UGA recruiting: How do the elite QB prospects now approach their process?
Want to attack every day with the latest UGA recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. We chose today to size up the big trend regarding QB prospects, depth charts and the transfer movement at that high-profile position.
Big boy topic today. Let’s just have at it.
There have been 14 quarterbacks to earn a 5-star rating on the 247Sports Composite scale since 2012.
Of those 14, we have now seen nine of those quarterbacks transfer from the program they initially signed with. There was even one prospect who transferred, came back only to transfer again from the school he first signed with.
That’s not just the 5-star crowd. DawgNation has tracked 18 transfers from a pool of 35 quarterbacks who rated among the nation’s top 5 prospects on the 247Sports composite scale across the past seven recruiting cycles.
When trying to extend the reach out to increase the sample size, it looks like 11 of the last 19 QBs who achieved that 5-star composite rating chose to transfer since 2010.
This is not a scientific study by any means, but those cold hard numbers do tell a story. It makes one wonder.
Do today’s QB recruits look for the best fit or the best depth chart?
Are those two terms mutually exclusive in 2019?
This project makes sense for the DawgNation audience because no school has ever signed three QBs with a five-star rating over three straight recruiting cycles. That will probably never happen again.
Yet no school has seen a pair of those 5-stars transfer away in less than 12 months, too. The Bulldogs do have two of those nine transfers from that 5-star room.
The Question: How do elite QBs look at all these transfers?
What is it like to be a QB recruit these days? There’s the Justin Fields example. The Tua Tangovailoa example. The Kelly Bryant path. There’s also everything from Blake Barnett to Jacob Eason to Shea Patterson to Bryce Young and everyone else in between.
DawgNation asked over two dozen high-level QB prospects this question over the last few months. The strongest 12 responses out of all those discussions are on the board.
With that, maybe it will allow Joe Q. Reader to get the chance to see modern QB recruiting the way these talented passers now do.
Robby Ashford (2020 4-star/Undecided)
Ashford rates as the nation’s No. 5 dual-threat QB prospect. He’s seen as the nation’s No. 150 overall prospect on the 247Sports Composite. He is also a First-Year-Player Draft target for pro baseball.
The Alabama native will not enroll early. It seemed like his decision was coming down to Auburn and Georgia. Penn State and Florida were also in it.
He was thinking hard about a decision this month. That might have evolved since UGA took the commitment of Carson Beck for 2020.
Or it might have made things easier.
Quarterbacks are like that these days.
Depth charts will matter to him. The chance to play early will, too. He will seek out a strong opportunity with the baseball program, too.
He aims to play SEC baseball and should. Jameis Winston did both when he was at FSU.
Ashford mostly kept in touch with two members of the Georgia staff that are no longer there. That was QB analyst Jesse Stone (now at Miami) and former coordinator Jim Chaney. He did not interact a great deal with new OC James Coley.
He did pay attention to what was going on with all these fluid QB situations over the past year.
“I’m really learning from all of it is that it doesn’t matter how good you were if someone comes in and they play better they’re gonna get the job,” Ashford told DawgNation. “It doesn’t matter about [the] experience. It is whoever is the better player.”
Zach Calzada (2019 3-star/Texas A&M freshman)
Calzada was another guy that the Bulldogs made a huge run at after Fields was trending hard out of Athens. It was hard for him to turn down his hometown team.
But he felt that going to develop under Jimbo Fisher in College Station was the best thing for him. His recruiting benefitted from a huge growth spurt early in his prep career. He became a very hot recruit late in his recruiting process.
“I definitely think you have got to go in with the mentality of knowing that it is a process,” Calzada said. “A lot of guys do not play Year 1. A lot of them don’t play Year 2. You’ve got to be good with that going in. I think that’s definitely the goal. But you have to go in with the mindset you are going to go in and grow and learn and develop.”
He noted another aspect beyond that.
“You also have to have the mindset to know you are going to learn under the guys who are already there. They have that experience under their belt. Look at guys like Mitch Trubisky. He didn’t start at North Carolina until his third year. He ended up being one of the top picks in the [NFL] draft. It will definitely be a process but knowing a story like the one there with Trubisky will help my process when I get to college.”
“I’m there to learn first and develop first and grow and developmentally and physically first before I worry about how much I’m playing yet.”
He feels the reason all these guys move is one quarterback can play and there are a lot of guys eager to get on the field. Quarterbacks . are also less conditioned to waiting their turn because most elite QBs do not experience that coming up.
“Guys in my mind need to balance what’s best for them down the road with their eagerness to get on the field,” Calzada said.
C.J. Dixon (2020 4-star/Undecided)
Dixon will be an interesting test case at Grayson High. The senior QB rates as the nation’s No. 11 pro-style QB for 2020 on the 247Sports Composite.
He picked up big offers from the likes of Georgia, Ohio State and others last year heading into his junior year, but did not start. Despite that rating, this will likely be his first real heavy dose of starting reps.
It is easy to see the talent and arm and size and speed, but he will benefit greatly from that first real year of “QB1” experience. The potential is there but he is green.
Dixon was the backup last year behind a steady senior who just moved the team and executed the offense well. He’s been listening to what his family has been telling him about his future decision.
“You have to go with what overall fits you best and be ready to compete or go at all times,” he said. “But at the same time, you can not worry about the outside things and sayings happening around you. Focus on you and what you bring to your team and make it top-notch [so] when you get the opportunity to bring it.”
Look for Dixon to make his commitment by the end of his junior year. It could even be a little sooner than that.
Shane Illingworth (2020 4-star/Undecided)
This 6-foot-6 pocket passer from California rates as the nation’s No. 8 pro-style QB and the nation’s No. 170 overall prospect for 2020.
“My thought process is if there is a freshman already starting there when I sign I am still going to go there and compete,” he said. “Where ever I want to go I am going there for four years. That’s my thought process. Period. I’m not transferring. I’m not doing any of that transfer stuff.”
He still views it is a four-to-five year window.
“I am going to go there and compete for four or five years and give it my all. I don’t want to do any of that transferring stuff if I am just being honest with you.”
That might sound too optimistic. Maybe like he doesn’t know what is ahead of him.
But this young man has some real-life experience to back that up. He’s been one of those guys who transferred around already in high school.
“Been there and done that and don’t want to do it in college,” he said. “I don’t like it. I didn’t like it and I don’t want to do it again.”
He pointed to the storylines that played out for backups in the 2018 season. Alabama had two examples of that in the 2018 National Championship and the SEC Championship. Trevor Lawrence was even the backup QB to begin the year at Clemson.
“The season has proved that the backup can get in there as well and show that he can play when his number is called,” he said. “I think that great things can happen to quarterbacks if they just stick and wait for their shot and then make it count.”
Max Johnson (2020 4-star QB/LSU commit)
Johnson, the son of Super Bowl champion QB Brad Johnson, committed to LSU in late November of 2018.
He’s the second highest rated QB in the state this year behind Marietta’s Harrison Bailey. He chose the Tigers because it was just the right spot and the right fit.
He brought something different to the discussion about high-profile transfers.
“You are never in control of your own destiny,” he said last fall. “Be the best you can be and lead your team. If Brett Favre, Joe Montana and Peyton Manning had to leave their Super Bowl teams then it can happen to college quarterbacks, too.”
The best guy plays. Be the best guy. If you are, then you will play. He kept it simple.
“Just gotta compete and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “You can only control how you work and prepare.”
Bo Nix (2019 5-star QB/Auburn freshman)
The second highest-rated QB prospect for 2019 is the son of former Auburn QB Patrick Nix. He grew up around the game with his father as a head coach at the high school level. Patrick Nix also worked as an offensive coordinator at Miami and Georgia Teach, among other stops.
Bo Nix is already enrolled at Auburn.
“My mindset going into college is about like any other quarterback going into it there,” he said. “You want to go in there and win the job. If not, do whatever you want to do. That is everyone’s own personal opinion about what they do from there.”
But he has his own answer to that trend story.
It is stepped with the confidence of being the son of a former starting QB in the SEC. It starts with that, but then the son also led his team to back-to-back state titles in Class 6A Alabama football.
Nix was also named the “Mr. Football” by the Alabama Sports Writers Association after his senior season.
“Hopefully I can just go in there and do what I’m supposed to do and end up playing,” Nix said.
What happens if he doesn’t win the job early? His answer? Get better.
“Absolutely if you’re not the guy then you need to work harder and get a whole lot better,” he said. “But as I said, the next move is everyone’s own next choice. It is theirs. Whatever happens for them happens.”
Why does he think this trend is so prevalent?
“I think it happens because guys want to get a real opportunity again,” Nix said. “Sometimes guys move to get a new opportunity that they think is still a real opportunity for them. They want to play. I think some coaches get set on a quarterback. Once they settle on a quarterback they are set on them. It doesn’t matter if he is good or bad. Sometimes that is a factor. Other times I think guys just want to get on the field so they can make it in college.”
It is hard for any of these confident young men to make it in college if they are not on the field.
Shedeur Sanders (2021 4-star/Undecided)
Shedeur Sanders, the son of perhaps the greatest cornerback of all time, has led his team to back-to-back state titles in his two seasons as the starter.
He does not have a 247Sports Composite rating, but he does hold offers from the likes of Arizona State, Baylor, Florida, FSU, Georgia, Lousiville, LSU, Oregon and Michigan, among others.
“I know whatever school I choose I am going to go there to play,” Sanders said. “I’m not going there to just be okay with sitting behind people. If I have to redshirt, that is going to be what might happen.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder shows good touch and feel in camps. He works tirelessly with former NFL great Jeff Blake as his personal coach.
Those statistics with those transfers will not matter to his story.
“What they got going on has nothing to do with me at all,” Sanders said. “I know I’m just going to pick the right decision whenever I pick.”
He said he will choose the best fit. A strong incumbent starter will not deter him.
“If [that school] already has a quarterback and he’s up there and really ballin’ and stuff that doesn’t have any effect on if I pick the school or not.”
Brock Vandagriff (2021 4-star/Undecided)
Vandagriff was profiled on DawgNation this week. He currently rates as the state’s top-rated QB prospect for the 2021 class.
The Prince Avenue Christian sophomore has played three sports in high school and does flash clear All-American ability.
“I don’t think about those transfer situations much,” Vandagriff said. “Because with me I am a low-maintenance dude that is wanting to go somewhere for three to four years. When I get there, I plan to stay there. When other guys come in, then I am going to have to beat them out.”
“I’m going to have to beat out the guys who are already there when I get there. That’s just the way football is.”
The college coaches that give up their time to recruit him are making a commitment to him.
“That’s what I think,” he said. “So when I give my commitment to them and then sign with them, then I mean it. That’s the thing. So when I make my commitment to them by signing with them, then that’s what that is and what it should be.”
D.J. Uiagalelei (2020 5-star/Undecided)
Uiagalelei is the nation’s top-rated QB for this cycle. His decision included the Bulldogs in his top 6, but it seems like he will wind up at Clemson. Oregon also has a glimmer of a shot here.
His interest in UGA was grounded in facilities and the type of championship roster the program now has every fall. Georgia signs great players and the program is now in the mix for the national championship.
That attracted his interest from all the way out in California. He was interested in UGA when they had both Jake Fromm and Justin Fields on the roster.
The transfer rush for all these 5-star QBs will not influence him about his choice.
“It doesn’t shape it at all,” Uiagalelei said. “I am just looking for the best place that will fit me to be the best QB and get me ready for the NFL [and] also become the best man I can I be.”
Look for Uiagalelei to have his decision and share it by the end of June, if not sooner.
Joey Yellen (2019 4-star/Arizona State freshman)
Yellen chose to sign with a school that took three 2019 scholarship QBs. That’s pretty much the opposite of the “find the right depth chart” mindset.
He sought out a challenge rather than look for the most enviable playing situation.
Georgia was a contender, even at the 11th hour, for Yellen.
He didn’t sleep for two days weighing that decision leading up to the morning of National Signing Day.
“When you are a big 5-star guy when they grow up everyone is telling him how good they are,” he said. “I wonder how many times they have been challenged or placed into a real competition before or just told they will be ‘The guy’ a lot.”
He wonders about the fight that those guys have. The internal fortitude. They want to go play. Period. That’s all they have known.
“I think it is the thing that one quarterback plays on the field at the most at one time,” he said. “A lot of these guys want to go play and they want to start.”
Arizona State was the place he wanted to be. He wanted to be the face of the Sun Devils. He knew that competition was going to find him. Why not face it where he wanted to be? He got to set the terms and the practice field venue for that playing time fight.
“You can’t hide from the quarterback competition,” he said. “It is coming. No matter what. If you go to somewhere that has one quarterback on the roster, I guarantee you that guys are going to transfer in. You are not going to avoid competition in college.”
If he’s not playing by Year 3, what will he think? If the guys around him are not playing by Year 2 or 3, what does he expect them to think?
“That varies. I don’t think you can really generalize it like that,” he said. “There are different reasons and a lot of reasons why guys aren’t playing or are playing yet. But guys are moving around a lot now. I think with that transfer portal thing it will become a lot easier. I’m not sure whether that is for the better or for the worse yet. But it is changing.”
Bryce Young (2020 5-star/Committed to USC)
Young is the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat QB for 2020. He committed to the Trojans in July of 2018. That was even though Southern Cal signed a 5-star QB in the 2018 class. J.T. Daniels played in 11 games and threw 14 touchdowns as a true freshman.
He could de-commit. That’s the transfer portal off-ramp for a high school prospect.
It does seem a lot like Justin Fields and Jake Fromm at Georgia, but it doesn’t sound like the way Young is wired.
“Personally my mindset is not focused on anyone else who’s there or not there with the job,” Young said. “For me, it is all the fit. System. Coaching staff. Someplace that I can feel at home and confident. That’s something that I found at USC.”
For him, it was 100 percent fit. He wonders about guys going into a situation based on the confidence in their abilities.
“People feel like they are the best,” Young said. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Personally, I didn’t look at the depth chart when I chose USC. I obviously know it now but I knew that USC was home for me.”
“I wanted to play for coach Clay [Helton].”
He is aware of that stat about 5-stars and transfers. When he read it, he even thought it was crazy. It also humbled him.
“It shows regardless of your ranking or your status where ever you have to go, you are going to have to work for it,” Young said. “Nothing is going to be handed to you whether the depth chart is a bunch of 3-stars or some guy who hasn’t played before or a 5-star starter. Whatever it is, you are going to have to work for your spot. You can’t expect to be handed anything. So for me, I just use that for fuel to know I’m going to have to work and grind and earn my spot.”
“I’m really looking forward to doing that at USC.”
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