2014 QB Recruits Capable of Starting as Freshmen in College
Not all quarterbacks are created equal. The top passers in the 2014 recruiting class have each taken unique journeys to surpass their peers and become premier recruits, developing skills that set them apart from the pack.
The jump from high school football to collegiate competition can be harsh for an ill-equipped and underprepared quarterback. Redshirt seasons and multiple years learning an offense from the sidelines is often the fate that awaits quarterbacks attempting to make leap.
However, there's always an upper echelon of talent ready to take on the task of orchestrating a college offense from the moment they step on campus. A blend of natural ability, refined technique and mental maturity make these quarterbacks capable of starting as freshmen.
There may be hurdles in the way (established veterans, crowded depth charts) but that doesn't mean these players aren't prepared to contribute immediately if their number is called.
4-Star Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas)
Texas commit Jerrod Heard has been locked in as a member of the Longhorns 2014 class since last summer, when he commanded interest after a sensational sophomore season. In his first year as a starter at Guyer High School, the 6'3" dual-threat quarterback collected more than 2,800 total yards and 34 touchdowns.
By the end of his junior season, Heard established himself among the top offensive talents in Texas, a state defined by elite high school football. He capped off the 2012 campaign with a dominant performance in a state title victory, tossing seven touchdown passes and cementing his stardom.
Heard is a slashing runner but isn't out of control when he hits the open field. He glides with awareness, utilizing blockers and staying compact to protect possession of the football.
His rushing capabilities present serious matchup issues for opposing defenses and suit him well for Texas' up-tempo spread attack. Heard is capable of taking the team's zone read scheme to another level.
After watching Vince Young and Colt McCoy flourish with their feet and throwing arms, embattled Longhorns coach Mack Brown should welcome Heard to the team with open arms and opportunities.
Heard has come a long way as a passer in his two years as a starting quarterback, displaying improvement this summer in national Elite 11 action. There's an impressive confidence about the way he operates in the pocket and it will help him shoulder the increased pressure of playing in Austin.
Heard also holds offers from LSU, Nebraska and Arizona State, among others, according to 247Sports.
5-Star Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Many already view Kyle Allen as the heir apparent to "Johnny Football." The Desert Mountain High School star, listed as the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the country by 247Sports composite rankings, verbally committed to Texas A&M in June.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, now in his third collegiate season, is no lock to return to College Station next season. This may already be his farewell tour as an Aggie, whether he departs early for the NFL draft or a mounting list of concerns causes the NCAA to strip away his eligibility.
Allen, a 6'3, 185-pound gunslinger, gives Texas A&M an exciting option for the immediate future. He is a polished prospect in so many facets that it's hard to imagine he won't see the field in some capacity as a freshman.
Analysts rave about his pocket presence and initial drop back (which is about as fundamentally sound as it gets at his age), but let's focus on what he can do outside the pocket.
Allen is an amazing on-the-run thrower, particularly when rolling to his right. He keeps his shoulders square and eyes upfield while moving laterally along the offensive line.
His mobility isn't elite but he's elusive enough to evade tacklers and draw in help contain coverage from the defensive back seven. This is when Allen is extremely dangerous.
He exploits open passing lanes by unleashing lasers without the need to set his feet. Allen launches darts from every angle and is an excellent surveyor of how his receivers are adjusting to secondary coverage.
Last weekend, Allen looked impressive as usual in a 45-3 victory over Notre Dame Prep. His senior season is off to a strong start, as he completed 14-of-16 pass attempts for 225 yards (194 yards in the first half), according to arizonasports.com.
4-Star Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga.)
Clemson commit Deshaun Watson is ready to take the ACC by storm.
Tigers senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Tajh Boyd won't be around next fall and the incoming freshman figures to be part of the battle to replace him behind center. The Gainesville High School standout, who also considered offers from Auburn, Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama, is a savvy playmaker with a cannon.
The 6'3", 200-pound passer plays fast and relentless, appearing ready for the quick-paced offensive attack that awaits him in college. He is in complete command of an offensive game plan and smart enough to adjust to defenses with pre-snap identification, according to Elite 11 director Trent Dilfer.
Watson, who displays a 4.89 40-yard dash per 247Sports, won't run away from a defense but he will burn overstretched coverage with first-down runs in third-and-long situations. His size also makes him an interesting rushing option in goal-line packages.
As a passer, Watson doesn't have many holes in his approach.
He is technically sound and displays accurate footwork, which translates into a fluid throwing motion. His intermediate passing game is great, as the ball zips out of his hand, and Watson's deep ball will only get better as he develops more touch through repetitions.
Watson ranks among the most accomplished high school passers in the country. He broke Georgia's all-time career passing yardage record as a junior.
4-Star David Cornwell (Norman, Okla.)
Nick Saban landed one of the nation's most college-ready quarterback recruits in June, when he received a commitment from David Cornwell. The 6'5", 240-pound Norman North High School sensation is a prototypical pocket passer who protects the football and stretched the field.
Cornwell garnered offers from a long list of schools, including Notre Dame, Miami, Arkansas and Tennessee, per 247Sports. His physical stature is impressive but the mechanics behind his throwing motion are what really make him an intriguing collegiate prospect.
He has a compact drop back and stays balanced, which is no small feat for a big man. Cornwell collects himself in the pocket and remains steady, devoid of any symptoms of "happy feet."
His release, though slightly elongated, launches the ball with incredible precision. He will feast on slant routes in Tuscaloosa.
Cornwell racked up 2,742 passing yards and 27 touchdowns as a junior at Jones High School (he's since transferred), according to FOX Sports Southwest. This is actually his fifth year of high school eligibility, as he was granted a hardship waiver by Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, according to ESPN.com.
Cornwell will arrive on campus with the Crimson Tide looking to fill the mighty big shoes of senior quarterback AJ McCarron, a two-time defending national champion and Heisman Trophy contender.
5-Star Will Grier (Davidson, N.C.)
The 6'3", 180-pound dual-threat athlete is an exciting playmaker prone to create through improvisation at any moment. He's a confident commander of the huddle and displays excellent decision-making tendencies.
Grier is listed as the nation's No. 2 pro-style quarterback recruit in 247Sports composite rankings but his reported 4.73 40-yard dash time makes him a weapon on the ground. His college offer sheet includes Auburn, North Carolina, Arkansas and Wake Forest, per 247Sports.
The Gators air assault has been grounded in recent years and Florida fans are clamoring for more offensive fireworks at The Swamp. Fireworks are exactly what Grier delivered in his senior season opener two weeks ago.
He put on a show against North Raleigh Christian, completing seven touchdown tosses in the first half, per MaxPreps. Eye-opening totals like that are nothing new for Grier, who threw for 69 scores as a junior.
His second game of the 2013 season was equally sensational. Grier passed for 334 yards, rushed for 185 yards and accounted for seven Davidson scores in another win, according to 247Sports.
Grier is simply a game-changer for any offensive coordinator and plays like he genuinely loves the game. With some collegiate strength training and added pounds, he is ready to become an explosive talent in Gainesville.