The Year of the Quarterback
The quarterback position is always unique from a recruiting standpoint since most colleges are only taking one signal caller. As a result, you'll hear the word, 'dominoes' often mentioned when talking about quarterbacks. Once one falls, you can bet you'll see a few more decisions made shortly after.
Here's a recap of some of the more interesting storylines we followed involving the 2015 quarterbacks out West and how they ended up at the college they signed with.
It was one of the deepest years for quarterbacks out West in some time and especially in the SoCal region. An amazing nine quarterbacks from the West were picked for The Opening/Elite 11, including seven from SoCal. Here's a breakdown of some of the interesting recruiting twists among the signal callers.
*Ricky Town was the first in this group to commit, announcing for Alabama way back in August of 2013, prior to his junior season. Town had just picked up a coveted offer from Stanford a week before but the lure of playing in the SEC for a big time coach like Nick Saban was too much for Town to pass up.
Fast forward a few months to the end of the football season and things took a dramatic turn. USC fired former head coach Lane Kiffin, a coach Town acknowledged never clicking with and hired Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. The Trojans were the dream school for Town growing up and there was always some buzz beneath the surface that with the right coach in place, the quarterback could easily flip his commitment.
When Sark was given the job, the Town family immediately reached out and visited the Trojan campus. Then Husky QB Coach Marques Tuiasosopo, who came over with Sark as TE Coach, had stayed in contact with the Town family and was recruiting St. Bonaventure TE Bryce Dixon at the time. It was a pretty seamless transition and about a week before Signing Day 2014, Town switched his commitment from the Tide to the Trojans.
*Josh Rosen's recruitment was pretty fascinating on multiple levels. Stanford was the dream school for him growing up and it always seemed like more of a matter of when, not if the Cardinal would offer. Rosen had never gotten anything lower than an A in any class in H.S and was incredibly talented on the field.
This one looked like the biggest no brainer of the year and it was expected once the Cardinal offered, Rosen would commit on the spot. The Cardinal seemed close to pulling the trigger several times but never put the offer out there. Rosen camped with Stanford just prior to his junior year and although we heard he performed very well on the field, there appeared to be a personality clash between Rosen and the Cardinal staff and the two sides gradually went their separate ways soon after.
With Stanford out of the picture, California jumped up as the team to beat for Rosen. He had a great camp experience, loved the academics and offense and said multiple times that he wanted to leave the SoCal area for college.
UCLA wasn't initially high on Rosen's list but began to pick up steam over the course of his junior season. He quickly developed a strong relationship with head coach Jim Mora, who lives down the street from him as well as QB coach Taylor Mazzone. Cal's struggles on the field didn't help them either and by the time Rosen announced his choice in March of 2014, he had four hats on the table, all UCLA hats, acknowledging his announcement was one of the worst kept secrets of the year.
*Speaking of Brady White, his recruitment wasn't without a few twists. As mentioned, Cal was one of his first big offers and first out of the Pac 12. They looked to be in a very good spot and there was even talk of a quick commitment. All that changed following an unofficial visit White took to Arizona State.
White fell in love with ASU following the visit and gushed about the facilities, the coaching staff and the offense. The big edge Cal seemed to have slowly started to shrink and when White started talking up the academics at ASU as much as he did the Bears, all signs began to point to the Sun Devils.
A week before White was set to announce, Oregon decided to offer White and jumped in to his top three. Had that offer came a month earlier, this story likely would have had a much different ending. White loved the Ducks early on in the process but coming just a week before his announcement, it was just too late in the process. He ended up announcing for the Sun Devils and was a big recruiter for ASU all year.
*As for Oregon, they got their man in Travis Waller but not before it appeared the signal caller could either stay local or head to the MW.
Notre Dame and Ohio State both made big play for Waller and he was especially high on the Buckeyes. Even though Ohio State had a QB committed, they still made a big push for Waller and he loved Urban Meyer and the Buckeye offense.
There was also a lot of talk that USC could be offering Waller. While at Washington, Sark and company offered Waller and he looked like an ideal fit in the new uptempo offense the Trojans wanted to employ. The one catch was they wanted Waller to camp with them first and that wasn't something he wanted to do.
In Waller's eyes, the staff had already seen plenty of him and had already offered him once before. Around this same time in June, the Ducks offered. Had Oregon not offered, we think there's a chance Waller would have been more open to camping with USC and earning that offer. With an offer from the Ducks in hand however, this one became a done deal. Waller had visited the Eugene campus way back in January and had been hoping for an offer ever since.
*Speaking of Barnett, like Town, he also made an early commitment to one school but signed elsewhere. Barnett originally committed to Notre Dame way back in November of 2013 and didn't give any indication that he was anything but a solid commitment.
In June, Barnett took a visit to Oregon and de-committed from the Irish just a few days later. At that point, Barnett looked like close to a stone cold lock for the Ducks. Almost as an after thought, the signal caller decided to take a visit to Alabama and was blown away.
Barnett said he felt the Tide's pro-style offense could better prepare him for the NFL and said Nick Saban and new OC Lane Kiffin's track record of getting quarterbacks to the League was too much to pass up as well. Just a week after officially de-committing from Notre Dame, Barnett committed to the Tide.
*One of the biggest Cinderella stories of the year had to be that of Sam Darnold, who only played two games at quarterback his junior year. He got his first offer from Utah when he was a sophomore as a linebacker and was barely on the radar heading in the spring.
As schools visited his San Clemente campus, more and more buzz started to generate and offers soon started to flood in. It seemed like Darnold landed a new offer every day and Utah and Tennessee looked like the two teams to beat. Then Oregon and USC offered Darnold with the Trojans offer actually coming while Darnold was on an unofficial visit to the Ducks campus.
USC already had a commitment from Ricky Town but wanted a second quarterback in the class, specifically a mobile one. Darnold had camped with the Trojans and while the offer didn't come that day, it seemed imminent. The signal caller said he grew up a die hard USC fan and had been going to games in the Coliseum for as long as he could remember.
Oregon took a commitment from Waller prior to Darnold's decision so it came down to USC, Duke and Utah. It would have been one of the biggest recruiting shockers of the year had the quarterback picked anyone other than the Trojans and he finally made his pick in mid-July shortly after returning home from The Opening.
*Two other quarterbacks who signed somewhere different than where they originally committed to were Sheriron Jones and Zach Gentry. Jones signed with Tennessee after an early commitment to Florida and Gentry signed with Michigan after an early commitment to Texas.
For Jones, his flip was due to a coaching change at Florida. He committed last summer to then Gator coach Will Muschamp but opened things up soon after he was let go. At the time of his commitment to Florida, Tennessee was a close No. 2 for Jones.
He visited both schools and felt comfortable with each program. As a result, the Vols immediately jumped to the top of his list after he de-committed from Florida. The UT coaching staff reached out the following day he opened up his recruitment and Jones committed without even needing to take an official visit.
Gentry's flip was the result of a coaching change as well but not with the school he was a long time commit to. Gentry announced for Texas way back in May of 2014 and never indicated he was anything but rock solid.
Late in the process, early to mid-January, Gentry said he privately told the UT coaches he was opening things up. He mentioned it was related to talk he heard about the offense changing but you have to also think it had something to do with the Horns making a strong run at Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray as well.
Right around the same time Gentry opened things up, new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh reached out to Gentry to see if there was some interest. The quarterback quickly reciprocated and in just three short weeks of communication, the Wolverines were able to get a visit from Gentry (Jan. 23). The quarterback then flipped his commitment to Michigan at halftime of a Wolverines basketball game one day in to the visit.
*In the 'timing is everything' department, Jake Browning's decision to announce for Washington March 31 instead of his planned date of April 11 appeared very strategic. One of Browning's first offers came from Boise State when current Husky head coach Chris Petersen was with the Broncos.
Petersen made Browning a priority once he took over at UW but the Folsom signal caller wasn't the only quarterback he offered. Petersen also offered Brett Rypien and despite strong roots to Washington State, Rypien was highly interested in the Dawgs as well.
Rypien had visited Washington multiple times and planned to make his decision the first week of April, a week before Browning's initial announcement date. Did Browning, who appeared to be a solid lean to Washington for at least a month prior to committing, think Rypien could potentially take his spot? He always denied it and said he just wanted to get his decision out of the way since he knew what he was going to do but it's something fun to think about.
As for Rypien, he surprised some by snubbing the Cougars and committed to Boise State April 5 at the Broncos Junior Day.