Midwest Spotlight: Superlatives for top quarterback prospects
The high school football season sits at different stages across the Midwest, with some states just getting started, while others have already progressed to the post-season. There is no better time, then, to take a look at quarterbacks throughout the region. Who is hot, who is emerging, and which prospects are worth greater attention?
THE FRANCHISE: Donaven McCulley
With J.J. McCarthy moving down to Florida to play at IMG Academy, Indianapolis’ Donaven McCulley is now the clear top 2021 quarterback prospect in the Midwest. McCulley has decided he’s going to stay home and play for the Indiana Hoosiers, which would give them their highest-ranked quarterback signing in the Rivals era. The only other four-star quarterback the Hoosiers have signed was Michael Penix Jr., who is the team's projected starter when the season kicks off later this month.
McCulley has a chance to bring playmaking ability to the Hoosiers' offense not seen since Antwaan Randle El, though McCulley has a much better arm than the former Indiana quarterback turned NFL receiver. McCulley, in fact, has one of the top arms in the entire 2022 class, and he combines it with the athleticism and foot speed to keep plays alive even when the pocket collapses around him.
Watching McCulley live this past Friday night reminded me just how elite of an arm he possesses. There is not a throw beyond his abilities, and he regularly makes throws other quarterbacks simply do not have the capability to complete. Indiana can put the franchise tag on McCulley right now, because he has the ability to take its offense to new heights.
THE FUTURE STAR: Tayven Jackson
I had a chance to see Center Grove 2022 quarterback Tayven Jackson square off against 2021 four-star Donaven McCulley on Friday, and Jackson was able to lead his team to the win. He has had a tremendous junior season thus far. Center Grove is now 7-0, and new offers have come through from Arizona State, Iowa, Minnesota and Rutgers since the start of the season.
Jackson’s throwing mechanics are a little atypical, and likely will need some refinement before he assumes the helm of a Power Five level offense, but there is no denying his talent and potential. He has great size for the position and showed defenses have to respect his ability to tuck and run with several nice rushing gains. Jackson is only starting to scratch the surface of his talent, and the next couple years will be fun to watch his growth.
THE NEXT BIG THING: Mekhi Lynn
Cincinnati Princeton has produced several top prospects in recent years, including four-stars Darrion Henry and Jaheim Thomas in the 2019 class. The next big prospect out of Princeton is 2022 quarterback Mekhi Lynn, who has already landed scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Indiana and Toledo.
Lynn has great size for the quarterback position and a rifle for an arm. He led the Greater Miami Conference in passing during the regular season, and has thrown for 1,235 yards and 16 touchdowns through seven games this season. Lynn also possesses the athleticism to make plays with his feet when the pocket breaks down, and has averaged more than 50 yards rushing per game with six additional scores on the ground.
THE LATE RISER: Duce Taylor
This is not the year to be a late-emerging prospect on the college football recruiting scene, with questions still lingering about scholarship numbers for the 2021-22 school year and fewer opportunities for prospects to showcase their talents heading into senior year. Nevertheless, Fort Wayne, Ind., two-star Duce Taylor is making his case for late looks from college programs.
Taylor has always been one of those quarterbacks who looks like they were born to throw a football. His smaller stature may have slowed early interest, but Taylor has absolutely lit up the stat sheet so far this season. In his first five games, Taylor averaged 330 passing yards and four touchdowns per game. Taylor does hold a handful of MAC and HBCU offers, but could get late Power Five looks if a team finds scholarship room.
THE OVERLOOKED: Ron Powlus
It has been a long journey for Powlus over the last 17 months since he won the Quarterback MVP award at the St. Louis Rivals Camp prior to his junior season and subsequently landed his first Power Five offer from Kentucky. That junior season would end up almost completely washed away after Powlus was injured in Week 2, however, and the college interest has subsequently slowed to a trickle.
The son of the former Notre Dame quarterback by the same name, Powlus is back as a senior and has completed over 62 percent of his passes for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns against Mishawaka Penn’s strong opposition. Like Taylor, though, Powlus is the victim of a lost off-season due to the coronavirus restrictions and a very sluggish quarterback recruiting market for the class of 2021.
THE YOUNG GUN: Dante Moore
College coaches are already evaluating quarterbacks in the classes of 2023 and 2024. One of those who has received significant early attention is Detroit Martin Luther King sophomore Dante Moore, who landed his first scholarship offer from Michigan when he was still in middle school.
Moore went on to lead King to a state finals appearance as a freshman starting quarterback, completing 67 percent of his passes for 2,731 yards and 33 touchdowns. Moore is back captaining the Crusaders' offense again this fall, and they are off to a 3-1 start. Moore’s offer list, meanwhile, has climbed to 15 total schools, with Arizona State, Howard and Penn State the most recent additions.
THE ATHLETE: Rashad Rochelle
We have been watching Rochelle for a couple of years now, but wanted to wait until we saw his junior season to rate him. There were just so many questions still to answer, including whether he was a true FBS quarterback prospect. Rochelle is undersized for the position, but spins a beautiful ball most of the time.
When Sept. 1 hit, though, Rochelle’s stock started to shoot up. New offers came in from Duke, Rutgers and Purdue, but two of those offers were for Rochelle to play receiver. Illinois recently offered the in-state prospect as a quarterback, as did Duke. We will not get a chance to see Rochelle this fall, but a few more of those questions are starting to get answered.