Ranking College Football's Top 10 Quarterback Recruits
Continuing in the tradition of my reassessment of the top 10 recruiting classes in the SEC, I'd like to take a look at the top 10 quarterbacks coming out of high school.
Though perhaps less immediately impactful than the pros, new quarterbacks can both up the level of competition in camp and provide long term stability to a program in search of its grounding.
These are the top 10 quarterbacks per ESPN, set to sign their letters of intent to 10 great programs around the country (one is still unsigned).
I'm reranking them based on a) the immediate impact they might have on their team, and b) their projected level of preparedness coming out of the lower levels.
Their long-term impact, though important, could be offset if there's little or no urgency at the QB position.
Take a look.
No. 10: Jesse Scroggins, USC
Four-star QB Jesse Scroggins of Lakewood, Calif., committed to USC in July of this year, following the lead of his teammate, DB Dion Bailey. Scroggins camped at the Elite 11 and committed to the Trojans directly after.
Scouts liked his smooth delivery, his accuracy, his agility in the pocket, and his poise, and question only his size (even 6'2" is a reach). They compare him to Jason Campbell from a size and talent perspective.
Any time a school offers after camping, it means they've evaluated the prospect in person.
The Trojans' staff clearly saw promise in Scroggins, who was coming on strong in terms of buzz just prior to committing, and jumped on board before too many other schools came calling.
Rivals claims he has the developmental upside to be one of the best passers in the class, and the Trojans' depth chart (i.e. Matt Barkley and everybody else) offers a period of waiting that will help acclimate Scroggins to the system, particularly since starting immediately clearly wasn't a factor in his decision.
USC caught a live one.
No. 9: Zach Lee, LSU
I was surprised to read the assessment of Zach Lee, LSU's stud commit at QB.
I suppose I'd taken for granted that the Tigers were moving in the direction of more dynamic/athletic quarterbacks, but Lee is nearly the complete opposite.
At 6'3", Lee has good, not great, size. He's a traditional drop back QB (though out of shotgun) and a gifted thrower who shows excellent touch.
He's been described as cool in the pocket, even robotic, which must be welcome news to Tiger fans tired of the confidence issues of that other Lee, Jarrett.
I don't expect Lee to challenge Russell Shepard or Jordan Jefferson too much unless LSU changes offensive coordinators.
But he'll benefit from a redshirt year (he's still rail-thin), and spend some time working with LSU's talented wide receivers, which will prevent what scouts described as a tendency to lock onto receivers.
No. 8: Devin Gardner, Michigan
Gardner's physical presence and scrambling ability have Michigan fans drooling, but the word "raw" appears in virtually every assessment of his passing.
His release is side-armed, his dropback is too shallow, and, like with any young quarterback, his pocket presence will be nil. He's been able to steamroll most high-school competition, but his struggles with passing were evident even then.
No one is faulting his effort, or his ability to run. He's a high-motor guy, very coachable, wicked fast, elusive, with a build like an outside linebacker. That sturdiness will be critical when he takes some lumps in college.
He will really benefit from the fine tutelage of Michigan QB coach Rod Smith, who coached a similarly gifted Pat White on the zone-read and also made White into a competent passer.
While Rodriguez is still coach, Gardner is the future of Michigan football (sorry, Tate). His development as a passer somewhat hinges on his ability to redshirt in 2010, but his running ability is closer to the spirit of RichRod's system.
Case in point: Michigan's passing game, which was an underdeveloped and sorry to watch this year. RichRod just doesn't have a passing-oriented mind like some of his colleagues.
No surprise, then, that there are grumblings of a Forcier transfer (though nothing close to official), which would set Michigan back at least another year.
The writing isn't on the wall for Forcier, who is making the system his own and likely won't be pushed by Gardner immediately, but there could be controversy down the road if Gardner blows up like some are predicting.
No. 7: Blake Bell, Oklahoma
Bell, an Oklahoma commit, is drawing comparisons to Washington QB Jake Locker. Despite besting the Huskies quarterback by a few inches, Bell shows similar flashes of athleticism and can make plays with his feet, as a result of playing wide receiver until his senior year of high school.
To that end, he's a project for Bob Stoops, Josh Heupel and co., but the Sooners have time via Landry Jones (and, possibly, Cameron Newton) and talent to surround him.
With his upside, his career could match Locker's. He's currently all intangibles, but the raw talent is there for the right system to develop.
Though short of the elite arm, we could in time be talking about him as the next Sam Bradford.
No. 6: Philip Sims, Alabama
ESPN really dug Sims, naming him their top QB overall (though withholding the fifth star) and praising his mobility in the pocket coupled with a tenacious focus downfield.
His shorter stature dinged him a bit, but the scheme he ran in college forced a variety of throws, and he showed a knack for adjusting to each of them quickly and smoothly, so the mechanics outweigh the physical drawbacks.
Additionally, he played out of the shotgun in school, so he might need to adjust to Alabama's pro-style offense, which features a majority of snaps under center and a different style of play-action (or, you know, they could adjust to him).
Greg McElroy returns, so Sims could either compete with Star Jackson for a backup spot or redshirt, depending on how 2010 shakes out.
No. 5: Andrew Hendrix, Notre Dame
Notre Dame's Next (Next?) Big Thing remained solidly committed to the Irish and expressed his interest in meeting Brian Kelly.
With good reason—Kelly laid the groundwork for Dan LeFevour's record-setting career at Central and made functional-to-great quarterbacks out of Ben Mauk and Tony Pike, to say nothing of Zach Collaros.
Hendrix's talents lie somewhere between Collaros and Pike. He has outstanding arm strength like Pike, but boasts the athleticism and thicker build of Collaros, and at least a nod to his dual-threat ability could be in Irish playbook if and when he takes the reigns.
With the news that Dayne Crist will miss spring ball, he might fall behind enough that Hendrix pushes for time immediately.
A good snap on his throw and better-than-sound mechanics make Hendrix an outstanding sleeper pick and a fitting, if probably unplanned, gift from beyond the grave of the Charlie Weis era.
No. 4: Robert Bolden, Penn State
Bolden, a dual-threat quarterback, committed to Penn State over offers from Louisville, West Virginia, Oregon, and Northwestern. The Nittany Lions plucked Bolden out of the running in July.
He'll compete immediately with dual-threat QB Kevin Newsome and Matthew McGloin for the quarterback spot vacated by Darryl Clark.
He could have the arm to start—Rivals loved the lasers he was throwing at the Elite 11 camp—but his touch needs work, and he'll likely redshirt barring some profound struggles by Bolden.
Thin and tall, Bolden's physical presence reminded scouts of LSU's Jordan Jefferson.
Between that, the system Penn State has run with Clark and Michael Robinson, and Bolden's innate intelligence as a passer, I predict Bolden will be a pass-heavy, QB-draw type (like Clark) and less a zone-read running threat.
He's a passer first; mobility is merely the icing on the cake.
No. 3: Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Watch out, Nick Stephens.
Tyler Bray drew comparisons to Matt Leinart from the Worldwide Leader, and though he was a sleeper until recently, he has elite height (6'6") but his lankiness is not an impediment to his athleticism, and he has a frame that good college strength and conditioning programs would crawl over their grandmothers to work on.
His arm strength remains in doubt, but there's nothing to suggest he's not the Volunteer's next great quarterback, redshirt year or no.
No. 2: Tyler Smith, Maryland
Mad props to the Maryland Terrapins' coaching staff on landing Tyler Smith, a 6'6" prospect out of Wilson, Pa. The four-star needs to bulk up but has a cannon for an arm and makes all the throws.
He sounds to me like the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco—tall, lanky, but with deceptive athleticism and good feet. And he has a faster delivery than Flacco, requiring very little wind-up.
He could start immediately and provide a spark for the Terps, who lose senior QB Chris Turner to graduation. ESPN thinks we'll be hearing plenty about him, and remember, they're the worldwide leader for a reason.
No. 1: Cameron Newton, Auburn/Oklahoma/Mississippi State
Though not a recruit in the same vein of the other QBs (as a sophomore in 2008, Newton was kicked off of the Florida Gators after stealing a laptop from a student's dormitory, then throwing it out the window during questioning), Newton has played himself back into the graces of the NCAA.
He spent a year at Binn College playing JUCO football, and is now deciding between Auburn (the likely candidate), Mississippi State and Oklahoma as the site of his triumphant return.
His arm strength, poise, and intangibles drew comparisons to David Garrard, and he's a dual threat quarterback in both the evasive and in the productive sense of the word.
ESPN particularly liked his accuracy in short-to-medium throws, which, in my mind, makes him the better fit at Mississippi State, where Dan Mullen runs an offshoot of Urban Meyer's offense.
Wherever he signs, he's the most prepared of the bunch and will be able to challenge immediately for playing time, with the expectation of possibly starting at either Auburn or MSU.
Stay tuned, he's supposed to announce soon.