Before the 2022-23 season was even over with, a hotly contested debate surrounding two of the Big 12's finest quarterbacks emerged, and with the announcement of one of those quarterbacks being Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, I felt the need to address this debate. The two quarterbacks in question also reside in the same state and play for rival schools, making the debate all the more vitriolic. Those two quarterbacks are KU's Jalon Daniels and K-State's Will Howard. Let's look at some key stats here before I go into my personal opinion on the matter.
Starting with Jalon Daniels, Daniels looked like he had been shot out of a cannon last year. A huge improvement from 2021-22, Daniels passed for 2,014 yards, 18 TDs, had 152 completions, and had a 162.0 passer rating overall. He also managed to rush for 7 TDs and 419 yards, making him one of the better dual threat quarterbacks in the Big 12 and even Division I FBS. The problem with Daniels was the fact that he hurt his shoulder against TCU and recovered only in time to play the final two games of the season against Texas and Kansas State as well as the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against Arkansas. Shoulder injuries can certainly raise some questions about a quarterback's durability as well as his level of play, however that did not stop pollsters from voting Daniels the Preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Daniels has high expectations this year, even being referenced as a dark horse Heisman candidate, but the big question is can he stay healthy and put up the level of play he put up in those first 5 games?
Now to Will Howard. Howard replaced an injured Adrian Martinez against TCU and shined throughout his tenure as starting quarterback. He would go on to avenge his loss against TCU in the Big 12 Championship, taking Kansas State all the way to the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. Howard would finish the year with a 59.8% completion rate (with 119 passes completed), 1,633 yards passing, 15 passing TDs, 3 rushing TDs, and a 149.6 passer rating. Howard is expected to be the full-time starter for the Wildcats this upcoming season and also has big shoes to fill regarding his expectations. He has the ability to meet those expectations, as demonstrated by last year's big-time performances, the major question with him is can he continue to stay the course? With a returning offensive line, new weapons like Treshaun Ward, and a solid defense backing him as well, there's plenty of promise, can he sustain good performances though against what will be a tougher, more competitive Big 12?
As for my opinion regarding who is better, it's frankly too early to tell. Daniels was obviously selected as the preseason OPOY but given his health concerns as well as concerns regarding how he plays (and how his defense plays) against tough competition, there's certainly questions surrounding this selection. Howard, I don't believe is better, per se, I think Daniels has more individual player tools than Howard such as better mobility and more big play ability. Howard though has better weapons and a better defense surrounding him as well as an NFL-ready frame, being 6'5" and 235 lbs. I think it'll bank on what we see from Daniels's weapons and defense that will be the determining factor. If they can do enough to allow Daniels to showcase his big play ability as well as allow Daniels to stay healthy, the edge goes to Daniels, otherwise the edge goes to Howard.
What do you think though? Anything important that I missed about either quarterback? Could we see either of these guys win Big 12 OPOY at the end of the season? Perhaps a higher honor? Let me know in the comments below!
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