REDONDO BEACH, California — “This is a bad year to need a QB,” a college coach lamented to me early this year.
It’s early, I thought. Studs will emerge.
But event after event, I saw many good QBs and no prototype, obvious, five-star talents.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” said a scout about the lack of elite QB talent. “It’s like the position skipped a year.”
“I’d take six guys from last year’s class over anyone out here,” one veteran QB coach told me at the conclusion of the 2018 Elite 11 QB Camp, which features the best quarterback recruits each year.
Not all years are created equal.
While the 2018 class was special, the consensus from scouts, private QB coaches, those in the recruiting industry, and college coaches is that 2019 is a flat-out bad year for the position.
It’s not just anecdotal. While recruiting rankings in June are largely incomplete, they also reflect the notion. There are no five-star QBs in the 247Sports Composite QB rankings. There has been at least one five-star QB in each of the last 10 classes, an average of 2.4 per class.
Seeing the best QBs in the nation all on the same field confirmed it for me. As fans on Twitter suggested that this player or that player should get a bump to five-star status, my answer was the same: No.
There was nobody with a truly great blend of size, arm strength, release, accuracy, football smarts, and athleticism this weekend. Finding 24 QBs to invite to this year’s event had to be a major struggle.
There was a five-star in 2019.
This time last year, California QB JT Daniels of Mater Dei HS was considered not only the best QB in the nation, but also the best overall recruit in the 2019 class. Daniels was a prototype prospect, with the size, arm, track record, and football intelligence to post some legendary high school numbers.
But Daniels isn’t in the 2019 class. He’s at USC, having reclassified to the 2018 class and skipping his entire senior season. The lack of Daniels takes the 2019 class from underwhelming to, well, the worst in a while.
”The bottom sucks, too. The whole class just doesn’t have it, compared to what we usually get,” said another coach.
But there are still good QBs in the class.
Just because there is no five-star, can’t-miss superstar doesn’t mean that there aren’t good QBs. There are.
There’s a good chance that several of the QBs in the 2019 class turn out great. I’d bet on it. But what I can’t bet on is the who, because there are no obvious studs.
Some of the better QBs in the class are on the smaller side.
The players in this section are either under 6’1, under 190 pounds, or both, yet all were among the best of the event’s throwers. I don’t think they would have stood out in many of the prior years.
Of course, Baker Mayfield just went No. 1 overall in the draft. So it’s not that smaller quarterbacks can’t win, especially at the college level. It’s simply not preferable over a prospect with prototype size.
Oklahoma commit Spencer Rattler of Phoenix, seems like a perfect fit for Oklahoma’s spread system. He has a small frame, but a quick release, and he’s mobile. Rattler is the No. 1 QB in the class as of this writing, and if he fills out, he could meet those lofty expectations.
Washington commit Dylan Morris of Graham (Washington) is an accurate passer who should do well in Chris Petersen’s offense. Petersen has had success with QBs like him before like Kellen Moore at Boise State, and, more recently, Jake Browning at Washington.
FSU commit Sam Howell, of Monroe (North Carolina) is one of the older-looking players in the group. He’s shorter, but filled out with a full beard. The son of a coach, I think Howell has one of the highest floors in the class.
Alabama commit Taulia Tagovailoa of Alabaster (Alabama) seems to have a knack for moving defenders with his eyes, much like his older brother, Tua.
Michigan commit Cade McNamara of Reno lacked big physical tools, but was consistent on the weekend.
Some in the class do have big physical tools.
But they seem further away from putting it all together than the best in previous years.
That would include Wisconsin commit Graham Mertz of Mission (Kansas); a player some college coaches I know thinks has the best tools at the position nationally. Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M want him, but he told me he doesn’t see a reason to flip from Wisconsin.
Perhaps the best combination of upside and polish was Auburn commit Bo Nix of Pinson (Ala.). Nix has grown three or four inches in the last two years and has filled out his frame. Nix’s dad Patrick played QB for Auburn, and was an offensive coordinator for Georgia Tech and Miami in the 2000s.
TCU commit Max Duggan of Council Bluffs (Iowa) plays football, basketball, baseball, and runs track, though he won’t play baseball this coming season, since in Iowa, baseball starts so late in the year. Duggan has a chance to improve a lot once he focuses on football full time.
Uncommitted Brian Maurer of Ocala (Florida) showed well even with a foot injury. West Virginia is the leader for Maurer, he told me. He wants to make his decision before his senior year. Maurer said that Ohio State and Florida have been kicking the tires on him a bit, but that he won’t wait on them forever.
Uncommitted QB Jayden Daniels of San Bernadino (Calif.), seems headed to UCLA. He told me prior to this event that distance does matter to him, so staying close to home with the Bruins makes sense. Daniels looked better at other events this year than the Elite 11 event.
South Carolina commit Ryan Hillinski of Orange (Calif.) has an infectious enthusiasm about his game. He is so positive, and the other players love him. I had a coach and an evaluator compare his personality to Tim Tebow’s. “If you didn’t know him, you’d think it’s fake,” one said.
And the uncommitted Zach Calzada of Buford (Georiga) has one of the best arms in the nation. He is considering a number of schools, including NC State and Northwestern. Georgia offered Calzada on Tuesday.
All but Calzada made the list of 12 selected for Nike’s The Opening.
2019 looks like a blip, not a trend.
Thankfully, the elite talent looks like it will return to the position in 2020. DJ Uiagalelei of Bellflower (Calif.) and Bryce Young of Santa Ana (Calif.) already hold five-star ratings, and a number of others going into their junior seasons will have a shot at the status.
If your team already has a decent QB commitment in this class, that’s great. If it doesn’t need to take one this year, chances are it’ll land a better prospect next year than those currently available in this class. If it doesn’t have one yet and needs to hit a home run at the position, well, good luck.
All recruit rankings for the 247Sports Composite unless otherwise noted.