By Ryan Mayer
Heading into each season in college football, there are always teams that we don’t know exactly what to make of due to the fact that they have a young player stepping into the most important role on the field: starting quarterback. This weekend, the college football world got their first glimpse at the future of the position for several top programs and it looks bright.
Florida State, Texas, Georgia, and Alabama, all college football blue bloods, either started or gave significant time to freshman or redshirt-freshman quarterbacks this weekend and all four showed skill sets that have their fanbases salivating over the future. As always, this comes with the normal caveat of it just being one game, but the early returns look good.
We’ll start with Deondre Francois for the Seminoles who, for the first 29 minutes and 30 seconds of game time on Monday night, looked the part of a redshirt freshman making his first career start. However, on the final drive of the first half, Francois had his breakout moment and delivered a 16-yard strike to Travis Rudolph, just before taking a vicious hit from an Ole Miss defensive end.
Including that drive, Francois proceeded to lead the ‘Noles to scoring possessions on each of their next nine possessions and a 33-0 run that put the game away. In the process he eclipsed Jameis Winston’s debut numbers from two years ago completing 33 of his 52 attempts for 419 yards and two touchdowns while adding 59 yards on the ground as well. Jameis’ numbers in his first game? 25/27 for 356 yards four touchdowns and 29 yards rushing. The efficiency wasn’t the same and again, we’re not saying Francois is the next Jameis after just one game, but it’s a good start.
Meanwhile, Texas and Charlie Strong ran a two-QB system in a hair raising 50-47 upset win over No. 10 Notre Dame on Sunday night reminiscent of the old Gators teams with Chris Leak (passing option) and Tim Tebow (run threat/bulldozer). For the Longhorns, the Tebow role was played by senior Tyrone Swoopes while true freshman Shane Buechele filled the Leak role of the passing threat supremely well.
Buechele carved up the Irish defense to the tune of 280 yards and two touchdowns en route to the victory. With the struggles that the Longhorns have had at the QB spot since the departure of Colt McCoy, Buechele’s Week 1 performance was like finding water after crossing a desert for Texas fans.
Meanwhile, two more true freshmen showed out for their SEC teams as Jalen Hurts led the Tide’s beatdown of USC and Jacob Eason showed why he was so highly sought after, showcasing his arm in a small sample against UNC.
Neither of these two guys are likely to be named the full-time starters anytime soon, but that’s strictly because of the nature of the two head coaches. Nick Saban doesn’t like to start true freshmen at the QB spot and rarely has in his time at Tuscaloosa. The new head man at Georgia, Kirby Smart, was Saban’s defensive coordinator and he’ll likely follow his mentor’s thought process in this regard, particularly because the ‘Dawgs for now, can survive on the strength of their running game.
Now, again, the “it’s only one week” disclaimer deserves to be mentioned as often as possible when it comes to the performances of these young men. We’ve seen sparkling play in the early part of the season before from young QBs before they flamed out spectacularly down the stretch. That being said, what was so impressive about these young men this weekend was how careful they were while still making big plays for their team. Combined among the four players, there were just three turnovers compared to seven touchdowns. And all four of these guys faced opponents that were ranked in the Top 25.
Against fellow top competition, the freshmen acquitted themselves well. Bottom line, the future looks bright for four of college football’s marquee programs.