Which JUCO QBs will make the biggest impact next fall?
Finding or developing a quarterback is no easy task for any college football coach. This position is one of the hardest to evaluate in high school, and quarterbacks often transfer early in their career in search of more playing time if they are entrenched behind a proven starter. Needless to say, quarterbacks are the position likely providing the most headaches for coaches throughout the year. While developing a quarterback through the high school ranks is the preferred option for coaches, the junior college level presents quick-fix options and players who were often overlooked in the recruiting process.
The junior college level always produces a handful of impact transfers each year, and the quarterback position has a few intriguing names back on the scene in 2016. Utah’s Troy Williams, Virginia Tech’s Jerod Evans and Indiana’s Richard Lagow are just a few of the junior college quarterbacks to watch this offseason. Here’s a look at 10 who could make an impact this fall:
Top 10 Impact JUCO Transfer Quarterbacks for 2016
Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech has experienced its share of inconsistent quarterback play in recent seasons, and new coach Justin Fuente dipped into the junior college ranks for competition and a potential answer under center. Evans ranked as the No. 7 overall junior college recruit in the 2016 247Sports Composite and heads to Blacksburg after throwing for 3,164 yards and 38 scores last season. He also added 414 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. It’s rare to see Virginia Tech look to the junior college ranks for answers, but Evans is talented and should push Dwayne Lawson, Chris Durkin and Brenden Motley for the starting job. Fuente has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks, as he was instrumental in Paxton Lynch’s development at Memphis and Andy Dalton’s rise at TCU. How quickly will Fuente work his magic in Blacksburg?
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Memphis is one of college football’s most-improved programs in recent seasons, but the Tigers enter 2016 with question marks after the departure of coach Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech and quarterback Paxton Lynch to the NFL. New coach Mike Norvell was an excellent hire to keep the program trending in the right direction, and his first assignment is to find Lynch’s replacement. Three quarterbacks – Brady Davis, Clay Holgorsen and Jason Stewart – return for Norvell, but the answer under center could come from the junior college ranks. Ferguson was a three-star recruit out of high school and signed with Tennessee. However, after a short stint on Rocky Top, Ferguson transferred to Coffeyville Community College and threw for 2,942 yards and 35 scores in 2015. Ferguson ranked as the No. 25 junior college prospect in the 2016 247Sports Composite.
Andrew Ford, UMass
Ross Comis is expected to step in for Blake Frohnapfel as UMass’ starting quarterback next season, but it doesn’t hurt to have depth or competition at the position. Ford was an early February pickup for the Minutemen and lands in Amherst after a season at Lackawanna Community College. In his only year at the junior college level, Ford threw for 1,764 yards and 23 touchdowns. Coming out of high school, Ford was a three-star recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite and spent a year at Virginia Tech.
John Franklin III, Auburn
Auburn’s offense was one of the SEC’s biggest disappointments last year. The Tigers averaged only 22.1 points in SEC contests and tossed just five touchdown passes in league games. After last year’s issues, coach Gus Malzahn has to look at every position and find upgrades for 2016. Jeremy Johnson and Sean White are back at quarterback, but Franklin III or incoming freshman Woody Barrett will be awarded every opportunity to claim the starting job. Franklin III was listed as an athlete on the school’s official signing release, but it would be a major surprise if he doesn’t get a look at quarterback. The former Florida State signal-caller threw for 733 yards and seven scores and added 451 yards and nine scores at East Mississippi Community College last year. Adding a dynamic playmaker at quarterback is step one in getting Malzahn’s offense back on track in 2016.
Justice Hansen, Arkansas State
Arkansas State’s high-powered offense has ranked among the top two in the Sun Belt in scoring in five out of the last six seasons. There’s plenty of talent returning for new coordinator Buster Faulkner, but quarterback Fredi Knighten must be replaced after earning second-team All-Sun Belt honors in 2015. Hansen was a key pickup for coach Blake Anderson on the recruiting trail, and the former Oklahoma signal-caller should be among the favorites – if not at the top – to take the first snap for Arkansas State in 2016. Hansen threw for 1,694 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for 226 yards and four scores at Butler Community College in 2015.
Richard Lagow, Indiana
Nate Sudfeld finished his career in Bloomington as one of the top quarterbacks in program history and leaves big shoes to fill this spring. Developing high-scoring offenses hasn’t been a problem for coach Kevin Wilson during his tenure with the Hoosiers. However, replacing Sudfeld won’t be easy. Zander Diamont worked as the team’s No. 2 quarterback last season, but Lagow is expected to make a strong push for the starting gig. Lagow began his career at UConn and transferred to Oklahoma State prior to the 2013 season. However, Lagow’s stay in Stillwater wasn’t long and he landed at Cisco Community College for two seasons and threw for 4,516 yards and 38 scores during that span. Lagow ranked as the No. 49 overall junior college recruit by ESPN in the 2016 signing class.
Kevin Olsen, Charlotte
Charlotte’s quarterbacks combined for 12 touchdowns and 23 interceptions last season, so there will be an opportunity for Olsen to push for the starting job right away. The New Jersey native signed with Miami as one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2013 signing class, but his stay in Coral Gables was brief. Olsen – the brother of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen – was dismissed from the program in 2014 and landed another opportunity at Towson. However, Olsen was dismissed from Towson in 2015 and spent last season at Riverside City College. He threw for 1,080 yards and 13 touchdowns in nine appearances. Olsen has one more shot at the FBS level – can he take advantage of that in 2016?
Jacob Park, Iowa State
New coach Matt Campbell brought a wave of momentum on the recruiting trail for his first class, as the Cyclones finished No. 52 in the 247Sports Composite – the highest rank for an Iowa State signing class over the last five seasons. Park is one of two scholarship quarterbacks inked in the 2016 class, as he will compete with incoming freshman Zeb Noland and junior Joel Lanning for the starting job this offseason. Park originally signed with Georgia out of high school and spent 2014 as a redshirt year. However, Park decided to transfer last summer and spent the season at Trident Technical College. The South Carolina native was planning on attending Northeastern Oklahoma A&M but landed an opportunity at Iowa State. Park ranked as a three-star recruit in the 2016 247Sports Composite.
Related: Ranking the Big 12 Rosters for 2016
Johnny Stanton, UNLV
Second-year coach Tony Sanchez has UNLV trending in the right direction. The Rebels went 3-9 last season but showed on-field progress and inked the No. 4 recruiting class in the Mountain West in the 247Sports Composite. One of the most intriguing recruits in the haul was former Nebraska signal-caller Johnny Stanton. After two seasons with the Cornhuskers, Stanton transferred to Saddleback Community College and threw for 3,471 yards and 27 scores. He also rushed for 747 yards and 12 touchdowns. Former Nebraska assistant Barney Cotton is UNLV’s offensive coordinator, which should allow an easy transition for Stanton to the FBS level. He will have an opportunity to win the starting job over Kurt Palandech this spring.
Troy Williams, Utah
Upgrading the passing attack is an offseason priority for coach Kyle Whittingham. With a stout defense and ground game, the Utes don’t have to be overly prolific through the air, but improvement is needed off last year’s offense (180 ypg). The quarterback spot is up for grabs this offseason, as Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson expired their eligibility and Conner Manning transferred to Georgia State. The quarterbacks on the roster for spring ball – Brandon Cox, Tyler Huntley and Troy Williams – have combined for just three passes in a Utah uniform. Williams returns to the Pac-12 after originally starting his career at Washington. After redshirting with the Huskies in 2013, Williams played in five games in 2014 and made one start. He finished his Washington career by completing 23 of 36 passes for 176 yards and two picks. Williams transferred to Santa Monica College in 2015 and finished with a prolific season, throwing for 2,750 yards and 31 scores. Williams is the No. 40 junior college recruit in the 2016 247Sports Composite and should be the frontrunner to start for Utah this fall.
Four Other JUCO Quarterbacks to Watch
Sederian Copeland/A.J. Erderly, UAB
UAB is a year away from returning to the gridiron, but Copeland and Erderly have a full season to work with the offense to stake their claim for the Blazers’ anticipated opener in 2017.
Stephen Johnson, Kentucky
Drew Barker is entrenched as Kentucky’s starter, but Johnson was a key pickup for depth after Kentucky lost Patrick Towles to a transfer to Boston College.
Jack Lowary, Missouri
Drew Lock is a promising quarterback for coach Barry Odom, but depth was an issue after Maty Mauk was dismissed from the team. Lowary threw for 3,306 yards and 28 scores at Long Beach City College in 2015.