — were part of a short list of “just missed the cut,” despite the fact that neither has started a game for his school.
What caught my attention more than anyone who was included on the list was one player who was not: Cal redshirt junior Chase Garbers.
Garbers is not displacing Fields or Lawrence at the top of the list, and he’s not likely to join the Heisman Trophy conversation. His 2019 season numbers don’t scream for attention.
But assuming we have football in the fall, I’m willing to bet Garbers delivers a 2020 season that earns him respect he has not yet received.
*** Garbers tells us what he's been doing to stay engaged and in shape.
Here are the five reasons I expect Garbers to blossom into a top-flight QB for the Bears this fall:
— Do the math: Check out Garbers’ final three games last season: 59 for 90 passing (65.6 percent) for 787 yards with six touchdowns and one interception, plus 93 net rushing yards and three TDs in wins over Stanford, UCLA and Illinois. Even if he doesn’t do any better than that, his passing numbers projected over 12 games would be 3,148 yards with 24 touchdowns and four picks.
*** New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave on his early impressions of Garbers:
— OK with new OC: Garbers already has taken to new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who is installing a more diverse attack with an NFL flavor. Look for a power running game, double tight ends, perhaps even a fullback now and then. All of that will take pressure off a quarterback and should allow Garbers to flourish.
— Veteran support: The cast of players around Garbers will be more experienced, with every offensive starter from the Redbox Bowl returning. In particular, the Bears expect their O-line and wide receiver corps to be stronger and deeper, and what quarterback wouldn’t welcome that.
— Staying upright: Garbers missed all of three games and parts of two others last season due to a shoulder injury and a concussion. If the line protects him better and he remembers to slide when he dashes out of the pocket, perhaps he can get through an entire season intact.
— A bottom-line QB: The numbers that matter most to any player, but especially a quarterback, are wins and losses. Garbers shines in this category. He is 13-2 in his career when he has played more than half the game, and was 7-0 in those circumstances a year ago.