Every year in college football there is major roster turnover. As players leave their old teams and venture onto the NFL, colleges must find replacements. This year there is no greater turnover than at the quarterback position. All four of the playoff teams from last season are set to have new starting quarterbacks. But who are these new faces, where do they come from and what can we expect from them?
The Alabama Crimson Tide will have a sophomore at the helm by the name of Bryce Young. Young is a smaller prospect standing 5’11 with a thin frame of 197 pounds. Coming out of Mater Dei high school in 2020 he was ranked as the 2nd highest recruit and the highest ranked quarterback of his class according to 247sports. 247sports also graded him as the 20th best recruit of all time and the 4th best quarterback recruit ever with a composite score of 0.9994.
The California native couldn’t be more different from the Alabama’s last quarterback, Mac Jones. Unlike Jones, Young often uses his legs to make plays. Whether it be to actually run the ball himself or to extend the play. When watching him play it is easy to compare him to former Crimson Tide star, Tua Tagovailoa. Watching how incredibly calm he is in the pocket and the level of intelligence Young plays with, it’s hard not to see the comparison between him and Tua. Add in the superb athletic ability that Young brings to the table and you have a potential star in the making.
The Ohio State Buckeyes also find themselves with a new quarterback steering the ship. They no longer have the luxury of relying on the superstar that is Justing Fields. His backup for the 2020 season was freshman, now sophomore, CJ Stroud from Rancho Cucamonga, California. The 4 star QB is expected to start for the Buckeyes in 2021 after a year of development under Fields.
Despite being listed as a pro style quarterback on 247sports.com, Stroud has more than enough athleticism to be a real threat running the ball and escaping the pocket. His two biggest positives though are his arm strength and his deep ball. Ohio State is sticking with that big, athletic, strong arm quarterback mold here with Stroud. These types of QBs have had a lot of success within the OSU program, most notably Fields. While Stroud definitely has the height aspect down standing 6’3, it would definitely help if he could add some pounds to his frame. The sophomore only weighs in at 195 pounds which makes him one of the leaner quarterbacks in the NCAA.
While Stroud will be the opening day starter for the Buckeyes, it is also important to note that they have another 4 star sophomore QB on the bench. Kyle McCord may very well get a chance to see the field if Stroud fails to impress the coaching staff.
Much like the first two teams I touched on, the Clemson Tigers will be passing the torch to a true sophomore quarterback. DJ Uiagalelei and Bryce Young battled for the top ranked quarterback spot in the 2020 recruiting class, going back and forth all season long. Young eventually won out and Uiagalelei landed as the 10th ranked recruit. But the 5 star QB is still a scary talent as he is expected to be the next great Clemson QB in succession to Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence.
Probably the most astounding thing about him is his otherworldly size. Coming off of a 6’6, 220 quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, some would say it’s hard to get any bigger while still maintaining elite athleticism and mobility. Well, Uiagalelei proves them wrong as he weighs in at monstrous 245 with a height of 6’5. Besides his size, the arm strength he posses is mind boggling. Greg Biggins from 247sports.com notes that Uiagalelei is a “Big, strong armed quarterback with generational arm strength.” Biggins continues his praise of the underclassmen, “Has one of the strongest arms in recent memory.” Because of his superb size, arm strength and athleticism, Uiagalelei has been compared to players like Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen.
When Trevor Lawrence was out for a 2 game stretch in the middle of the 2020 season, the freshman jumped into the starting lineup and he did not disappoint. In those two games against Boston College and a playoff team in Notre Dame he recorded 914 yards, 6 total touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Clemson defeated BC and took Notre Dame to 2OT with the St John Bosco alum as their signal caller. Against one of the top defenses in the nation in the Fighting Irish, Uiagalelei had a stellar performance with over 400 passing yards as well as 3 total touchdowns and no turnovers. Even though we only have an incredibly small sample size for the young QB, It looks like Clemson’s future is in good hands.
Notre Dame is the only squad out of the 2020 playoff teams who will have an upperclassmen QB starting for them. Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan will take over for the Fighting Irish in 2021. Coan is the least decorated quarterback out of all of these new QBs as he was a 3 star recruit in 2017. Ranked as the 20th best pro style quarterback and the 469th player nationally, the odds were definitely against Coan when he arrived at the University of Wisconsin.
As a freshman and sophomore he didn’t see the field very often and it was only in his junior year that he got the chance to start full time. As the starter in 2019 he led the Badgers to a 10-4 record with a 7-2 in conference record which allowed them to finish atop the Big 10 West and nearly led them to an upset over then undefeated Ohio State.
Coan is exactly the type of QB that Notre Dame is looking for and has had in recent years. The Long Island native is a guy that can get the job done in an efficient way but he won’t be a superstar for your team. He is a game manager, which is the role that Notre Dame QBs have played for a while because of their dependence on the running game. We also should remember that Wisconsin relied heavily on the ground game in 2019 when they had Jonathan Taylor in the backfield. So Coan’s role in the Notre Dame offense will be very similar to his role 2 years ago with the Badgers. However since Coan isn’t as mobile as Ian Book was, expect there to be a lot less designed QB runs and roll outs in the cards for this Fighting Irish offense.
Image: TDA Magazine