Is the influx of top 2017 QB commits a sign of a changing of the guard in the B1G?
It’s a stat that should probably scare any top quarterback recruit. In fact, some non-B1G coaches have probably used it a bunch of times.
“No B1G quarterback has been drafted in the first round since 1995.”
That drought has been well-documented. It’s no coincidence that 13 B1G running backs have been drafted in the first round since that now-infamous streak began. The B1G isn’t known nationally as a passing conference, and usually the narrative repeats itself. One mid-November visit to Madison can sometimes serve as a reminder that B1G country can be a cold, unfriendly place for top quarterbacks.
Sure, there are B1G-to-NFL success stories like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins. But those guys weren’t highly-touted recruits. Florida and USC weren’t exactly begging them to come on board.
Rare are the Christian Hackenbergs, who come into the B1G as blue-chip, pro-style quarterback recruits. In fact, when Hackenberg enrolled at Penn State in 2013, it marked the only time in the recruiting rankings era that the B1G landed two of the top three quarterbacks in the country (Michigan’s Shane Morris was the other).
That is, until 2017.
That became unofficially official when top-dual threat QB Tate Martell announced his commitment to Ohio State earlier in the month. The B1G’s 2017 class of quarterbacks has potential to be the best in the conference’s history. Martell and five-star pro-style Michigan commit Dylan McCaffrey are the cream of the crop, but the group is deeper than those two.
Here are the four-and five-star quarterbacks already committed to B1G schools (the number is their overall quarterback ranking):
For any other Power Five conference, that might look like a solid, but not earth-shattering year. In the B1G, it’s historic.
If Martell and McCaffrey sign, it’ll be the first time since 2004 that the B1G landed two quarterbacks ranked in the top 50 overall. It’ll also mark the first time since 2013 that the B1G signed just one quarterback ranked in the top 50 overall. Martell is the first top dual-threat quarterback to commit to the B1G since Terrelle Pryor in 2008. From 2007-15, 2013 was the only year in which the B1G landed more than three four-star quarterbacks.
RELATED: How does Ohio State’s 2017 class compare to the B1G’s best ever?
Ok, so I’ve referenced 2013 a lot. At the time, it probably felt like the B1G had turned a new leaf. But only two of those eight four- and five-star quarterbacks (Hackenberg and J.T. Barrett) held down a starting job. The 2013 class didn’t revolutionize the quarterback position in the B1G the way some might’ve expected it to.
Despite the limited number of successful five-star quarterbacks in the B1G, the conference has become more pass-reliant in the last decade. The numbers prove it:
|B1G TEAM YEARLY AVERAGES||2006||2015|
Does the B1G compare to the Big 12 when it comes to pass-heavy offenses? No. In fact, Indiana and Nebraska were the only teams that ranked in the top 50 in passing yards in 2015. And B1G teams actually passed the ball 46.4 percent of snaps in 2006 compared to 45.5 in 2005.
So what’s changed the landscape to make top quarterbacks want to come to B1G country? Well, it’s likely a variety of things.
It could certainly be a scheme. Days of the old, I-formation offenses have all but vanished in the B1G. Up-tempo style offenses have popped up in places like Maryland and Penn State. The B1G’s run-to-pass ratio has actually increased slightly in the last decade while passing attempts per game have also increased. How can that be? B1G offenses are running more plays.
It also probably has something to do with increased access to recruits across the country. Besides the obvious emergence of social media and Hudl in recruiting, there are more 7-on-7 tournaments and quarterback showcases than ever.
The numbers back up the globalization of quarterback recruiting in the last decade. In 2006, only 18 percent of the B1G’s starting quarterbacks came from outside the conference’s footprint. In each of the last three recruiting classes (including 2017), half of the B1G’s quarterback commits were from somewhere outside of B1G territory.
There might be a simple explanation for the influx of quarterback talent from across the country. Could it just be that there’s better recruiters and coaches in the B1G now than there was 10 years ago? We’ve seen what Mark Dantonio, Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer do with quarterbacks. The fact that all of them are top-10 coaches — top seven if you ask me — has to help.
RELATED: Numbers show B1G is making major headway in recruiting hotbeds
If there’s one thing we know, it’s that recruiting is about relationships. A four-star quarterback from California like Tristan Gebbia might not even think of the B1G as the run-heavy, first-round-quarterback-lacking conference that it is. He’s going to Nebraska because he trusts that he’ll be able to work with Mike Riley to maximize his potential.
Ultimately, that’s what any recruit thinks about. Every quarterback in America thinks that if they’re good enough, they’ll get the opportunity to throw the ball 30 times a game and be the face of the team. That’s why Nick Saban still lands five-star quarterbacks at Alabama, which is basically Running Back U.
The truth is, any good recruiter can overcome a lazy stat. If it couldn’t, the B1G wouldn’t have as many four- and five-star 2017 quarterbacks as the Big 12 and Pac-12 combined. Those are the conferences that are known for their high-flying offenses and first-round quarterbacks.
No longer are B1G recruiters failing to land talented players at the most important position on the field. The 2017 quarterback class is another sign that the B1G is recruiting at a level it never has.
That narrative doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.