If you’ve read even a single Class Breakdown or Recruiting Radar piece I’ve written in the last 5+ years, you already knew what Recruiting Rule #1 was going to be:
You have to have a QB in every recruiting class.
Now that we’ve all said that, let’s get to the question that I know many of you have had: why?
The reason is simple: Quarterback is the single most important position on any team. And, a couple years ago, Bud Elliott of SB Nation ranked QB as the 2nd toughest position to recruit. Yes, football is a team sport and all the pieces matter, but the success — or lack thereof — at the QB position can most easily affect the fortunes of a team from year to year.
The first part of the reasoning for this rule is Roster Spacing. This is something that has to be considered at every position, but matters slightly more at QB because teams, successful teams, usually only play 1 QB at a time. And there’s going to come a time when that QB leaves — either early to the NFL or to graduation — and that departure will create a vacuum of talent on the roster.
If a team has spaced out their QBs so that there is good talent left, then the loss of a top-tier player can be absorbed more easily than if there are only 2 other players at the position, who may or may not be ready to play. By virtue of taking a QB every year, the available talent should be better than skipping years at this crucial position.
The next part of my reasoning is that every team is trying to find “the man” at QB. Miami has had several of these in program history, with players such as Bernie Kosar, Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde, and Ken Dorsey fitting the bill. Clemson found Deshaun Watson. Louisville got Lamar Jackson. And the list goes on and on. But, there are other players along the way who started but didn’t play to the desired level, and every CFB team can say the same.
David Hale of ESPN recently had a salient tweet to this topic.
ICYMI: QB classes of 2014 & 15 included 76 players graded 80+.— Hidden Agenda Generator (@DavidHaleESPN) August 10, 2018
Just 20 were drafted or started last year for their original team.
Essentially, you've got a 25% chance of signing, developing & retaining a blue chip QB. Tough odds. pic.twitter.com/o22lKzBqDR
25% chance you Blue Chip QB recruit pans out for your team. Yeah, that’s LOW.
There are going to be hits and misses at QB. But the more numbers you have in the QB room, the better the chance to find a player to be “the man”. With the fickle nature of QB development — Hale’s research has the success rate of Blue Chip QBs at the school they signed with out of HS at 25%!!!!!! — having a QB every year is just a smart move.
Additionally, there are other concerns that can affect the QB depth on a team. If your starter gets injured early in the year, you could have to turn to an unproven or less-than-ideally-talented player to replace them, thus changing the fortunes of your season. See: 2017 Florida State for a recent example of that one.
Hand in hand with injuries is attrition. Obviously, it’s a rare case where a top QB talent is going to sit for 3-4 years behind an elite starter. Most players will leave to seek playing time elsewhere, which would hurt the QB depth of the roster. There have been several pieces by outlets such as SB Nation and CBS Sports detailing the trend of 5-star QB prospects transferring elsewhere. So, even if you get a top player to commit at QB, they might not stick around long.
With a QB every year, you’re automatically building in a contingency plan for the future; to cover for a player leaving. Attrition can also happen during a coaching change or due to disciplinary reasons, just to name a couple other factors you probably thought of.
Lastly, if QB is the most important position on the field (it is), then doing everything possible to find the best options at that position for a given team should have the utmost priority. Having 5 QBs on a college roster is roughly 6% of the scholarship allocation available. For a position whose performance so greatly impacts the success or failure of a college program, putting such a small amount of resources (scholarships) to that use is the least teams can, and should, do.