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Sun Belt Signal Callers

Assessing the most important position in football going into 2017.

Troy v Georgia Southern
Can Silvers keep his spot as the top QB in the Sun Belt?
Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images

No matter what level of football you are at, QB play is king. In the Sun Belt it is no different and the teams at the top are usually getting very solid play from under center, while the teams near the bottom tend to have QB issues. Here we’ll give our thoughts where each program is with their signal callers.

Top of the Food Chain

Taylor Lamb (Appalachian State): 6’2” 200 Senior Calhoun, GA/Calhoun

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl - Appalachian State v Ohio
Lamb isn’t flashy, but he gets the job done.
Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

2016 Stats: 197/325 60.6% 175.5 YPG 7.0 YPA 24 TD (9 rush) 8 INT 505 rushing yards

Since becoming a member in the Sun Belt, Lamb has been the straw that has stirred the drink for Scott Satterfield’s program. Lamb enters 2017 with 36 career starts under his belt and is the most proven dual-threat QB in this league. The senior has rushed for over 400 yards in each of his first three seasons as well as completing 60% of his passes each year. With 81 total touchdowns, we could see his jersey being retired down the road in Boone.

Brandon Silvers (Troy): 6’3” 214 Senior Orange Beach, AL/Gulf Shores

2016 Stats: 293/406 63.7% 244.6 YPG 6.9 YPA 27 TD (4 rush) 12 INT

It was a rocky start to Silvers’ career, but he and the Trojans have finally turned the corner. The senior from Orange Beach, Alabama has thrived in Neal Brown’s Air Raid offense and all signs are pointing to a huge season this fall. Silvers is a quick decision maker and he is able to distribute the football to Troy’s WRs in space. It’s a little worrisome that Silvers missed the spring with a mysterious hand issue, but Troy should feel great as long as he is taking snaps in 2017.

Matt Linehan (Idaho): 6’3” 220 Senior Orchard Lake, MI/Orchard Lake St. Mary’s

2016 Stats: 257/415 61.9% 244.9 YPG 7.7 YPA 23 TD (4 rush) 10 INT 167 rushing yards

Much like Silvers, Linehan will be entering his fourth year as a starter in Moscow and the program cashed in on his experience by recording nine wins last season. With another year of growth, Idaho should feel pretty good about where they’re at on offense with Linehan. Linehan lost four of his top five targets, so that is a concern, but you have to feel fine with him in the pocket and having Paul Petrino wearing the headset on the sideline.

Room For Improvement

Justice Hansen (Arkansas State): 6’4” 207 Junior Edmond, OK/Santa Fe/Oklahoma/Butler CC

2016 Stats: 197/340 57.9% 209.2 YPG 8.0 YPA 20 TD (1 rush) 8 INT 131 rushing yards

The Oklahoma transfer stepped in for the Red Wolves and helped save the season after the brutal 0-4 start. Hansen is a bit of a statue in his dropbacks so it will be imperative that he becomes much more accurate from the pocket. However, his 8.0 YPA (yards per attempt) is the highest returning in the league and is really something to build on. With head coach Blake Anderson taking over the offense, we should think things get much easier for the junior.

Conner Manning (Georgia State): 6’1” 205 Senior Lake Forest, CA/El Toro/Utah

2016 Stats: 207/373 55.5% 268.4 YPG 7.2 YPA 18 TD (2 rush) 13 INT

Georgia State v Wisconsin
Can Manning leading the league in passing for consecutive seasons?
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Speaking of statues, next up we have Georgia State’s gunslinger. In his first season as a head coach, Shawn Elliott is inheriting a very seasoned vet. After sitting out 2015 due to the transfer rules, Manning led the Sun Belt in passing last season and that is a huge building block to have for offensive coordinator Travis Trickett and the new staff. With the return of WR Penny Hart from injury, 300 YPG is not out of the question. However, that completion percentage has to get much better and the INTs must go down.

Dallas Davis (South Alabama): 6’2” 200 Junior Panama City, FL/Rutherford

2016 Stats: 198/349 56.7% 7.8 YPA 14 TD (3 rush) 12 INT 245 rushing yards

In his first season as a full-time starter, Davis led USA to the Arizona Bowl as well as victories over Mississippi State and a San Diego State team that finished in the top 25. Davis has some work to do but he showed us some things in 2016. The 7.8 YPA is something to really build off of if he can become more accurate. I look for the touchdowns to jump up this season as Davis has a full season under his belt. However, it is safe to be timid as South Alabama lost its top four receivers from last fall.

A Change Could Be Coming

Garrett Smith (ULM): 6’0” 211 Junior Spring Branch, TX/Smithson Valley

2016 Stats: 103/179 57.5% 154.6 YPG 6.9 YPA 12 TD (3 rush) 7 INT 308 rushing yards

Matt Viator enters his second season at Monroe and it seems that the Warhawks program is in the beginning stages of a long rebuild. Smith was the starter last season and had some moderate success as ULM surprised a lot of people by finishing 4-8. However, with Smith being out for the spring, we could be headed towards a QB change. Sophomores Will Collins and Caleb Evans are taking snaps this spring and could be the guy come fall.

Tyler Rogers (New Mexico State): 6’3” 214 Senior Peoria, AZ/Liberty/Arizona Western

2016 Stats: 224/404 55.4% 236.6 YPG 6.4 YPA 20 TD (4 rush) 12 INT 333 rushing yards

New Mexico State v Texas A&M
Can Rogers and NMSU finally get it turned around?
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The numbers have been solid for Rogers in his career in Las Cruces and this past offseason he was awarded a sixth year of eligibility. However, with this being NMSU’s final season in the Sun Belt, with a future of being a independent waiting, Doug Martin may want to give the Aggies a shot at some new blood under center. Rogers has been solid as a JUCO QB for NMSU but the wins just have not come.

Up In The Air

Damian Williams (Texas State): 6’1” 223 Grad Metairie, LA/Archbishop Rummel/Mississippi State

NCAA Football: South Alabama at Mississippi State
Williams will provide much needed playmaking ability in San Marcos.
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

No QB in the league has more raw talent than Williams. The former three-star prospect from Louisiana started a couple games for Dan Mullen’s program last fall and is now looking for a fresh start after the emergence of Nick Fitzgerald in Starkville. The grad transfer will be the guy for Everett Withers’ program this fall and should be the best dual-threat QB in the league. Williams will be asked to shoulder a major load of the offense as Withers and the Bobcats enter Year Two of a massive rebuild.

Austin Wilson (Coastal Carolina): 6’2” 220 Grad Camp Hill, PA/East Pennsboro/Syracuse

Making the transition from FCS to FBS this year will be the Chants out of Conway, South Carolina and it looks like head coach Joe Moglia will be giving the keys to an ACC grad transfer. Wilson, in limited playing time, looked rocky in an Orange uniform as he threw one touchdown and seven picks in his career. Senior Tyler Keane looks to be QB2 coming out of spring and he should push Wilson all of fall camp. Don’t count out true frosh dual-threat Darius Harper as he may be the most talented of the bunch and he’s likely the future in Conway.

Georgia Southern: It’s wide open

Perhaps no one is on a hotter seat in the Sun Belt than Tyson Summers and he made a quick change this offseason by bringing in Georgia Tech assistant Bryan Cook to institute an all out option attack. The Eagles are still going to run the option out of the gun but expect a lot more under center attack as Cook brings Paul Johnson’s classic flexbone attack back to Statesboro. According to Summers, five QBs have a legit shot at this job and we really don’t know what to expect until Southern opens up play against Auburn. Junior LaBaron Anthony, sophomore, Seth Shuman, redshirt freshman Shai Werts, JUCO transfer Kado Brown, and true frosh Jaalon Frazier. The smart money may be on Shuman as he received some game experience last season.

Jordan Davis (UL-Lafayette): 6’3” 205 Junior Spring, TX/Klein Oak

What looked like a battle that could head into fall camp was ended in the spring as Hudspeth announced Davis the starter.

Davis is entering his fourth year on campus and he seemed very comfortable in the offense during the spring game. Davis went 11-for-14 for a 174 yards and one score. We haven’t seen much game action from Davis in the previous two seasons, but having someone this comfortable with the system should be a good sign as the Cajuns have underperformed behind center the last two seasons.