As spring ball wraps up around the country, let's take an early look at the top returning FCS quarterbacks in 2023. This list only includes quarterbacks returning to their teams this fall, meaning no transfers or incoming freshmen are included.
That said, let's get into the rankings.
1. Michael Hiers | Samford
Michael Hiers finished the 2022 season as the clear third-best quarterback in the FCS, only behind two Walter Payton Award finalists. He's an excellent passer with the mobility to extend plays with his legs when necessary. Hiers also showed heart during Samford's playoff run, battling through injury to try and lead the Bulldogs to a win. All of that has Hiers entering the year as the top quarterback in the FCS.
LOOKING BACK: The top 50 FCS quarterbacks in 2022, ranked
2. Tommy Mellott | Montana State
In Tommy Mellott's two years at Montana State, he led the Bobcats to an FCS title game and the FCS semifinals. Mellott has proven he's the best dual-threat quarterback in the country entering 2023, especially after rushing and throwing for 1,000 yards last year.
I listed Mellot alone here, without his quarterback partner Sean Chambers, because Chambers missed spring practice recovering from an injury. When Chambers returns, expect the Mellott-Chamber duo to remain the best quarterback tandem in the FCS.
3. Mark Gronowski | South Dakota State
Mark Gronowski led South Dakota State to its first FCS title in program history last year. It was his first season back after tearing his ACL in... the FCS title game back during spring 2021 as a freshman. All Gronowski has done in the FCS is win, and his development as a passer has the Jackrabbits poised for a repeat behind an elite offense.
🏆: How South Dakota State won the 2022 FCS title
4. Matthew Sluka | Holy Cross
Matthew Sluka led Holy Cross to an undefeated regular season in 2022 before giving South Dakota State its toughest test in the FCS playoffs last year in the quarterfinals. Sluka played at a top-five level all season long. There's no reason to think he can't do it again this year.
5. Davius Richard | North Carolina Central
Davius Richard is one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS entering this year after his impressive run to a Celebration Bowl win. Richard can get the job done with his arms or legs, passing for 25 touchdowns and rushing for 15 touchdowns last year.
CHAMPIONS: How North Carolina Central won the 2022 Celebration Bowl
6. Parker McKinney | Eastern Kentucky
Parker McKinney threw for the third-most passing yards in the FCS last year and threw for five touchdowns in a first-round playoff loss. He can sling the rock. McKinney has the potential to lead multiple categories in passing in 2023.
7. Gevani McCoy | Idaho
Gevani McCoy is the reigning Jerry Rice Award winner. He led Idaho to its first playoff appearance since 1995 last year and could return to the postseason this fall. He'll have top wide receiver target Hayden Hatten back this fall, forming arguably the top QB-WR duo in the FCS.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Gevani McCoy's top plays from his freshman season
8. Tyler Huff | Furman
In last year's playoff game, Tyler Huff and Furman went toe-to-toe with the nation's most explosive offense, UIW. Huff returns in 2023 to lead a Paladin team that should be one of the favorites in the SoCon this year.
9. Darius Wilson | William & Mary
Darius Wilson may not put up the flashy numbers of some of the other quarterbacks on this list, but he gets the job done. He led William & Mary to the FCS quarterfinals last year, showcasing his ability to impact the game as a runner and a passer. If Wilson takes the next step through the air this fall, the Tribe could surpass last season's heights.
10. Paxton DeLaurent | Southeast Missouri State
A healthy Paxton DeLaurent looked like a top-five quarterback last year. However, DeLaurent wasn't healthy to end last season, failing to pass for a touchdown in the FCS playoffs. Nonetheless, DeLaurent should be at full strength this fall, and he should build off of a season where he threw for 2432 yards and 17 touchdowns.
CHAMPIONSHIPS: Schools with the most FCS national championships
Honorable Mention: Kasim Hill (Rhode Island) and Theo Day (Northern Iowa)
Hill and Day are two veterans capable of leading teams to the FCS playoffs this year while putting up big numbers in the process. Both Hill and Day could finish the season as the best quarterbacks in the CAA and MVFC, respectively, two of the best conferences in the FCS.