2024 Mountain West QB Rankings: Malachi Nelson, Matt Sluka Push Mikey Keene for Top Spot

    Quarterbacks have come on gone, but before spring battles commence, let's dissect every projected starter in our 2024 Mountain West QB Rankings.

    Quarterback play in the Mountain West wasn’t great last year, and as a result, many of the programs are conducting battles at the position this offseason. Yet, 2024 could prove to be a QB resurgence, as the talent at the top of the conference should result in an onslaught of points for their programs.

    As spring practices get underway, here are CFN’s 2024 Mountain West QB Rankings.

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    Mountain West 2024 QB Rankings

    With spring competitions barely underway, these rankings come with a grain of salt. In most cases, our projected starter is listed, but when it’s a true toss-up, all competitors will be named.

    12) John Busha, Air Force Falcons

    Head coach Troy Calhoun has his work cut out for him in 2024. Not only are the Falcons returning the least amount of production in the MWC, but they lost nine players to the transfer portal and added zero. With Zac Lerrier and Jensen Jones gone, the Falcons will turn to … John Busha?

    He’s the only returning passer, with the rest of the QB room filled out by three 2024 recruits, chief among them being two-star signal-caller Brody Fortunati. While Fortunati possesses the traits to be effective in the triple option, Calhoun will likely want a QB with any experience running the offense.

    11) Evan Svoboda, Wyoming Cowboys

    There were plenty of QB transfer additions in the conference, but Wyoming did not take part, meaning that with Andrew Peasley off to the NFL, Evan Svoboda, Jayden Clemons, and a trio of 6’4″ sophomores will duel for the top spot on the depth chart.

    Svoboda was the QB2 last season and is presumably the favorite to take the baton from Peasley. Like most Cowboys passers, he has a strong arm and is relatively athletic, but we haven’t seen much. Jay Sawvel, Wyoming’s defensive coordinator for the last four years, is taking over for the retired Craig Brohl. But without a proven presence at QB, it’s tough to expect success from his first season at the helm.

    10) Chubba Purdy, Nevada Wolf Pack

    After going 2-10 last season, the Wolf Pack brought in 16 transfers, including potential QB1 Chubba Purdy from Nebraska. Brendon Lewis and AJ Bianco both saw time under center last year, but they left a lot to be desired. Although, in two seasons with the Cornhuskers (four starts), the brother of San Francisco 49ers QB Brock Purdy completed just 50.6% of his passes for 529 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions.

    Yeah, things might get worse before they get better for Nevada.

    9) AJ Duffy/Danny O’Neill, San Diego State

    San Diego State is going through an identity change with Sean Lewis at the controls. Usually, it’s the defense that blitzes the offense, but Lewis’ unit is going to put pressure on their opponents to keep up.

    Florida State transfer AJ Duffy spent nearly all of his time at FSU on the bench, but he’ll face off against true freshman Danny O’Neill for the No. 1 spot. O’Neill originally committed to Colorado but followed Lewis to San Diego, so the two obviously have a connection.

    8) Jay Butterfield/Emmett Brown, San Jose State Spartans

    Out goes Brent Brennan, and in comes Navy’s all-time winningest coach, Ken Niumatalolo. The transfer portal wasn’t kind to the Spartans, but there’s enough talent for their starting QB to keep the ball moving.

    MORE: 2024 Mountain West Weekly Football Schedule

    After bringing in Jay Butterfield from Oregon last season, many thought San Jose State found Chevan Cordeiro’s replacement. Yet, they also decided to add former Washington State walk-on Emmett Brown. Brown appears to be a better fit for Niumatololo’s offense, but neither passer has much collegiate experience.

    7) Bryson Barnes/Spencer Petras/Cooper Legas/McCae Hillstead, Utah State Aggies

    If the Utah State Aggies have anything at QB, it’s options. Cooper Legas and McCae Hillstead each started multiple games last season, but after back-to-back 6-7 campaigns, head coach Blake Anderson sought out a change. Utah’s Bryson Barnes and Iowa’s Spencer Petras joined the team via the transfer portal, but neither is all that exciting.

    Legas has my vote, and if he can stay healthy with the returning duo of Jalen Royals and Micah Davis, the Aggies could surprise many in 2024.

    6) Devon Dampier, New Mexico Lobos

    New Mexico hasn’t had a winning season in nearly a decade. Although Bronco Mendenhall was a great hire, fans should temper expectations — a full 180-degree turn doesn’t happen in one season.

    Devon Dampier flashed in limited reps as a true freshman, and he’ll have the opportunity to showcase his dual-threat dynamism as a full-time starter in 2024. Losing star RB Jacory Croskey-Merritt to the transfer portal puts more pressure on him, but Andrew Henry and former Iowa State Cyclone Eli Sanders should be able to carry the weight in the run game.

    5) Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi, Colorado State Rams

    There’s no arguing that Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi has a rocket arm — he just needs to rein it in a bit. Tory Horton, Justus Ross-Simmons, and Dylan Goffney form one of the best receiving corps in the Mountain West, coming down with 50/50 balls that could go the other way.

    If Fowler-Nicolosi improves his decision-making while continuing to avoid sacks and giving his pass catchers opportunities downfield, the Rams could finish with their first winning campaign since 2017.

    4) Matthew Sluka, UNLV Rebels

    Jayden Maiava’s departure hurts, but UNLV added Holy Cross All-American Matt Sluka from the transfer portal. He was the 2023 Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year and left the Crusaders having generated 5,916 passing yards, 3,583 rushing yards, and 97 total touchdowns over four years (three starting).

    Pairing Sluka with offensive coordinator Brennan Marion will keep the fireworks coming, but Barry Odom’s squad is no longer flying under the radar.

    3) Brayden Schager, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

    If there is one thing we know about Hawaii, it’s that Timmy Chang’s offense is going to put up points in 2024. Not only is Brayden Schager returning after a 3,542-yard and 26-TD campaign, but so are his two leading WRs: Steven McBride and Pofele Ashlock.

    Plus, the Rainbow Warriors landed former Kentucky pass catcher Dekel Crowdus, who wasn’t able to showcase his talents with the Wildcats.

    2) Malachi Nelson, Boise State Broncos

    Although Maddux Madsen played well in spurts last season, this is five-star USC transfer Malachi Nelson’s show. The offense he is stepping into? Dirk Koetter is calling the plays, four of five linemen are returning, Ashton Jeanty remains one of the best RBs in the nation, and No. 1 overall JUCO prospect WR Chris Marshall is a big-bodied weapon on the outside.

    1) Mikey Keene, Fresno State Bulldogs

    Nelson could very well hold the No. 1 spot at the end of the season, but until we see him in live reps, this is Mikey Keene’s conference. As a small QB (5’11” and under 200 pounds), the biggest question mark is durability. But when he is on the field, the Bulldogs have a fighting chance in most games they are in.

    KEEP READING: 2024 Mountain West Power Rankings

    Keene is a master of the offense, getting the ball out in a timely manner, keeping the ball out of harm’s way, and burning defenses downfield when they begin to creep up.

    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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