Future QB Stars - 2009
The Young Guns You Need To Know
Admit it. You’re a little tired of the endless articles and the magazines that feature this year’s Big 3 quarterbacks, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Tim Tebow; fantastic all-around college athletes and the poster boys for the 2009 season, but we may be reaching a saturation level of coverage even though the opener is still weeks away.
By this time next year, all three Heisman frontrunners are likely to be in NFL camps, so why not stay ahead of the curve and start investing a little time on those young, yet-to-be-tested hurlers likely to fill the void? Although their resumes can be written on a Post-it, their ceilings extend through the roof. So go ahead and feel free to start tossing around names, like Garrett Gilbert, Keith Nichol, and Shavodrick Beaver. Over the next year or so, plenty of these upstarts will repay your patronage by making you like an NCAA oracle.
30. B.J. Daniels, South Florida – Once Matt Grothe concludes his fourth season as the starter, he’ll hands the reins over to Daniels, a 6-1, 212-pound redshirt freshman and one of the best all-around athletes on the team. Also a member of the Bull hoops team, he makes something out of nothing with his feet and has underrated arm strength. If he continues to learn and master the finer points of the position, he has a chance to be a special playmaker in Tampa.
29. Bryn Renner, North Carolina – Butch Davis’ recruiting engine has been well-oiled in recent years, except at the quarterback position. While T.J. Yates and Mike Paulus still have plenty of upside, neither has exploded into an all-star quite yet. Renner could wind up being the best of the three once he gets on campus and has a chance to start digesting the playbook. A 6-3, 195-pounder, he’ll fit the ball into tight windows and plays with the poise and intelligence of a coach’s son.
28. Larry Smith, Vanderbilt – Following in the footsteps of former teammate Chris Nickson, Smith is another Alabama Prep Player of the Year to land in Nashville. After seeing action in the final two games of his redshirt freshman year, he has his sights fixed on winning the starting job this summer. A sturdy 6-2, 220-pounder, he can lower the boom outside the pocket, yet has shown enough development as a passer to be considered a true dual-threat.
27. Tom Savage, Rutgers – Savage was plucked out of Pennsylvania this past February to be the starter by 2010...at the latest. A hard-throwing 6-5, 220-pounder, he has the highest ceiling on a roster littered with journeymen. He’s capable of pushing for playing time this fall if the transition isn’t too difficult or, at worst, redshirting and succeeding the two seniors, Domenic Natale and Jabu Lovelace, beginning next spring.
26. Nick Fanuzzi, Rice – What do you get when combining an SEC talent with the high-octane Owl passing game? Gaudy numbers. It’s all there for the taking for Fanuzzi, a transfer from Alabama in a three-way tussle to replace Chase Clement this season. A nimble 6-3, 215-pounder, he’s flashed the agility and zip on his passes to make him an ideal fit for this fast-paced offense.
25. Shavodrick Beaver, Tulsa – Winning the quarterback job at Tulsa means an instant opportunity for monster numbers and national notoriety. Just look at what Paul Smith and David Johnson did the last two years. Despite being a rookie, Beaver has the talent to be next in line to pilot the hurry-up, no-huddle offense. The 6-3, 190-pounder already took part in his first practices, turning heads in the spring game. A rangy kid, who’ll hurt defenses with his athletic ability and long stride, he de-committed from Michigan in order to play for Tulsa.
24. Brock Mansion, Cal – It’s been a few years since Jeff Tedford molded a hurler into a pro-caliber performer. Mansion would like to be the coach’s next star pupil. A 6-5, 237-pound flamethrower, with an eye on Kevin Riley’s starting nod, he can make all of the throws and is surprisingly quick for such a super-sized quarterback. One of the nation’s top dropback recruits of 2007, he’ll be the frontrunner for the job in 2010, even if he’s the No. 2 guy this season.
23. Sean Renfree, Duke – David Cutcliffe has a long track record of coaching up quarterbacks, which is the only reason he was able to get Renfree out of Arizona in 2008. While no threat to senior Thaddeus Lewis this fall, he does figure to get some reps in 2009 in order to make next season’s passing of the baton more seamless. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he has the arm strength and the head to hit the ground running when his number eventually gets called.
22. Logan Gray, Georgia – Fifth-year senior Joe Cox is the bridge from Matt Stafford to the future. Gray believes he’s the future at quarterback in Athens. A third-year sophomore, who only appeared in special teams in 2008, he’s the favorite to be the backup before challenging for the leading role in 2010. One of the nation’s top-rated dual-threats two years ago, the Dawgs went all the way to Missouri to land him. He’s going to get pushed by blue-chip freshman Aaron Murray, but has the electrifying speed and soft touch to stay ahead of the next wave of recruits in the pecking order.
21. Darron Thomas, Oregon – The 6-3, 200-pound Thomas isn’t quite ready to take the controls, but then again, he won’t be asked to right away. The top contender to caddy for Jeremiah Masoli, he was forced into action last fall and nearly rallied the Ducks to a win over Boise State on pure physical instincts alone. At a school which covets strong-armed quarterbacks, who can break containment when the pocket collapses, he’s showing very early signs of being the second-coming of Dennis Dixon in Eugene.
20. MarQueis Gray, Minnesota – How excited are the Gophers about Gray? They’re determined to take occasional reps from proven starter Adam Weber just to get him on the field. An exciting playmaker at 6-4 and 215 pounds, look for him to be employed in certain packages that make the most out of his ability to make connections and big plays on the move. Like a young Juice Williams, he’ll bird-dog some throws and is still raw as a passer, but his physical ability and considerable ceiling are indisputable.
19. Curt Phillips, Wisconsin – Is Phillips ready to be Wisconsin’s answer to years of futility at quarterback? While only a second-year freshman, he’s shown enough in the offseason to get a long, hard look at the job currently occupied by senior Dustin Sherer. Experience aside, he’s got just about everything coaches are after, including a strong arm, outstanding mobility, and a quick release. The quarterback of the future in Madison might not have to wait until 2010 for pop the cork on that future. Don’t be surprised if No. 10 has a considerable role this fall.
18. Brock Osweiler, Arizona State – Now that Rudy Carpenter has graduated, the Sun Devils need a hurler to build the offense around. Danny Sullivan is a senior and a one-year caretaker until the kids ripen. Osweiler, however, has considerable upside with the program. The 6-8, 237-pound true freshman turned heads in his first practices out of high school, flashing unexpected poise and maturity to go along with his obvious physical gifts. You might want to avoid any generalizations regarding his stature. Yes, he has a cannon, but he’s also a fine athlete, turning down basketball scholarships from the likes of Gonzaga before selecting ASU.
17. Eugene Smith, West Virginia – Pat White is a Miami Dolphin. Jarrett Brown is a senior. Yup, there’s going to be a vacancy at quarterback in Morgantown real soon. Smith was signed this past February specifically to fill that opening. Although a broken foot in June will slow his development and keep him out until later in the month, he’ll be ready to compete for the top job in 2010. One of the top quarterbacks out of Florida last year, he gives the Mountaineers the arm strength and pocket presence to run a more pro-style offense.
16. Tyrik Rollison, Auburn – If the new Gus Malzahn-inspired offense is going to eventually flourish on the Plains, Auburn will need the right quarterback to engineer it. Rollison, for instance. The true freshman, who plays like he’s channeling former Kansas State great Michael Bishop, is tremendously agile in the pocket and throws darts with the flick of his wrist. Given time to develop, he has all of the physical tools and the experience playing in the shotgun to blossom early in his career.
15. Mike Glennon, NC State – If not for All-ACC teammate Russell Wilson, Glennon would be a sure-fire starter in Raleigh. For the time being, the can’t-miss redshirt freshman will have to settle for being a really gifted reserve with a really bright future. At 6-6 and 211 pounds, he can already make all of the throws and has the field vision to see above linemen and clearly spot his receiver. No matter what happens, he’ll get occasional opportunities to move the offense this fall.
14. Keith Nichol, Michigan State – Realizing there wouldn’t be many reps as long as Sam Bradford was around, Nichol left Oklahoma and headed back home, where the Spartans were seeking a successor for Brian Hoyer. The sophomore is getting a battle from classmate Kirk Cousins, which could continue deep into the summer. While Nichol doesn’t have an otherworldly arm, he’s intelligent, mobile, and leads by example. You can win plenty of games with him on the hill.
13. Garrett Gilbert, Texas – So who replaces Colt McCoy after the 2009 season? It could be Gilbert if he shows enough growth and maturity in his first year in Austin. One of the most prolific passers in Texas high school history, he shows incredible poise and intelligence for such a young player, which will serve him well when the job officially opens up next spring. Beyond soaking up as much as possible and getting stronger in the weight room, he won’t be asked to do too much, but the switch will get turned toward the end of next February.
12. Kevin Newsome, Penn State – Is there any doubt Newsome is the quarterback of the future in State College? From the moment he stepped foot on campus, he was already installed as Darryl Clark’s backup. Of course, the transfer of Pat Devlin to Delaware was another factor that’ll force the rookie to undergo a trial by fire. At a muscular and athletic 6-2 and 225 pounds, he conjures up images of a young Michael Robinson, who was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2005. He’ll treat this fall like a four-month class before taking over in 2010.
11. E.J. Manuel, Florida State – It’ll be interesting following the career trajectory of Manuel, hand-picked by coordinator Jimbo Fisher and one of the elite quarterbacks of 2008. His physical ability is indisputable. At 6-4 and 223 pounds, he can stand tall in the pocket and pick defenses apart or break outside the tackles and run for a first down. You’ll hear Jamarcus Russell comparisons for a reason. However, with junior Christian Ponder entrenched as the starter, Manuel’s repertoire might not fully go on display until 2011.
10. Dayne Crist, Notre Dame – With Jimmy Clausen commanding such a considerable spotlight, it’s easy to forget that Crist was one of the top two or three pocket passers coming out of high school in 2008. Whether it’s in 2010 or 2011, he has a bright future in South Bend. At 6-4 and 223 pounds, he has ideal size at any level and the arm strength and quick feet to excel as soon as his number gets called. For now, he’ll be the No. 2 guy, patiently waiting for some live reps.
9. Landry Jones, Oklahoma – As the likely backup to Sam Bradford and a coveted recruit from the 2008 class, Jones is on the fast track to becoming the face of the Sooner offense as early as next season. A tall, lanky hurler from New Mexico, he shows excellent touch on his passes and throws a catchable deep ball. Plus, he moves unexpectedly well for a 6-5 player, avoiding the rush and improvising with his feet when the need arises. If, as expected, Bradford leaves for the NFL, Jones could be his successor in 2010.
8. Matt Scott, Arizona – A drop-off in the Wildcat passing game now that Willie Tuitama has graduated? Scott is doing his part to make sure that doesn’t happen. One of the most athletic quarterbacks to ever play in Tucson, he provides a new twist to the offense, flashing great speed and quickness outside the pocket. As a passer, he has great mechanics and throws accurate darts, a package he hopes will hold off fellow sophomore Nick Foles, a mad bomber from Michigan State.
7. Kyle Parker, Clemson – This spot was supposed to be reserved for Willy Korn, who still has a shot to be a star with the Tigers. Parker, however, made things interesting in his second year on campus, authoring a head-turning spring and pulling into a dead heat in the race to replace Cullen Harper. Also an outfielder on the baseball team, the 6-0, 210-pound redshirt freshman has shown off a rifle for an arm, a great feel for the pocket, and tremendous intangibles. If he defeats Korn, the presumed franchise from the 2007 class, it’ll go down as one of the huge upsets of the offseason.
6. Jordan Jefferson, LSU – After teasing the Tiger faithful in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Jefferson plans to put it all together for an entire season. As a wide-eyed rookie, he helped abuse a very good Georgia Tech defense on the ground and through the air. A gifted all-around athlete, he spent much of the offseason fine-tuning the rough spots in his throwing motion and gaining the confidence of his teammates. Of course, if he plateaus, LSU can turn to Russell Shepard, another gem who’s unlikely to redshirt.
5. John Brantley, Florida – Who succeeded QB Tim Tebow at Florida? You just know that’ll be a Trivial Pursuit question someday. The answer will be Brantley. The backup for a second straight year, he got some mop-up duty at the end of some blowouts last year and will get a bunch of similar snaps in 2009. While there’s no fool-proof blueprint for replacing a legend, the sophomore has the requisite passing skills and mechanics to carve out his own niche in Gainesville. He’ll have two years as the starter to keep the Gators rolling on offense.
4. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri – While not as dramatic as replacing Tebow, Gabbert certainly has huge shoes to fill now that Chase Daniel has graduated. He’s not Daniel, but in time, that’ll be couched as a positive. At 6-5 and 235 pounds, he has the raw ingredients to someday become the most physically gifted quarterback to ever play at Mizzou. More of a pro-style passer than the last two Tigers to play the position, he has a predictably big arm, but also possesses surprising speed for such a big hurler. The ingredients are there for the Missouri passing attack to keep humming along in 2009.
3. Andrew Luck, Stanford – After being plucked out of Texas by Jim Harbaugh in 2008, Luck might be ready to become the face of a rising program. He’ll have to beat out incumbent Tavita Pritchard first, but showed enough in the spring to make that come to fruition. At 6-4 and 225 pounds, he’s much thicker and stronger than when he arrived, and has the arm strength and touch to make all of the throws. A quarterback with his mental and physical ability has been missing from the Cardinal offense for years.
2. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas – Originally slated to be the next big thing in a pro-style Michigan quarterback, Mallett bolted Ann Arbor when Rich Rodriguez came on board and changed the offensive philosophy. Instead, he’ll become the next pupil of Bobby Petrino to make NFL scouts sit up and pay attention. At 6-6 and 238 pounds, he makes quite a pocket presence and has the arm strength and RPMs to stretch defenses like few of his Hog predecessors.
1. Matt Barkley, USC – Not only was Barkley the consensus top-rated quarterback in the 2009 class, but he performed in the spring as if he plans to win the job immediately. Now beating out Aaron Corp remains a tall order, but even the fact that it hasn’t been ruled out is a testament to his immense talent. By every possible measurement, he’s way ahead of the curve for an 18-year old, blending a rocket arm with the poise and natural feel for the position of a two-year starter. Although surrounded by a lot of talented Trojans, a player of his ability will be kept on the sidelines for only so long.