We're just days away from the start of the FCS football playoffs and there are plenty of exciting players ready to take center stage. However, no player draws more attention than the quarterback of a playoff team, especially if he's playing at a high level.
That being said, here's a look at the top-five quarterbacks to watch entering the FCS playoffs.
The top-5 QBs to watch entering the FCS playoffs
Cole Johnson | James Madison
James Madison quarterback Cole Johnson does not have the national awards as some of the other quarterbacks on this list, but he is a proven winner. Johnson has an 18-2 record as a starter, consistently keeping the Dukes in the conversation as one of the best teams in the FCS.
When Johnson gets on a hot streak, he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country; he completed 88 percent of his passes for 307 yards and six touchdowns in a win over Elon earlier this year. It was one of five games where the sixth-year signal-caller completed more than 70 percent of his passes this fall. Johnson has the potential to lead James Madison to its first FCS championship since 2016.
Cameron Ward | UIW
While UIW quarterback Cameron Ward may be the youngest quarterback on this list from an experience standpoint, he does not play like it on the field. Last year's Jerry Rice Award winner has followed up a stellar freshman campaign with a remarkable sophomore season.
In Week 10, Ward led UIW to an upset over then-No. 6 Southeastern Louisiana in what turned out to be the deciding factor in UIW winning the Southland title. In the victory, Ward threw for 610 yards and seven touchdowns, becoming one of 11 players to throw for 600 or more yards in FCS history.
Ward went to a different level in the win, standing toe-to-toe with another quarterback on this list and showing that he's capable of taking over a game. If Ward can scratch the surface of duplicating this performance in the playoffs, UIW might shock the FCS.
Cole Kelley | Southeastern Louisiana
Cole Kelley leads the nation in passing yards, passing yards per game and passing efficiency this season. Kelley has also rushed for 16 touchdowns in dual-threat fashion. Did I mention he's the reigning Walter Payton award winner?
The 6 foot 7, 260-pound quarterback is a massive human being, with massive production to back it up. Kelley leads the number one scoring offense in the FCS and has Southeastern Louisiana in the playoffs for the second year in a row. Any game is in reach for Kelley and the Lions; their three losses have all come by three points. Kelley gives any game shootout potential and gives Southeastern Louisiana a legitimate chance to make a deep playoff run.
Eric Schmid | Sam Houston
Eric Schmid is an All-American, a national champion, and a Walter Payton Award finalist. He leads a Sam Houston team with the longest win streak in the FCS and the top seed in this year's playoff bracket.
Yet, Schmid is more than just accolades; he is an elite threat at the quarterback position. Schmid sits in the top 10 for passing touchdowns in 2021 with 26 this season. With Schmid under center, Sam Houston could go back-to-back as national champions.
Eric Barriere | Eastern Washington
Eric Barriere is the only quarterback in the FCS to throw for 40 touchdowns this season. He also has passed for over 4,200 yards. Barriere led Eastern Washington to its 15th appearance in the FCS playoffs behind one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
At times, Barriere appears to have the ability to move the ball at will, passing for over 500 yards three times this season. At any point in the game, from anywhere on the field, Barriere and the Eagles can find the endzone. With Barriere at the helm, Eastern Washington has a great chance to win the title for the first time in over a decade.