Coaches weigh in on top 2023 college football quarterbacks

Caleb Williams' mobility complements an accurate and prolific passing output for USC. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

Every August, returning quarterbacks around college football generate unparalleled interest, and the 2023 collection is no exception.

Although the NFL draft claimed three quarterbacks in the first four picks -- Alabama's Bryce Young (No. 1, Carolina), Ohio State's C.J. Stroud (No. 2, Houston) and Florida's Anthony Richardson (No. 4, Indianapolis) -- plenty of star power returns to the college ranks. Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, the projected No. 1 pick for the 2024 draft, is back at USC. Also returning is North Carolina's Drake Maye, pegged to fall no lower than No. 3 next spring.

Williams headlines a Pac-12 quarterback class that might be the most accomplished in league history and includes Washington's Michael Penix Jr., Oregon's Bo Nix and Utah's Cam Rising. The ACC's quarterback collection might not jump out as much as its predecessor, but Maye and Florida State's Jordan Travis lead a group that includes intriguing intraconference transfers such as Brennan Armstrong (Virginia to NC State) and Phil Jurkovec (Boston College to Pitt).

The overall transfer market might not have popped as much as the one heading into the 2022 season, but Notre Dame's Sam Hartman (Wake Forest) and Kentucky's Devin Leary (NC State) are among the ones generating buzz entering the fall.

During the spring and summer, I spoke with more than 20 head coaches and assistants from across the country to break down the strengths and weaknesses of the top returning quarterbacks. Here's what they had to say.

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Caleb Williams, USC: The 2022 Heisman winner drew high marks -- unsurprisingly -- from coaches, who noted that his athleticism helped USC handle a new scheme under coach Lincoln Riley and covered up some possible issues along the offensive line. Williams had 10 rushing touchdowns on 113 carries and consistently extended plays with his legs.

His mobility complemented an accurate and prolific passing output (4,537 yards, 42 touchdowns, 66.6% completions).

"It's the non-normal play, where Caleb is scrambling and he's looking down the field," a Pac-12 defensive coordinator said. "All of a sudden, you've got everybody covered, and then the play breaks down or he scrambles and all of a sudden, it's a 60-yard gain. We counted 10 of those in various games."

Added another Pac-12 defensive coordinator: "Everybody said [USC] had a good O-line last year, but that's just because Caleb could run."