The 2021 Sun Belt quarterbacks is a loaded bunch of talented signal callers. The conference returns six of the ten starters from 2020, and two notable incoming transfers. Two of the returning passers were in the top ten in efficiency last season. Those players were Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall and Arkansas State’s Layne Hatcher. Arkansas State also finished second in FBS in passing offense in 2020. The two incoming transfers that expect to start are Jake Bentley from Utah and Chase Brice from Duke.
The question must be asked, who are the top five quarterbacks in the Sun Belt for 2021?
Top Five Sun Belt Quarterbacks
#5. Cornelius Brown IV, Georgia State
In his first season as the starter, Cornelius Brown IV finished second in passing yards (2,278) and led the Panthers to a 6-4 record. He will need to improve on his completion rate that was at 59% and taking care of the ball. Brown threw 10 interceptions on the season on 304 attempts. On average, he would throw an interception every 30 attempts. Like other quarterbacks on this list, Brown is not just a passing threat. He can beat opponents with his running ability and reached the end zone seven times in 2020. While the Sun Belt is full of contenders, the Panthers could be a threat as well with all starters returning on offense. That includes one of the better receiving duos featuring Sam Pinckney and Cornelius McCoy.
#4. Layne Hatcher, Arkansas State
Layne Hatcher has been a solid performer during his time at Arkansas State, but has never fully been “the guy” for the Red Wolves. During his first two seasons he shared time with Logan Bonner who is following former head coach Blake Anderson to Utah State. With Bonner gone, Hatcher will now have to fight off Florida State transfer James Blackmon to be the leader of the offense. Despite splitting time, Hatcher has terrific numbers. Over two seasons, he has completed 63% of his passes for 5,004 yards with 46 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He improved his ball security in 2020 by only throwing two interceptions compared to his 10 in 2019. The Red Wolves did lose their top two pass catchers in Jonathan Adams and Brandon Bowling. There is talent still there though so the passing numbers should continue to climb.
#3. Gunnar Watson, Troy
Gunnar Watson leads all Sun Belt returning quarterbacks with 237.9 yards per game last season. His overall numbers would have been higher if it were not for injuries that took him out of two plus games. That includes Watson missing the fourth quarter in the Trojans near upset of Coastal Carolina to close out their season. Watson was very efficient with a completion percentage of 70% and 16 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. He will have some competition this fall though with the Missouri transfer of Taylor Powell who brings in some SEC experience. If Watson can retain the job, he will be surrounded by talent that returns all starters from last season. That includes a loaded backfield of Kimani Vidal and B.J. Smith, plus receivers Reggie Todd and Kaylon Geiger.
#2. Levi Lewis, Louisiana
Over the last two seasons Levi Lewis has been one of the top quarterbacks in the Sun Belt, and one of the more underrated players in the nation. In those years he has thrown for 5,324 yards and 45 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions. The Ragin’ Cajuns have gone 21-4 with Lewis under center, including a 10-1 record last season with the only loss against Coastal Carolina 27-30. Another impressive statistic is his accuracy over the last two seasons at 62%. Louisiana returns all their starting pass-catchers and offensive lineman from last season, so another big year for Lewis should be on the horizon.
#1. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
Heading into the 2020 season most did not know who Grayson McCall was. In all fairness, not many knew who the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were either. After a breakout 11-1 2020 season everyone knows this team and the quarterback. McCall led the Sun Belt in passing last season with 2,488 yards and 26 touchdowns. He is not just a threat through the air, he is also tough to deal with in the run game. McCall finished second on the team in rushing with 569 yards and added seven touchdowns. With a bulk of the offense returning this season, McCall should put even better numbers in his second season.