While programs fight for the last remaining five-star prospects and flip-watch remains in effect until the last fax is sent and commit is counted on signing day, quarterbacks should remain largely out of the fray between now and then. Though, that wasn’t the case for the entire 2017 recruiting cycle.
All told, at least 18 quarterbacks changed their commitments and will sign with or have already enrolled early at a Power 5 program. It’s a group that likely includes the future of college football, as four of the top seven dual-threat quarterbacks and three of the top eight pocket passers flipped their commitments.
The conference most affected was the SEC -- with seven programs involved -- and it starts right at the top, both in the recruiting rankings and the conference standings.
Alabama lost a commitment from Jake Fromm in March, as the nation’s No. 6 pocket-passer remained in the conference, going to Georgia, but left a big hole for Nick Saban to replace in this class. But as Alabama is wont to do, the Crimson Tide went out and reeled in Tua Tagovailoa, the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and potentially a prospect that lands out west at Oregon or USC if the Tide don’t come calling.
With the top quarterback in the West off the board, a quarter of the Pac-12 was affected, as Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and USC all relied on flips to nab their signal-callers in this class. Arizona State was able to pry No. 4 dual-threat quarterback Ryan Kelley away from his commitment to the Ducks. UCLA took three-star pocket-passer Austin Burton away from Boston College. USC scored a big win when it flipped No. 8 pocket-passer Jack Sears from his Duke commitment. And Oregon -- after taking one final swing at Tagovailoa -- scored a flip by pulling Braxton Burmeister away from Arizona. Burmeister actually committed to Arizona twice during this cycle before ultimately being swayed by a strong push from new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart.
The SEC was again a big winner when No. 2 dual-threat quarterback Kellen Mond dropped Baylor in early June and landed with Texas A&M later that month. It was technically one of two quarterbacks Baylor lost to the conference, as former Bears quarterback Jarrett Stidham committed to Auburn out of junior college after leaving Baylor.
Stidham was a huge signing for the Tigers, not only because he was the No. 1 juco quarterback in the country, but also because Auburn lost No. 5 dual-threat quarterback Lowell Narcisse to LSU during this recruiting cycle. Four-star pocket passer Mac Jones was also an intra-conference flip, as he moved from Kentucky to Alabama.
No. 7 dual-threat quarterback Tate Martell could serve as the figurehead of the 2017 quarterback decommitments. After committing to Washington before he began eighth grade, Martell eventually flipped his commitment to Texas A&M before finally settling on Ohio State. That commitment helped Kentucky land Danny Clark, who had been committed to the Buckeyes.
And just like in the championship game, the SEC also came up short against the ACC on two occasions, most notably when No. 1 pocket-passer Hunter Johnson flipped from Tennessee to Clemson, and then again when Florida State eventually benefitted from No. 11 pocket-passer Bailey Hockman’s decommitment from Georgia.
Johnson was one of two quarterbacks lost by Tennessee, as the Vols also saw C.J. Lewis wind up in Boston College’s class. Tennessee eventually found its quarterback by flipping Will McBride from Memphis, which snagged him after he’d decommitted from SMU.
The Mustangs were also hit again recently, as Baylor finally landed its 2017 quarterback when three-star pocket passer Charlie Brewer flipped from SMU.
Rounding out the class, Duke got on the board after losing Sears by flipping Chris Katrenick from Bowling Green and Northwestern also bested a Mid-American Conference team when it flipped Andrew Marty from Miami (Ohio). And Pittsburgh landed both Max Browne as a graduate transfer from USC, as well as Kenny Pickett, who committed to the Panthers after decommitting from Temple.
At this point, 36 of the top 40 dual-threat quarterbacks and 37 of the top 40 pocket passers are committed and unlikely to make a move before signing day, as they are either enrolled early or serving as lead recruiters for their programs. The landscape is quiet now, but that belies the volatile year -- or in some cases, multiple years -- that led to this point.