Austin Reed and Kaidon Salter lead a group of improving quarterbacks in the CUSA. The Conference USA QB Rankings for 2023 have seen their fair share of excitement and this week is no different.
Our weekly iteration of our 2023 Conference USA QB Rankings is here, taking a look at where they stack up through the first five weeks of the season.
2023 Conference USA QB Rankings
As with all of our conference rankings and our national quarterback evaluations, the C USA QB rankings below consider everything involved with quarterbacking at the major college football level.
While statistics will be mentioned, they were not the lone deciding factor in ranking the athletes. The list below prefers programs with a solidified quarterback situation and one signal-caller who plays significant snaps against top-tier competition. Two-quarterback systems will always be looked down upon, especially in those cases where an answer has not yet been provided for the long term.
Other factors in these rankings include but are not limited to game film, injury history, play-calling, offensive system knowledge and continuity, general quarterbacking mechanics, level of competition, the elevation of supporting casts, and several other influential factors.
Tier 1: The Elite Conference USA QBs
1) Austin Reed | Western Kentucky
Last Week’s Ranking: 1st (no change)
Yards: 1,368 | TDs: 11 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 61.8% | YPA: 6.5
We’ve yet to see the best of Austin Reed yet in 2023, and he’s still leading the Conference USA in yards and touchdowns. Reed is a dynamic passer who is certainly in the category of ‘you don’t want to face him if you have lapses on defense’ category.
He’s thrown for 11 touchdowns this season and made mincemeat of an underrated MTSU secondary in Week 5. Westen Kentucky runs through Reed, and inside of the structure of the offense, he’s starting to see it all come together. Just in time to make a commanding run through the CUSA.
2) Kaidon Salter | Liberty
Last Week’s Ranking: 2nd (no change)
Yards: 919 | TDs: 11 | INT: 1 | Comp. %: 57.6% | YPA: 10.0
Somehow, Kaidon Salter is still underrated nationally. A bye week can quiet even the hottest of names in college football, but make no mistake aboutit, Salter is every bit of a dynamic passer that strikes fear into opponents for Liberty.
He’s already at 11 touchdowns on the year and is averaging a ridiculous 10.0 yards per attempt. Salter has thrown multiple deep shots this year that drop jaws and spark his offense. The mark of a great quarterback is throwing your receivers open and making plays out of nowhere.
The mark of an elite quarterback is making throws that seem impossible. Salter has done that this season.
Tier 2: Well-Above-Average Conference USA QBs
3) Keyone Jenkins | Florida International
Last Week’s Ranking: 4th (+1)
Yards: 1,000 | TDs: 5 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 53.6% | YPA: 9.1
It’s crazy to think that just three weeks ago, we wrote off this FIU team due to a lack of offense and no threat of a passing game. Enter Keyone Jenkins and the true freshman has sparked this Panthers team so much so that they’re in consideration for a bowl game already.
Sitting at 3-2 with only one loss that we’re looking at, Jenkins gives FIU a chance to not only win three more contests with their remaining schedule, but potentially make a run that plays spoiler in the conference. Jenkins’ has a terrific ability to throw it downfield and is more than trusting of his arm to make every throw.
Tier 3: Above-Average Conference USA QBs
4) Diego Pavia | New Mexico State
Last Week’s Ranking: 5th (+1)
Yards: 1,073 | TDs: 10 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 63.9% | YPA: 11.1
They don’t always throw the ball downfield, but when Diego Pavia does, it’s usually a big play. Pavia has been at his best over the past two weeks, throwing four touchdowns and averaging over 12.0 yards per attempt in the process.
Pavia was underrated last season and that appears to once again be the case. Without the strongest arm in the conference, Pavia has still shown plenty of talent and found multiple tight-window throws already this year. He’s spotting receivers well and continuing to grow as a quarterback.
5) Jack Turner | Louisiana Tech
Last Week’s Ranking: 6th (+1)
Yards: 590 | TDs: 3 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 60.8% | YPA: 7.5
With two consecutive starts under his belt, Jack Turner has looked the part, mostly for Louisiana Tech. He’s faring incredibly well in the scripted portion of the game and finds the most success working form right to left and over the middle of the field.
As he continues to develop, there is one thing that is for sure: Turner has all the arm talent in the world. The only thing let to improve is his decision-making and ability to keep his eyes downfield and weave through the pocket. That will come in time.
6) Nicholas Vattiato | Middle Tennessee
Last Week’s Ranking: 3rd (-3)
Yards: 1,168 | TDs: 7 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 68.1% | YPA: 6.2
Nicholas Vattiato has fared well enough for Middle Tennessee to be in their games for the most part on offense. Though he’s struggled to elevate the players around him, Vattiato hasn’t stopped trying.
He’s attempting big shots downfield, but accuracy does seem to dip if he’s had to break contain and thrown on the run. Staying inside the offense and quickening his release could do Vattiato and this offense wonders.
Tier 4: Average Conference USA QBs
7) Logan Smothers | Jacksonville State
Last Week’s Ranking: 8th (+1)
Yards: 474 | TDs: 5 | INT: 0 | Comp. %: 60.8% | YPA: 6.4
There have been a couple of throws left on the table for Logan Smothers and Jacksonville State this season, despite their success so far in 2023. Smothers, however, started to grasp the offense a bit better as their game against Sam Houston went on, and he finished with three touchdowns through the air.
He’ll always be a dynamic quarterback on the ground, but he’ll have to avoid slow starts on offense against better teams as CUSA play continues.
8) Gavin Hardison | UTEP
Last Week’s Ranking: 7th (-1)
Yards: 947 | TDs: 5 | INT: 7 | Comp. %: 56.6% | YPA: 7.3
There is so much talent in Gavin Hardison’s arm, it’s almost not fair. The ball comes out so quickly and so powerful that it misses its mark far too often, however. When he’s on his game, Hardison is absolutely one of the top quarterbacks in the conference, he’s just been far too inconsistent in 2023 to present much of a challenge to defenses.
Hardison, however, is a gamer as much as he is a gunslinger, and you can bet he won’t feel too much pressure as this team continues CUSA play after a bye week in Week 5.
Tier 5: Work-To-Be-Done Conference USA QBs
9) Keegan Shoemaker | Sam Houston
Last Week’s Ranking: 9th (no change)
Yards: 476 | TDs: 2 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 56.5% | YPA: 5.6
Finally, the Sam Houston offense got off their backsides and scored some points in Week 4. Though they lost their luster down the stretch, this offense finally seemed to gain steam and Keegan Shoemaker was a big reason why.
Given time to throw the ball, Shoemaker can stand tall in the pocket well enough to make appropriate reads and throw his receivers open to the short and intermediate areas of the field. It’s when they have to attempt deep shots or come back in games that this offense finds themselves in trouble.