{{ timeAgo('2020-03-23 05:29:12 -0500') }} football Edit

Five QBs that could be breakout stars in 2020

Michael Penix Jr.
Michael Penix Jr. (AP Images)

We don’t have spring football but we can still look ahead to next season. Here is a series we are starting of breakout players at each position for next season starting with the quarterbacks.

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

MORE: How things stand with top uncommitted 2021 QBs

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State


The skinny: Garbers committed to Cal in late June, soon after returning from a visit to Washington. He continued to receive interest from several top programs and dealt with a coaching change in Berkeley, but stayed true with the Golden Bears. In 2019, despite injuries that kept him out of several games, he passed for 1,772 yards, 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Expectations are high that a fully healthy Garbers can lead Cal to a big season this fall.

Farrell’s take: Garbers was a four-star out of high school with good size and a powerful running style. His arm was solid but his accuracy was up-and-down. He’s developed nicely so far and is making some excellent decisions. Garbers was always a smart decision-maker in high school and he’s starting to show more of that. His bowl game performance against Illinois was very impressive.


SAM HARTMAN, Wake Forest

The skinny: Hartman committed to Wake Forest during the summer prior to his senior year. The Demon Deacons were his only Power Five offer at that time. The former three-star prospect has been plagued by injuries during his first two seasons in Winston-Salem. When healthy as a true freshman he passed for 1,984 yards and 16 touchdowns, so the expectation is that he will have a smooth transition into the starter's role after the departure of Jaime Newman. Also keep in mind that top receiver Sage Surratt bypassed the NFL Draft, so Hartman has an elite target to look for.

Farrell’s take: Hartman was a mid-range three-star who put up eye-popping numbers in high school. He was thought to be a system quarterback by some and his arm strength was a bit of a question mark. Hartman has big shoes to fill but has weapons around him. The Deacs will be just fine with him at quarterback.



The skinny: Penix was initially committed to Tennessee, but then re-opened his recruitment after the Vols underwent a coaching change. He ended up taking December official visits to Indiana, Florida State and USF before committing to the Hoosiers. After showing his potential in three appearances as a true freshman, Penix Jr. passed for 1,394 yards and 10 touchdowns while completing almost 69 percent of his passes in only six games in 2019 before an injury cut his season short. The talent is there. Now he just has to stay healthy for a full season.

Farrell’s take: We liked Penix out of high school as a skinny kid with a nice whip delivery who could also move around. He’s been excellent at Indiana when on the field and he pushed Peyton Ramsey out of a starting job because he can do so many things. Penix brings an athleticism and excitement to the position that Indiana hasn’t had for a while.



The skinny: Rattler avoided any recruiting drama by committing to Oklahoma during the summer leading up to his junior season. He never wavered from the Sooners. While he still has to beat out Tanner Mordecai for the starting job, most assume Rattler will be the leader of the Oklahoma offense in 2020. The former five-star received only limited work in three games as a true freshman, but with an extremely deep and talented group of wide receivers to work with, he should flourish as a starter.

Farrell’s take: Rattler was a five-star out of high school who could do it all and got bigger and stronger with each evaluation, which was important. The only knock against him was his lack of size and strength and that doesn’t appear to be an issue now. He should put up crazy numbers in Norman.


ZAC THOMAS, Appalachian State

The skinny: Thomas initially committed to Jacksonville State, but then flipped to Appalachian State a couple of weeks before National Signing Day. After finishing 13-1 in 2019, the Mountaineers are setting even loftier goals this fall. And one main reason is Thomas, who passed for 2,718 yards and 28 touchdowns last season while completing almost 63 percent of his attempts. He is also a threat on the ground, with 17 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons. So while his performance up to now definitely warrants more attention, an undefeated run in 2020 will make him more of a breakout star nationally.

Farrell’s take: Thomas was a low-tier FBS and high-tier FCS prospect out of high school who had average size and arm strength. He put up solid numbers in Alabama as a junior but never caught the attention of the big programs. He’s now one of the best passers in the country and he can run as well.