Thursday, May 15, 2014
States of strength: California quarterbacks
By Erik McKinney
The 2015 quarterback class in California not only has a chance to shape the recruiting rankings in February, but also has an opportunity to shift college football's national landscape for the next few years. While the Golden State has produced more than its share of quarterbacks over the years, not in recent memory has there been a group as deep and talented as the 2015 crop. The Pac-12 is looking to capitalize on the array of talent at the position, but programs from across the country are looking to pry a few of the signal-callers out of the area.
Here are the ESPN 300 quarterbacks from the state:
Rosen was an early lean to Stanford and gave significant looks to Cal and Michigan before selecting the Bruins in late March. Rosen led his high school to an undefeated season and state championship as a junior, one year after breaking onto the national recruiting scene as a sophomore. As the top-ranked quarterback in the nation, Rosen's commitment to UCLA was huge for the Bruins as he has quickly become one of the top recruiters in this class.
Barnett was under the radar following his sophomore season, but saw his recruitment explode following a tremendous junior year. Now the No. 54 overall prospect and No. 6 recruit in California, Barnett made his commitment to the Fighting Irish during an unofficial visit in late November. Though Barnett will continue to hear from additional programs, it will take something significant to pry him away from his Notre Dame pledge.
Jake Browning -- No. 4 pocket passer -- 6-2, 185 -- committed to Washington
Browning put up huge numbers at Folsom during his first three seasons there, setting a single-season state record with 75 touchdown passes as a junior to go along with 5,737 yards through the air. A recruiting battle between Cal and Washington developed, and despite an offer from Alabama, the Huskies were able to reel in a commitment in late March.
Ricky Town -- No. 5 pocket passer overall -- 6-4, 190 -- committed to USC
The No. 92 prospect overall committed to Alabama last year, but USC coach Steve Sarkisian and staff worked hard to flip Town's commitment, which happened at the end of January. Like Rosen, Town shot onto the scene as a sophomore, taking over a prominent California program and landing several national offers before the start of his junior season. Also like Rosen, Town has become an extra coach on the recruiting trail, working to add additional members to USC's class.
Brady White -- No. 6 pocket passer -- 6-2, 186 -- committed to Arizona State
White had a big spring in terms of offers, as schools such as Arizona, Arizona State, California, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville, Nebraska, Penn State and Washington State all stepped forward. White's decision to commit to Arizona State was a big win for the Sun Devils, who now hold commitments from a strong pocket passer and dynamic dual-threat quarterback.
Waller has been one of the state's fastest risers this spring. Playing for a traditional state power, Waller showcased his leadership abilities and natural talent during his junior season. He's backed that up with a strong spring, and holds offers from programs such as Arizona, Colorado, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Penn State, Tennessee and Utah. Oregon and Stanford remain high on the wish list for Waller, and either would be tough to beat if an offer is extended.
It's unlikely that any quarterback will see his stock rise more this summer than Kearns, who holds an offer from SMU and interest from programs across the country. If the Mustangs -- who had Kearns on campus for an unofficial visit -- can find a way to seal the deal with the No. 157 prospect in the country, it would count as a huge recruiting win.
One of the region's top dual-threat quarterbacks, Jones appears to be in no hurry to commit to a school and could wind up being chased by some of the bigger programs in the country. Florida has already extended an offer, and Ohio State, Oregon and Texas A&M are giving him strong looks.
Tyler Hilinski -- pocket passer -- 6-4, 187 -- Committed to Washington State
The younger brother of Kelly Hilinski, a quarterback in the 2013 class, Tyler has made a name for himself in the past year. He's been a spring standout in each of the last two offseasons and jumped on an offer from Washington State. Joining a Mike Leach offense is never a bad idea for a quarterback, but Hilinski could see his stock rise further during his senior season as the quarterback dominoes continue to fall.
Key recruiting battles
It's tough to say there are battles still going on for the top three quarterbacks in the state, but this is also college recruiting, and nothing is ever really finished. UCLA looks to have things locked up with Rosen, but Stanford might be able to make things interesting if it throws its full weight into bringing the nation's No. 1 quarterback into the fold. Similarly, Oregon will continue to make a run at Barnett, which could intensify if the Ducks miss out on Kyler Murray. While it's doubtful that anybody would bet on either quarterback switching their verbal commitments, it's never wise to rule anything out completely when it comes to recruiting.
As far as uncommitted quarterbacks, Jones looks to be the recruit who could wind up at the center of the biggest battle, as he is a talented player who could let the process play out.
School that needs a QB
UCLA and USC were very much in need of a quarterback in this class, and both responded perfectly to the task. Of the programs without a committed quarterback who stand to benefit the most by the state's abundance of talent at the position, Arizona and Cal immediately jump out. While Cal brought in two quarterbacks with the 2014 class, head coach Sonny Dykes isn't likely to skip a year when it comes to recruiting that position. And even though the Wildcats seem to have a glut of quarterbacks on the roster, it would be a shock if Rich Rodriguez doesn't reel in another talented option in this class.
2016 name to know
Malik Henry is already drawing comparisons to Jameis Winston with his tremendous ability in both baseball and football. Henry's offer sheet expanded this spring -- Arizona State, BYU, Colorado, Nebraska, UCLA and USC have offered -- but it's likely only a hint of what it will look like following his junior season. Henry would like to play both sports in college, and the two local programs -- UCLA and USC -- have done a good job recruiting him early in the process.