In 2019, we knew all about Trevor Lawrence but didn't necessarily see Joe Burrow coming. In 2020, Lawrence and Justin Fields were slam dunks, but no one was predicting what we got from Mac Jones and Kyle Trask.
Heading into each college football season, there are known stars and unknown stars. We know what to expect from the sport's proven studs -- in 2022, that includes Bryce Young, Will Anderson Jr., C.J. Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba -- but others will emerge. Maybe they will come out of nowhere, or maybe they have simply been waiting their turn, but the unknown stars of 2022 will determine both what we remember about the season and how the national title race plays out.
My annual Most Important Players list is about those unknowns. We know what we're getting from Stroud, Young & Co., but here are 25 players who could define the season with either moments or long spells of greatness. Some play for contenders, while others play for the teams that might prevent contenders from reaching their goals. All of them will have a chance to make their mark on 2022.
Like Zach Calzada and Texas A&M against Bama last season, plenty of quarterbacks could pilot an upset that turns the title race, even if they and/or their teams aren't quite strong enough to do it repeatedly. (Not surprisingly, all of these QBs are in the Big Ten or SEC, since that's where many of this year's contenders reside.)
The Arizona State transfer is enmeshed in a four-way battle to become Brian Kelly's first starter at LSU. He probably has the highest upside of the bunch.
Daniels is ungovernable. Among QBs with at least 375 dropbacks last season, his 15.1% rate of scrambles per dropback was comfortably the most, but he's good at it. He averaged 8.9 yards per carry on scrambles and produced a raw QBR of 85.5 when passing from outside the pocket. LSU probably isn't going to contend for the SEC West, but with the Tigers' overall athleticism and Daniels' unique improv skills, they could beat any single team on the schedule. If he wins the job.