Commentary

Then & Now: Big numbers for Keenum

Updated: November 17, 2009, 1:17 PM ET
By Brian Stumpf | ESPN RISE

Each week, ESPNRISE.com's Then & Now features three top performers from the past weekend's college and NFL games and takes a look back at their high school careers. This week, we feature three quarterbacks who tore it up: Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, Houston's Case Keenum and Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman.

Arkansas Razorbacks
QB Ryan Mallett

Then: Mallett was an Elite 11 quarterback in the Class of 2007 and was the Gatorade State Player of the Year as a senior at Texas High in Texarkana, Texas, passing for 3,353 yards and 33 touchdowns with just three interceptions. In his three years as a starter, he threw for 8,331 yards and 76 touchdowns with 19 interceptions. Now 6-7, 240 pounds, Mallett was ranked as one of the nation's top quarterback recruits before signing with Michigan.

Now: Mallett is coming off one of his best performances of the year, having earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors after completing 23-of-27 passes for 329 yards in Arkansas' 33-16 win over South Carolina. Mallett has settled in nicely in his first year of eligibility for the Razorbacks after transferring from Michigan and is leading the SEC and ranks eighth nationally in passing with a 156.7 rating while totaling 2,480 yards and 18 TDs through the air. The sophomore is considered to be pushing Tim Tebow for All-SEC honors.

Houston Cougars QB Case Keenum

Then: The Class of 2006 was a very good one in Texas, producing national recruits and signees such as Matthew Stafford, Jevan Snead (Texas/transferred to Ole Miss), Todd Reesing (Kansas), Greg McElroy (Alabama), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech) and Andy Dalton (TCU). So it's no surprise that Keenum, who measured 6-1, 182 pounds at the '05 TCU Nike Camp, was a bit overshadowed and overlooked coming out of a smaller Class 3A school like Wylie (Abilene, Texas). He passed for 6,783 yards and 48 touchdowns in his high school career while adding another 41 scores on the ground, foreshadowing his future success as a dual-threat quarterback at Houston.

[+] EnlargeJosh Freeman
Tom HauckTampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman attended the Elite 11 QB Camp before setting records at Kansas State.

Now: Keenum signed with Houston over North Texas and UTEP and has never looked back, putting up huge numbers and leading the Cougars into the Top 25 this season while building support as a sleeper Heisman Trophy candidate. Keenum added legitimacy to his candidacy by leading the Cougars to two scores in the final 21 seconds of a 46-45 victory at Tulsa and completing 40-of-60 passes for 522 yards with three touchdowns. Keenum leads all FBS passers with 3,815 yards and 28 TD passes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman

Then: Freeman was a member of a star-studded Elite 11 in the Class of 2006 that also included Tebow, Stafford, Snead, Jake Locker, Kevin Riley and Juice Williams. The Grandview (Grandview, Mo.) star wasn't exactly ticketed for stardom at the QB position until he tore it up at the Las Vegas Elite 11 regional workout, as many pundits at recruiting services were starting to project the 6-6, 230-pounder as an athlete or tight end. Freeman passed for 7,175 yards and 80 touchdowns as a three-year starter at Grandview and eventually signed with Kansas State after committing to Nebraska early in the recruiting process.

Now: Freeman's first start in the NFL couldn't have been more encouraging for the previously winless Buccaneers, as he rallied Tampa Bay from a 28-17 deficit for a 31-28 win over Green Bay, passing for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Freeman was the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft after leaving Kansas State following his junior season. He set a K-State record with 8,421 yards of total offense in his career, passing for 44 touchdowns and rushing for another 20.