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Notre Dame Football

The Pursuit of the Elite Quarterback

January 8, 2020

The world of recruiting is always an interesting fishbowl.  I use the term fishbowl because I think fans tend to look at recruiting within a fishbowl.  They only look at their fishbowl and really can’t comprehend what is going on outside their own fishbowl.

I think that’s pretty true in regards to Notre Dame recruiting, and especially in regards to QB recruiting.  There has been this mantra amongst ND fans about ND QB recruiting that continues to fester, and the more it happens, the more people believe it’s unique to ND…it’s not.  No, ND doesn’t have a problem developing elite QBs.  Everyone has a problem developing elite QBs.  

Guess why?  

There are only so many elite QBs out there.  

True, there are some elite QBs out there now, such as Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow.  Justin Fields also looks like he could be special, and we all think USC QB, Kedan Slovis, could be a special player.  However, Slovis was a 6-foot-2, 185-pound 3-star QB before arriving at USC.  He was far from considered “elite” at the time.  Sometimes you just get lucky.  

To prove my point, I want to give you some data to consider.  

I went through the recruiting rankings of some top schools over the years to find out who they recruited at QB over the years, their ranking, and you can judge if they lived up to their ranking, if that particular school has a similar problem developing talent at QB, etc.   I’m just using rankings as I don’t have time to go through all the services.  

Let’s take a look.  

Texas QB signees.  

2005:  Colt McCoy 3-star 5.6 rating.  He turned out pretty well for a 3-star.  

2006:  Sherrod Harris 3-star 5.7 rating.  Who?

2007:  G.J. Kinne  3-star 5.7 rating.  Who?

2008:  Nobody

2009:  Garrett Gilbert 5-star 6.1 rating.  Who?  

2010:  Case McCoy  3-star 5.6 rating, Connor Wood 4-star 5.9 rating.  Who?  Who?  

2011:  David Ash 3-star 5.7 rating.  Who?  

2012:  Connor Brewer  4-star 5.9 rating.  Who?  

2013:  Tyrone Swoopes 4-star 5-8 rating.  Who?

2014:  Jerrod Heard 4-star, 5.9 rating.  Who? 

2015:  Matthew Merrick 3-star 5.5 rating.  Who?

2016:  Shane Buechele 4-star, 5.9 rating.  Couldn’t beat out Ehlinger.  OK career.  Not better than Book

2017:  Sam Ehlinger  4-star, 5.9 rating.  Solid starter.  About the same as Book.  

Michigan Signees

2005:  Jason Forcier 3-star 5.6 rating.  Who?  

2006:  David Cone 3-star, 5.5 rating.  Who?  

2007:  Ryan Mallett 5-star, 6-1 rating.  Who?  

2008:  Nobody

2009:  Tate Forcier 4-star, 5.9 rating.  Other than one game against ND, who?  Denard Robinson 4-star 5.8 rating.  Who?  

2010:  Devin Gardner 4-star, 5-9 rating.  Who?

2011:  Russell Bellomy 3-star, 5.5 rating.  Who?  

2012:  Nobody

2013:  Shane Morris 4-star, 6.0 rating.  Who?  

2014:  Wilton Speight  3-star 5.5 rating. Who?  

2015:  Alex Malzone  4-star, 5.8 rating.  Who?  Zach Gentry 4-star 5.9 rating.  Who?  

2016:  Brandon Peters  4-star 5.9 rating.  Who?  

2017:  Dylan McCaffrey 4-star, 5.9 rating.  Too early to tell

Georgia Signees

2005:  Joe Cox 3-star 5.7 rating.  Who?  

2006:  Matthew Stafford 5-star 6.1 rating.  Good college player.  Better pro

2007:  Logan Gray 4-star 5.8 rating.  Who?

2008:  Nobody

2009:  Zach Metterberger 4-star, 5.9 rating. Who?  Aaron Murray 4-star, 6.0 rating.  Solid QB, nothing great.  

2010:  Hutson Mason 3-star, 5.6 rating.  Who?  

2011:  Christian LeMay 4-star, 5.9 rating. Who?  

2012:  Faton Bauta 3-star, 5.7 rating.  Who?

2013:  Brice Ramsey 4-star.  5.8 rating.  Who?  

2014:  Jacob Park 4-star.  5.8 rating.  Who?  

2015:  Nobody

2016:  Jacob Eason 5-star, 6.1 rating.  Transferred.  Good, not great college QB.  

2017:  Jake Fromm 5-star 6.1 rating.  Solid QB, nothing great.  Book’s numbers are better.  

Florida Signees

2005:  Josh Portis 4-star, 5.9 rating.  Who?  

2006:  Tim Tebow 5-star, 6.1 rating.  Elite player

2007:  Bryan Waggener 3-star 5.7 rating.  Who?  Cam Newton 5-star, 6.1 rating.  Transferred.  Elite player at Auburn.  John Brantley.  4-star 6.0  Who?  man, Urban could recruit!  

2008:  Nobody

2009:  Jordan Reed.  4-star 5.8 rating.  Who?  

2010:  Trey Burton 3-star.  5.7 rating.  Who?  Tyler Murphy.  2-star 5.4 rating.  Who?

2011:  Jeff Driskel.  4-star.  6.0 rating.  Transfered.  Solid college QB.  Jacoby Brissett 4-star.  5.9 rating.  Who?  

2012:  Skyler Mornhinweg 3-star.  5.5 rating.  Who?  

2013:  Max Staver  3-star, 5.5 rating.  Who?  

2014:  Will Grier 4-star.  6.0 rating.  Transferred.  Good college QB in a system for QBs at WV. 2015:  Nobody

2016:  Kyle Trask.  2-star 5.3 rating.  Playing well so far.  Feleipe Franks.  4-star.  6.0 rating.  Transferring out.  So far nothing special.  

2017:  Jake Allen.  3-star, 5.7 rating.  Too early to tell.  

Penn State Signees

2005:  Darryl Clark.  3-star, 5.7 rating.  Who?  

2006:  Pat Devlin 4-star, 5.9 rating.  Who?  Brett Brackett 3-star, 5.6 rating.  Who?  

2007:  Nobody

2008:  Nobody

2009:  Kevin Newson.  4-star.  5.9 rating.  Who?  

2010:  Robert Bolden.  4-star, 5.9 rating.  Who?  Paul Jones 4-star, 5.9 rating.  Who?  

2011:  Nobody

2012:  Steven Bench.  3-star, 5.5 rating.  Who?  

2013:  Christian Hackenberg 5-star, 6.1 rating.  Major bust.  

2014:  Michael O’Connor 4-star, 5.8 rating.  Who?  Trace McSorley 3-star, 5.6 rating.  Was listed as an athlete.  Good college QB

2015:  Tommy Stevens, 3-star, 5.7 rating.  Too early to tell.  

2016:  Jake Zemblec 4-star.  5.8 rating.  Too early to tell.  

2017:  Sean Clifford 4-star, 5.9 rating.  Too early to tell.  

I could easily go through schools like Alabama, Washington, LSU, Auburn, pretty much any school not named Clemson, Ohio State, USC and Oklahoma and the signees would look very similar or much worse.  

Even when you look at Oregon’s run of recent QBs with guys like Marcus Mariota, who was ranked 3 stars with a 5.7 rating by Rivals. and Justin Hebert, who also was ranked 3 stars with a 5.6 rating.  Neither of those guys were considered elite coming out of high school, and sometimes you just catch magic in a bottle.  

Folks, there just aren’t many truly great QBs out there.  There are plenty of high four and five star players who never materialize, and It doesn’t just happen at ND as I’ve shown.

It’s been proven over and over that you need at least a very good QB, if not an elite player, to truly compete for National Championships, but as I’ve shown, there just aren’t many out there.  

I do think it helps when the head coach is extremely involved in recruiting, especially at this position, and that’s why Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma do so well landing these players.  USC has proximity, mostly, but they’ve also had some very active head coaches who recruit very hard.

As shown above, it’s very important to land some elite talent at QB because even if you do, as evidence above, often times even the high four and five star players don’t work out.  

There just aren’t that many elite QBs, and hardly anyone consistently attracts and develops them.  

In regards to the Phil Jurkovec transfer news, I think there is truly only one fact about it.  Nobody, not me, not Brian Kelly, not Tom Rees, not Phil Jurkovec, not anyone posting on any message board, commenting on social media, or reading this article, really knows what Phil Jurkovec would do if given a chance at Notre Dame.  He could either be a guy who lived up to the high expectations, or he could flame out like many of the four and five-star QBs I’ve listed above.

We simply don’t know because he didn’t play.  Whether he should’ve or not is up for debate, but I’m certain nobody truly knows how well or poorly he would’ve played at Notre Dame because he wasn’t allowed to. 

Dayne Crist, Andrew Hendrix, Malik Zaire, Brandon Wimbush…they all had talent, too.  None really blossomed when they left.  Will Jurkovec?  We simply won’t know until he’s given a chance.

I would’ve liked to seen him given a chance at Notre Dame, but I understand why he wasn’t.  As we reported many times this fall, he just wasn’t impressive in the practices we were allowed to watch this past fall, which were many.  He was much more impressive in the spring practices we were allowed to watch, which again, were many.  

Best of luck to Phil Jurkovec.  He has always been a class act.  He’s always been gracious with his time, and he represented Notre Dame well in everything he did.  

I look forward to seeing what he can do when given a chance, but as I’ve mentioned above, just because you’re ranked four or five stars, that really means very little.  In fact, the vast, vast majority of them either play slightly above average or worse, or don’t play at all, as the evidence above shows.  


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