2024 MAC QB Rankings: Dequan Finn, Kurtis Rourke’s Departures Leave Brett Gabbert Alone at the Top

Dequan Finn and Kurtis Rourke took their talents elsewhere, shaking up the 2024 MAC QB Rankings. But there is still talent to keep an eye on.

The MAC lost its top two passers, Dequan Finn (Baylor) and Kurtis Rourke (Indiana), to the transfer portal this offseason, leaving a vacuum at the top of the conference. While one signal-caller stands above the rest, the 2024 MAC QB Rankings highlight the talented passers who will have a chance to showcase their potential next season.

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MAC 2024 QB Rankings

12) Tahj Bullock/Ben Finley, Akron Zips

After back-to-back 2-10 campaigns, head coach Joe Moorhead needs to put up results in 2024. Jeff Undercuffler and DJ Irons are attempting professional football careers, leaving the Zips with question marks under center.

Tahj Bullock is the only returning QB who saw snaps last season but was uninspiring as a passer: 30 of 64 for 262 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. At 6’3″ and 230 pounds, he proved to be a threat with his legs, but if you aren’t accurate, it doesn’t matter.

Bullock’s main competition will be Cal transfer Ben Finley, who is on his third team in as many years. Last year, he completed 57.4% of his passes for 572 yards, three TDs, and four INTs in six games (two starts). Suffice it to say, Moorhead has his work cut out for him … again.

11) CJ Ogbonna/Gunnar Gray, Buffalo Bulls

CJ Ogbonna is a smaller, shiftier Bullock in that he can make defenses pay with his legs but struggles to deliver passes to his receivers. As a result, I expect Gunnar Gray to take the starting role left by Cole Snyder’s transfer to EMU.

Gray joined the Bulls after two years at San Diego Mesa, a JUCO in California. He threw for 4,048 yards and 40 touchdowns in 18 games with the program and displayed his arm talent at Buffalo’s spring game last year. Following a redshirt season, he should be the favorite to win the job.

10) Jalen Macon/Kenny Lueth, Northern Illinois Huskies

With Rocky Lombardi out the door, Northern Illinois is yet another MAC squad searching for their next starting QB. Jalen Macon comes over from Arkansas Pine-Bluff, where he played significant snaps from Weeks 2-7 last season. The towering 6’5″ thrower didn’t push the ball downfield often, but he kept the offense on schedule and moved well outside the pocket.

Kenny Lueth will also challenge for the first-team snaps after starring for American River Community College. He completed 260 of 447 attempts for 3,530 passing yards and 41 TDs in 23 games, running in seven more scores.

9) CJ Harris/Parker Navarro, Ohio Bobcats

Kurtis Rourke leaves large shoes to fill, but CJ Harris and Parker Navarro will do their best to follow in his footsteps. Harris missed most of last season due to an undisclosed medical issue. Assuming he’s healthy, he’ll be the favorite for the No. 1 job with over 100 more career passing attempts than Navarro.

Both can run the ball, but Harris has the stronger arm and is more willing to test tight shots — even to his detriment. Whichever way the Bobcats ultimately go, expectations should be tempered, as they’re also replacing their top three WRs from last season.

8) Tommy Ulatowski/JD Sherrod/Devin Kargman, Kent State Golden Flashes

It didn’t matter who was under center for Kent State last year — the team was bad, like, the worst record in the FBS-type bad. Kenni Burns’ first year as head coach ended in a 1-11 dumpster fire. Nowhere to go but up, right?

MORE: Could More Teams Join UMass in the MAC?

It appears the primary battle is between Tommy Ulatowski and Troy transfer JD Sherrod, who was a top-90 QB in the 2023 class. Ulatowski threw 10+ passes in five games last season, connecting on over 50% of them just twice. Drops were an issue, and a handful of his passes were batted at the line. He had some impressive throws on film, and competition with Sherrod should get the most out of both passers.

7) Tucker Gleason/John Alan Richter, Toledo Rockets

Toledo’s loss of Dequan Finn is a win for the other 11 teams in the conference … at least for now. The Rockets have a pair of QBs who could continue to be nightmares incarnate for MAC defenses. Tucker Gleason is a solidly built 6’3″ and 235 pounds with decent movement skills in and out of the pocket. As a backup over the last two years, he’s thrown for 1,267 yards, 12 TDs, and four INTs.

It’s presumably Gleason’s job to lose, but I’d be remiss not to mention John Alan Richter. He only tossed four passes as a redshirt freshman in 2023, but he completed three for 49 yards (and the fourth was dropped). JAR led his high school team to a 10-3 record as a senior, producing 3,241 yards and 34 TDs en route to region Offensive Player of the Year honors.

6) Hayden Wolff, Western Michigan Broncos

It’s difficult to place Hayden Wolff. Injuries and indecisiveness caused three QBs to see the field last year, but Wolff is the only returner. He started the last five games and wasn’t a complete disaster (outside of Week 13 vs. Bowling Green). The Broncos didn’t ask him to do much, as he often locked in on his first read and had one of the shortest average depth of targets in the MAC.

Nevertheless, with another offseason in the offense and the QB room to himself (for now), he could rebound to his Old Dominion days.

5) Cole Snyder, Eastern Michigan Eagles

We have our first unquestioned starter! Buffalo transfer Cole Snyder is taking the reins from 2023 starter Austin Smith, who struggled with decision-making and holding the ball too long. Snyder has his own issues with the former but didn’t turn pressures into sacks last year.

Buffalo fans are all too familiar with Snyder’s roller-coaster play, but his highlight reel can match the top of the conference. Maintaining a consistent base and taking what the defense gives without forcing passes due to arm arrogance could lead to a career year.

4) Connor Bazelak/Camden Orth, Bowling Green Falcons

The Falcons had a bit of a two-QB system with Connor Bazelak and Camden Orth last season. Across five seasons and three programs, we know who Bazelak is. He’s completed just over 60% of his passes for 9,305 yards, 48 TDs, and 34 INTs.

While he’ll never put up elite numbers or scare defenses, he was efficient in the final six games in 2023 after a horrendous first five contests. Meanwhile, Orth is the dual-threat QB Bowling Green puts in as a change of pace. Systems like this rarely work better than sticking with a single passer, but Orth’s arm strength and athleticism open up the playbook.

3) Bert Emanuel Jr., Central Michigan Chippewas

Where were you when Bert Emanuel Jr. rumbled for 293 yards and three TDs against Buffalo in 2022? Yes, that was two years ago. And yes, he has only thrown 45 passes in his collegiate career. This ranking is based entirely on upside — with the conference’s current crop of QBs, I believe it’s fair.

Emanuel is obviously a dynamo on the ground, and he has the arm strength to take the top off defenses. However, his inexperience will likely show up when attempting to go through reads and leverages. An injury to his throwing shoulder stunted his growth and playing time in 2023, but with Jase Bauer on to Sam Houston State, it will be the Emanuel Show in 2024.

2) Kiael Kelly/Kadin Semonza, Ball State Cardinals

The MAC was — and still is– home to quite a few rushing threats from the QB position. But chief among them was Kiael Kelly, who totaled 772 yards and seven TDs on the ground last year. Now, he isn’t nearly as prolific as a passer, but if he can improve his mechanics and decision-making even slightly, he’ll deserve the No. 2 spot in the final 2024 MAC QB Rankings.

Of course, the Cardinals also have prized redshirt freshman Kadin Semonza in the room. He’s clearly the future at the position, but Kelly is the present. Regardless, we’ll see Semonza on the field next season, especially if Kelly struggles early on.

1) Brett Gabbert, Miami RedHawks

The younger brother of two-time Super Bowl champion and former No. 10 overall NFL Draft pick Blaine Gabbert, Brett knows a thing or two about longevity. Entering his sixth season in Oxford, his collegiate experience is only rivaled by Bazelek. He battled injuries the last two years, but a fully healthy Gabbert is the undisputed QB1 in the MAC.

KEEP READING: 2024 MAC Transfer Portal Rankings

He’ll test every level of the field, routinely pushing the ball downfield and outside the hashes. His footwork is a treat to watch, and he was the driving force for Miami’s best record (11-3) since 2010. With Finn and Rourke on to greener pastures, it’s Gabbert’s throne to lose.

Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

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