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Best in class? How Arizona’s Noah Fifita stacks up to other 2022 QB recruits

Anthony Gimino Avatar
November 17, 2023
Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita has the highest passing efficiency rating of any second-year QB (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

PHNX podcast host Mike Luke asked the question on social media – Is the Arizona Wildcats’ Noah Fifita the best QB from the 2022 class? – so we might as well answer it.

Or at least strongly explore the possibility.

First of all, of course, the vast majority of quarterbacks from the 2022 class are still waiting their turn and have plenty of time to shine once given an opportunity. That same sentiment might have applied to Fifita, too, if not for Jayden de Laura’s ankle injury late in the third quarter of the fourth game of the season.

Fifita then directed a fourth-quarter comeback against Stanford and started the next six games, which includes victories in the past four, vaulting the Wildcats to the surprising position of being No. 19 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings.

For the season, Fifita has completed 165 of 224 passes for 1,735 yards, with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions while competing against five ranked teams and beating three. His passing efficiency rating of 158.7 is 16th nationally and first among QBs from the 2022 class.

Perhaps Fifita’s toughest assignment is coming up Saturday against defensive-minded No. 22 Utah.

This is a good time to remind folks that Fifita was 40th in 247Sports’ QB rankings in the 2022 class. Fifita’s lack of height – Arizona lists him as a likely generous 5-foot-11 – played a role in the low rating despite a prolific career at Servite High School in Southern California.

“But size was never an issue at the high school level and I never thought it would be an issue at the college level,” 247Sports national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins recently told the PHNX Wildcats podcast. “But now you’re talking about the NFL Draft, which is how our rankings are done – as an NFL Draft projection – and Noah wasn’t going to rate as high as other kids.

“But as a high school quarterback, I always said this … if I had to have a quarterback and my death was on the line, I want Noah Fifita.”

I decided to take a look at all the top 40 quarterbacks from the 2022 class. Amazingly, 20 percent (eight) have already transferred. Probably at least that many will be in the portal this offseason.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the 2022 class to figure out if Fifita is (right now) best in class.

Fifita vs. the Top 40 QB recruits

1. Drew Allar, Penn State – Lot of hype for this kid as a big, tall NFL prototype. He has done a nice job in helping the Nittany Lions to an 8-2 record, but he’s just 28 of 62 passing in losses in their two biggest games – Ohio State and Michigan — matching Penn State’s struggles against highly ranked teams.

Allar’s shiny 21-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is undercut by the lack of big plays in Penn State’s passing game, leaving him well behind Fifita in passing efficiency (136.6).

Let’s say this: Allar would be lucky to have Arizona’s receiving corps led by Tetairoa McMillan and Jacob Cowing.

2. Cade Klubnik, Clemson – His emergence late last season forced DJ Uiagalelei to transfer to Oregon State – good for the Beavers; not so hot for the Tigers. Clemson has four losses and the offense has sputtered. Klubnik has 2,261 passing yards and 18 TDs, but his 129.75 passing efficiency mark is merely 75th nationally.

3. Conner Weigman, Texas A&M – Was impressive early this season, then suffered a season-ending foot injury in the fourth game. Will he be on the move after the firing of Jimbo Fisher?

4. Ty Simpson, Alabama – Couldn’t move past Jalen Milroe or Tyler Buchner in an open competition through the spring and fall. Now, Milroe is entrenched as a third-year sophomore.

5. Devin Brown, Ohio State – Lost out to Kyle McCord in the effort to be C.J. Stroud’s successor and has attempted only 22 passes this season.

6. Walker Howard, LSU – Transferred to Ole Miss in January 2023 and has a nice view from the sideline.

7. Gunner Stockton, Georgia – Third on the depth chart for two-time defending national champs.

8. Nick Evers, Oklahoma – Transferred to Wisconsin after one semester and one pass attempt with the Sooners.

9. Maalik Murphy, Texas – Starter Quinn Ewers could go to the NFL after this season. Even so, Murphy would still have to deal with 2023 No. 1 QB Arch Manning for playing time.

10. Brady Allen, Purdue – Followed head coach Jeff Brohm to Louisville after last season.

11. Katin Houser, Michigan State – Has started the past five games with modest results.

12. Tayven Jackson, Tennessee – Now at Indiana with 128 passes in six games for 3-7 squad.

13. AJ Duffy, Florida State – Watching behind Jordan Travis.

14. Holden Geriner, Auburn – Just a little backup work for now.

15. Sam Horn, Missouri – Has a front row seat to the Brady Cook Show.

16. Jacurri Brown, Miami – Started twice last season; has yet to take a snap in 2023.

17. Justyn Martin, UCLA – Bruins have played four quarterbacks this season; Martin is not one of them.

18. Zach Pyron, Georgia Tech – Haynes King has taken over as the Yellow Jackets’ QB after Pyron flashed some intriguing skills in three games last season.

19. Jayden Denegal, Michigan – Opportunity in 2024 if J.J. McCarthy leaves for NFL?

20. Garrett Rangel, Oklahoma State – Minimal time this season after three starts as a true freshman.

21. Nate Johnson, Utah – Door opened for the dual-threat Johnson this season when Cam Rising couldn’t come back from knee injury, but Bryson Barnes took control at QB for the Utes.

22. AJ Swann, Vanderbilt – Passed for 1,274 yards as a freshman and began this season as the starter before being sidelined after five games due to an elbow injury.

23. Tanner Bailey, South Carolina – No pass attempts so far, stuck behind more experienced QBs, including Spencer Rattler.

24. MJ Morris, N.C. State – Helped the Wolfpack beat Clemson and Miami in back-to-back weeks this season but is done for the season to preserve a redshirt year. Transfer?

25. Braedyn Locke, Mississippi State – Transferred to Wisconsin after last season and became the Badgers starter for four games when Tanner Mordecai was injured. Moredecai is back now.

26. Joshua Wood, Fresno State – Down on the depth chart.

27. Beau Pribula, Penn State – See No. 1 on these rankings. Drew Allar’s backup.

28. Nicco Marchiol, West Virginia – Made his only career start in late September against Texas Tech.

29. Luther Richesson, Cincinnati – Went the junior college route after transfer from Bearcats.

30. Jacob Knuth, Minnesota – Now at Kansas State.

31. Brandon Rose, Utah – Hasn’t seen the field yet.

32. Richard Torres, Nebraska – Transferred in the spring to the University of the Incarnate Word.

33. Conner Harrell, North Carolina – Has to wait for Drake Maye to move on to the NFL.

34. Henry Belin, Duke – Just a taste of playing time so far.

35. Max Brown, Florida – Maybe he’s next after Graham Mertz is gone?

36. Myles Burkett, Wisconsin – He stayed after two others on this list – Nick Evers and Braedyn Locke – transferred into Madison. Locke became the No. 2 this season.

37. Davin Wydner, Ole Miss – Joined the Rebels as a walk-on. Yes, an eventual walk-on was rated higher than Noah Fifita.

38. Zion Turner, UConn – Passed for 1,407 yards as a true freshman, eight this season.

39. Bert Emanuel Jr., Central Michigan – A nice rushing threat at times.

40. Noah Fifita, Arizona – HERE HE IS, FOLKS!

As you go on down the list, there is no breakthrough Class of 2022 QB such as Fifita who pairs opportunity, performance, big-time wins and a Top 25 ranking.

Some notables include No. 61 Rocco Becht (2,121 passing yards in 10 games for 6-4 Iowa State) and No. 152 – No. 152! – E.J. Warner from Phoenix Brophy Prep. Warner, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, already has 5,451 passing yards and 37 passing touchdowns at Temple, but the Owls have not exactly done a lot of winning.

So, there you have it. You decide: Is Fifita the Best in Class so far?

Whatever your answer is, Arizona’s future looks bright.

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Top photo: Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita has the highest passing efficiency rating of any second-year QB in the country. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

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