What we saw during Monday’s National Championship game was an impressive showing as two true freshman quarterbacks went to battle in the second half. Georgia QB Jake Fromm was widely considered a four-star prospect, who took over early in the season for the injured Jacob Eason and never looked back, throwing 24 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Meantime, Tua Tagovailoa spent most of his time playing in mop-up duty behind sophomore Jalen Hurts. But Tagovailoa came in in relief for Hurts in the second half of the National Title game and led the Crimson Tide back to victory for their fifth National Championship in the past nine years. Incredible stuff.
But the game highlighted a trend that continues across college football: true freshman quarterbacks seeing significant playing time. Now as the Big 12 loses some of its best signal callers, that could very well be the case in the Heartland next fall. Here are the Big 12 teams that could find themselves with a true freshman under center, or more likely in the pistol/shotgun, in 2018.
Oklahoma State Cowboys: Spencer Sanders
Sanders is the best quarterback recruit the Pokes have had since Mason Rudolph in the Class of 2014, and we know how well that worked out. Sanders is from Denton, TX and is rated by 247Sports as the 9th best dual-threat QB in the Class of 2018. He’s also the 16th best player in Texas. Sanders’ competition isn’t all that stiff. I don’t think anyone believes that Taylor Cornelius is legitimately the answer for Oklahoma State in his redshirt senior season. The next-best options would be Jelani Woods or Keodre Wudtee, but neither were as highly regarded coming out of high school as Sanders is. Also, and more important than height, arm strength, and talent, Sanders has had “it” for all of his high school career, according to Dave Henigan, his head coach at Denton Ryan. We might find out soon enough as to whether or not that “it” in high school translates to the next level in Stillwater.
TCU Horned Frogs: Justin Rogers
The general consensus appears to be that TCU will turn the reins over to Shawn Robinson, who was a highly-touted four-star prospect in the Class of 2017 and played a little as a freshman this past fall. But, in the words of Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend!” Enter: Justin Rogers. Rogers is a top-40 prospect and the No. 2 dual-threat QB in the country, according to 247Sports. Also, the Bossier City, LA native is already on campus.
Official moved into TCU and ready to get back to work, Slow-grind.. #CarterBoys
— JG1 (@_justinrogers) January 9, 2018
Rogers could’ve gone anywhere in the country and picked TCU over LSU, Texas A&M, Texas and several others.
Robinson, from nearby Desoto, Texas, was solid in his one game of significant action against Texas Tech, but his passing abilities clearly looked like they had a ways to go. He finished the game 6 of 17 for 85 passing yards, along with 10 carries for 84 yards. He will have his hands full with Rogers in spring and summer camp.
Texas Longhorns: Cameron Rising
I know what you might be thinking, “but wait, Texas already has two quarterbacks!” Yea, but neither beat the other one out all season, and it’s not because they were both lighting it up. Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele each left plenty to be desired last season. Now maybe that’s partly the fault of a flakey offensive line. Fine, but neither have earned the right to not be in a competition with a true freshman. Plus, considering how many four and five-star QBs we’ve seen Texas fail with in recent years, they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Throw Rising in the mix and let’s see what the kid has.
The California native was originally an OU commit, but backed out and picked Texas over Oklahoma, Oregon, and UCLA. Part of that reason? Maybe he saw a better chance to get on the field sooner (no pun intended) in Austin. And frankly, who could blame him?
Rising is enrolling early and this scouting report from Burnt Orange Nation cites a guy with a monster arm, writing, “A four-star talent, Rising is set to enroll early and will bring with him one of the strongest arms in the nation, as evident by his 42.5-foot power throw, which tested as the best among all 2018 quarterbacks. When the arm strength is put into play in pads, the ball comes out of his hands like a missile, which allows Rising to make nearly every throw on the field with a simple flick of the wrist. Along with the zip he can provide, Rising also displays a soft touch when necessary, in which he can drop the ball into a striding receivers hands just over the coverage.”
Vegas apparently thinks that Sam Ehlinger is a Heisman contender, and I agree he’s a contender… that is a contender for the Texas starting QB job, because the true freshman is coming in hot.
Texas Tech Red Raiders: Alan Bowman
Bowman is a three-star prospect from Grapevine, TX, who has been set on the Red Raiders since the summer and signed during the early signing period last month. I could not find any information as to whether or not Bowman was enrolling early, but either way, this is more of an indictment on what Tech brings back at the position. McLane Carter nearly cost Kliff Kingsbury his job with his play against Texas, before Kingsbury wisely turned the offense back over to Nick Shimonek. Shimonek is gone and the battle is likely Carter and Jett Duffey, who just finished his redshirt freshman season and was a top 100 player in Texas in the Class of 2016.
But why not Bowman? He comes from impressive lineage as a third-generation college football player. Alan’s father, Kirk Bowman, and his grandfather, Wayne, both played their college football at Penn State. He’s a mature kid who is preparing for a very quarterback-friendly system. I don’t see why Tech wouldn’t get him involved early in the competition and at least see what he’s got.