The best quarterback in college football in 2019 was Joe Burrow, and it wasn’t close. In fact, the LSU quarterback — with the Heisman, the national championship and the 60 touchdown passes — arguably had the greatest season of any college football quarterback in history.
Burrow raising his level of play to those heights was one of the biggest quarterback surprises of the college football season. But the biggest? That might have happened right in Minnesota — at least if you believe what your own eyes and Pro Football Focus’ analysis are telling you about the Gophers’ Tanner Morgan.
Morgan was supposed to be just one of multiple options to start at quarterback for the 2019 Gophers before Zack Annexstad suffered a foot injury in early August.
PFF did a preseason ranking of all 130 quarterback spots for FBS schools, and Morgan ranked No. 86 before a single snap. In updated midseason rankings he had moved up to No. 27; and this week, PFF released its final rankings and had Morgan all the way up as the No. 7-ranked quarterback in all of FBS — behind only Burrow, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
That’s not just great company. It also illustrates just what a surprise standout Morgan was, considering all six of those other guys were in the preseason top 20.
Again, Morgan was No. 86 — a big part of the reason PFF had this to say about the Gophers QB who finished the year with 3,253 yards, 30 touchdowns, seven interceptions, a 66% completion rate and an 11-2 record:
“Perhaps the best season from a quarterback that you didn’t see coming, we’re a long way from Zack Annexstad seemingly entering the year as the starter for the Gophers way back in early summer, 2019. All Morgan did was finish the year with the country’s seventh-highest passing grade as he was every bit of an elite quarterback this season. … It didn’t matter the situation, didn’t matter the throw type. Morgan made nearly every throw look easy and took advantage of his extremely talented receivers on the outside as well as anyone else did in 2019.”
And the highest single-game grade for any FBS quarterback against a Power 5 school in 2019? That also went to Morgan in the Gophers’ program-defining win over Penn State.
This is a good time to remind you that Morgan is just a sophomore and has two years of eligibility left. But next year he’ll have to perform without star wide receiver Tyler Johnson. All Johnson did this year was finish as the highest-graded wide receiver in all of college football, per PFF.
Elite talent, indeed.