Signing day 2016 is in the books, and the race for top 2017 quarterback prospects began long before it ended.
In fact, any programs that didn’t get their quarterback of the future Wednesday better act soon because many of the top high school signal-callers in the class of 2017 have already made their college decisions — at least for now.
Nineteen quarterbacks are included among the top 250 overall junior prospects, according to the composite rankings of recruiting websites compiled by 247Sports. Eleven of them already have verbally committed, more than 18 months before they’ll actually begin their college careers.
“It’s pretty standard now to where almost all of the elite quarterbacks are committed well before their senior seasons,” said Barton Simmons, the national scouting director for 247Sports.
Quarterback recruiting is similar to one giant game of musical chairs.
Signal-callers are tempted to commit as soon as they receive an offer from the school they’ve established as their first choice because they realize the possibility that spot otherwise could get taken by someone else.
Jake Fromm, a junior at Houston County High School in Warner Robins, Georgia, committed to Alabama last October. He said he made his decision that early because he “knew in my heart that’s where I wanted to be” and didn’t want to risk passing up the opportunity to play there.
“Most of the time only one quarterback (gets signed by) one school,” Fromm said, “It’s a lot different from receivers, DBs or linebackers, where you can have three or four in a class.”
That feeling can go both ways.
Many elite quarterbacks often don’t want to sign someplace where another highly-ranked quarterback in his class has already committed. They understand that when a school does sign multiple quarterbacks in the same class, one of them frequently ends up transferring.
“No two top-20 quarterbacks want to go to the same school if they can avoid it,” said Emanuel Powell, who coaches Mississippi State junior commitment Keytaon Thompson at Landry Walker High School in New Orleans. “It’s not that they’re avoiding competition. They just feel like if both of them go there, odds are someone’s going to get left out, whoever it may be.”
That type of situation creates a domino effect with many quarterbacks committing in a short time span. If a college’s No. 1 quarterback target in a particular class chooses another program, that school tries to make sure it gets a commitment from its second choice as soon as possible. And if a quarterback sees his top school has already filled its quarterback needs, he also starts seeking out his next option.
That’s why many quarterback prospects follow the recruiting updates of their peers.
Tyler Hales, who coaches Braxton Burmeister at La Jolla Country Day School in La Jolla, California, said his quarterback did plenty of research while deciding on Arizona.
“They do their homework,” Hales said. “They want to find a home where they know they can compete and do well at and that will fit their skill set. Braxton, he knows everyone who’s been offered, how many quarterbacks each school has offered, who’s committed where.”
With quarterbacks deciding early, they’re able to recruit other prospects to join them.
Coaches often see quarterbacks as potential leaders of a class who can recruit players at other positions. Fromm mentioned that as one of the reasons he believes quarterbacks are committing so soon.
“For whatever reason, (quarterbacks) are more renowned and have more clout, I guess, going into social media,” said Mike Bellotti, an ESPN football analyst and former Oregon coach. “They can help you recruit — especially receivers, running backs and offensive linemen.”
Mike Farrell, the national recruiting analyst for Rivals, cited Tate Martell of Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas as someone whose personality could make him an effective salesman to other prospects. Martell, the nation’s No. 2 junior quarterback according to the 247Sports Composite, has verbally committed to Texas A&M.
“He’s a charismatic kid who is right now recruiting the heck out of anybody and everybody,” Farrell said. “You’re not going to help with the (seniors) that much because he’s a younger kid, but he’ll help with the (juniors) and (sophomores) for sure.”
Of course, he can only help Texas A&M’s recruiting class if he stays committed to the Aggies. Martell already has changed his mind once. So has Hunter Johnson, the nation’s top-rated junior quarterback.
Johnson committed to Clemson in December, less than four months after saying he planned to attend Tennessee. Martell committed to Washington before entering eighth grade, back when Steve Sarkisian was still coaching the Huskies. Martell reopened his recruitment in January 2015 and committed to Texas A&M last summer.
Even though many junior quarterbacks say they already know where they plan to play college football, they still have plenty of time to rethink their decisions.
“The earlier the commitment, obviously the better chance for a decommitment,” Farrell said. “You’ll see some of these (committed) quarterbacks end up at different places.”
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org