The top spot in the Sun Belt QB Rankings has changed hands once more after JMU QB Jordan McCloud wowed yet again. McCloud has dished up 14 touchdowns this season and is currently running one of the nation’s last undefeated programs. He leads the Sun Belt QB Rankings in the process ahead of TJ Finley and Co.
Our weekly iteration of our 2023 Sun Belt QB Rankings is here, taking a look at where they stack up through seven 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: 1-133 | ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC | AAC | C-USA | MAC | MWC | Sun Belt | FBS Ind.
Reminder – we also released our Midseason All-Sun Belt and Midseason All-Americans this past week.
Tier 1: The Elite Sun Belt QBs
1) Jordan McCloud | James Madison
Last Week’s Ranking: 2nd (+1)
Yards: 1,432 | TDs: 14 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 64.5% | YPA: 9.2
A new No. 1 in the Sun Belt QB Rankings, Jordan McCloud takes the top spot after leading James Madison to an undefeated 6-0 start and in the driver’s seat of the Sun Belt. Sure, they can’t play for the title itself, but that won’t stop this team from commanding every aspect of the game.
McCloud diced up the Georgia Southern defense at will, leading his receivers downfield well and adjusting to multiple different coverage looks. He leaned into the rushing attack with some solid play-action passes and has looked the best that we’ve seen him during his five-year college career.
This offense means business and they have every right to be ranked inside everyone’s top 25, even if they’ve not been granted that privilege from those who haven’t watched them play.
2) TJ Finley | Texas State
Last Week’s Ranking: 1st (-1)
Yards: 1,941 | TDs: 14 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 68.9% | YPA: 8.7
It didn’t come without a bit of a struggle, but Texas State got back in the win column against UL-Monroe, 21-20. The Bobcats struggled to move the ball on the Warhawks secondary as it took 46 pass attempts to reach 222 yards and Finley even served up a late-read pick-six to ULM.
Yet, with the game on the line, he was poised and precise. Finley marched his troops downfield twice in the waning moments and scored on two consecutive drives to take the game from what looked like sure defeat, down 11 points with under five minutes to go.
The unique packages with Malik Hornsby in the lineup appear to throw wrenches in the opposing defense’s hands but also mess with Finley’s consistency. One wonders if that will help or hinder going forward, but when it comes down to it, few are better than Finley across the country this season.
Tier 2: Well-Above-Average Sun Belt QBs
3) Darren Grainger | Georgia State
Last Week’s Ranking: 3rd (no change)
Yards: 1,421 | TDs: 8 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 68.5% | YPA: 8.6
The Georgia State Panthers have quietly forged to a 5-1 record this year and made their triumphant return in Week 7 following their loss to Troy in Week 5 and a bye week. In the win against Marshall, Darren Grainger was back to his usual ways, completing passes at will and moving the Panthers offense all the same.
Grainger now has 13 total touchdowns this year and he’s trending back in the right direction following an ugly performance against Troy. What makes Grainger a special quarterback is his ability to light the field up with his accuracy downfield, but also his short memory from any potential mistakes.
He’s a veteran and a darn good veteran quarterback in that aspect. Grainger will keep this Georgia State offense moving with that kind of success he saw in Week 7 all season long.
4) Davis Brin | Georgia Southern
Last Week’s Ranking: 4th (no change)
Yards: 1,882 | TDs: 12 | INT: 9 | Comp. %: 68.2% | YPA: 6.5
The Georgia Southern offense was confounded and kept completely in check by the JMU Dukes in Week 7 as Davis Brin couldn’t consistently set his feet and make his progressive reads. That’s been the case for most opponents of the Dukes this year, but Brin’s gunslinger mentality hadn’t really gotten him trouble since Wisconsin.
To be honest, Brin’s gunslinging mentality has been kept in check more so than anticipated, but during their two-game win streak against Ball State and Coastal Carolina, he sure did. Getting time in the pocket and working through his reads, Brin is every bit of a top-tier quarterback in the Sun Belt.
Can the offensive line keep up?
5) Carter Bradley | South Alabama
Last Week’s Ranking: 5th (no change)
Yards: 1,456 | TDs: 11 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 65.7% | YPA: 8.2
A mixed bag of success this season has marred what could’ve been a special year for South Alabama. Carter Bradley, however, has fared very well all things considered. Despite a multi-interception performance against conference-leading JMU, Bradley still had his troops in the contest against the Dukes.
They then boat raced a ULM defense that has exceeded all expectations this year and held Texas State to just 21 points this past weekend. With bye week in Week 7 to prepare for Southern Miss on a Tuesday night, the Jaguars will hope Bradley looks the part of an accurate distributor of the ball once again down the stretch.
6) Joey Aguilar | Appalachian State
Last Week’s Ranking: 7th (+1)
Yards: 1,530 | TDs: 14 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 60.0% | YPA: 7.8
It feels like a college football forever ago that Joey Aguilar didn’t start the season opener for the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Since taking over, Aguilar has rolled to just a 2-3 record as the starter, but he’s made the Mountaineers more than a one-dimensional team.
There’s a lot to clean up, but as he showcased in a loss to Coastal Carolina, he’s every bit of a top-notch quarterback when his receivers can make plays for him. Aguilar stands tall in the pocket despite som shaky blocking and has done a tremendous job of distributing the ball to all levels of the field.
He’s been consistent on the metrics you want him to be, those that show growth and maintain their level of play throughout the season. Aguilar has hardly been the problem for App State this season.
Tier 3: Above-Average Sun Belt QBs
7) Gunnar Watson | Troy
Last Week’s Ranking: 9th (+2)
Yards: 1,766 | TDs: 11 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 59.4% | YPA: 8.5
They’ve righted the ship on defense, allowing just 10 points over their past three games, and the offense seems to be rounding into form. Gunnar Watson, however, is coming in off just a 47.6% completion percentage outing against Army as the adverse weather certainly played a part in the game.
Watson has done a good enough job of distributing the ball for the Trojans this season, but where they get in trouble is if they get behind early. He’s been great at throwing for distance while lacking some consistency with his underneath throws, and he’s been bailed out by some miraculous cacthes by his wideouts.
Kimani Vidal has carried the offense, not their quarterback, and that will need to change if they want to continue these winning ways into the rest of the Sun Belt season.
8) Grayson McCall | Coastal Carolina
Last Week’s Ranking: 8th (no change)
Yards: 1,675 | TDs: 8 | INT: 6 | Comp. %: 64.8% | YPA: 8.5
The real Grayson McCall seemed to step up down the stretch for the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in Week 7. McCall was clean with his throws down the stretch and rallied his Chants’ team to a victory over App State, breaking a two-game slide.
McCall is beginning to test the field deep and with accuracy once again, something that was a staple of his game in previous years. If his performance against App State is any indication, we’re going to see the best of McCall as the season comes down the back half.
9) Cam Fancher | Marshall
Last Week’s Ranking: 6th (-3)
Yards: 1,506 | TDs: 7 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 68.9% | YPA: 7.2
Like a few other Sun Belt teams, the Marshall offense has been led and paced by their rushing attack. Yet, Cam Fancher has attempted at least 27 passes in every game this year.
Somehow, all those pass attempts haven’t led to as many passing yards nor success through the air as you’d expect. Fancher has done a good job of keeping the ball out of harm’s way unless the situation needs him to press the gas, but that’s hardly going to win games on obvious passing situations.
He’ll need to improve his accuracy to all levels of the field, but specifically past the sticks as he’s been off his mark far too often on such attempts.
Tier 4: Average Sun Belt QBs
10) Zeon Chriss | Louisiana
Last Week’s Ranking: 10th (no change)
Yards: 800 | TDs: 7 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 69.2% | YPA: 8.8
On a bye in Week 7, the Louisiana quarterback situation could rest after a dramatic victory over Texas State a week prior. Zeon Chriss has been a revelation for this Ragin’ Cajuns team, adding a spark to the tune of a 3-1 record since he entered play.
Chriss’s success has been throwing his receivers open downfield while he has been sluggish on your ‘every-day’ throws, those easy, should-be-completed attempts in the short area of the field. Reps, practice, and slowing down may be vital to more success from Chriss this year.
11) Jaylen Raynor | Arkansas State
Last Week’s Ranking: 11th (no change)
Yards: 850 | TDs: 10 | INT: 1 | Comp. %: 63.3% | YPA: 10.8
We moved Jaylen Raynor and the Arkansas State Red Wolves from the bottom of the Sun Belt QB Rankings in Week 6, following their terrific start under the freshman. However, after a rough outing against Troy, they stay put right here.
Let’s face it, even the best quarterbacks struggle against the Trojans defense this season and Raynor was no different. Still, he’s thrown 10 touchdowns in just three starts with some spot duty against Stony Brook this year. He’s been a spark plug for a team that needed to be revitalized.
We’re confident the success will still follow, especially with a bye week following a learning experience against Troy two weeks ago.
12) Jiya Wright | UL-Monroe
Last Week’s Ranking: 13th (+1)
Yards: 694 | TDs: 6 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 54.4% | YPA: 6.1
Jiya Wright is a bonafide gamer. He’ll do everything he can to put his UL-Monroe Warhawks in a position to win and the veteran leader of the offense sure has shown he can lead some successful drives at the helm to open games this year.
However, when the scripted portion of the offense is over, it’s been a steep decline and the Warhawks have lost two of their last three games by a single point because of their inability to close out ballgames. Wright has the talent and the offensive line is there, he just needs to make better decisions with the game on the line.
13) Billy Wiles | Southern Miss
Last Week’s Ranking: 12th (-1)
Yards: 1,254 | TDs: 7 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 53.5% | YPA: 6.3
Southern Miss was off in Week 7 after falling to Old Dominion in an ugly game in Week 6. The offense hasn’t quite been what you’d expect with the talent they have, but they’ve hardly been the root cause of their defeats in 2023.
Billy Wiles has done a miraculous job of making Southern Miss a pass-first offense after the past few years and had shown lashes of brilliance with his arm during the games against Texas State and Arkansas State.
He’s got some talent in his arm and enough juice to make things happen with his legs, but there needs to be some more consistency on stable metrics (non-play-action passes, clean dropbacks) before he moves up in our Sun Belt QB Rankings.
Tier 5: Work-To-Be-Done Sun Belt QBs
14) Grant Wilson, Jack Shields | Old Dominion
Last Week’s Ranking: 14th (no change)
Yards: 838 | TDs: 7 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 50.5% | YPA: 8.5
The Old Dominion quarterback situation hasn’t been the culprit this year, but it also hasn’t won them any games. The defense kept the Monarchs in the contest against Wake Forest and came up huge in the win against Southern Miss in Week 6.
With a bye week entering Week 8’s game against App State, will we see the Grant Wilson who threw three interceptions against Texas A&M Commerce or the Grant Wilson who looked every bit the part against Louisiana and Virginia Tech of an above-average on-field distributor?
Consistency is key at the quarterback position, but Wilson has been incredibly volatile.