Sun Belt QB Rankings 2023: Georgia State’s Darren Grainger the New No. 1

Darren Grainger takes over the top spot on our Sun Belt QB Rankings, reaching the elite tier ahead of a matchup against Grayson McCall and Coastal Carolina.

The Sun Belt QB Rankings have a new number one atop the leaderboard. After a terrific start to the 2023 season, Georgia State’s Darren Grainger is not only the No. 1 QB in the Sun Belt here, but he’s also garnering serious Heisman Trophy consideration.

Our weekly iteration of our 2023 Sun Belt QB Rankings is here, taking a look at where they stack up through the first three weeks of the season.

2023 Sun Belt QB Rankings

As with all of our conference rankings and our national quarterback evaluations, the Sun Belt 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.

All QB Rankings: ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC | AAC | C-USA | MAC | MWC | Sun Belt | FBS Ind. 

Tier 1: The Elite Sun Belt QBs

1) Darren Grainger | Georgia State

Last Week’s Ranking: 2nd (+1)

For two weeks in a row, we’ve told you that Darren Grainger is must-watch TV. He proved that yet again in Week 3 and now gets a nationally-televised Thursday night showdown with No. 2 on this list, Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall.

Grainger is generating real Heisman talk and playing some of the best football of any quarterback in the country. He’s well on his way to record-breaking numbers in his third season with the team, each season in which he’s shown tremendous growth.

He and the Panthers must get by Coastal on Thursday night before we can say this with much gusto, but the sky is the limit for Grainger.

2) Grayson McCall | Coastal Carolina

Last Week’s Ranking: 1st (-1)

For the second week in a row, Grayson McCall has returned to form. He slides in our rankings here not because of anything he did, but rather everything that Grainger has done.

A top showdown looms between Coastal Carolina and Georgia State as the conference’s two best quarterbacks duel. It’s the best Thursday night game we’ve had in a long time in college football.

Tier 2: Well-Above-Average Sun Belt QBs

3) T.J. Finley | Texas State

Last Week’s Ranking: 4th (+1)

T.J. Finley was lights out, as you would expect, against Jackson State in Week 3. He threw for three scores and littered the field with accurate passes, pushing the ball to the boundary equally as well as he threw over the middle of the field.

Finley and Texas State have taken the Sun Belt by storm and there’s seemingly no stopping them.

4) Carter Bradley | South Alabama

Last Week’s Ranking: 5th (+1)

Carter Bradley and the South Alabama Jaguars started off slowly this season, but with two impressive performances in a row, things are looking more and more like they’ll compete for the Sun Belt as we expected. Bradley and the Jags marched into Stillwater and beat the brakes off Oklahoma State.

Bradley was terrific against the Cowboys and found his top playmaker, Caullin Lacy, on numerous occasions to highlight this growing relationship that is easily one of the Sun Belt’s best QB-WR combinations.

5) Joey Aguilar | Appalachian State

Last Week’s Ranking: 6th (+1)

We’ll remind you of what we wrote in Week 2’s iteration of the Sun Belt QB Rankings:

Joey Aguilar’s performance — in relief — against Gardner-Webb is the kind of performance that starts legends.

Aguilar followed up his Gardner-Webb performance with a dramatic effort against North Carolina that saw him move up to sixth in our rankings and his performance against ECU in Week 3 moves him up another. He’s now in contention with the top quarterbacks of the conference.

6) Davis Brin | Georgia Southern

Last Week’s Ranking: 3rd (-3)

What if I told you, Davis Brin’s passing performance wasn’t all that bad against Wisconsin? Would you believe me? Brin got hit with some terrible luck, starting with the first interception of the day that clanged off his receiver’s hands, and it snowballed from there.

The fumbles and Brin not feeling pressure from the blind side are the worrisome features of his performance against Wisconsin as we knew Brin was this kind of gunslinger. He’ll hone in on those mistakes if his career trajectory is any indicator, and he’ll be high-flying against Sun Belt defenses in no time.

Tier 3: Above-Average Sun Belt QBs

7) Jordan McCloud | James Madison

Last Week’s Ranking: 7th (no change)

It wasn’t pretty, but wins against Troy rarely are, and Jordan McCloud did everything he could and needed to in order to defeat the Trojans. The JMU signal-caller has turned heads this season and looked drastically improved from what we saw of him during his time at USF and Arizona.

McCloud has thrown four touchdowns against no interceptions and littered the field with noteworthy throws to every level for JMU. It’s a shame this team can’t compete in postseason play because 12-0 is a real possibility with McCloud leading the charge.

8) Gunnar Watson | Troy

Last Week’s Ranking: 8th (no change)

It wasn’t his finest outing, but it certainly wasn’t Gunnar Watson’s worst game against JMU. Watson lived up to his stature and threw for over 300 yards with a pair of touchdowns, nearly leading Troy back against JMU. However, it was a little too late in the long run and their rushing game did them no favors.

Watson was dotting throws left and right but also missing open receivers and making too many ill-fated decisions for the victory. Troy is a good team, but they’re great when Watson plays up to his standards.

Tier 4: Average Sun Belt QBs

9) Billy Wiles | Southern Miss

Last Week’s Ranking: 10th (+1)

Southern Miss walked into a buzzsaw against Florida State and Tulane in consecutive weeks and Billy Wiles first season as a starting quarterback couldn’t have gotten much tougher of a schedule. Still, Wiles was more than competent against Tulane, the Green Wave were just too good in every facet for the Golden Eagles to pull off another upset.

Wiles averaged just over 5.0 yards per attempt but that was hardly his fault as he did a good job of managing the game and not pressing his luck against a feisty secondary.

10) Grant Wilson | Old Dominion

Last Week’s Ranking: 9th (-1)

Old Dominion almost got a huge upset win over Wake Forest, but it certainly wasn’t because of their offense. Grant Wilson struggled against the Demon Deacons secondary and was inaccurate on most of his throws.

Sure, he was pressured and sacked far too often, but Wilson had his fair share of chances to put the game out of reach and they were unable to capitalize. His throw to Javon Harvey, however, on a deep shot was a thing of beauty.

Tier 5: Work-To-Be-Done Sun Belt QBs

11) Cam Fancher | Marshall

Last Week’s Ranking: 11th (no change)

Marshall was on a bye week in Week 3, so we’ll leave you with last week’s writeup:

Last week, we said we needed to see Cam Fancher and the Marshall Thundering Herd stop relying on Rasheen Ali and the ground game before we move him up. In Week 2, though they got the win over ECU (no real surprise), Fancher didn’t do much with his arm to warrant staying in the Average Tier.

Forced off his spot multiple times, Fancher scrambled for his life and will absolutely need to work on his ball security if this is the new norm. He struggled to read the defense at times, but did have some well-placed throws over the middle of the field.

Fancher will have to see the field better and read defenses quicker as Sun Belt play approaches.

12) Ben Wooldridge, Chandler Fields, Zeon Chriss | Louisiana

Last Week’s Ranking: 12th (no change)

After Ben Wooldridge went down (he’ll be out 4-6 weeks), it was Zeon Chriss who propelled the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns to a victory over UAB on Saturday. Chriss accounted for three touchdowns, two on the ground and one through the air, as he paced Louisiana’s offense in a dominant outing.

Was this more of a case of UAB game-planning against Wooldridge and Chriss throwing a wrinkle, or was this Chriss’ ability to lead this team actually? As his confidence grew, so did his downfield shots, but make no mistake about it: He won’t be kept clean as long as he was in every game in what was an ultra-impressive outing from his offensive line.

13) Jiya Wright | UL-Monroe

Last Week’s Ranking: 13th (no change)

It was going to be ugly against Texas A&M, and there was no denying that for UL-Monroe. However, they competed for the first 15 or so minutes before it got out of hand, but unfortunately, Jiya Wright wasn’t the reason.

ULM’s defense carried the team as they clearly have to figure out what’s going on with the quarterback situation. Wright completed 40% of his passes and seemingly locked on to his receivers downfield, trying to force the ball to Tyrone Howell far too often.

14) Jaxon Dailey, Jaylen Raynor, J.T. Shrout | Arkansas State

Last Week’s Ranking: 14th (no change)

As you would expect, Arkansas State got a victory over Stony Brook. The rushing attack ran the ball well but the passing attack still struggled. Completing fewer than 50% of their passes between both Jaxon Dailey and Jaylen Raynor, this situation is still a complete mess.