The 50 most important college players in Texas in 2017 — No. 18: The winner of the Baylor QB battle
AS THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON EDGES CLOSER, WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE MOST PIVOTAL PLAYERS FOR EACH PROGRAM'S RESPECTIVE SUCCESS.
The importance of a player is not always defined by their skill level. The most important player on a team or in a unit is not always the best player on a team. This list is designed to breakdown the 50 most important players in Texas college football for the 2017 season. It is not a ranking of the 50 best college football players in the state. Importance can be defined by position, need, skill or leadership. We’ll count down the list through the summer, all the way to No. 1.
50 – Lamar DE Daniel Crosley / 49 – TCU WR KaVontae Turpin / 48 – UTEP QB Ryan Metz
47 – UMHB RB Markeith Miller / 46 – Sam Houston State DE PJ Hall / 45 – Baylor WR Blake Lynch
44 – Texas Tech WR Jonathan Giles (transferred) / 43 – Texas Tech RB Justin Stockton
42 – PVAMU WR Joshua Simmons / 41 – Rice RB Samuel Stewart / 40 – UNT WR Jalen Guyton
39 – Texas RB Chris Warren / 38 – Rice OL Trey Martin / 37 – Texas A&M Commerce QB Luis Perez
36 – Baylor DL K.J. Smith / 35 – Texas State LB Gabe Loyd / 34 – Texas State WR Thurman Morbley
33 – Houston DB Khalil Williams / 32 – Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks / 31 – SFA DL John Franklin
30 – SMU DE Justin Lawler / 29 – Texas State QB Damian Williams / 28 – ACU QB Dallas Sealey
27 – UTSA QB Dalton Sturm / 26 – Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams / 25 – UTSA WR Josh Stewart
24 – TCU LB Travin Howard / 23 – Texas Tech OL Travis Bruffy / 22 – Rice LB Emmanuel Ellerbee
21 – UNT DT Bryce English / 20 – TCU LB Ty Summers / 19 – UTEP LB Alvin Jones
Baylor’s ability to spread the ball all across the field in a high-flying, fast paced offense has been synonymous with the program over the last decade. But with Matt Rhule taking over, things are going to look a lot different in Waco. For starters, Rhule likes to run things out of the I-formation. While the Bears will line up in multiple looks, the base formation will be set with the quarterback under center – a stark contrast to the shotgun regime Baylor has been known for.
With that change also comes what has been a wide-open quarterback battle throughout the spring and early summer. Sophomore Zach Smith is the returner, and he’s back after throwing for 1,526 yards and 13 touchdowns in four starts as a freshman. Then there is Arizona graduate transfer Anu Solomon, who joins the competition after an up-and-down career with the Wildcats. Solomon was prolific early in his career, throwing for a combined 6,448 yards and 48 touchdowns in his first two seasons before injuries derailed his junior year in 2016. Freshman Charlie Brewer is the other contender, having enrolled in school early after setting the national-record for completion percentage (.772) at Lake Travis while leading the Cavaliers to the Class 6A Division I state championship.
The three quarterbacks bring a wide variety of skills and experience to the table heading into the fall for Rhule and the rest of the first-year Baylor staff. Smith is the most familiar with the returning offensive players as he is the only quarterback returning. He (6-4, 235 lbs.) isn’t a dual-threat guy, but he made an impact when given the opportunity as a highly recruited freshman out of Grandview High School. He did struggle forcing the ball at times, throwing seven interceptions – including three against Kansas State and two against West Virginia – in the last four games of the year.
Solomon (6-1, 200 lbs.) has a lot more mobility than Smith, but there are questions about his durability after an injury-riddled junior year. He was one of the most explosive quarterbacks in the country in 2014 and 2015, but it remains to be seen if he can get back to the numbers he put up as a freshman and sophomore.
Brewer (6-1, 188 lbs.) has a lot of upside as a true freshman heading into the fall, but is believed to be a little bit behind Smith and Solomon at this point in the competition, despite praise from the Baylor staff. Brewer was an incredibly efficient winner at Lake Travis, which is his biggest strength heading into his career with the Bears.
No matter who wins the job in the fall, quarterback play will be key to the way things go in year one for Rhule and the Bears. It’s been a turbulent year for the program and the Bears are still quite a ways off from returning to their position among the best teams in the state. A solid year from Smith or Solomon could save a year of eligibility for Brewer, but Rhule won’t shy away from playing the freshman if he wins the competition. Solidifying the position will help to set the rest of the offense in stone as the Bears look to bounce back from a late-season collapse.
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Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.