Quarterback is unquestionably the glamor position in college football. The man behind center accepts the largest share of the spotlight—in good times and bad—and must command leadership of a huddle filled with world-class athletes.
It seems quarterbacks are just about the only players in Heisman Trophy contention anymore and elite passers can become household names if they find success with the right squad. As the collegiate passing game continues to evolve and quarterbacks are asked to do more, it's imperative that programs pick up capable passers in each recruiting class.
While some members of the 2014 class have been heralded for years, others remain under the proverbial radar. Let's take a look at quarterbacks who are likely to arrive on campus with little fanfare but possess the skills to seize stardom.
B/R college football columnist Tyler Donohue spent three seasons with the Rutgers University football program's recruiting department, contributing to three classes (2007-09) under head coach Greg Schiano.
Chandler Kincade is far from a polished passer, but he's a prospect built on potential. The 6'4", 210-pound Pittsburgh area standout requires significant refinement in his back drop and lateral movement, but those slight deficiencies don't diminish outstanding strength in his right arm.
Kincade has a fairly compact delivery for a player of his stature, which immediately shows you there is room for growth. 247Sports composite rankings list him as the 39th-best pro-style quarterback in his class, so clearly scouts are looking for a little more consistency.
He committed to Akron in June, according to Ohio.com. That decision came after he broke off a verbal commitment to Pittsburgh and puts him in position to compete for a starting job early.
Kincade can orchestrate the Zips spread offense after spending his junior season in a similar scheme. He threw for 2,220 yards and 16 scores in 2012, per Ohio.com.
“I like the spread more,” he told Ohio.com reporter George Thomas. “I think as a quarterback you have more options. You can use the whole field for every play. In a pro style, you’re kind of limited to two or three guys,” Kincade said. “Usually it’s half the field you’re playing with. Also, it challenges the defense because now you have to guard four or five guys in the play rather than two or three.”
Kincade also considered offers from AAC teams Temple and Rutgers, according to 247Sports. If he can develop better habits in the pocket, particularly with the lower half of his frame, he could help turn things around in Akron while running a wide-open offense.
It's not hard to get lost in the shuffle as a standout player in California, a state perennially filled with football star-power. San Jose prospect K.J. Carta-Samuels is an intriguing and mature player with above-average mobility.
The 6'2", 210-pound passer didn't receive many scholarship offers, but that can be partially attributed to his early commitment. Carta-Samuels reached a verbal pact with Vanderbilt before his junior season, spurning an offer from Arizona, according to 247Sports.
He doesn't pop off the video tape from a physical standpoint, but the Bellarmine Prep senior is a playmaker. Carta-Samuels displays quality footwork in the pocket, and can roll to either side with effectiveness.
Even when under duress, he doesn't divert his attention from downfield. Carta-Samuels keeps his eyes locked on receivers and can create on a broken play when forced to improvise.
Although his arm strength still isn't where it needs to be to succeed in the SEC, Carta-Samuels is a precision passer and doesn't try to force the ball into traffic. He is listed as the 11th-best pro-style quarterback in the class by 247Sports composite rankings but has spent his high school career in the shadow of more highly touted recruits.
He isn't the biggest or fastest of the bunch, but he brings a savvy style of play to the field and that will serve him well with the Commodores. A year in the weight room and on the practice field could prepare him to push for playing time as a sophomore.
Miami product Nico Pierre could line up at a variety of positions at schools across the country. He prefers to stick with quarterback and that's precisely what he'll play at Duke, where he committed in July, according to the Duke Chronicle.
Pierre, a 6'1", 200-pound Coral Reef High School senior, fielded several offers but not every coaching staff views him as a passer. Clemson, Kansas State, Louisville and Wisconsin were among other programs in consideration before he went with the Blue Devils, per 247Sports.
Cerebral and steady, his body of work is reminiscent of Louisville star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He is an excellent thrower on the run and can buy time with his mobility.
Pierre puts the ball on target with tight spirals and doesn't let the ball sail on him in the intermediate passing game. Duke coach David Cutcliffe landed one of the top recruits of his tenure.
The quarterback chose a squad still in search of respectability. It's a fitting match for Pierre, who takes on a bit of that underdog persona.
“I would have loved to go to a big-name program, but I really wanted to go to a program on the rise and be one of the key impact players to helping them be one of the top teams in the nation,” he told Duke Chronicle reporter Daniel Carp.
If the Blue Devils rise up in the ACC, expect Pierre to be the man leading the way.
Andrew Ford, an accomplished quarterback at Cedar Cliff High School, jumped at the opportunity to play ACC football after fielding only a few offers after his junior season. He committed to Virginia Tech in June after attending camp on campus earlier this year, according to 247Sports.
The 6'3", 200-pound passer possesses surprising quickness and can tuck the ball and take off when necessary. Ford is fantastic at finding space in the secondary and slinging the ball to a spot where only his receiver can catch it.
Accuracy is hardly his only attribute as a thrower. The lefty launches balls downfield with excellent arc, although the back end of his throwing motion must be fine-tuned at the next level.
Ford received scholarship offers from Massachusetts and Temple before turning his attention to the Hokies, according to 247Sports. He didn't generate a ton of interest, despite a junior season that featured 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions, per 247Sports.
The Hokies have been searching for consistency behind center, and Ford, a hidden gem in this recruiting class, may be the player to supply it.
New Texas Tech coach Cliff Kingsbury wasted no time targeting his quarterback of the future. Patrick Mahomes matched what he was looking for and a commitment was soon in place.
The 6'3", 180-pound Whitehouse High School star has a high ceiling and already displays promising tendencies. Mahomes, the son of a former major league pitcher, throws rockets and can reach receivers on any route.
He burst onto the scene as a junior when he threw for nearly 3,800 yards and 46 touchdowns, according to the East Texas Sports Network. Mahomes is a threat in the rushing game too and will have an array of options in Texas Tech's dangerous spread scheme.
Other substantial offers include Oklahoma State and Rice, per 247Sports. He verbally committed to the Red Raiders in April and stands to compete for the starting quarterback job in Lubbock as an underclassmen.
The plays he makes are impressive, but it's the plays he doesn't make that showcase Mahomes' maturity. He resists the temptation to play hero with ill-advised passes across his body and doesn't demonstrate the bad habit of spiraling after one mistake.
The body language is impressive, something that's always important to watch in a quarterback. Mahomes comes off as a leader and could put up video game numbers at Texas Tech.