With National Signing Day upon us and the NFL draft less than three months away, college football’s annual quarterback churn is in full effect. And 2018 will feature plenty of changes as the combination of graduation and early departures by underclassmen means nearly two thirds of the projected starting quarterbacks in the Power Five conferences alone will be new compared to this time last year.
But that’s what happens when Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson move on, as well as program standouts like Mason Rudolph and Luke Falk, not to mention talented underclassmen like Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So while several high-profile teams have big holes to fill at the most important position on the field, the question becomes — where do these teams find their quarterbacks?
For the fourth year in a row, Athlon Sports has tracked the roots of every projected starting quarterback for the upcoming season in the Power Five conferences, along with BYU and Notre Dame. The operative word for this exercise is “projected,” as the aforementioned exodus of talent at the position has only added to the number of quarterback competitions that will take place this spring and probably carry over into fall camp.
While the number of states represented has remained steady (25 in 2018, 26 in ’17) and some of the results are similar, there are several new developments that may open a few eyes.
Texas and California are still king, but the gap has narrowed
When it comes to producing football talent, Texas, California and Florida are often referred to as the “Big Three.” And last year, these three states were responsible for 26 of the 66 projected quarterbacks in the Power Five (plus BYU and Notre Dame) ranks. That’s nearly 40 percent.
Well nothing has changed atop the leaderboard for 2018 with Texas and California back in the top two spots, but Florida has fallen off the pace. Together, these three states account for 21 of the 66 quarterbacks (32 percent). And it’s not just due to the significant turnover at the position either, as Texas and California are responsible for 15 of the 43 total new projected starters.
In fact, all but one of California’s quarterbacks (Jake Browning, Washington) is a projected new starter. But true to last year, most of the Golden State products opted to stay close to home. Six of California’s eight quarterbacks play for Pac-12 teams, including Stanford (K.J. Costello, right), UCLA (Devon Modster), and USC (Jake Sears) while the other two are in the Big Ten — Nebraska (Patrick O’Brien) and Minnesota (Vic Viramontes). Again, this is based on projections entering spring practice. It’s entirely possible the Bruins and Trojans, among a number of other teams, could have someone else under center by the time their season opener rolls around.
Texas went from 13 quarterbacks in 2017 to 10 this year. With Baker Mayfield, J.T. Barrett and Kenny Hill among those from the Lone Star State out of eligibility, it’s easy to see where the turnover comes from. But Texas also is introducing new faces into the mix, namely Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) and Sam Ehlinger (Texas), as well as Charlie Brewer (Baylor) and Shawn Robinson (TCU). Not surprising, Texas is well represented in the Big 12 (six teams), but its reach extends to the ACC, Pac-12 and SEC too.
Changing of the guard in the South?
While Florida’s quarterback contributions are down in 2018, Georgia’s is on the rise. The Sunshine State is responsible for just three in the Power Five ranks for this upcoming season, down from six; while the Peach State went from one all the way to six. That places Georgia third behind on Texas and California.
Florida no longer gets credit for Louisville’s Lamar Jackson or Wake Forest’s John Wolford, for that matter, but can still claim the Seminoles’ starter (James Blackman). Georgia meanwhile already had Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald in its column, but now adds Jackson’s heir apparent (Jawon Pass) as well as the Gators’ starter (true freshman Emory Jones). The top two teams in the state also boast homegrown starters in Georgia’s Jake Fromm (Warner Robins) and Georgia Tech’s TaQuon Marshall (Hamilton).
The new kids on the block
When it comes to high school football, two states that don’t immediately come to mind are probably New Jersey and Hawaii. Well it may be time to change that line of thinking. After providing just one quarterback in 2017 (Brandon Wimbush, Notre Dame), the two states, which are separated by nearly 5,000 miles, total seven for the upcoming season.
And while local product Jonathan Lewis (Orange, New Jersey) is projected to be the man under center for Rutgers, most of the other quarterbacks from these two states are spread out all over the country. In fact, Hawaii’s two signal-callers play in the SEC. New Jersey also has one in the SEC (Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano) as well as two in the ACC. New Jersey’s total of five is good for fourth overall among all of the states represented, ahead of the likes of Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and Washington, to name a few.
As can be expected with two quarterbacks from Hawaii playing in the SEC, Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama; above, right) and Jordan Ta’Amu (Ole Miss) share the distinction of being the farthest from home. But they aren’t alone. Syracuse’s Eric Dungey (Lake Oswego, Oregon) remains on this list for the third straight year while all three of the quarterbacks that hail from Arizona (Ryan Finley, Brian Lewerke and Bryce Perkins) play at schools that are nearly 2,000 miles away from their respective hometowns.
10 Farthest From Home
Ewa Beach, HI
Pearl City, HI
Lake Oswego, OR
Dania Beach, FL
Fort Thomas, KY
San Juan Capistrano, CA
What East Coast bias?
While New Jersey and Georgia are both on the rise, the same can’t be said for some of their East Coast brethren. Florida’s decline (from six in 2017 to three) has already been referenced but it’s not alone in that respect.
Last year, Delaware, South Carolina and Virginia combined for eight projected starting quarterbacks. This year that total is just two and it’s just one each for South Carolina (Kelly Bryant, Clemson) and Virginia (Trace McSorley, Penn State).
Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger have the distinction of starting for their hometown teams with both hoping to lead their teams back to the top of the standings in their respective conferences.
Elsewhere, UCLA and USC could feature a pair of homegrown starters for the second straight season even if the names have changed. Both Devon Modster (Mission Viejo) and Jack Sears (San Clemente) hail from the Southern California area and are the projected replacements for fellow local products Josh Rosen (Manhattan Beach) and Sam Darnold (Capistrano Beach).
10 Closest to Home
Manhattan Beach, CA
Calhoun Falls, SC
Mission Viejo, CA
San Clemente, CA
Projected 2018 Power Five Conference*
Starting QBs by State
Charlie Brewer (Baylor), McLane Carter (Texas Tech), Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Nathan Elliott (North Carolina), Steven Montez (Colorado), Kyler Murray (Oklahoma), Shawn Robinson (TCU), Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State), Nick Starkel (Texas A&M), Jarrett Stidham (Auburn)
Jake Browning (Washington), K.J. Costello (Stanford), Devon Modster (UCLA), Patrick O'Brien (Nebraska), Jack Sears (USC), Khalil Tate (Arizona), Vic Viramontes (Minnesota), Manny Wilkins (Arizona State)
Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State), Jake Fromm (Georgia), Emory Jones (Florida), TaQuon Marshall (Georgia Tech), Zeb Noland (Iowa State), Jawon Pass (Louisville)
Anthony Brown (Boston College), Jarrett Guarantano (Tennessee), Johnathan Lewis (Rutgers), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Brandon Wimbush (Notre Dame)
Jake Bentley (South Carolina), Tyrell Pigrome (Maryland), Malik Rosier (Miami)
Ryan Finley (NC State), Brian Lewerke (Michigan State), Bryce Perkins (Virginia)
James Blackman (Florida State), Peyton Bender (Kansas), Tyler Huntley (Utah)
Will Grier (West Virginia), Kendall Hinton (Wake Forest), Daniel Jones (Duke)
Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Jordan Ta'amu (Ole Miss)
Cam Thomas (Illinois), Clayton Thorson (Northwestern)
Beau Hoge (BYU), Elijah Sindelar (Purdue)
Cole Kelley (Arkansas), Shea Patterson (Ole Miss)
Drew Lock (Missouri), Skylar Thompson (Kansas State)
Eric Dungey (Syracuse), Justin Herbert (Oregon)
Alex Hornibrook (Wisconsin), Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt)
Ross Bowers (Cal), Jake Luton (Oregon State)
Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State)
Josh Jackson (Virginia Tech)
Myles Brennan (LSU)
Peyton Ramsey (Indiana)
Terry Wilson (Kentucky)
Kelly Bryant (Clemson)
Cammon Cooper (Washington State)
Trace McSorley (Penn State)
Nate Stanley (Iowa)
*List also includes BYU and Notre Dame