Not many recent 5-star QBs have lived up to expectations in SEC
According to the composite rankings at 247Sports, there are only two 5-star quarterbacks for the class of 2018.
Cartersville (Ga.) High School’s Trevor Lawrence is the No. 1 player in America and the highest-rated QB since Texas’s Vince Young in 2002. Lawrence made use of the new early signing period Wednesday and is on his way to Clemson.
The second-ranked signal caller in the land, Kennesaw (Ga.) Harrison High School’s Justin Fields, also put pen to paper seven weeks early — the three-day window to make an official decision before National Signing Day closes Friday — and inked with Georgia. He’s considered the crown jewel of what will eventually be quite a haul.
A 6-foot-3, 221-pound dual-threat passer, Fields picked the Bulldogs after being committed to Penn State previously. He also took official visits to Alabama and LSU, which were two of the 42 offers he had on the table.
Fields is the seventh 5-star field general to sign with a program from the SEC in the last five recruiting cycles.
However, it’s impossible to ignore that the previous six made next to no impact in this conference collectively. While there’s every reason to be excited about Fields, there are no sure things at the next level.
In 2014, Kyle Allen was the No. 8 prospect in the country, No. 1 player in the state of Arizona and No. 1 pro-style passer. He went to Texas A&M, where he started five ballgames as a true freshman — former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel had just left the Aggies as a first-round draft pick — and nine more as a sophomore.
Despite a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 33-to-14 in College Station, Allen transferred to Houston.
After sitting out the 2016 campaign due to the NCAA’s transfer rules, Allen started the first three games for the Cougars in 2017. He didn’t play particularly well, got replaced by Week 4 and threw just one pass the rest of the season.
In 2015, Kyler Murray was the No. 34 prospect in the country, No. 5 player in the state of Texas and No. 1 dual-threat passer. Even though Allen had chosen A&M just a year earlier, Murray also picked the Ags. He started three times as a true freshman — replacing Allen — but threw 7 INTs on just 121 attempts in eight games.
Like Allen, Murray transferred. As a matter of fact, they announced their decisions to do so within days of each other.
Also like Allen, Murray wasn’t able to play in 2016 after heading for Oklahoma. Needless to say, he didn’t see significant playing time with the Sooners in 2017, not with Baker Mayfield running away with the Heisman Trophy.
Ranked even higher than Murray in 2015, Blake Barnett was the No. 6 prospect in the country, No. 2 player in the state of California and No. 1 pro-style passer. He signed with Alabama — which went on to capture the national championship that season. However, he was a redshirt and never stepped foot on the field.
Barnett (above) started the opener in 2016 but was yanked in favor of Jalen Hurts. The rest, as they say, is history.
With Hurts developing into the league’s offensive player of the year as a true freshman, Barnett quickly left the Crimson Tide and transferred to Arizona State. Unable to win the starting job with the Sun Devils in 2017, he attempted just 5 passes.
In 2016, Shea Patterson was the No. 4 prospect in the country, No. 1 player in the state of Florida and No. 1 pro-style passer. Expected to redshirt as a freshman at Ole Miss, he was thrust into action — a tough call was made following an injury to Chad Kelly — and immediately flashed All-SEC potential.
Halfway through the 2017 campaign, Patterson had five 300-yard passing games and gone north of 400 on two occasions.
However, Patterson suffered an injury of his own and had to be shelved for the rest of the season. While he healed, additional sanctions from the NCAA landed in the Rebels’ lap. His plan now is to transfer to Michigan in 2018.
Another member of the 2016 class, Jacob Eason was the No. 5 prospect in the country, No. 1 player in the state of Washington and No. 2 pro-style passer. Unlike Patterson, he competed for QB1 from the jump at Georgia — incumbent Greyson Lambert didn’t excite anyone between the hedges — and was the guy by Week 2.
There were more lows than highs for Eason in Year 1, but it was assumed that he’d step into stardom come 2017.
Instead, Eason exited Week 1 due to injury and may never take another snap for the Bulldogs. His backup, Jake Fromm, became co-newcomer of the year in the conference as a true freshman. Eason is now a candidate to transfer.
As for the class of 2017, Tua Tagovailoa was the No. 32 prospect in the country, No. 1 player in the state of Hawaii and No. 1 dual-threat passer. He has shined in mop-up duty for ‘Bama — 66-percent completions — but Hurts is only a sophomore. Tagovailoa probably won’t be starting for the Tide any time soon. Could he transfer, too?
Allen, Murray, Barnett and Patterson all lasted less than two full years before transferring. Eason is expected to join that list.
With regard to Tagovailoa, it’s anyone’s guess at this point. While Hurts has been sensational in college, the NFL isn’t drooling over him just yet. He’s not a contender to leave early for the draft in all likelihood.
Alabama coach Nick Saban has made the College Football Playoff twice in two seasons with Hurts atop his depth chart, so it would be a surprise — if not a total shock — to see him get the hook. If that’s indeed the case, then Tagovailoa doesn’t start in Tuscaloosa until he’s a senior in 2020. That’s hard to envision given his advanced skill set.
Georgia fans are over the moon with Fields on board, and they should be. Still, it wasn’t long ago when they felt the same way about Eason.