If you’re a true freshman playing quarterback in the SEC next year, tip of the cap. You’ve earned it.

The depth at signal-caller appears to be at an all-time high in the league. Bryce Young, Will Rogers, Hendon Hooker, Spencer Rattler, KJ Jefferson … the list is long. All of those guys might start as top-10 quarterbacks nationally. That’s before knowing what’ll unfold with the transfer portal.

So if you were a quarterback who signed with an SEC program in the 2022 class, chances are that you’re sitting behind an unquestioned QB1. But that’s not necessarily the case for everyone.

In 2021, Missouri’s Tyler Macon started against Georgia. He was the lone SEC true freshman quarterback to start a game. Will that change in 2022 with a bevy of elite signal-callers to set to return? Time will tell.

For now, these are the 5 incoming true freshmen quarterbacks who have a legitimate chance to make an impact in 2022:

5. AJ Swann, Vanderbilt

The late Maryland flip for Clark Lea’s staff absolutely will have a chance to see the field in 2022. Mike Wright stepped into the starting role down the stretch, but he’s limited as a passer. Swann, a fellow recruit from the state of Georgia, might be better suited to run Joey Lynch’s offense if the offensive line play can improve. Wright made more sense than Ken Seals because of his mobility, and to Wright’s credit, he improved as a passer in the home stretch.

Swann isn’t your typical Vandy quarterback commit. He’s an Elite 11 invitee who was nearly a 4-star recruit (he’s No. 403 in the 247sports composite).

At worst, Swann is in a 3-way quarterback battle with Seals and Wright. What’s possible is 1 of those 2 quarterbacks (neither was recruited by Lea’s staff) transfers and Swann is in a 2-way battle to win the starting job or he’s a rolled ankle/disappointing showing from getting a chance as a true freshman.

4. Sam Horn, Mizzou

What became all too clear in 2021 is that Connor Bazelak isn’t going to be the guy to lead Mizzou to that next step. Yes, he played through some injuries and he deserves credit for that, but Bazelak and Eli Drinkwitz don’t quite seem like the perfect pair. Does the aforementioned Macon or Brady Cook step into a starting role? We don’t know. We do know that both played when Bazelak went down, so it doesn’t appear that Drinkwitz is necessarily sold on either as the next man up.

That could benefit Horn, who steps in as the No. 9 quarterback recruit in the 2022 class. Ideally, Drinkwitz would let Horn fill out that 6-4 frame a bit before he has him taking SEC hits. But we did just see Drinkwitz turn to a true freshman to start against Georgia when Bazelak was banged up, so clearly he doesn’t have some unofficial redshirt rule for his signal-callers.

Horn is the highest-rated quarterback recruit to sign with Mizzou since Drew Lock, who started 8 games as a true freshman, albeit with a different quarterback room and a different coaching staff. Still, nobody should be surprised if Drinkwitz turns to Horn at some point in 2022.

3. Holden Geriner, Auburn

It’s crazy that the first 3 quarterbacks listed here are all signal-callers from Georgia. That’s partially why Geriner, who was a 4A state champion in Georgia as a senior, could rise up the depth chart in a hurry.

Bo Nix is in the transfer portal, TJ Finley was underwhelming in limited action and Dee Davis didn’t play a snap as a true freshman after he was recruited by the previous staff.

Even in the likely event that Auburn adds another quarterback — that could happen via the transfer portal or the February signing period — Geriner could still find himself next-in-line to win the starting job. Bryan Harsin tends to favor veterans in his quarterback battles. That could continue in a season in which improvement could be paramount to avoid an early firing, or Harsin could start from scratch at the position and give a true freshman like Geriner a legitimate chance to win the starting job.

We saw Harsin was willing to pull Nix mid-game to push some buttons. Even if Geriner isn’t in a starting role, perhaps we see Harsin use him to light a fire under one of his veteran signal-callers.

2. Walker Howard, LSU

Lost in the shuffle of Brian Kelly’s viral dance to “Callin’ Baton Rouge” was the fact that the guy standing back-to-back with him was Howard, AKA the 5-star Louisiana native who reaffirmed his LSU commitment in epic fashion. The 2020 Gatorade Player of the Year in Louisiana might need to add some size, but he’s a 5-star signal-caller for a reason. Howard has a cannon and he’s got the accuracy needed to play sooner rather than later.

Even with Wednesday’s news that Myles Brennan was returning to LSU, let’s not forget that Brennan has a pretty significant injury history. If Brennan is pegged as QB1 with Garrett Nussmeier and Howard as the backup, it seems like at worst Walker will have a real shot to be the backup with a legitimate chance of pulling a page out of Max Johnson’s playbook and being a true freshman starter by season’s end.

We know that Kelly tried to make a late push for Howard when he was the coach at Notre Dame, so this isn’t a situation where a new staff simply inherits a quarterback. The only reason Howard isn’t No. 1 on this list is because Kelly was so reluctant to play true freshmen at Notre Dame, especially at quarterback and receiver. Maybe that’ll change like his accent.

1. Conner Weigman, Texas A&M

Listen to Jimbo Fisher talk about Weigman and tell me that this is just your standard quarterback recruit:

As much as Haynes King intrigues me and while I think there’s a significant learning curve to running Fisher’s offense, I expect to see Weigman start at some point in 2022. This sounds like Fisher’s favorite recruit yet. That’s saying a lot considering all the talent he brought into A&M in a short period of time.

Even in the likely event that A&M dips into the portal, Weigman is going to put himself in position to play. With King still working his way back from injury, we could see Weigman get a nice head start in the spring, too. Unlike some of the others on this list, he already has the size and mobility to compete in the SEC. That’s what separates him.

I wouldn’t be so sure that King automatically has a leg up in Weigman with those extra years in the system. Fisher went with the younger option in 2018 when he picked Kellen Mond over Nick Starkel, and he favored Jameis Winston over Jake Coker in 2013. Granted, Mond and Winston were both second-year guys, as was Deondre Francois when he ran away with the starting job following Sean Maguire’s injury (Maguire is now an analyst on Fisher’s A&M staff).

The point is, don’t be surprised if Fisher turns to Weigman during his true freshman season, and not necessarily because of desperation.