2018 Recruiting Class Ushering in New Golden Age of CFB Quarterbacks

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterFebruary 7, 2018

Top-rated pocket passer Trevor Lawrence is headed to Clemson.
Top-rated pocket passer Trevor Lawrence is headed to Clemson.Credit: Student Sports

The movement began last year, when the next wave of high school senior quarterbacks embarked on what was supposed to be a long, drawn-out transition to college football.

We didn't know then what we know now—that two of these players would clash in the most important football game of the season, looking at ease as a national championship hung in the balance.

Here we are, a year later, a year wiser, still trying to comprehend how two true freshmen seized control of the sport.

But something else happened on Jan. 8 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium when Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit freshman wideout DeVonta Smith in stride to win a national championship, conquering Georgia newcomer Jake Fromm.

A new era of quarterbacking was born, one built on a foundation of youth and program power. And now, with the 2018 class having the most anticipated batch of high school seniors in some time, the renaissance at the most important position in football might be upon us.

Beyond the sudden infusion of talent are the programs likely to be impacted: College Football Playoff hopefuls and the biggest brands in the sport. Teams with means and expectations and spotlights that could somehow make this infusion of talent that much more impactful.

Georgia's Jake Fromm had a phenomenal true freshman season in 2017.
Georgia's Jake Fromm had a phenomenal true freshman season in 2017.Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

It is rare for a class to produce one generational quarterback prospect. One has to go back a decade to find the last player, Matt Barkley in 2009, who closed as the top recruit in the country.

This year, we have two: Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked players in the country, respectively, according to 247 Sports. Both are widely regarded as two of the most talented quarterback prospects to emerge in some time.

They have different styles, although their potential is equally tantalizing. Lawrence, a Clemson commit and early enrollee, stands 6'6" and 210 pounds. Over the last four years at Cartersville High School, Lawrence produced enough yards (13,902) and touchdowns (161) to break Deshaun Watson's Georgia high school marks.

"In some ways, I hope we haven't been influenced by the fact that he isn't the perfect golden-boy prototype," Barton Simmons, director of scouting for 247Sports, said of Lawrence. "I don't think we have. I think he's just that good."

Fields' game is more electric and unpredictable. At 6'3" and 221 pounds, Fields is equally dangerous with his arm and his legs, making him a player who can thrive off the script or create.

The Georgia signee enters a unique situation given Fromm's spectacular year. He will be in a position to unseat one of the most promising young quarterbacks in football, much like Fromm did to former 5-star recruit Jacob Eason, who recently transferred from Georgia to Washington.

"I'm not scared of competition," Fields told Mirin Fader of Bleacher Report earlier this year. "Competition can only make you better. I don't really want anything given to me."

While Fields will compete with Fromm in the months and years to come, Lawrence will get a crack at the starting job at Clemson. He'll have to unseat last year's starter, Kelly Bryant, and also go through Hunter Johnson, a 5-star recruit from just one class ago.

Both quarterbacks are joining teams that will be expected to follow up on seasons that ended in College Football Playoff appearances. Both also enter situations with ample competition already in place.

Rather than be gifted the starting job at a school with a clear depth chart, both QBs are betting on themselves to pave their own path.

If this sounds familiar, that's because it is. Fromm did the same thing last season, committing to Georgia with a surefire star in place. He then took over for Eason when the Washington native injured his knee during the first game of the season. From there, Fromm didn't look back.

Tagovailoa committed to Alabama knowing that Jalen Hurts had just guided Alabama to the national championship game as a true freshman. And although he had to wait a full season for his gamble to pay off, his legacy was cemented over the final 30 minutes of the college football season.

Tagovailoa will battle fellow 5-star Hurts for Alabama's starting job in 2018.
Tagovailoa will battle fellow 5-star Hurts for Alabama's starting job in 2018.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Perhaps Lawrence or even Fields will provide next season's surge. Or maybe the source will come from somewhere else.

JT Daniels, the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and No. 16 player overall, reclassified from the class of 2019 to play at USC one year ahead of schedule. With Sam Darnold off to the NFL, USC may fill that void with a player who left with high school eligibility remaining.

Matt Corral, the No. 4 pro-style quarterback, possesses perhaps the strongest arm in the entire class. He'll attempt to restore Ole Miss back to relevance after NCAA sanctions.

This list is deep—from Dorian Thompson-Robinson (No. 2 dual-threat), who will be groomed to be Chip Kelly's long-term answer at UCLA, to Emory Jones (No. 5 dual-threat), who will attempt to do the same for Dan Mullen at Florida. Deeper down the list, you can find the 6'4", 232-pound Quincy Patterson (No. 13 dual-threat), who might be the most physically gifted quarterback in the entire class.

Tanner McKee, the nation's No. 3 pro-style quarterback, will take his 6'6", 220-pound frame to Stanford after serving a two-year mission for the LDS church. He won't have an opportunity to make an immediate splash like others in this class, but his talent could be worth the wait.

The group is deep and versatile, and many of these players with exceptional foundations will compete at schools with realistic intentions of winning conference or national championships.

Some of them won't turn out to be the stars they are being billed as right now, but given the plethora of players in favorable situations, this feels like a moment.

The best part? These players will complement an exceptional group already in place.

Beyond Tagovailoa and Fromm, we saw glimpses of what Sam Ehlinger was capable of at Texas—a team celebrating its most impressive recruiting class since the heydays of Vince Young and Colt McCoy. And then there's Tate Martell, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks from a season ago, who will attempt to win the vacant starting job left by J.T. Barrett.

Given other opportunities, the list of young, capable quarterbacks will grow longer. New names will emerge, some sooner than others.

The foundation in place feels as strong as it has in some time—having witnessed firsthand last month the youth movement coming to life. Now, with the next batch of hopefuls ready to begin that same transition, never has the future and present of the position felt so closely intertwined. 

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