But that's been precisely the case at LSU this fall, and really last spring, as early-enrollee signal caller Anthony Jennings has made his presence felt under center for the Tigers.
Jennings, who Les Miles said Sunday has "a leg up" on redshirt sophomore Stephen Rivers for the second-string spot, arrived at LSU in the spring from his hometown of Marietta, Ga. Despite the fact that his father, Will, played on the defensive line at the University of Georgia from 1990-93, Jennings, an Elite 11 finalist a year ago, told TSD he was not recruited by the home-state Bulldogs.
"Actually Georgia really didn't even recruit me," explained Jennings. "I had no offer from them, and I never talked to Mark Richt. I had to move on, even though it was one of my dream schools coming up because my mom and dad went there. So I had to move on from that, but I just wanted to play in the SEC, one of the best conferences in the nation and play against some of the best people in the nation."
The Dawgs' loss quickly became LSU's gain, and the 6-foot-2, 211-pound athletic quarterback began making the transition to the college level during spring ball, an opportunity Jennings used to grow on and off the field away from home.
"It gave me a leg-up knowing some of the playbook early, getting the grasp of it," Jennings said of his time this spring. "Also, (it was important) just getting the hang of college life because I'm eight hours away from home. That was what I learned in spring, how to balance football and also school."
As far as the portion between the lines, Jennings, who possesses a Patrick Peterson-like confidence, indicated the adjustment from his prep days has been more mental than physical.
"I think the adjustment is more of a mental thing because with physical things I'm one of the best athletes on the field," continued Jennings. "I feel like mentally, though, you have to be prepared to do anything, so the mental aspect is more (of an adjustment)."
And while he doesn't necessarily buy into the generic label of a "dual-threat quarterback," Jennings does agree with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's assessment of him as a "pocket-mobile quarterback."
"Pocket-mobile means you can move in and out of the pocket, make guys miss when you need to and also throw the ball with the best of them in the nation," Jennings said. "I think that's a very accurate description of me."
Currently behind Zach Mettenberger on the depth chart and battling with Rivers for a stronghold on the backup spot, Jennings gives Cameron and LSU an extra, more athletic dimension than the Tigers' other two options. That's led many in the media and throughout the fan base to predict early playing time for Jennings this fall.
Jennings said Sunday he leaves all that to the coaches and that he came to TigerTown fully expecting to be in the midst of heavy competition.
"I don't think that [picking a school based on playing early] really matters because anywhere you go there's going to be competition," leveled Jennings. "Any team you go to is going to have a starting quarterback, a backup, a third-string quarterback. I just want to come here, compete and try my best to get on the field.
"I don't know what Coach Cam has in mind. I want to get on the field. That's why I came here, to play, but I'm going to work hard every day to get on the field."
Asked if his taking reps with the second team Friday meant anything, Jennings responded, "It's an in-and-out thing with me and Stephen."
Many of Jennings' offensive teammates have sung the freshman's praises during spring and into Fall Camp. The common refrain centers around how advanced Jennings is, especially in his understanding of the offense, for a first-year player.
"I guess their reaction, I think, is that they're surprised because I'm a freshman, but I don't act like a freshman on the field," Jennings mused. "I'm ready to go with the first team anytime I need to. Just knowing the offense in and out is what helps me the most to be able to do that."
Even with Mettenberger in the fold and entrenched as the No. 1, it seems at this point it's more a matter of when, not if, LSU begins grooming Jennings on the field this season to be the team's future at quarterback.
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