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Commit Fit: How the Elite 11 QBs fit with their future programs

Deuce Knight
Deuce Knight

The Elite 11 is in the books and after days of seeing these top quarterbacks in action, Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney looks at each of the committed ones and how they’ll fit in each school’s offense. Eighteen of the 20 quarterbacks in attendance have made their pledges.

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MORE: Florida State lands commitment of five-star QB Brady Smigiel

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BRYCE BAKER, North Carolina

There is an expected significant drop-off at quarterback for North Carolina and how can’t there be since first-round NFL Draft pick Drake Maye was the QB last season.

After his senior year at Kernersville (N.C.) East Forsyth, Baker will have an opportunity to come in early and play because he’s physically ready and a great decision-maker. Last year, he completed more than 66 percent of his passes for 3,082 yards with 39 touchdowns and three picks. He’s smart, he throws a beautiful ball and at the Elite 11 he was quietly solid the entire time.

Even with Maye, the Tar Heels ran the ball slightly more than they threw it last season but if some better receivers can surround Baker then they’ll have a big arm sitting in the pocket.

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TY HAWKINS, TCU

After Max Duggan’s phenomenal 2022 season, TCU had some issues at quarterback last season and some serious growing pains. Josh Hoover is back and Hauss Hejny is coming in (who could be Duggan-esque in play style) but Hawkins is at a higher level of ability.

At the Elite 11, the San Antonio (Texas) Johnson four-star was best when throwing on the run, being creative and throwing from different arm angles. He looked very solid at times during the first night but struggled during the more structured pro day portion. TCU coach Sonny Dykes and his staff have some work to do, too, to keep Hawkins in the class as SMU is trying very hard to flip him.

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TRAMELL JONES, Florida State

In the Mike Norvell era, which was also the Jordan Travis era, the Florida State quarterback ran the ball often. In 2021, Travis led the team in all rushing categories and then had 134 carries in 2021, 82 in 2022 and last season Travis was second on the team in rushing attempts and touchdowns.

That is not Jones’ game much at all as he’s far more of a pocket passer (like Oregon State transfer DJ Uiagalelei will be this season although Jones is not nearly as big). Still, Jones was one of the top quarterbacks at the Elite 11, throws a beautiful ball all the time and will be in the discussion to move even higher.

But it would be a surprise if Jones runs around much, if at all, once he starts competing for the job in Tallahassee.

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DEUCE KNIGHT, Notre Dame

Sam Hartman, the Wake Forest transfer who played last season at Notre Dame, was much more of a gunslinger - and risk-taker - than Knight should be once he gets to South Bend. The Irish also ran the ball 106 times more than they threw it last season.

But new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock should be a welcome addition for someone like Knight, who’s very similar (and two inches taller) than Michael Penix Jr. They’re both lefties, they’re both best in the pocket but Knight, who is still being heavily pursued by Ole Miss, is probably a more accurate thrower on the run than Penix at the same stage.

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KJ LACEY, Texas

Lacey is unlike any recent quarterback at Texas and very unlike any quarterback currently on the roster in playing style even though he’s pretty much a pure pocket passer.

The Saraland, Ala., four-star quarterback had five-star Ryan Williams last season so it will be interesting to see if he can keep up those impressive stats this season now that Williams is at Alabama. But Lacey showed at the Elite 11 - especially during the pro day - that when in rhythm he’s as good as any quarterback in the class and has a dynamic ability to his game.

Lacey might have to be patient in Austin, though, with Arch Manning the heir apparent after Quinn Ewers as Auburn is still trying to flip the in-state recruit.

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TJ LATEEF, Nebraska

Nebraska averaged 18 points per game last season. Starting quarterback Heinrich Haarberg threw seven touchdowns and seven interceptions and led the team in rushing. The Huskers’ two other QBs threw more picks than TDs. Nebraska is in desperate need of help there and the Huskers got it when five-star quarterback and legacy Dylan Raiola signed with them. This could be his team for the coming years.

But what makes Nebraska a good fit for Lateef is that he has always been the underdog, always competed and battled and new Raiola was the man before he picked Nebraska - and Lateef still did it. At the Elite 11, Lateef had his moments and was kind of anonymous at times but he’s coming to Lincoln to battle and that could make him a fan favorite.

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JULIAN LEWIS, USC

USC coach Lincoln Riley has done more big things with quarterbacks than maybe any coach in college football and Lewis might be a more refined passer than Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray or Jalen Hurts at the same stage and could be a nice mix of Caleb Williams and Bryce Young in Riley’s offense, which sets up the quarterbacks for success.

The criticism of Lewis' arm strength at the Elite 11 are overblown in my estimation because during the season at Carrollton, Ga., he had plenty of zip and made plenty of plays.

If he sticks with his USC commitment, it would be shocking if Lewis wasn’t successful in Riley’s offense as Auburn and Colorado are trying everything to flip the five-star quarterback.

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HUSAN LONGSTREET, Texas A&M

A new coaching regime at Texas A&M will definitely be interesting to see as new offensive coordinator Collin Klein comes over from Kansas State. Whether out of necessity or because it’s just his style, the Wildcats had 107 more rushing than passing attempts last season and used multiple tight end sets.

At Corona (Calif.) Centennial, Longstreet ran one of the fastest offenses in the country but also had a running back in Oregon State signee Cornell Hatcher, who had 268 carries and 42 rushing TDs last season. The four-star quarterback had one of the strongest arms at the Elite 11 and while he does dip the ball too low on his deep-ball release, Longstreet showed off phenomenal accuracy during the three-day event.

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ALEX MANSKE, Iowa State

This is Rocco Becht’s team after he threw for 23 touchdowns last season, more than Brock Purdy had in his final two seasons in Ames and then it will be interesting to see if it’s JJ Kohl’s offense after Becht leaves.

Manske is an interesting option as well because at the Elite 11 he was solid, threw well on the run during the first day and he plays with a high competitive level. The high three-star only threw for 17 TDs last season at Algona, Iowa but he also rushed for 12 more so there are some dual-threat capabilities there.

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ROBERT MCDANIEL, Arizona

Whether this is Noah Fifita’s last season in Tucson will be interesting to see because he will have eligibility left but once the former four-star leaves, this is going to be an open competition for the starting job. It will also be interesting to see if new coach Brent Brennan keeps things pretty balanced like he did at San Jose State or if things change in his offense.

Either way, McDonald showed at the Elite 11 that he’s ready to compete and get after it, he was one of the best performers during the pro day portion of the event and while he completed just under 60 percent of his passes last season (not ideal) there’s a little bit of gunslinger in him that could bode well for the Wildcats.

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RYAN MONTGOMERY, Georgia

Florida and South Carolina were Montgomery’s leaders for the longest time and then Georgia finally came through with an offer and the competitive four-star from Findlay, Ohio picked the Bulldogs.

After Carson Beck leaves after this season there are some big names to compete with but Montgomery has definitely not backed down to that and with his live arm and accuracy (he completed nearly 69 percent of his passes last season) Montgomery is going to have a chance to be a star in Georgia’s offense. The four-star was one of the bigger surprises at the Elite 11 and he proved there probably aren’t 12 pro-style quarterbacks better than him.

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LUKE NICKEL, Miami

During the Elite 11, Nickel was not one of the best QBs there and he wasn’t one of the worst, the four-star Miami commit was somewhere in the middle - solid but not spectacular.

What was most impressive about the Milton, Ga., standout who had the luxury of throwing to South Carolina signee Debron Gatling, 2025 four-star CJ Wiley and others last season was that during the Elite 11 pro day as players started struggling, Nickel stepped up and finished really strong.

After Cam Ward leaves Miami for the NFL after this season, is there a quarterback on the Miami roster that Nickel cannot compete with? He’s in a good position with the Hurricanes.

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KEELON RUSSELL, Alabama

It seemed like Washington threw the ball way more than the Huskies ran it last season especially with quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and pass-catchers Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, Jack Westover and Jalen McMillan but they actually ran the ball more often. That should fit in well with Alabama’s traditional style of overpowering and overwhelming teams up front but coach Kalen DeBoer and his staff are still going to throw it a ton.

That should be perfect for Russell, who will be in the five-star discussion after his showing at the Elite 11. The former SMU pledge who flipped to Alabama earlier this month is so smooth, so accurate and the ball pops off his hand like not many other quarterbacks.

After Jalen Milroe, Austin Mack followed DeBoer from Washington and there is other young talent on the roster but Russell’s high-level abilities could overwhelm everybody to win the job.

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AKILI SMITH JR., Oregon

The quarterback transition plan looks to be Oklahoma transfer Dillon Gabriel followed by UCLA transfer Dante Moore, a former four-star who got thrown to the wolves last season and needs some seasoning before taking over the starting role, and then once Moore is done in Eugene it looks like an open competition.

There is some young talent on the roster but no one as physically imposing or impressive as Smith, who had hot and cold moments at the Elite 11. But he’s a legacy there and he has all the tools to be a really legit quarterback down the road if the four-star can put it all together.

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KEVIN SPERRY, Oklahoma

It feels like Sperry was destined to play at Oklahoma. The former Midwest City (Okla.) Carl Albert four-star who has now transferred to Denton (Texas) Guyer has been committed to the Sooners since March 2023 but now it’s a question of when he can see the field.

This is former five-star’s Jackson Arnold’s offense and then Michael Hawkins is no slouch along with others so there will be some serious competition. That’s always expected in Norman but if Sperry can get on the field it’s because he’s a gamer, someone who doesn’t back down to competition, makes great decisions on the field and while he doesn’t blow anyone away physically he just gets the ball where it needs to be over and over.

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TAVIEN ST. CLAIR, Ohio State

If there is a comp for St. Clair among Ohio State quarterbacks it could be Terrelle Pryor as both are almost exactly the same height and weight but their playing styles are different. First, St. Clair is a far more accurate and fluid passer than Pryor was during his time in high school and in Columbus and St. Clair isn’t as much of a risk taker, either.

Arguably the best overall quarterback at the Elite 11, St. Clair is mainly a pocket passer who can deliver it everywhere, on time and it looks really pretty. In an offense run by some of the best coaches in college football, with some of the best receivers in college football, St. Clair should be a prize in Columbus. The only issue: Former five-star Julian Sayin, as cerebral as it gets, is waiting in the wings to take over the starting job there.

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KAMARIO TAYLOR, Mississippi State

It’s going to be really interesting to see what new Mississippi State coach Jeff Lebby can do with Taylor and how he can mold and refine his game. There’s no question that the Macon (Miss.) Noxubee County four-star dual-threat QB has loads of talent and potential with 48 touchdowns and only five picks last season along with 789 rushing yards and 15 more scores last season. But Taylor only completed around 60 percent of his passes and he was very hot or cold at the Elite 11.

We expect Lebby to throw the ball a lot and feature his QBs. Taylor might need some refining but that’s a prospect Lebby can really work with.

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MATT ZOLLERS, Missouri

Zollers did not have a great pro day portion at Elite 11 but last summer Florida State signee Luke Kromemhoek had a poor showing but actually moved up in the rankings because the potential was there. The Royersford (Pa.) Spring Ford four-star is best in games where he can throw from the pocket, throw on the run, be creative, have the RPO option or even have some designed runs for him. Did he show he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the country? No. But Zollers has some spark to his game and he’s surprisingly athletic so there is a lot for Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz and his staff to work with in Columbia.

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