Three years ago, who were the big names in college football?
Johnny Manziel was a household name, a superstar destined for greatness. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were just laying the ground work for their Heisman campaigns. The crop of senior quarterbacks included Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron and Jordan Lynch. Guys like Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson were still finishing up their high school careers.
But all good things come to an end and those superstars have now moved on to careers in the NFL. As always, programs are replacing those guys with upcoming talent, elite high school players who are destined for greatness.
Luckily, the crop of quarterbacks coming out of high school recently has been very good. Per the 247 Sports Composite, 45 blue-chip quarterback recruits have been signed over the past two recruiting cycles. Across the country, more and more freshman and sophomore quarterbacks are starting for major powerhouses.
But with Watson and Jackson firmly established as the current superstars of college football, who are the players waiting in the wings?
Jalen Hurts, Alabama
The first true freshman starter at Alabama since 1984, Jalen Hurts has been a key cog in the Alabama death machine. While Alabama’s offense has not been as elite as their defense, Hurts has been efficient as a true freshman starter. Through ten games, Hurts has passed for 2,032 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 735 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground as well. The scary part about this equation is that Hurts is putting up these numbers as a freshman. With the amount of talent that Alabama recruits, Hurts will be leading the nation’s most dangerous offense in the next couple of years.
Brett Rypien, Boise State
Perhaps one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation, Brett Rypien has quietly been a superstar in his own right for Boise State. A true sophomore, Rypien took over last season as a freshman and has led them to an 9-1 record so far this season. The nephew of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, Brett has 42 career passing touchdowns to only 14 interceptions. With the talent and development at Boise State, don’t be surprised to see Rypien lead the Broncos to a Top-10 finish in the near future.
Deondre Francois, Florida State
Deondre Francois might already be a nationally-known name. A redshirt freshman, Francois is perhaps one of the toughest players in the nation. Surrounded by a poor offensive line, he has taken some major hits, ones that would cause lesser quarterbacks to bow out of games. But Francois has stood tall and delivered for the Seminoles. He has passed for 2,675 yards and 15 touchdowns this season and added three more scores on the ground as well. Although Florida State is sitting at a disappointing 6-3 this season, fans should be excited about the development of Francois moving forward.
Jacob Eason, Georgia
Georgia fans went wild after Jacob Eason officially signed with the Bulldogs after a brief scare from Florida. Although he split duties to begin the season, it didn’t take long before the five-star freshman took over full time. It is easy to see why many scouts and analysts are high on Eason’s potential. At 6-5, 235-pounds, he has prototypical NFL size and a great arm to boot. Through ten games, Eason has passed for 1,962 yards and 11 touchdowns with mostly an underclassmen supporting cast. As Georgia’s offense continues to mature and develop, Eason will become a household name.
Drew Lock, Missouri
Drew Lock is probably the best quarterback you’ve never heard of. That’s because he plays for Missouri, who are sitting at a paltry 3-7 on the season. Despite that, Lock currently leads the SEC in passing yards and is tied for first in passing touchdowns as well. Through ten games, Lock has thrown for 2,811 yards and 21 touchdowns. At 6-4, 220-pounds, he will most certainly be on many draft radars through the coming seasons.
Shea Patterson, Ole Miss
To be honest, I was planning on including Patterson even before his dominant performance versus Texas A&M. A former five-star recruit and the No. 1 ranked QB coming out of high school, Patterson threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start against a ranked Texas A&M team on the road. A pretty impressive debut for a guy stepping into the big shoes where Chad Kelly left off. But after his performance against the Aggies, I’m sure many Ole Miss fans are ready for the Patterson era to begin.
Justin Herbert, Oregon
Dakota Prukop was the big grad transfer name this offseason, but Justin Herbert looks like the future for Oregon. Despite a disappointing 3-7 record for the Ducks, Herbert has emerged as a playmaker on offense. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Herbert will certainly be putting up big numbers for years to come in Oregon’s spread system. Already, comparisons have been made to another three-star QB recruit who took over the Ducks’ offense as a freshman. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?
Jake Bentley, South Carolina
Right now, Jake Bentley should be putting the finishing touches on his high school football career and leading his team into the state playoffs. Instead, he is leading South Carolina’s offense against brutal defenses in the SEC. In a rare situation, Bentley graduated a year early from high school and enrolled at South Carolina. He has taken over the reigns at the QB position in recent weeks and it does not look like he’ll relinquish them anytime soon. Bentley is certainly a great find for head coach Will Muschamp and a guy who South Carolina fans will be cheering on for the next four years.
Sam Darnold, Southern California
Jake Browning was supposed to be the Heisman contender coming into the weekend, but it was Sam Darnold that left looking like one. Against Washington, the No. 4 team in the nation, Darnold threw for 267 yards and two scores and looked every bit the QB that USC is supposed to have. On the season, Darnold has passed for 2,161 yards and 22 touchdowns, including back-to-back 5 TD performances against Arizona and California. He had led the Trojans to six straight wins and has them firmly in the New Year’s Day bowl conversation. After a long period of mediocrity, USC fans finally have a QB to rally behind. That is, unless the NFL poaches him sooner than expected…
Shane Buechele, Texas
Shane Buechele burst onto the college football scene against Notre Dame, throwing for 280 yards and accounting for three total touchdowns. Since then, Texas’ season has not gone as expected, but Buechele’s play has been a bright spot amidst the chaos. He is clearly comfortable throwing the rock and has passed for 2,575 yards and 20 touchdowns on the season. Whether Charlie Strong is the head coach next year or not, Texas’ offense is going to be in a good place for a long time with Buechele taking the snaps.