What is it that makes a 5-star quarterback prospect stand out from the rest of the players in college football?
Anybody who has ever seen a 5-star prospect play knows that there's a huge difference between that player and a 2- or 3-star prospect. They may not know exactly what it is, but the difference in talent, skill and poise on the football field is extremely evident.
It's even more obvious when it comes to quarterbacks.
Here are the traits that make a 5-star quarterback a superstar in college. Oddly enough, they are the traits that make a quarterback a superstar at any level.
Arm strength does not necessarily mean power, but it means that a quarterback has the ability to make any throw. Sure, arm strength is displayed in a long heave downfield to a receiver on a fade route, but it's also measured by how well the quarterback can throw an out to the sideline.
A quarterback with great arm strength can get the football to his receivers before the defense has time to react to the route. The ball is thrown on a line, generally doesn't wobble much and isn't impacted by wind.
A quarterback that displayed great arm strength both at college and now in the NFL is former 5-star Georgia Bulldogs signal-caller Matthew Stafford. He had an arm that could make every throw, whether it be a deep pass or a quick slant route.
This is a trait that's hard to measure, but you often notice when a quarterback doesn't possess it. Pocket presence is the natural ability great quarterbacks have to feel pressure around them in the pocket and make the right adjustments.
You'll hear commentators talk about a quarterback having a clock in his head, and the best ones know exactly how long they have to get rid of the football. This also entails possessing good footwork and not being afraid to step up in the pocket when it starts collapsing.
Throwing off the back foot or not stepping into a pass under pressure can drastically change the throw. Good quarterbacks have pocket presence that allows them to keep their form under pressure.
Mobility can go hand-in-hand with athleticism, and it's the trait that can really make a college football quarterback explosive. Mobility is essentially the ability to move in and out of the pocket and then make things happen once the play breaks down.
Mobile quarterbacks can run with the ball just as well as their running backs sometimes, and oftentimes, coaches will use them as runners to take advantage of their dual threat.
A former 5-star quarterback that comes to mind when thinking about mobility is Cam Newton, who played for Auburn.
He had the ability to get out of the pocket and not just scramble but be an effective runner.
This is really a simple concept. If a quarterback can't get the ball to his receivers, it doesn't matter how strong his arm is or how mobile he is.
With the speed of defenses drastically increasing and defensive backs becoming bigger, faster and more prepared, accuracy is the key to having success as a college football quarterback.
The window for any route you could want to throw is incredibly small, and even a slight mistake in accuracy can lead to an interception.
The best offenses in football protect the ball, and when they're throwing it, that's up to the quarterback.
This trait can be argued, but I do believe that every truly great 5-star quarterback possesses leadership.
The quarterback is the guy players look to when the pressure is on. He's also the one player that has to know the playbook and schemes on both sides of the ball just as well as the coaches. As a college student, it takes an extraordinary amount of character and leadership to act as an extension of the coaching staff amongst your peers, but it's the great quarterbacks that can get their teammates to follow their example.
No quarterback in recent memory displayed leadership like former 5-star Florida Gators superstar Tim Tebow.
He not only led his team on the field, but he was a strong voice off of it, which helped motivate his team.
Putting It All Together
A great 5-star quarterback finds a way to put all of these traits together.
He may be stronger in one area, but he's able to compensate and work hard to turn his weaknesses into strengths. The importance of having a great quarterback can't be understated for a team with national championship hopes. He doesn't always have to put up superstar numbers, but more often than not, a team's success is determined by the quality of their quarterback.