Examining which incoming freshmen QBs could make an impact in 2019
With National Signing Day in the books, the focus for the 2019 college football season shifts to spring practices, quarterback battles, and upcoming offseason workouts. While most freshmen won’t arrive until the summer, a handful of incoming recruits already hit campus prior to spring ball. The quarterback position is a major focal point of interest throughout the offseason for all 130 programs, and there are a handful of freshmen who could play their way into snaps in 2019. Arizona State reeled in a talented trio of quarterbacks, and coach Herm Edwards could turn to Jayden Daniels, Ethan Long or Joey Yellen as the starter this fall. Bo Nix at Auburn, Max Duggan at TCU, and Graham Mertz at Wisconsin are three other intriguing freshman names to watch this offseason.
Which true freshmen quarterbacks could play a significant role or start for their team in 2019? Here are 10 to watch:
College Football's Top 10 Impact Freshman Quarterbacks for 2019
Hank Bachmeier/Kaiden Bennett, Boise State
Brett Rypien finished a prolific career in Boise by throwing for 13,581 passing yards (the most in Mountain West history) and 90 touchdowns. Needless to say, he leaves big shoes to fill this spring. However, coach Bryan Harsin landed two talented quarterbacks to compete with Jaylon Henderson, Chase Cord and Riley Smith this offseason. Bachmeier ranked as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback by the 247Sports Composite, while Bennett was a three-star prospect. Bachmeier accounted for more than 15,000 total yards in his high school career.
Jayden Daniels/Ethan Long/Joey Yellen, Arizona State
With Manny Wilkins out of eligibility, coach Herm Edwards could tap into his freshman class for an answer under center. Edwards and his staff recruited three intriguing options, and each player arrived in time to compete in spring practice. Daniels is the highest rated of the incoming trio, ranking as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 signing class by the 247Sports Composite. Yellin was regarded as a four-star prospect, while Long checked in as a three-star recruit and the No. 557 overall player.
Max Duggan, TCU
Shawn Robinson transferred to Missouri, and Justin Rogers is on the comeback trail from a high school leg injury, so there’s an opening for Duggan to push for the starting job this offseason. The Iowa native threw for 3,788 yards and 35 touchdowns and rushed for 1,500 yards and 27 scores in the high school ranks. He ranked as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 229 overall player by the 247Sports Composite.
Sam Howell, North Carolina
Howell flipped to North Carolina from Florida State on the Early Signing Day in December, giving a big boost to Mack Brown’s first class back in Chapel Hill. The North Carolina native ranked as a four-star recruit in the 2019 haul after throwing for 3,256 yards and 37 scores and rushing for 1,392 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior. Howell will compete with Nathan Elliott, Chazz Surratt, Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder for the starting job this spring.
KJ Jefferson, Arkansas
Chad Morris inked a top 25 class in his first full recruiting cycle in Fayetteville, providing optimism for 2019 and beyond for the Razorbacks. Jefferson was one of the four-star pickups for Morris and should have an opportunity to see some snaps this fall. Morris made use of the four-game redshirt rule for Arkansas in 2019, as both Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones played in limited action but not enough to use a year of eligibility. Jefferson’s mobility could be a valuable asset in limited snaps, or the Mississippi native could play his way into a bigger role if Noland, Jones, or Ben Hicks don’t claim a clear hold on the starting job.
Demetrius Knight/Jordan Yates, Georgia Tech
New coach Geoff Collins plans to shift the Yellow Jackets away from the option to more of a spread offense, so a wide-open quarterback battle is in store this offseason. Both Knight and Yates ranked as three-star recruits by the 247Sports Composite and committed to play for Georgia Tech under former coach Paul Johnson. Will Collins and his staff hit the transfer route for a starting option? If not, could Knight or Yates find their way onto the field this fall?
Lance LeGendre, Maryland
LeGendre was a key pickup on signing day for new coach Mike Locksley, as the Louisiana native inked with Maryland over Florida State. The four-star prospect could have a chance to compete for the starting job or serve as the backup depending on how the depth plays out at this position. With Kasim Hill entering the transfer portal, Tyrrell Pigrome is the favorite to start for the Terrapins in 2019. However, Locksley could pursue an option via the transfer route, adding an obstacle to early playing time for LeGendre.
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Alex Hornibrook’s status for 2019 appeared to be in doubt after he did not play in the Pinstripe Bowl due to concussion symptoms. However, he’s working out with the team in winter conditioning, providing optimism for a return this fall. Regardless of Hornibrook’s status, coach Paul Chryst may have trouble keeping Mertz on the sidelines. The four-star prospect finished his high school career in Kansas by throwing for 3,886 yards and 51 touchdowns and connecting on 61.1 percent of his passes. Mertz clearly represents the future under center for Wisconsin.
Bo Nix, Auburn
With Jarrett Stidham leaving Auburn early for the NFL, coach Gus Malzahn will have a wide-open battle under center this offseason. Malik Willis, Joey Gatewood and Cord Sandberg played in limited snaps last fall, but the answer to the quarterback uncertainty could be Nix. The five-star prospect played under his father and former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix at Pinson Valley High School, accumulating over 12,000 total yards in his career.
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
It’s no secret Jalen Hurts will be Oklahoma’s starter in 2019. However, coach Lincoln Riley will likely get Rattler plenty of snaps this fall, as he looks to prepare the Arizona native for the starting nod in 2020. Rattler ranked as a five-star prospect and the No. 11 overall recruit by the 247Sports Composite.
(Main photo of KJ Jefferson courtesy of ArkansasRazorbacks.com)