Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - College football's turnover strikes again.
When the NFL Draft begins on May 8, a number of college quarterbacks will be waiting for their selection. Once their name is called, it will officially shut the door on the player's collegiate career.
Some quarterbacks in the 2014 draft class are more decorated than others - one is a multi-national championship-winning signal caller, one a Heisman Trophy winner, and the rest have helped their programs along for a number of years.
But put things on an even playing field, and know that every single one of the programs with a quarterback eligible for the draft must replace their former starter under center.
Some situations are easier to remedy than others. With every new draft class and handful of starting QBs moving on through the NFL or graduation, there's another new wave of underclassmen ready to take the field in the college game. Who knows, some underclassmen may be better than their predecessors.
But filling the void left by a departing starter under center is always the biggest and most talked-about focal point of the offseason. This year is no exception.
The 2014 class of quarterbacks isn't necessarily as star-studded as the 2012 draft (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and Nick Foles), but it's certainly one of the better drafts in terms of quarterback depth. Big college football names like Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and A.J. McCarron are no longer members of Texas A&M, Louisville and Alabama, respectively. Those players have been embedded in their programs for years, and were allowed to cultivate and command their offenses.
As they leave the college playing field forever, it'll be a hectic spring and summer for their former coaches to try to solve the burning question: who's next in line?
Manziel, Bridgewater, McCarron, UCF's Blake Bortles and Fresno State's Derek Carr have all had their names mentioned in the top two rounds of NFL Draft mocks. With the increasing emphasis placed on the role of the quarterback, it's easy to say that a great deal of their respective team's success was due to their outstanding abilities.
So what's next for them? Looking at such impactful names on that list of draft entries, it's hard to envision anyone coming in and duplicating the level of success those quarterbacks had in college. But, like all college programs across the nation, they must move on.
Manziel might be the hardest to replace of the bunch. His style of play is so dynamic and unique. Texas A&M built its offense around the idea that Johnny Football would take off running every now and then, extend plays that were surely dead by escaping using his feet and make throws not many would dare to just because he had the guts.
The Aggies had a crew of formidable players, but no one as critical as Manziel, the 2012 Heisman recipient. His top receiver, Mike Evans, followed him to the professional level, and top A&M tackle Jake Matthews could likely be drafted before Manziel.
Texas A&M has a few options at quarterback moving forward. Senior-to-be Matt Joeckel saw the most action behind Manziel, though that doesn't mean it was anything substantial.
Joeckel appeared in five games, completing 22-of-37 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns, while current sophomore Kenny Hill saw action in four contests, completing 16-of-22 passing for 182 yards and a touchdown in 2013. Incoming freshman Kyle Allen is supposed to be the next great college quarterback, but he may need time to develop.
It would appear Joeckel has the reins, but so much can change over the summer. Perhaps Allen will develop faster than originally thought.
Even though McCarron almost entire certainty won't hear his name called on Day 1 of the draft, he was just as implanted into Alabama's offense as any quarterback was at his school. Not only did he win multiple national championships with a Crimson Tide team that, for a while, simply could not lose, but he did so as not just as a quarterback, but a field general.
Alabama has had a tough offseason when it comes to quarterbacks. Losing McCarron was one thing, but in mid-January Luke Del Rio, son of Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, announced he was transferring out of Alabama. That leaves the Tide a bit thin under center, though Blake Sims, who was the only other Crimson Tide player in 2013 to attempt a pass, is still on the roster. Sims saw action in eight games last season, but only attempted 29 passes.
Like Texas A&M, Alabama has a highly touted freshman recruit coming into camp. David Cornwell, a four-star recruit coming from a pro-style offense, could be the next big thing in Tuscaloosa. Coach Nick Saban didn't have any issues naming McCarron the starter when he was young, right?
Bridgewater began the 2013 season as the favorite to garner the draft's top overall pick when all was said and done, performance permitting. He had an unbelievably strong campaign at Louisville, but didn't do anything eye-popping at the NFL Scouting Combine and was subpar at his pro day. He's still one of the top three quarterbacks in the draft, and (barring anything unforeseen) will almost certainly go on the first round in May.
The Cardinals still have six quarterbacks on the roster entering the summer, so replacing Bridgewater might be more of a headache than a panic-induced pressure.
The only other player to see action under center last season was redshirt sophomore Will Gardner, who played in seven games but went just 8-of-12 passing for 112 yards (though he did throw two touchdowns). Brett Nelson is the only listed senior quarterback, along with a slew of underclassmen. But with Gardner coming in last season and seeing time, albeit short, he could be the heir to the Louisville offense.
Central Florida has a bit of a unique situation. Bortles helped the UCF program achieve noteworthy success during the 2013 regular season, while his name quickly shot up the draft boards. At the present time, it would appear he's the top quarterback available in the 2014 draft, although the top three players at the position have been battling back and forth like a photo- finish horse race.
UCF was never really a national title contender last season, but without Bortles as the signal caller, the chances of Central Florida making any dent on the national stage diminish significantly next season.
Justin Holman, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, saw minimal time at the quarterback position last season, playing in three games and completing 9-of-14 pass attempts for 75 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Considering a sophomore is the most experienced as it gets for the Knights in 2014, there may be no harm, no foul in giving a freshman, either 6-1 Pete DiNovo or 6-4 Tyler Harris, a critical amount of time on the field. What's the worst that can happen?
Whichever choice the coaching staff goes with this year, it will be a transitioning period following Bortles's spectacular season.
Finally, it appears no player has fluctuated more in the draft rankings than Derek Carr, younger brother of former top overall selection and, to put it lightly, draft-bust David Carr. Derek Carr had his name mentioned in the top five picks for quite some time, but has since slipped, potentially out of the first round, and not because he's done anything to hurt his stock.
The fact Bridgewater and Manziel have been associated with a bit of a decline in the draft actually affects Carr. The former senior QB at Fresno State will (more than likely) be the fourth quarterback chosen in this draft class, which means if Bridgewater and Manziel fall, he'll drop, too. But that shouldn't play down his talent.
Carr may have the best arm strength in the entire draft of any quarterback, and his senior leadership counts for something as well. But for Fresno State, trying to replace the second Carr brother in about a decade will be a bit of a challenge.
Brian Burrell saw time on the field in five games last season but only attempted 12 passes with seven completions for 51 yards. He's not much of a scrambler, either, rushing five times for 10 yards and a score. Still, the junior Burrell is likely the favorite to win the job over sophomore Myles Carr (no relation to the other Carr brothers) and redshirt freshman Zack Greenlee.
Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said the quarterback next season doesn't necessarily need to make the plays, but rather needs to get the ball to the other playmakers on offense. It's no guarantee for the job, however.
Next year, the conversation will likely focus on Oregon, UCLA and Baylor as those programs try to replace quarterbacks likely going in the top round of the NFL Draft. The paradigm shift this upcoming season will be monumental, however, as some of the most recognized names in the college football move forward to playing on Sundays.