The 5-star quarterback is one of the nation's most coveted recruits. As the 2015 cycle gets heated with spring evaluations and revs up for the coming camp season, four players hold the distinction of being 5-star players, according to 247Sports: Josh Rosen, Ricky Town, Torrance Gibson and Kyler Murray.
In 2014, Kyle Allen was the only quarterback to draw the 5-star distinction. The Arizona quarterback, who enrolled early at Texas A&M, is the front-runner in many minds to win the starting job over Kenny Hill, his lone competition.
Max Browne, a 2013 5-star recruit, is playing the backup role to Cody Kessler at USC in his second season, while fellow 2013 5-star Christian Hackenberg is the starter at Penn State and tracking for big success.
While the jury is still out on those young men's futures, a look at the previous five seasons shows a truly mixed bag when it comes to the cream of the quarterback crop in recruiting. From 2008 to 2012, 10 quarterbacks earned the distinction of being 5-star players, an average of two per year, although no players garnered the accolade in 2010.
247Sports Composite Rankings
The 2008 class all sits in various stages of the NFL. Dayne Crist, who started at Notre Dame before transferring to Kansas, is currently a free agent after being waived by the Baltimore Ravens prior to the start of the 2013 season. The Seattle Seahawks recently acquired Ohio State alum Terrelle Pryor as another backup to Russell Wilson, something Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times noted, despite discussion of Pryor changing positions.
EJ Manuel, a first-round pick in the 2013 draft, is 10 games into his NFL career with the Buffalo Bills and has posted 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 1,972 yards passing. While his NFL future remains to be written, he left college as a success, winning an ACC championship and the Orange Bowl in Florida State's return to the BCS stage.
Although Crist never truly got going in college, both Pryor and Manuel had solid collegiate careers. Pryor helped the Buckeyes win the Sugar Bowl in 2011 following the 2010 season and the Rose Bowl following the 2009 campaign. The kid was a decorated collegiate player, earning the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award after starting nine games in 2008 as well as the Rose Bowl MVP the next season.
Scandal will accompany Pryor's name, but on the field the former 5-star certainly came close to living up to the hype. He helped his team to three BCS bowls, was a productive player and, had he been around for his senior year, would have likely been mentioned in the Heisman discussion.
Of the 2009 class, two are currently on NFL rosters, while the third 5-star, Garrett Gilbert, is hoping to be selected in May's NFL draft.
Matt Barkley was a collegiate stud who saw his draft stock take a hit during a senior year where his USC Trojans team struggled to string together wins. Although he is an NFL backup, at USC and in the Pac-12 Barkley found his way toward the top of many career achievement lists.
As a four-year starter who was the heart and soul of the USC program during his time, Barkley certainly lived up to the 5-star billing.
Garrett Gilbert seemed poised to do the same on the wings of his freshman performance for Texas in the BCS National Championship Game. However, his next year was disastrous and ultimately led to Gilbert transferring to SMU after he missed most of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury.
The former 5-star finished his career throwing for over 6,000 yards with the Mustangs and 36 touchdowns. Gilbert missed the last two games of 2013 with a knee injury, but he is an interesting commodity in the draft, as ESPN's Kevin Weidl notes:
Garrett Gilbert needs a lot of work. But size, strength and live arm will provide a lot developmental intrigue. Plenty of flashes on tape.— Kevin Weidl (@KevinW_ESPN) April 29, 2014
For his part, Gilbert is realistic about his chances.
"I've got no idea. I really don't. … In all honesty, I'd really just love the opportunity to continue to play this game somewhere, and that's what I'm looking for," he told the Houston Chronicle.
Russell Shepard, the third 5-star in the mix for the 2009 class, never actually played quarterback in college. Shepard spent time as a running back-wide receiver hybrid before settling at wide receiver with the LSU Tigers. Whether scored as a receiver or a converted quarterback, Shepard struggled to find his way, some of which can be attributed to LSU's lack of inventiveness on the offensive side of the ball.
The undrafted quarterback turned receiver is now a special teams contributor and reserve receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 2011 class boasted two 5-star quarterbacks, both of the dual-threat variety: Jeff Driskel and Braxton Miller. Although draft-eligible, both are back at school for their senior campaigns, Miller the only one of the two who had serious prospects for the 2014 NFL draft.
Driskel, who was injured for the bulk of 2013, has struggled to show the skills that made him the nation's No. 1 quarterback. The Florida Gators QB has been inconsistent, inaccurate and not as swift on the move as expected upon enrollment.
Meanwhile, Miller has lived up to the top billing associated with 5-star recruits. He came in and stole the Ohio State starting job as a freshman, and despite being limited in his passing ability, the kid was clearly the Buckeyes' best option at the position. The last two seasons have seen Miller lead undefeated regular-season campaigns and wow observers with his ability to heave the deep ball or go the distance on both broken plays and designed runs.
Miller's upcoming senior campaign is all about getting his team a Big Ten championship and a spot in college football's inaugural playoff. Individually, Miller is a Heisman front-runner and a name on every college football fan's short list of elite players. As he polishes the throwing elements of his game, the NFL is certainly a viable option. Depending upon his performance and improvements in 2014, he could find himself pushing into the first round.
Driskel's goals are not quite as lofty. The quarterback has to work with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to develop an efficient offense and hopefully return to the ball-control team that went to the Sugar Bowl following the 2012 season.
Finally, the most recent class worth noting is the 2012 duo of 5-star quarterbacks: Jameis Winston and Gunner Kiel.
Winston has already etched his name into history with a Heisman Trophy, an ACC championship, a BCS National Championship and a host of other awards to his name at Florida State. The 2014 campaign is about repeating for the redshirt sophomore, as well as elevating his NFL stock from "one of the best quarterbacks" to "the best quarterback" for the 2015 draft.
The other 5-star, Kiel, will finally get to show what he can do after two seasons of sitting on the bench. The Notre Dame enrollee was buried on the depth chart in South Bend in 2012 and then forced to burn a year waiting to play after transferring to Cincinnati. Kiel, as Tom Groeschen of The Cincinnati Enquirer reported, looked ready to play in the spring game, and folks will get to put eyes on the former top-ranked quarterback recruit.
Quarterback is a mixed bag, not because stars do not matter, but rather because it is a position that requires incredibly favorable conditions for players to succeed. Natural talent is great, but if coaching changes or injuries occur, not to mention the struggle to adjust to the collegiate landscape, natural talent does not solve the problems.
Of the five players during the time period who could be drafted into the NFL, only three were selected: Barkley, Pryor and Manuel. Pryor, of course, was a supplemental draft pick by the Oakland Raiders. In that same group of five, four are currently on NFL rosters, while Crist sits as an unaffiliated free agent. Although only Manuel is a true starter, the 80 percent roster rate is still quite high, and Gilbert hopes to add his name to that list, making it five of six on NFL rosters.
In 2014, the nation will be watching all seven of the active 5-star players, each of whom is set to start for his current program, except for Browne at USC. The quarterback position is not an easy one, and as guys jockey for team and individual success, even the big names are not guaranteed to produce.