Arms race

QB commits are coming in bunches and one move sets off a series of others

Originally Published: July 24, 2012
By Mitch Sherman | ESPN RecruitingNation

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- When quarterback Shane Morris made his commitment to Michigan 14 months ago as a sophomore in high school, he had no idea what he started.

"I just knew a lot of other players would probably want to go to a place where they have a quarterback already committed," Morris said.

Morris wasn't trying to become a trailblazer for any group other than Michigan's 2013 signees. Yet weeks before the open of his senior season at Warren (Mich.) De La Salle Collegiate, Morris finds himself as a face of a trend that has swept the ranks of quarterback prospects.

Of the 25 QBs to participate in the Elite 11 finals Wednesday through Sunday, all but one has made his college commitment. Nationally, 20 of the top 21 pocket passers and the 15 highest-ranked dual-threat QBs have announced their pledges.

Their decisions impacted each other and college football recruiting at large.

"To a certain extent, it's a race," said Nebraska QB commit Johnny Stanton, the most recent of the Elite 11 QBs to decide. "And that's OK, as long as you choose the right school. I know I did."

Dobbs It's crazy how fast it's going, but I think we're all happy it's done. I know for me, I was aware there were a handful of guys who had already picked their schools before I did. So when I knew SC was the right fit for me, I didn't want to wait. I didn't want some other kid to take it from me.

-- USC commit Max Browne

It's a noticeable difference even from a year ago at this time, when five of the Elite 11 finalists in 2011 -- including top quarterbacks Gunner Kiel and Jameis Winston -- had yet to select a school.

Winston, to Florida State, and Kiel, to Indiana, committed soon after the event, though both wavered through the fall of their senior seasons. Winston stayed with FSU. Kiel switched his pledge to LSU, then Notre Dame, enrolling in January.

This year, the indecision appears at a minimum. The top question involves No. 1-rated QB Christian Hackenberg (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union Military Academy), who pledged to Penn State on Feb. 29 and must now consider the ramifications of major NCAA sanctions announced this week.

The others look solid to their schools. If a top QB or two switches between now and February, it would surprise no one. But largely, these players know what they want -- and why they want it -- earlier than ever this year.

"It's crazy how fast it's going, but I think we're all happy it's done," said USC pledge Max Browne of Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline, the No. 2-rated pocket passer behind Hackenberg. "I know for me, I was aware there were a handful of guys who had already picked their schools before I did. So when I knew SC was the right fit for me, I didn't want to wait.

"I didn't want some other kid to take it from me."

That's the thing about today's QB recruit: They're plugged into one another, be it through social media or events like the Elite 11 program that foster communication from coast to coast.

Jared Goff (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic) committed on March 16 to Cal, the fifth among the Elite 11 finalists to announce his choice.

"I definitely felt the pressure not to lose my spot," Goff said. "I love Cal, and I knew other kids had offers. I knew I needed to do this, because if I didn't, they might not take me."

About a week before he picked Cal, Goff canceled an unofficial visit to Boise State after the Broncos added a pledge from Ryan Finley of Phoenix.

Likewise, when Goff picked Cal, he eliminated the Bears as an option for quarterbacks like Stanton.

"Whether it's good or bad," Stanton said, "if a guy knows where he wants to go now, he's going to just go ahead and do it."

The peer pressure forced these quarterbacks to get an early education on their potential colleges. Most took multiple visits before committing, and more than half of the quarterbacks in Redondo Beach last week plan to enroll at their colleges in January.

You see, September has become late in the process for a quarterback.

"For me, all the early commits didn't speed up the process," said Arizona State commit Joshua Dobbs of Alpharetta (Ga.) High School. "My goal was to make my decision when I felt I was comfortable. I committed at the time I always planned to do it."

For Dobbs, that time was June 13, making him the 20th to commit among the 25 Elite 11 quarterbacks. One day later, Riley Ferguson (Matthews, N.C./Butler) picked Tennessee. The next day, Asiantii Woulard (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park) committed to South Florida.

The commitments often came in similar waves, more evidence that the quarterbacks pay close attention to the moves of each other.

After Morris' May 2011 pledge to Michigan, Brice Ramsey (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County) committed to Georgia in July 2011.

In a four-day window following Browne's April 4 announcement, Danny Etling (Terre Haute, Ind./South Vigo) committed to Purdue, J.T. Barrett (Wichita Falls, Texas/Rider) to Ohio State and Shane Cockerille (Baltimore/Gilman School) to Maryland.

Same thing happened in May, when Cooper Bateman (Murray, Utah/Salt Lake City) pledged to Alabama to start a four-man fury of Elite 11 commitments over six days. Later in May, Davis Webb (Prosper, Texas/Prosper) to Texas Tech, Zach Allen (Temple, Texas/Temple) to Syracuse and Luke Del Rio (Highlands Ranch, Colo./Valor Christian) to Oklahoma State all happened on consecutive days.

June brought back-to-back commitments from Anthony Jennings (Marietta, Ga./Marietta) to LSU and Troy Williams (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) to Washington, then three more on consecutive days a week later.

So all that remains from the Elite 11 crew is Zack Greenlee of Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln, the nation's ninth-rated pocket passer with only an offer from Fresno State. Greenlee said he hoped his performance among other premier quarterbacks would earn him additional attention.

Problem is, most of the top programs already have their quarterbacks for 2013.

"Yeah, but as I look at it," Greenlee said, "the more spots that get taken, the more those other schools are looking for quarterbacks. When they go out and look around, I hope I can be high on their boards.

"I'm just going to keep working hard. I think I'm doing pretty well for myself."

Greenlee would have committed early, too, he said, if he felt comfortable with his options.

The quick decisions of the other quarterbacks can skew perspective. After all, this is July. It is still early.