football Edit

Ranking newcomer QBs in Power Five conferences

Newcomers at quarterback are more common it seems these days, but in the Power Five this season there have only been a handful of true freshmen or JUCO transfers that have made an impact. Here’s how we rank the ones that have impressed through three weeks.

1. JALEN HURTS, ALABAMA

Overview: Hurts won the starting job for the Crimson Tide over Blake Barnett and Cooper Bateman, and it’s working out well so far. The former four-star has thrown for 563 yards with four touchdowns and a pick. He is second on the team in rushing with 197 yards and two scores. In his biggest test yet last weekend at Ole Miss, which had beaten Alabama twice in a row, Hurts had a game-high 146 rushing yards and also threw for 158 yards in the Crimson Tide’s 48-43 win.

Farrell’s Take: Hurts was always known for a big arm and he could throw the ball a mile, but his touch wasn’t consistent. However, he was the kind of kid who seemed very relaxed on and off the field and never shrunk from the moment. Hurts was smart with the football and his accuracy improved greatly between his junior and senior seasons. I certainly didn’t see him heading to Alabama and taking the starting job from day one.

2. JEROD EVANS, VIRGINIA TECH

Overview: There was a lot of hype and excitement surrounding Evans’ arrival in Blacksburg and the JUCO transfer is backing it up. Through three games, Evans has thrown for 682 yards with 10 touchdowns and one pick. He is second on the team with 112 rushing yards. Evans torched Boston College’s usually stout defense for 253 passing yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 49-0 win last week.

Farrell’s Take: Evans was a highly-rated dual-threat out of JUCO last season and the fact that he’s taken the starting job so early and with added success each week is not a surprise. He has great size and his mobility is excellent. Evans could become a star under Justin Fuente. I absolutely love this kid’s upside and I think that, despite his lack of experience, he could be a huge surprise to many in the ACC this season. Evans exudes confidence and is a pure leader.

3. SHANE BUECHELE, TEXAS

Overview: Buechele beat out Tyrone Swoopes in the preseason and has performed well through three games by completing more than 66 percent of his passes for 720 yards with seven touchdowns and two picks. He’s also rushed for a score. The former four-star had an uneven performance in a loss at Cal last weekend with 196 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception but Buechele was terrific in Texas’ win over Notre Dame to start the season.

Farrell’s Take: The thing I liked about Buechele is that nothing seemed to faze him at the high school level. He took everything in stride and had a great pocket presence. Buechele was mature for his age and showed good size, footwork and the ability to make plays passing or running. We had him just outside our Rivals100 but I have a feeling he could end up being a rankings regret. Buechele could be a great one for the Longhorns. The sons of elite athletes - his dad is former major league baseball player Steve Buechele - mature quicker and take pressure and attention in stride. I think that’s the case here.

4. JACOB EASON, GEORGIA

Overview: Eason now looks to be the starter after throwing a game-winning 20-yard touchdown on fourth down to beat Missouri last week. The former five-star has thrown for 643 yards with five touchdowns and two picks so far this season. In the 2016 recruiting class, Eason was the top-rated pro-style quarterback and seventh overall.

Farrell’s Take: Eason is one of the better pro-style quarterbacks I’ve scouted in my career and I think he has a chance to be great down the line. He needs to work on taking something off the ball and on his touch, but he can fit the ball into some tight windows. Eason showed this past weekend he’s not going to be rattled in key situations. He’s learning on the job but developing as expected. The sky is the limit for the guy who reminded me so much of a taller Matthew Stafford when I first saw him in person.

5. RICHARD LAGOW, INDIANA

Overview: The former Cisco (Texas) C.C. standout has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 506 yards and four touchdowns through two wins so far this season. Last year in junior college, Lagow threw for 2,285 yards with 21 touchdowns so putting up big numbers is nothing new for him.

Farrell’s Take: A three-star quarterback out of high school and last season out of JUCO, Lagow has great size and a powerful arm. He wasn’t heavily recruited, but Kevin Wilson knows a thing or two about quarterbacks so this early start isn’t shocking. Lagow's ceiling is very high despite few offers and he does remind me a bit of former Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld at the same stage.

6. TROY WILLIAMS, UTAH

Overview: Williams is completing about 63 percent of his passes and has thrown for 723 yards so far but has four touchdowns and four interceptions including three picks in a one-point win over BYU. The former four-star and top-rated dual-threat QB in the 2013 class started his career at Washington before transferring to Santa Monica C.C. and then to Utah.

Farrell’s Take: Williams, a Rivals100 four star out of high school, wasn’t tall but I loved his arm strength and his release. However, he was a bit of an arm thrower and relied too heavily on that cannon, allowing him to wear down at times. But he threw an amazingly catchable ball in a perfect spiral and his compact release allowed him to get the ball out quickly. I’m surprised he didn’t work out in Washington and he lost his confidence there. He appears to have his swagger back despite some struggles here and there so far.

7. BRANDON McILWAIN, SOUTH CAROLINA

Overview: McIlwain is a run-pass threat for South Carolina and has proven that through three games this season. The former four-star has thrown for 356 yards and two touchdowns, and he’s the only player on the team to have rushed for two scores so far. He was the only Gamecocks’ quarterback to play in the win over East Carolina last week and he rushed for two scores in the first quarter.

Farrell’s Take: McIlwain can move around and he has a very good arm, especially for a smaller quarterback. It’s that size that had him bouncing around the rankings so much. In the end we went with four stars based on his intangibles and that arm and mobility. McIlwain's size could be problematic against SEC pass rushers down the line, but so far he’s showing the ability to find passing lanes and throw outside the pocket.

8. STEPHEN JOHNSON II, KENTUCKY

Overview: Johnson saw some time against Florida but it was this past week in a 62-42 shootout win over New Mexico State where the JUCO product really shined. The former Palm Desert (Calif.) College of the Desert recruit threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for 51 yards in Kentucky’s first win this season.

Farrell’s Take: With Drew Barker’s situation questionable and after how Barker looked against Florida, could this be the change the offense needs? A little known two-star out of the JUCO ranks, Kentucky was his only big offer and he wasn’t evaluated heavily. Could Johnson be that diamond in the rough? Can he save the Wildcats' season? Those are a lot of questions following one good game against an inferior opponent but Johnson could be a big factor down the stretch if Kentucky wants to make a bowl game.