Sam Ehlinger leads Texas' contingent of 11 starting signal-callers with three of them staying in the Lone Star State
If there's one word that can be used to describe the college football quarterback landscape, it's something that coaches and fans alike don't want to see from their signal-caller — turnover. For the third straight season, nearly two-thirds of the projected starting quarterbacks in the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC) will be new compared to this time last year.
Players only have so many years of eligibility, which is why we have to wait until the NFL draft in late April to see where Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and runner-up Jalen Hurts land, while fellow standouts Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm, and Jacob Eason decided to leave school early. And then there's another wave of transfers that has resulted in D'Eriq King, Jamie Newman, Feleipe Franks, and Jake Bentley, among others, all find new schools since the season ended.
It all adds up to a lot of turnover across the country at the most important position on the field. So where are Power 5 teams finding their quarterbacks for the upcoming season?
For the sixth year in a row, Athlon Sports has tracked the roots of every projected starting quarterback for the upcoming season in the Power 5 conferences, along with BYU and Notre Dame. The operative word for this exercise is "projected," as the aforementioned exodus of talent at the position and subsequent flurry of transfers has only added to the number of quarterback competitions that will take place this spring and probably carry over into fall camp.
The number of states represented has shown a slight decline compared to recent years (23 in 2020, 25 in each of the previous two years, 26 in '17) and there are a number of observations that can be made.
Texas lives up to its "Lone Star" billing
It should not come as a surprise that Texas produces talented football players. But as far as quarterbacks go, the Lone Star State is in a class of its own for 2020. Not only is Texas the only state that can claim double-digit projected starters, the gap between it and California, another state known for producing talent, has grown. Last year, Texas accounted for 10 starting quarterbacks with California right behind at nine. This year, California's tally is seven. Still good enough for second, but a big enough gap for Texas (11) to be crowned the undisputed champion in 2020.
Texas' quarterback pipeline could benefit one conference in particular this season. With half of the team's projected starters hailing from the Lone Star State, the Big 12 is shaping up to feature just two new quarterbacks for 2020 compared to last year's list. That pales in stark comparison to the rest of the Power 5. The ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC are each breaking in at least eight new starters with the SEC checking in at 10. Another way to look at it — the Big 12 has a 20 percent turnover rate at quarterback while the SEC is at 71 percent. Quarterback experience, or lack of, certainly does mean more in the SEC this season.
It may not carry the same reputation when it comes to high school football as Texas, California, or even Florida, but Arizona will be well represented at the quarterback position in 2020. The Grand Canyon State is projected to be able to claim six native signal-callers in 2020, doubling its total from last year. It also puts the state in third place overall, one behind California.
Additionally, Gilbert, Arizona, has the unique distinction of boasting three projected starters — Gunner Cruz (Washington State), Jack Plummer (Purdue), and Brock Purdy (Iowa State). The only other cities with more than one are Austin, Texas, and Cincinnati, each with two.
Changing of the guard on the East Coast?
Florida and Georgia may have a bigger reputation as the talent-producing powers along the East Coast, but that's not the case at quarterback in 2020. New Jersey and North Carolina each claim five for this exercise, which is two more than Florida and Georgia (four each) combined.
It makes sense for New Jersey to provide Rutgers its quarterback, but the Garden State also has three in the ACC and one in the SEC. Likewise, North Carolina is well represented in the ACC (three) and also has a stake in the SEC thanks to Jamie Newman's transfer from Wake Forest to Georgia as well as Garrett Shrader's status as the early favorite to start for new Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach.
But if it's any consolation for Florida and Georgia, these states can claim some pretty talented signal-callers of their own, including Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, and Michael Penix Jr.
The new kids on the block
Colorado, Iowa, and Mississippi seemingly don't have much in common, as each state is found in a different part of the country. But that's not the case when it comes to quarterbacks for the 2020 season. After being shut out in 2019, each state claims two for the upcoming season. The same cannot be said, however, for Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. This trio went from five (Louisiana with three) to zero.
For the three newcomers, it's just not about home cooking either. While Colorado has Blake Stenstrom in line to start for the Buffaloes and Mississippi has John Rhys Plumlee, the early favorite to start for new Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, they along with Iowa also have quarterbacks projected to be the guy at places like Michigan (Dylan McCaffrey from Colorado), TCU (Max Duggan from Iowa), and defending national champion LSU (Myles Brennan from Mississippi).
The departure of Hawaii native Tua Tagovailoa from Alabama means no projected starters hail from outside of the contiguous United States, but that doesn't mean any quarterbacks aren't far, far away from home either. Thirteen of the projected starters for 2020 are more than 1,000 miles from home and four of those are more than 2,000 miles.
All three of the aforementioned quarterbacks from Gilbert, Arizona are among the top 10 in terms of most miles between school and home, and the Big Ten and Pac-12 each have three starters represented in this group. The ACC is the only Power 5 conference not in the top 10 of this category, so it makes sense that it also has the shortest average distance among its starters at 409 miles. The Pac-12 leads the way at 879 miles, thanks in part to Stanford Davis Mills' cross-country trek from Duluth, Georgia, which covers nearly 2,500 miles.
10 Farthest From Home
|Davis Mills||2,476||Duluth, GA|
|Ryan Hilinski||2,414||Las Vegas|
|Ian Book||2,114||El Dorado Hills, CA|
|Jake Bentley||2,072||Lexington, SC|
|Spencer Petras||1,908||San Rafael, CA|
|Jack Plummer||1,716||Gilbert, AZ|
|Adrian Martinez||1,617||Fresno, CA|
|Jarret Doege||1,465||Lubbock, TX|
|Brock Purdy||1,423||Gilbert, AZ|
|Gunner Cruz||1,284||Gilbert, AZ|
Texas' Sam Ehlinger has one more season to play for his hometown Longhorns, while Washington could have another native son starter named Jacob with Jacob Sirmon in line to take over for Jacob Eason.
10 Closest to Home
|Sam Ehlinger||0||Austin, TX|
|Jacob Sirmon||19||Bothell, WA|
|Artur Sitkowski||19||Old Bridge, NJ|
|Zach Wilson||29||Draper, UT|
|Blake Stenstrom||46||Highlands Ranch, CO|
|Sam Hartman||79||Charlotte, NC|
|Charlie Brewer||102||Austin, TX|
|Brandon Peters||114||Avon, IN|
|Bo Nix||125||Pinson, AL|
|Hendon Hooker||127||Greensboro, NC|
Projected 2020 Power 5 Conference*
Starting QBs by State
Alan Bowman (Texas Tech), Charlie Brewer (Baylor), Jarret Doege (West Virginia), Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Grant Gunnell (Arizona), D'Eriq King (Miami), Kellen Mond (Texas A&M), Shawn Robinson (TCU), Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State), Ken Seals (Vanderbilt), Kyle Trask (Florida)
Ian Book (Notre Dame), Jayden Daniels (Arizona State), Chase Garbers (California), Tristan Gebbia (Oregon State), Ryan Hilinski (South Carolina), Adrian Martinez (Nebraska), Spencer Petras (Iowa)
Gunner Cruz (Washington State), Jack Plummer (Purdue), Brock Purdy (Iowa State), Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), Tyler Shough (Oregon), Kedon Slovis (USC)
New Jersey (5)
Tommy DeVito (Syracuse), Jarrett Guarantano (Tennessee), Devin Leary (NC State), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Artur Sitkowski (Rutgers)
North Carolina (5)
Sam Hartman (Wake Forest), Hendon Hooker (Virginia Tech), Sam Howell (North Carolina), Jamie Newman (Georgia), Garrett Shrader (Mississippi State)
James Blackman (Florida State), Feleipe Franks (Arkansas), Mac Jones (Alabama), Michael Penix Jr. (Indiana)
Justin Fields (Ohio State), James Graham (Georgia Tech), Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Davis Mills (Stanford)
Brennan Armstrong (Virginia), Sean Clifford (Penn State), Dennis Grosel (Boston College), Thomas MacVittie (Kansas)
Micale Cunningham (Louisville), Bo Nix (Auburn)
Dylan McCaffrey (Michigan), Blake Stenstrom (Colorado)
Hunter Johnson (Northwestern), Brandon Peters (Illinois)
Max Duggan (TCU), Rocky Lombardi (Michigan State)
Myles Brennan (LSU), John Rhys Plumlee (Ole Miss)
Chris Katrenick (Duke)
Tanner Morgan (Minnesota)
Josh Jackson (Maryland)
Skylar Thompson (Kansas State)
Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA)
New York (1)
Jack Coan (Wisconsin)
Terry Wilson (Kentucky)
South Carolina (1)
Jake Bentley (Utah)
Zach Wilson (BYU)
Jacob Sirmon (Washington)
*List also includes BYU and Notre Dame