The Top 10 Impact Freshman QBs to Watch in 2010
In an ideal world, true freshman quarterbacks would warm the bench and fetch water for the two or three accomplished quarterbacks sitting ahead of them on the depth chart while they redshirted.
But most college football teams don't live in an ideal world. For some, a true freshman playing immediately is a life or death question. This fall, they will ask for immediate contributions from kids, who just had so much fun at prom—Oh my God, awsum! Titans 4-ever :)
I shouldn't be so hard on these kids (raise your hand if you didn't go to prom? Yep, right here).
But for these 10 programs (and two more who are signing JUCOS; though not strictly true freshman, they should have a pretty big impact), getting these kids on campus as soon as possible is imperative to the stability of the program—whether in the short, middle or long term.
Honorable Mention: Randall Mackey, JUCO, Ole Miss
Randall Mackey signed with the Rebels as a JUCO transfer.
He's arguably one of the most important players in the Rebels' underrated class considering a) QB Jevan Snead left a year early for the NFL, and b) Mackey is the only quarterback prospect.
Snead struggled all year, but he would have provided more stability for the Rebels than the current situation. As it is, Mackey and redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley will battle for the starting position.
Stanley has the upper hand in terms of scheme, but JUCO transfers usually come in more physically ready, and Mackey is no exception.
With his athleticism and above-average passing ability, he has the chance to provide the Rebels the kind of true Wild Rebel ground attack that Houston Nutt made a living at Arkansas. I think we'll see him in packages throughout the year. Depending on how quickly he gels, he could be starting by kickoff of SEC conference play.
Honorable Mention: Cameron Newton, JUCO, Auburn
Cameron Newton enters Auburn poised to wreak havoc on the SEC.
After getting booted from Florida, he has the motivation for redemption. He clearly has the talent—he was Tim Tebow's back-up, and the Gators can recruit a little bit.
His blend of athleticism, arm strength, maturity and vision will be lethal, especially when combined with Auburn's increased talent on the offensive line and at the skill positions.
He's entering a perfect storm. The only thing that can keep him back is his own conditioning within the hurry-up offense. Of course, dumb decisions got him booted in the first place.
But there's a meant-to-be-ness for everything. Newton, in a roundabout way, could prove that by leading Auburn's young and extremely talented athletes to their first SEC championship since 2004.
No. 10: Scotty Young, Texas Tech
Young wavered on his commitment to Texas Tech near the end of the recruiting cycle. However, he decided to stick around once he heard from Tommy Tuberville and his staff that they wouldn't be changing the use of the Airraid.
Which is a lie, isn't it? I mean, do any of us really think that Tuberville will preside over the Airraid? Especially after having fired most of the offensive coaches responsible for it? Including crucial ones like inside receivers coach/assistant OC Lincoln Riley?
OK, maybe it's not that outlandish. Tuberville is a tricky guy, though.
Either way, Tuberville and staff landed a stud prospect in Young, who is accurate in short routes and plays with confidence in the dink-and-dunk shotgun scheme
that Texas Tech won't be using in two years.
Young won't be able to displace Tech's top two quarterbacks—Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield—next year, so his immediate impact is minimal.
They're both seniors, and sophomore Seth Doege put on a mad performance in backup duty last year.
That means Young has a chance to be the face of the "new" Texas Tech
once the Airraid is quietly fazed out over the next two years whatever that face may be.
No. 9: Phillip Sims, Alabama
Alabama's depth at quarterback—at least one and maybe more bodies back up starter Greg McElroy—automatically downgrades Phillip Sims' immediate impact on the Tide.
But like McElroy, he's another quarterback who brings a winning background to the Tide, combined with an "it" factor not even McElroy can boast. He's as complete and touted a prospect as the Tide have landed at QB in a long time.
The only knock on him is his height. Since that can't really change, he'll spend his first year learning the playbook, hitting the weight room and getting ready to make a run at the starting job in his redshirt freshman year.
I don't think seeing him in 2010 would be a good sign for a) Greg McElroy or b) Alabama's QB depth. But down the road, his impact could be monumental.
No. 8: Nick Montana, Washington
Nick Montana will be coach Steve Sarkisian's first start-to-finish project at the college level.
The quarterbacking guru should be able to wed Montana's touch and grasp of the fundamentals with a deep knowledge of the pro-style playbook. Repetition and a little time in the weight room (and around the hulking Jake Locker) should help Montana's lagging arm strength.
Locker's returns puts a firm grip on the position, so seeing Montana would mean the troubling waste of a redshirt.
That said, expect to see three solid years of development for the son of a legend, who could inherit the Huskies on the verge of, or just after, breaking through.
No. 7: Connor Wood, Texas
Garrett Gilbert is Texas' quarterback, so you can put that controversy away, Longhorns' sportswriters.
Why else would Gilbert, a true freshman, be Colt McCoy's backup in the national championship and not Sherrod Harris, or anyone that wasn't so green?
What we learned in that game was that you're only as good as your backup QB, especially in a wide open Big XII Conference.
Enter Connor Wood, not as touted a prospect as Gilbert (who was the no. 2 pro-style QB overall last year), but one who will have as big an impact on Texas' offense once he gets his turn to play.
Some Texas writers think Wood, a superb athlete, will bring some version of the zone-read back to the Texas playbook.
That has to be welcomed news for Longhorns fans who were uneasy about Texas' dwindling ground game. The way Texas pursued stud in-state running backs for 2011, there's reason to believe the days of the four-wide spread set are numbered in Austin.
Wood is a sturdier prospect than McCoy and Gilbert and played in zone-read scheme in high school. What he lacks as a vertical threat (which isn't much), he makes up for in durability, evasiveness and speed.
I don't think he'll see any time in 2010, but when he does, it will be to remake Texas' offense in his own image. Impact, indeed.
No. 6: Blake Bell, Oklahoma
Already, Sooners fans are predicting a bloody battle between presumed starter/redshirt sophomore Landry Jones and touted recruit Blake Bell for the starting quarterback spot in 2010.
I think they overestimate Bell's level of preparation. He's only been playing quarterback for a few years, after beginning high school ball as a monster wide receiver. He's still thin even for a Sooner QB.
But he does have an Oklahoma QB's prototypical height, the physical tools and the ability to make all the throws, as those who attended his camps will attest.
But remember, even Sam Bradford redshirted. Bell will do the same unless Jones craps out, and redshirt freshman Drew Allen can't handle the pressure.
The 2010 Sooners are a young team across the board. Take it from me: youth at the quarterback position is a fresh start that loses its freshness pretty quick. If fans see Bell play, it will be too soon.
No. 5: Chandler Whitmer, Illinois
Whitmer wasn't really a touted prospect (although he ended up being the jewel of the 2010 class once Corey Cooper left for Nebraska).
But the assessment of him has to be music to Illini fans' ears. "Accurate...consistent...does not make many mistakes...solid pocket presence," those are not the kind of things one can say about the dearly departed Juice Williams.
Chandler's size is subpar, but he'll be pushing the so-so Jacob Charest throughout the year (and should be a better QB prospect than Eddie McGee, who made a much better wide receiver).
If another Illini season is all but lost midway through the year, there's a chance Whitmer's redshirt gets burned, and we find out if he's the wave of the future.
No. 4: Devin Gardner, Michigan
As though Tate Forcier needed any more pressure (poor kid), in comes the Next Next Great Michigan Quarterback, the One, the player Rich Rodriguez has been looking for since, well, Pat White.
Devin Gardner was the top dual-threat quarterback according to most of the scouting sites and enrolled early at Michigan with as much upside as any Michigan player since Chad Henne.
Yes, his highlight videos are fun to watch. Though he's twice as dangerous as Forcier on the ground, he's not nearly as complete a passer.
After careful coaching began to undo the unorthodoxy of his throwing motion, Gardner regressed as his senior year wore on. By the playoffs, he was either taking off too early or pushing the ball instead of following through.
I'll be content to watch Gardner light up Michigan's spring game and wait until next year. Any playing time in the fall burns a crucial redshirt and makes Michigan's QB succession plan an awkward affair.
It also means Forcier is injured or struggling, and backup Denard Robinson still isn't throwing well. I saw plenty of that last year.
No. 3: Paul Jones, Penn State
I like Penn State's Paul Jones to have the bigger impact than Robert Bolden, who will need be a redshirt.
For one thing, Jones enrolled early. He will participate in the 15 practices with the Lions this April and the Blue/White Spring Game.
Mainly, I like Jones' natural passing talents over the raw Bolden and even over presumed starter Kevin Newsome. He was one-dimensional in mop-up duty and needed to work hard on his accuracy all season.
Darryl Clark aside, Penn State is still a very conservative team— they won't be running the zone-read any time soon. That means their quarterback will have to pass. Barring a leap from Newsome, Jones has probably the best arm of the three.
Such a leap from Newsome is indeed possible, but even then, Bolden probably won't leap Jones on the depth chart. In a situation as unsettled as Penn State's is, starting Jones is just a few bad games or an injury away.
No. 2: Tyler Smith, Maryland
The Terrapins were fortunate to land a stud prospect like Tyler Smith at quarterback. Not only because they're losing their starter—Chris Turner—to graduation, but also because the Terps have lacked a dynamic offense for some time.
Smith isn't an ideal prospect to start immediately. He's still rail-thin and will have to work on pocket presence, as all newly minted QBs do. But when scouts deploys the "it" term to describe him, that's a really, really good sign.
Scout loves his placement and the strength of his arm. His accuracy on deep routes should help the Terps stretch some teams deep.
As of last May, he planned to enroll early, although I haven't seen anything saying that's official. If it's true, that will really help him push Jamarr Robinson in camp, and maybe come up with the starting job come fall.
No. 1: Jake Heaps, BYU
Heaps was an unsung stud (at least, I wasn't singing about him in a mostly down year for quarterback recruits.
The BYU commit showed uncommon precision and strength in the Under Armour All-American Game, notoriously the season's sloppiest pick-up game.
He has outstanding size, measurables and intangibles and will compete immediately for the spot vacated by Max Hall.
The Cougars have had pretty steady quarterback play for most of the last decade, so starting a true freshman is a risk. But Heaps brings maturity and gravitas to the job—he wouldn't have signed on otherwise.