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June 8, 2006
This recruiting year has been deemed by many as the "year of the quarterback" because of the top-end talent under center and the depth of the quarterback class. Having the most hyped quarterback in more than a decade at the top of the class doesn't hurt, but even without Notre Dame commitment Jimmy Clausen this is a special year for passers.
So how did we determine which passers were five stars, which made the Rivals100 and which missed the cut? We'll get to that in a little bit. First off, let's take a look at how many quarterbacks out there were considered for the June version of the Rivals 100. In a usual year, there are around 12 or 13 names that emerge for discussion prior to camps and combines based on film evaluation and in person evaluations. This year, by my count, there were nearly 20 in the mix from every region in the country.
This makes for a much tougher job narrowing things down and choosing the ones who are Rivals100 worthy. Quarterback is one position where it's beneficial to watch them compete at camps. While you can't gauge their grace under pressure, you can evaluate nearly everything else. From mechanics to footwork, you can tell a lot about a quarterback watching him work in different drills, throw different routes, and deliver the ball in a live situation against a defensive back.
Of the 10 quarterbacks we chose for the Rivals100, eight decided to compete at one or more camps or combines including a NIKE Camp. The only two we haven't seen this spring are Clausen and New York quarterback Mike Paulus, but both clearly have enough talent and upside to make the 100 and each has been seen in person, just not at camps. Many of the quarterbacks who just missed the Rivals100 also attended a camp or two, so going into our selections we felt confident we had seen enough of each.
Heading into the camps, Willy Korn was our No. 2 guy, but others like Tyrod Taylor, John Brantley, Ryan Mallett and Paulus were also contenders based on film evaluation. And, as always, we kept an open mind when it came to other top guys we liked on film in case they blew us away in person. Korn, who we saw extensively in person at games and at the Hoover, Ala. 7-on-7 last summer, cemented his status as the No. 2 guy with his performance at the Clemson NIKE Camp. His release, arm strength, accuracy and especially his footwork brought him closer to Clausen than expected.
So who would be No. 3? Taylor was very impressive at the NIKE Camp at Penn State and the Elite College Combine and his ability to do more than the others when things break down made him a strong candidate. But Brantley's performance at the Gainesville NIKE Camp was so impressive that he locked down the slot for now. Brantley was a little bit more filled out than expected, has a smooth release, good arm strength and tremendous accuracy. His drops were also excellent, something that was a question mark heading into the camp. Taylor came in at No. 4 and the strong competition he plays will only help him in future rankings. The Hampton Roads stud is athletic enough where defenses need to change their pass rushing techniques to contain him, something that makes him arguably more dangerous than any other quarterback. Mallett's cannon arm and better-than-expected athletic ability backed up his film and secured him a five-star slot as well. When he delivers the ball, you hear two things ? the ball cutting the air and the smack as it hits the wide receivers hands. He has a special arm.
The toughest decision was on Paulus. The New Yorker has excellent size, a strong arm and moves well on tape. His ceiling might be as high as anyone's, but without seeing him at either the Elite College Combine or at any NIKE Camps or Elite 11 workouts and factoring in that he's still raw , we just didn't feel comfortable enough to give him a fifth star. That could certainly change as we see more of him and as senior film comes in, but right now he stays on the cusp.
After those six quarterbacks, there was a bit of a drop-off on film and in person. There was a group of around 8 quarterbacks we considered for the second half of the Rivals100 and 5 of them made the cut for different reasons. Future Pitt quarterback Pat Bostick looked better at the Elite College Combine than he did at the Elite 11 workout at Penn State where he struggled and his footspeed is questionable, but he is a very smart quarterback who has accuracy and good instincts. He's advanced in his reads and is ahead of many others when it comes to the mental aspects of the game. This ability comes out on film and in person and can't be underestimated. A golden arm or super quick feet can't overcome a head full of rocks and Bostick knows the game.
Michigan State commitment Keith Nichol has solid film and was impressive in person, although his frame kept him lower on the 100. Guys like Clausen and Korn are 6-foot-2 like Nichol, but both are more filled out with a stronger core. Nichol, who has a strong arm, good accuracy and moves well, will more than likely fill out his frame just fine, but right now it remains a question mark. However, his potential was too great to leave him out of the 100. He has terrific upside.
As the 100th slot quickly approached, a slew of top quarterbacks were still in contention. In California there was Chris Forcier and Aaron Corp, Florida quarterback Stephen Garcia was also in the mix, Virginia quarterback Peter Lalich had excellent film and size, Missouri dual-threat Logan Gray was impressive in Gainesville and Texas quarterback and LSU commitment Jarrett Lee was also impressive.
Corp was the most impressive quarterback at the Los Angeles Nike Camp in our opinion, outdueling both Nichol and Lalich and he has impressive film and great mobility. He's still a bit raw which is why he placed behind Nichol in our 100, but we felt he has too many tools to be left off. The same can be said for Garcia, who has a strong arm and excellent feet although his mechanics need work. His upside is excellent and his combination of size and speed also allowed him to make the cut.
Forcier, Lalich, Gray and Lee ultimately didn't make our first edition of the Rivals100 for different reasons. Size was a question for Gray and Lee as both needs to fill out, although they are both very athletic and talented quarterbacks. Lalich looked very raw in person and didn't have the feet of Corp or Garcia, but he has a high ceiling no doubt and NFL size. Forcier's arm strength didn't match up as much with his film as we hoped but still has plenty of tools and seems to make the throws on tape.
The quarterback position is clearly the most important position for any program and ranking passers is likely more subjective than any other group. This year has been tougher than ever with so many quality prospects out there and our rankings will certainly shuffle a bit as we see more. As a fan, your guy might not be ranked as high as you like or might have just missed the 100, but hopefully the method behind the madness is a little clearer now.