A premier passer is a necessity for teams with national championship hopes. Finding the right man to fill the quarterback position has never been more paramount than in the current era of football, which has evolved to protect passers and allow for more opportunities through the air.
College programs across the country are scrambling to secure a class of 2014 quarterback who is capable of stepping up and orchestrating the offense in due time. Some squads have landed lauded passers and are sitting pretty at the position for years to come.
Meanwhile, there are teams still attempting to locate a quarterback for the future. Here's a look at programs in search of long-term stability at the position.
It seems Taylor Martinez has been Nebraska's man behind center for a decade now. The redshirt senior, who has gone through peaks and valleys during his time in Lincoln, is nearing the end of his days as a Cornhusker.
Quarterback Ron Kellogg is also a redshirt senor, leaving redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong as the last "experienced" passer left in the mix. True freshman Johnny Stanton, a 4-star quarterback from Southern California, missed the majority of his senior high school season after suffering a torn ACL.
Stanton seems headed for a redshirt season. He's an intriguing prospect but hasn't played a down of live-action football since September 2012 and still must be considered a project.
Bo Pelini picked up a quarterback in this 2014 class, but there is major cause for concern for his future. Zack Darlington, a 3-star recruit from Florida, suffered a severe concussion in late August during a nationally broadcasted game and had to be airlifted out of the stadium.
It's not his first concussion, according to the Orlando Sentinel, and he faces a significant recovery process. The Sentinel also reported that before this latest concussion, Darlington was already limited in offseason team camps and dealt with speech pattern issues because of head injuries.
Into today's world of concern surrounding concussions, this latest development makes Darlington's situation quite murky. Nebraska may be forced to consider other options if he is unable to gain medical clearance.
The Gamecocks currently start senior Connor Shaw and haven't featured a standout quarterback in several years. Redshirt junior Dylan Thompson should be back in Columbia in 2014. He has split time with Shaw and earned some credibility with wins over Clemson and Michigan last fall.
Beyond the pair of veterans, there is youth, but room for improvement remains.
Neither player was a splashy pickup, but they should be in the mix to compete at starter next summer. Still, South Carolina's checkered past at quarterback demands that Steve Spurrier must continue to replenish the position with every recruiting class.
Although the team is somewhat limited in scholarship numbers this year, Spurrier is still targeting passers. The Gamecocks extended a grayshirt offer to 3-star South Carolina prospect Bo Baldwin, per gogamecocks.com.
Grayshirt status means Baldwin wouldn't be able to enroll at the school until January 2015. It's an interesting development for a prospect who has drawn interest from North Carolina, Kentucky, Clemson and LSU, according to 247Sports.
First-year head coach Willie Taggert is looking to get South Florida back on track after the stunningly disappointing Skip Holtz era, when the Bulls went 5-16 against Big East opponents and lost much of the program momentum created last decade. A solid first step for the former Western Kentucky coach would be to bring in a quality quarterback that he can trust.
Holdovers from previous regimes include current starter Matt Floyd, a redshirt sophomore who emerged from a four-man race for the position. He edged senior Bobby Eveld, Penn State transfer Steven Bench and freshman Michael White, a 3-star 2013 recruit from Fort Lauderdale.
When you have four guys competing for the No. 1 spot, it's not just a sign of a new coach holding players accountable. It's clear USF could use an infusion of talent at the position.
Recent Bulls quarterbacks Matt Grothe and B.J. Daniels ranked among the most exciting players in the now-defunct Big East Conference. This current crop of USF passers doesn't include anyone of the same pedigree, so Taggert and his staff must hit the recruiting trail hard.
The team is in hot pursuit of 3-star Miami Jackson quarterback Quinton Flowers, who is listed as the country's seventh-best dual-threat prospect in 247Sports composite rankings. 247Sports considers USF among the favorites for Flowers' services, along with Marshall, Nebraska, Tennessee and West Virginia.
If Taggert can land a commitment here, it sends a twofold message. He is capable of acquiring top-tier quarterback recruits and can keep talent in the Sunshine State.
The Tigers are in excellent shape for the near future at quarterback but should look to land a passer in the 2014 class capable of rising up a few years down the road. Senior quarterback James Franklin won the starting job this summer and opens the 2013 season behind center.
There was plenty of early excitement surrounding redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, a 4-star 2012 recruit from Ohio, who competed for the No. 1 spot with Franklin and redshirt sophomore Corbin Berkstresser. The possibility arises that Mauk or Berkstresser could consider transferring.
Former Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost resigned last year so they may not feel the same allegiance to the current coaching staff. While that is speculative, the fact remains that Missouri must land a capable class of 2014 passer who can compete down the line.
The Tigers missed out on dynamic 4-star Missouri product Rafe Peavy in June when he committed to Arkansas. According to 247Sports, Missouri has shown some interest in 2-star South Carolina quarterback Tyrell Maxwell but he appears to be off the radar of most BCS teams.