Clemson leads four college football teams with the best quarterback succession plans in place
The Tigers landed the No. 1 QB in the Class of 2020 over the weekend, setting them up long-term
Clemson added another log to its blazing Class of 2020 recruiting fire on Sunday, securing the fourth consecutive five-star commitment for Dabo Swinney's No. 1 ranked recruiting class in quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. With every pledge the Tigers keep racking up -- and there's more to come -- the race for the top class gets less and less suspenseful.
In case all the five-star Clemson commits have just become white noise for you, Uiagalelei out of St. John Bosco in California has a generational arm at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds. He's ranked by the 247Sports Composite as the best quarterback in the country after throwing for 3,366 yards and 48 touchdowns as a junior. The quarterback rankings in the Class of 2020 could still shift and you can make a case for others to land at the top, but it's hard to argue any quarterback, maybe even any player regardless of position, has the kind of physical talent and upside that Clemson's new commitment possesses -- think Jamarcus Russell without the character concerns.
Even if Clemson does land the No. 1 recruiting class this cycle, that class ranking is perhaps less relevant than simply securing the heir apparent under center in Uiagalelei. Along with elite coaching, development and recruiting, it's the quarterback position that has really allowed Swinney's Tigers to ride the R.O.Y. bus all the way to two national titles. With Uiagalelei in the fold, the quarterback lineage looks as strong as ever.
Especially in the age of grade transfer and quarterback room volatility, it's unique to have clear strong succession plans at the position. In light of Clemson's fortification of its quarterback lineage, we take a look at the programs with the best succession plans under center.
Trevor Lawrence to DJ Uiagalelei: There's not much that needs to be said about Lawrence. He and his long hair are quickly gaining legendary status, but sometimes we all need a reminder that the rest of college football has two more seasons to deal with him. That includes at least one year of Uiagalelei sitting and watching.
Let's make the easy assumption that Lawrence is gone after his junior season. Let's then assume that Uiagalelei wins the job as a redshirt freshman over Taisun Phommachanh. Under that scenario, we're looking at the fall of 2023 as the first possible season that Clemson is quarterbacked by anyone other than the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation. Maybe Uiagalelei likes the Clemson campus as much as Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins did and sticks around until 2023. Then we're talking 2024 before we see Clemson without a top-ranked quarterback.
Considering Lawrence was only one year removed from Deshaun Watson, and Watson backed right up to Tahj Boyd, it's a safe bet that the Class of 2024 (current seventh graders) has an elite quarterback that is only about three years removed from being wowed on a Clemson visit and keeping the streak alive.
Jalen Hurts to Spencer Rattler: From Baker Mayfield to Kyler Murray to Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma has a recent quarterback lineage that is unmatched. It's also manufactured. There's no homegrown recruiting success that has powered Oklahoma's recent quarterback boon, and you can't expect to just go shopping in the transfer portal every year and sustain success. Fortunately for coach Lincoln Riley, his days of transfer shopping appear to be coming to a close.
Rattler, the No. 1 quarterback in the Class of 2019, looks exactly like you'd expect a Riley quarterback to look. He's athletic with a quick release, a big arm and the ability to throw off platform and outside the pocket. Were there no Hurts on the roster, Rattler would be enrolling in the summer with a clear opportunity to beat out Tanner Mordecai for the starting job as a true freshman. Instead Rattler, who did not enroll early and take part in spring practice, will have an opportunity to sit behind Hurts for one year and then become Riley's first starting quarterback at Oklahoma that was recruited out of high school. That keeps Oklahoma's quarterback room stout until at least the fall of 2022, if not longer.
JT Daniels to Bryce Young: No true freshman in college football threw for more yards per game than Daniels last fall. With the success of Clemson under Lawrence as well as guys like Brock Purdy at Iowa State and Adrian Martinez at Nebraska, it's easy to overlook the kind of talent Daniels flashed at times in 2018. Even though he still needs to win the starting job for 2019, there's reason to be really optimistic about what Daniels can do in an Air Raid offense under new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.
If Harrell can unlock Daniels' five-star talent, the quarterback position is suddenly the envy of college football at USC. Consider an improved Daniels under center for at least two more years and then, similar to the situation at Clemson, in walks Young out of the Class of 2020. You can make the case -- and many have -- that Young is the better player right now than Uiagalelei. They play in the same division in Southern California, each only lost once all year (to one another), and Young has a feel for the game that is one of the best in the country. The biggest difference is size, with Young only standing about 6-foot to Uiagalelei's 6-foot-5, but the likelihood for success on the next level is a dead even.
4. South Carolina
Jake Bentley to Ryan Hilinski to Luke Doty: Unlike the other teams on this list, there's not a five-star prospect to be seen in the South Carolina quarterback succession plan, but there is a rare case of veteran leadership and back-to-back young talent. Bentley has one more year to man the wheel for the Gamecocks before giving way to what looks like an even more talented successor in Hilinski, who went 24-of-35 passing for 206 yards in the spring game, has a strong arm and some leadership qualities that you just can't coach. He's also not very mobile. Behind him comes Doty out of the Class of 2020, who started for the first time as a junior and is one of the best athletes at the quarterback position in the country for this recruiting cycle.
Will Muschamp's plan may not have some of the same sizzle as USC, Oklahoma or USC, but the framework is in place for the Gamecocks to be playing with a blue chip quarterback under center all the way into the 2024 season.
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