Living Up to the Hype: The QB Class of 2008

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More than a few championship hats hang on the QB Class of 2008.

More than a few championship hats hang on the QB Class of 2008.

-By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)

The 2006 recruiting class of quarterbacks is probably the best collection of college signal callers of the modern recruiting era. Two Heisman Trophy winners, six first round NFL Draft picks (including two No. 1 overall picks), three national championships and seven BCS Bowl wins say so.

When it comes to headlines in the summer of 2011, however, no class can top the quarterback group of 2008 — which also happened to be the first year of the Athlon Consensus 100.

The nearly unanimous No. 1 overall player in the nation in 2008 – he received three of four “first place” votes — was quarterback Terrelle Pryor of Jeannette, Penn. But six other quarterbacks with compelling stories of their own landed in the ’08 AC100 as well.

The release of the 2012 AC100 is looming, and with more than a few national powers hanging their championship hats on the QB class of 2008, Athlon looks back on this supremely gifted yet enigmatic collection of signal callers.

Note: The AC100 has expanded from four expert lists in ‘08 to seven in ’12. The national ranking of each player is included in parenthesis. These are the seven quarterbacks that made the 2008 AC100.

1. (No. 1 overall) Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (Rivals: 1, Scout: 1, PrepStar: 1, ESPN: 4)
No player has grabbed more headlines this summer — or during his recruitment — than TP2. The writing was clearly on the wall when he extended the process well beyond National Signing Day in the spring of 2008. His finalists: Oregon, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State — two of which have fired their tainted coaches and a third (the Ducks) could be involved in a major funneling scandal. Pryor was unmistakably the best player in the nation, but when he made a conscious choice to lengthen his recruitment process for what can only be assumed were dubious reasons, his imminent fall from grace should have been predictable.

Of course, it’s easy to say this in hindsight — after numerous fourth quarter comebacks, three Big Ten titles, 74 total touchdowns and 8,341 yards of total offense (6,177 passing, 2,164 rushing). Pryor was 31–5 as the starter (3–0 against Michigan) and is one of only nine quarterbacks in history to win two BCS Bowl games. The bottom line is Pryor deserved his lofty recruiting ranking and was no doubt on his way to his best season in Columbus in 2011. But like many star athletes on many a college campus, Pryor believed he was untouchable, and this ego-driven false sense of security likely cost him millions of dollars and a chance at a National Championship.

2. (No. 20) Dayne Crist, Notre Dame (Rivals: 25, Scout: 45, PrepStar: 35, ESPN: 22)
From Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., to the University of Notre Dame, Crist was one letter away from being a perfect fit for South Bend. But despite all the physical talent in the world, Crist has endured two season-ending injuries in a row and has yet to prove his mettle. Now, with the best team the Irish have had in over 20 years — especially on the defensive side of the ball — Crist has yet another opportunity. If the former No. 2 QB recruit in the nation can simply stay healthy, fans and defensive coordinators alike can bet Brian Kelly will put him a position to excel — assuming Crist can beat out the much less talented but cagey Tommy Rees for the starting job.

3. (No. 21) E.J. Manuel, Florida State (Rivals: 43, Scout 30, PrepStar: 17, ESPN: 52)
Manuel’s baptism into college football was rough. In the final four games of 2009, the Virginia product started in place of the injured Christian Ponder. He threw only two touchdowns against six interceptions and averaged 203 yards per game. However, he completed over 65-percent of his passes and Florida State went 3–1. As a sophomore in 2010, Manuel again played in spot duty behind Ponder. He completed nearly 70-percent of his passes and improved his TD:INT ratio. However, in his two starts against Clemson and Virginia Tech — his only real competition last fall — he tossed one score and three picks.

So what can Seminole fans expect from their highly touted heir to the throne? Athlon believes enough in Manuel’s development to place Florida State in the preseason top five and make the Noles the ACC favorite. Manuel’s talent is obvious, and his efficiency numbers point to greatness. However, it will be his maturity, poise and leadership in the face of sky-high expectations that will ultimately determine his place in FSU history. No pressure, E.J.

4. (No. 32) Blaine Gabbert, Mizzou (Rivals: 14, Scout: 102, PrepStar: 47, ESPN: 38)
Gabbert is a bit of a mystery. As a first-year starter, the sophomore threw for 3,593 yards, 24 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. But he had the nation’s leading receiver in Danario Alexander and Derrick Washington running the ball. As a junior, Gabbert TD:INT ratio dropped to 16:9 and he was only the eighth most efficient quarterback in the Big 12. He was 18–8 as the starter and lost both bowl games to Navy and Iowa. Yet, his 6’4”, 234-pound frame and above average athletic ability made him the 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Were Gary Pinkel and Mizzou fans simply spoiled by the successes of Chase Daniel? Or did the Ballwin, Mo., local legitimately underachieve? It is safe to say his eventual place in the football world is still to be determined.

5. (No. 43) Andrew Luck, Stanford (Rivals: 68, Scout: 47, PrepStar: 60, ESPN: 61)
There aren’t enough hyperboles for this Houston native. As a redshirt freshman, Luck burst onto the scene with a sterling 2,575 yards and 13:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He added 354 yards and two more scores on the ground for good measure. Luck’s superior skills — and excellent coaching staff — were on full display in 2010 as the Stanford gunslinger was a Heisman finalist and BCS Orange Bowl champion. He finished with 3,338 yards, 32 touchdown passes, 453 rushing yards and three more scores. Without his cult of personality head coach, Luck enters what will be his final season in Palo Alto as not only the Heisman front-runner but also a potential Pac-12 champion favorite. The future No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick is 20–5 as a starter and is the best college football player in the country. If the Cardinal return to a BCS bowl in 2011, it will be because of Luck’s exceptional play under center.

6. (No. 50) Mike Glennon, NC State (Rivals: 59, Scout: 87, PrepStar: 107, ESPN: 32)
This lanky Virginian is by far the biggest unknown on this list. Glennon was talented enough to be ranked alongside Luck, but he has yet to prove himself. So what DO we know about Mike Glennon? We know that a savvy, veteran head coach decided to let an All-ACC stud like Russell Wilson walk away from the program. We also know Glennon threw a total of 13 passes last season for an offense that doesn’t return a single starter at running back or wide receiver. Tom O’Brien consistently gets more out of his teams than expected, and Glennon has a safety valve in tight end George Bryan, but in a tough division, and with eight returning starters on defense, Glennon will be the difference between title contention and missing the postseason altogether.

7. (No. 100) Landry Jones, Okla. (Rivals: N/A, Scout: 89, PrepStar: 64, ESPN: 121)
The production for the Artesia, N.M., passer has been incredible. Try 7,916 yards and 64 touchdowns in two seasons. But Jones also has 26 interceptions in those two years. Bob Stoops needs his quarterback to protect the football better in 2011 if he expects to lead the Sooners back to the BCS Championship game. The numbers, however, suggest Jones will continue to improve. He went from one interception every 32 pass attempts in 2009 (14 INT, 449 ATT.) to one every 51 attempts last season (12, 617). If Jones can continue to progress in this area, Oklahoma will fulfill its lofty preseason No. 2 ranking.

-By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)

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<p> More than a few championship hats hang on the QB Class of 2008.</p>
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