Five-star quarterback success

Contributing writer Dale Stephenson takes a look back at the success of some of the nation's top college quarterback recruits in recent years. He analyzes the success of five-star quarterbacks from 2002-06, and reviews whether they redshirted, started early, transferred, or got drafted by the NFL.

Will Jake Heaps redshirt in 2012? Get his job back? Transfer? Replace Riley Nelson before the end of this season possibly due to injury? I have no idea, but perhaps looking at the success of other five-star quarterbacks can give us a larger sample to see what has happened when a five-star quarterback redshirts, starts young but plays poorly, or transfers to another program.

Do any of these things doom a top prospect to oblivion? We'll look at the 2002-2006 classes, as their careers should all be done prior to the end of the season.

Let's start with the 2002 class: Vince Young (Texas), Trent Edwards (Stanford), Ben Olson (BYU), Reggie McNeal (Texas A&M), Gavin Dickey (Florida)

Vince Young:

2002 redshirt
2003 backup QB, starter benched halfway through, shared playing time (7.31 AYP)
2004 starting QB, Texas 11-1 (5.95 AYP)
2005 Davey O'Brien winner, Texas 12-0, All-American (8.45 AYP)
2006 left early for NFL, picked 3rd overall

Trent Edwards:

2002 redshirt
2003 backup QB, then got 4 starts, then was injured (2.13 AYP)
2004 starting QB, 9 GS (injured) Stanford 4-7 (4.23 AYP)
2005 starting QB, Stanford 5-6 (5.61 AYP)
2006 starting QB 7 GS (injured) Stanford 1-11 (4.11 AYP)
2007 3rd round NFL pick

Ben Olson

2002 redshirt
2003 mission
2004 mission
2005 transfer to UCLA, backup QB (11 pass attempts)
2006 5 GS (injured), UCLA 7-6 (4.78 AYP)
2007 6 GS (injured), UCLA 6-7 (5.91 AYP)
2008 injured, DNP
2009 was not drafted

Reggie McNeal

2002 came off bench to beat Oklahoma, injured next game (45 pass attempts)
2003 starting QB, A&M 4-8 (5.71 AYP)
2004 starting QB, A&M 7-5 (7.19 AYP)
2005 starting QB, A&M 5-6 (6.80 AYP)
2006 6th round NFL, as WR

Gavin Dickey

2002 no statistics
2003 8 pass attempts
2004 7 pass attempts
2005 played WR
2006 played baseball

2003 class: John David Booty (USC), Kyle Wright (Miami-FL), Chris
Leak (Florida), JaMarcus Russell (LSU)

John David Booty

2003 backup QB (14 attempts)
2004 redshirt
2005 backup QB (42 attempts)
2006 starting QB, USC 11-2 (7.12 AYP)
2007 starting QB, missed 3 games, USC 11-2 (6.35 AYP)
2008 5th round NFL pick

Kyle Wright

2003 redshirt
2004 backup (9 attempts)
2005 starting QB, Miami 9-3 (6.18 AYP)
2006 starting QB until injured, Miami 7-6 (4.94 AYP)
2007 backup, reclaimed job, Miami 5-7 (4.27 AYP)
2008 was not drafted

Chris Leak

2003 was backup, started last 9 games, Florida 8-5 (5.74 AYP)
2004 starting QB, Florida 7-5 (6.75 AYP)
2005 starting QB, Florida 9-3 (5.71 AYP)
2006 starting QB, Florida 12-1 (6.13 AYP)
2007 was not drafted

JaMarcus Russell

2003 redshirt
2004 backup (6.08 AYP)
2005 starting QB, LSU 11-2 (6.10 AYP)
2006 starting QB, LSU 11-2 (8.22 AYP)
2007 left early for NFL, 1st pick overall

2004 class: Rhett Bomar (Oklahoma), Xavier Lee (Florida St), Anthony Morelli (Penn St), Chad Henne (Michigan)

Rhett Bomar

2004 redshirt
2005 started 2nd game on, Oklahoma 8-4 (4.86 AYP)
2006 dismissed over NCAA violations
2007 starter at FBS Sam Houston State
2008 starter at FBS Sam Houston State
2009 5th round NFL pick

Xavier Lee

2004 redshirt
2005 backup (57 attempts)
2006 backup, 3 GS (5.83 AYP)
2007 backup, got starter's job and lost it (5.66 AYP)
2008 left early for NFL, was not drafted

Anthony Morelli

2004 backup (13 attempts)
2005 backup (20 attempts)
2006 starting QB, PSU 9-4 (5.00 AYP)
2007 starting QB, PSU 9-4 (5.40 AYP)
2008 was not drafted

Chad Henne

2004 starting QB, Michigan 9-3 (5.27 AYP)
2005 starting QB, Michigan 7-5 (5.67 AYP)
2006 starting QB, Michigan 11-2 (6.20 AYP)
2007 starting QB, Michigan 9-4 (5.39 AYP)
2008 2nd round NFL pick

Henne is the first QB on this list to start his first game. He was actually 3rd string in fall camp, but the announced starter for the first game was hurt, and Henne was given his shot.

2005 class: Mark Sanchez (USC), Ryan Perrilloux (LSU), Jonathan Crompton (Tennessee), Ben Olson (UCLA)

Mark Sanchez

2005 redshirt
2006 backup (7 attempts)
2007 backup (4.59 AYP)
2008 starting QB, USC 12-1 (7.63 AYP)
2009 left early for NFL, drafted 5th overall

Ryan Perrilloux

2005 redshirt
2006 3rd string (4 attempts)
2007 backup, 2 GS (75 attempts)
2008 dismissed, starter at FBS Jacksonville St
2009 starter at FBS Jacksonville St
2010 was not drafted

Jonathan Crompton

2005 redshirt
2006 backup (66 attempts)
2007 backup (12 attempts)
2008 6 GS, Tennessee 5-7 (3.79 AYP)
2009 starting QB, Tennessee 7-6 (6.10 AYP)
2010 5th round NFL pick

Ben Olson

Olson was discussed above.

2006 class: Mitch Mustain (Arkansas), Matthew Stafford (Georgia), Tim Tebow (Florida)

Mitch Mustain

2006 replaced starter in game 1, 8-0 as starter, replaced (4.57 AYP)
2007 transferred to USC
2008 2nd/3rd string (16 attempts)
2009 2nd/3rd string (16 attempts)
2010 backup, started one game due to injury to normal starter (73 attempts)
2011 not drafted

Matthew Stafford

2006 backup, replaced injured starter, Georgia 9-4 (5.01 AYP)
2007 starting QB, Georgia 11-2 (6.07 AYP)
2008 starting QB, Georgia 10-3 (7.67 AYP)
2009 left early for NFL, drafted first overall

Tim Tebow

2006 backup used extensively, Florida 13-1 (33 passes, 89 rushes)
2007 starting QB, won Heisman, Florida 9-4 (7.98 AYP)
2008 starting QB, Florida 13-1 (7.74 AYP)
2009 starting QB, Florida 13-1 (7.56 AYP)
2010 25th overall NFL pick

Of the 20 five-star quarterbacks in this sample, exactly one started the first game of their true freshman year, and he was not given the job in fall camp.

Eleven redshirted, not including Mustain (used it for transfer year), while I'm not sure if Dickey redshirted or not. Eight of the 11 became full-season starting quarterbacks, the exceptions being Olson (transferred), Perrilloux (kicked out of school) and Xavier Lee. Booty is the only one who redshirted after his freshman year, again, not including Mustain.

Two of the 20 voluntarily transferred, Olson (to UCLA) and Mustain (to USC). What we learn is neither had great success after transferring. Bomar and Perrilloux were dismissed by their original teams and dropped to FBS, and Bomar ended up as a 5th round draft pick. Of the 16 that stayed at their original schools, 11 were drafted by the NFL, six in the first three rounds, four in the first round.

How many quarterbacks had above-BYU-median (5.79) in their first two years of college football, with 100 pass attempts required? Of the five of the 15 that didn't, how many went on to eventually post a season above the median? Only eight.

How many were starters and lost their jobs without being hurt? There were three in Lee, Crompton, and Mustain. Lee lost it as a junior but left early for the NFL and wasn't drafted. Crompton had it happen as a junior but he stuck around and started as a senior. He was then drafted by the NFL. Mustain had it happen as a freshman. He then transferred to USC and only started once (a start which came due to Matt Barkley being injured), and was also not drafted.

Heaps obviously is not a perfect match for any of these players. However, the complete list does indicate that neither redshirting nor being a sophomore backup necessarily precludes a successful career. Not one of these players was named starting quarterback before their true freshman year. It also doesn't give any encouragement to the idea that transferring is likely to lead to greater success. In my opinion, both Olson and Mustain were likely to have a better career if they had stayed put.


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