If you went to sleep 13 months ago and didn’t wake up until now, the first question you’d obviously ask is why is the FCS playing in March. You’d follow it up with a Patrick Star “Who are you people!?” while watching a weekend of action.
Indeed, there are plenty of new names in the FCS this spring, especially at the quarterback position.
The numbers are wild: The top six teams and seven of the top eight are starting a new QB. In the top 25, twelve teams have a new signal-caller. It’s a young group, too. Four of the top six teams will be starting a freshman QB if NDSU’s Cam Miller gets the nod.
Here’s a look at each top 25 team’s new starter.
Not included are QBs who split time as a starter in 2019 or ended 2019 as the starter.
No. 1 James Madison
Cole Johnson (Sr.)/Gage Moloney (Jr.)
Johnson started the first three games for JMU. While the Dukes are 3-0, Johnson struggled as he went a combined 36-54 for 452 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions. Moloney came off the bench in the third game against Elon, leading JMU on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter to erase a 17-6 deficit and winning 20-17.
Head coach Curt Cignetti named Moloney the starter two days later.
No. 2 North Dakota
Tommy Schuster (rFr.)
Schuster stepped into the full-time starting role this spring after starting one game in 2019 for an injured Andrew Zimmerman. He has led the Fighting Hawks to a 4-0 start, including wins against currently-ranked No. 5 Southern Illinois and No. 6 South Dakota State.
Schuster has completed 87-of-127 passes for 849 yards, seven TDs, and two interceptions.
No. 3 Weber State
Bronson Barron (Fr.)
Barron looks like the missing piece for the 2-0 Wildcats. Barron is a true freshman but signed at Weber State in February of 2018 before serving an LDS Church mission. He has gone 30-56 for 448 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
No. 4 North Dakota State
Zeb Noland (Sr.)/Cam Miller (Fr.)
Noland, an Iowa State transfer who arrived in Fargo in 2019, had massive shoes to fill. While the Bison are 3-1 with Noland starting, the passing attack hasn’t been consistent. Noland has gone 38-70 for 440 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions. NDSU’s offense has typically utilized the QB run game, but Noland has only three rushing yards on 10 attempts with a TD.
Miller, a true freshman, replaced Noland in the second half of the Bison’s last game against Illinois State. He went 5-7 for 61 yards while also rushing 16 times for 64 yards and a touchdown to seal the game. Head coach Matt Entz did not say earlier this week who will start Saturday against UND.
No. 5 Southern Illinois
Nic Baker (So.)
Last season’s starter Karé Lyles got the start in the spring season-opener against UND. He injured his ribs, and in came Baker, who looked like the better option. Baker went on to start the next three games with SIU going 3-0, including wins against then-No. 1 NDSU and No. 4 UNI.
Baker has gone a combined 50-of-74 passing for 637 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions. However, he injured his foot in last weekend’s game against UNI. His status is unknown for Saturday against SDSU.
No. 6 South Dakota State
Mark Gronowski (Fr.)
Gronowski won the starting job as a true freshman and has led the Jackrabbits to a 3-1 start. He has gone 59-108 for 839 yards, seven TDs, and three interceptions while rushing 30 times for 154 yards and four TDs.
Against Western Illinois, Gronowski finished 13-20 passing for 197 yards and two TDs along with four rushes for 120 yards and two TDs.
No. 8 Jacksonville State
Zion Webb (Jr.)
Webb was Zerrick Cooper’s backup in 2018 and 2019 but was also JSU’s change-of-pace QB that saw plenty of game action. With Cooper out with an injury this spring, Webb has gone 3-0 as the starter.
In the three spring games, Webb is 44-74 for 620 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions. He has also rushed 24 times for 114 yards.
No. 11 Chattanooga
Drayton Arnold (Sr.)
Arnold arrived at UTC in 2019 and served as a backup after transferring from Old Dominion. He started UTC’s lone 2020 fall game, a near FBS upset over Western Kentucky (13-10 final score). He has the Mocs off to a 2-0 start this spring, throwing for over 220 yards in both games with two total TDs and one interception.
No. 16 Southeastern Louisiana
Cole Kelley (Sr.)
Kelley got a ton of playing time in 2019 after transferring from Arkansas. He played in all 13 games and threw for 816 yards, 10 TDs, and two interceptions. But he never started in front of standout Chason Virgil.
Now as QB1, the big 6-foot-7 gunslinger has thrown for 462 yards, 301 yards, and 338 yards in the first three games. Kelley has tossed six total TDs with one interception.
No. 17 Nicholls
Lindsey Scott Jr. (Sr.)
The path to get to Nicholls was a winding one for Scott. Named the 2015 Gatorade Louisiana Football Player of the Year and ranked a three-star recruit out of high school, Scott signed with LSU and redshirted in 2016. He then transferred to East Mississippi Community College of Last Chance U fame and led EMCC to an 11-1 record and the 2017 NJCAA national championship. Ranked by 247 as the second-best QB prospect from the junior college level, Scott signed with Missouri in 2018 and served as the scout team QB that season. In 2019, he transferred to Nicholls and sat out due to transfer rules while learning under veteran Chase Fourcade.
Now as the starter, Scott has been electric, going 63-103 for 870 yards, nine TDs, and two interceptions. He has also rushed 45 times for 249 yards and four TDs.
No. 21 UC Davis
Hunter Rodrigues (Jr.)
After sitting behind All-American Jake Maier for a couple of seasons, Rodrigues took the reins for this spring season. In his first two games, he has gone 36-57 for 382 yards, four TDs, and two interceptions.
His debut saw a win against ranked Idaho as Rodrigues threw for 243 yards and three scores.
No. 22 Incarnate Word
Cameron Ward (Fr.)
UIW saw its 2018 Freshman All-American and 2019 Sophomore All-American Jon Copeland enter the transfer portal this offseason. But stepping up is another young QB in true freshman Cameron Ward.
With a 2-0 record as the starter, Ward has thrown for over 300 yards and four TDs in both games. Combined, he has gone 53-79 for 647 yards, eight TDs, and two interceptions.