Recruiting the next great quarterback – The NCAA “Arm Race”

There has been a great deal of discussion this spring about the NCAA instituting an early signing period for high school recruits. Moving up the national Signing Day from the first Wednesday in February to early December or even to the August before the prospect’s senior year has been debated at length by pundits and coaches alike (stories about the options, and the ensuing debate, can be found here, here, and here).

Whether Signing Day moves up or not is still be to be determined, but one aspect of recruiting has already been moving up.

It’s the mad rush by schools to secure a quarterback commitment earlier and earlier in the recruiting cycle.

Colorado obtained a verbal pledge from El Paso quarterback Steven Montez this week. Montez, considered only a two-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout, nonetheless allowed CU to join the list of schools who have already received at least one quarterback commitment from the recruiting Class of 2015. According to Adam Munsterteiger at, 85 quarterbacks from the Class of 2015 have already made their choice of schools. In Rivals list of the top 25 pro-style quarterbacks in the nation, this year, 23 have already picked a program, while 17 of the top 25 dual-threat quarterbacks are also off the board.

One of the reasons for schools to lock up quarterbacks when they are still only juniors in high school is that football is a quarterback driven game, and the competition for top players is fierce. Colorado fans are all too familiar with the reality that a lack of production from the quarterback position can easily translate to a lack of victories in the fall.

Another, more recent reason for schools to obtain early commitments from a top-rated quarterback stems from the explosion of social media and the proliferation of “Elite Camps”. Top prospects from across the nation are often invited to these camps, and get to know one another. Top-rated quarterbacks get to run drills with top receivers and running backs, and, once they decide upon a school, can be counted upon to help recruit – through Facebook, Twitter, texting and other social media – other top prospects to their choice of a program.

So, should Buff fans be excited or depressed by the verbal commitment of quarterback Steven Montez?

The upside … Montez is 6’5″. This fact, in and of itself, is not normally considered to be a huge bonus. However, for Buff fans who have become all to accustomed to CU quarterbacks who are only top six feet when measured wearing their helmets and cleats, this is a positive … Montez is already a two-year starter for his high school team. As a sophomore, he threw 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Last season, Montez threw 27 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Grading on improvement, Montez has a tremendous upside … Montez has participated in – and fared well at – Elite 11 camps with other top-rated quarterback prospects.

The downside … Montez plays in El Paso, not exactly a hotbed for college football prospects (if you watched the local television feature on Montez, you know the anchor opens the story on Montez with, “Well, you don’t need two hands to count how many El Paso football players have been recruited by premier college football programs in the last ten years …”) … And, well, two-stars is two-stars. While Colorado settles – again – for a prospect with a great upside but little buzz (and even fewer Power-5 scholarship offers), the competition in the Pac-12 gets tougher and tougher. The afore-mentioned top 25 pro-style quarterback prospect list? The top three are all going to Pac-12 schools (UCLA, USC and Arizona State) while two others in the top ten are going to the Washington schools. The rest of the Pac-12 is loaded with “can’t miss” quarterback prospects, and while it is true that many sure-things don’t work out in college, history has shown that it is better to have a roster of four- and five-star players than it is to be top-heavy with two-and three-star players.

So, will Colorado be able to make due with less?

The Buffs have struggled on the field for the past decade, and much of those difficulties can be traced to lack of production at the quarterback position. For some perspective, let’s take a look back at the last ten recruiting Classes, and the quarterbacks CU have received commitments from on Signing Day. We know what they produced on the field, but let’s see what was anticipated from these players when they were still high school recruits (Rivals ratings):

Class of 2005 …. Mack Brown – two stars; Patrick Devenny – two stars

Class of 2006 … Cody Hawkins – three stars

Class of 2007 … Matt Ballenger – three stars; Nick Nelson (JC) – two stars

Class of 2008 … Tyler Hansen – three stars

Class of 2009 … Clark Evans – three stars; Josh Moten – three stars

Class of 2010 … Nick Hirschman – three stars

Class of 2011 … Stevie Dorman – three stars; Brent Burnette (JC) – three stars

Class of 2012 … Shane Dillon – three stars

Class of 2013 … Sefo Liufau – three stars; Jordan Gehrke (JC) – two stars

Class of 2014 … Cade Apsay – three stars

Not exactly a murderer’s row of record-breakers, is it? Tyler Hansen did the most with the least, but none of the other quarterbacks made much of a dent in the CU record books, or in the win column.

Much can – and has – been said about how having Cody Hawkins on the roster, playing for his father, kept other potential quarterback candidates from coming to Boulder. This is certainly a valid premise, but, absent a parallel universe with which to compare, we’ll never know how things might have worked out for Cody – and his father – had Cody stayed with his commitment to Boise State. What we do know is that, with Dan and Cody in Boulder, the CU endured one of the greatest droughts in quarterback production in program history.

Enter Mike MacIntyre.

MacIntyre is recruiting his third Class to Boulder. The Class of 2013 was largely recruited by Jon Embree and his staff, including Sefo Liufau, who committed to Colorado in April of his junior year in high school and never wavered from his commitment to Colorado. MacIntyre’s recruits to Boulder thus far at the quarterback position have been Jordan Gehrke, who was brought in last summer (but was unable to beat out Liufau for the starting position), and Cade Apsay, who will be enrolling in classes in Boulder this week.

And, of course, Steven Montez.

Buff fans know that MacIntyre did more with less while at San Jose State. MacIntyre plucked David Fales from the junior college ranks and helped develop Fales into a draft pick by the Chicago Bears this past April. MacIntyre has been praised for his ability to develop relationships in the high school and junior college ranks, as well as for his ability to identify passed-over talent more quickly than other coaches (see Gillam, Addison).

If this proves to be the case with regard to quarterback recruiting for MacIntyre at Colorado, the ever more early “arm race” for quarterback talent could work to Colorado’s advantage. If the Buffs can identify future stars before the rating services and other coaching staffs are able to, then Colorado can build back a competitive program more quickly. If the Signing Day is moved up, it will give other schools less time to cherry pick from CU’s commitment list after players demonstrate their potential during their senior seasons.

That’s a lot of “if’s”.

But, at least for now, that is what the Buff Nation has to go on ….


4 Replies to “Recruiting “Arm Race” for QB’s”

  1. Yo Stuart,

    Just another knock on the so-called “experts” giving out star ratings to 16-17 year old high school kids. Connor Wood was one of the top QB prospects in the country when he signed with Texas. Even with the extra years of college and stars (in ratings), he ended up being beat out by a 3 star true freshman after transferring to CU. Until proven otherwise, I believe MacIntyre is the guy to not only recruit good students and players, but also develop them into excellent college players. If the hogs in the trenches make the major improvement that is expected of them by Mac and staff, our QB and RB’s will “all of a sudden” seem much better.


    1. Sorry, my bad. I meant to say that Gehrke hadn’t taken beat out a true freshman for the starting position.

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