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Gerard Martinez, 247Sports
College football is seeing a rise in true freshmen winning quarterback battles, and the 2019 season will likely include a couple of young signal-callers taking over offenses immediately.
It’s essential to remember that quarterbacks, no matter how highly recruited, should not be expected to thrive right away. This is the hardest position to play in all of football. But for one reason or another, some Class of 2019 stars will be under the bright lights right away.
Most players featured here are headed to a program losing its starting quarterback either to the NFL draft and/or due to eligibility. The quarterbacks are ordered based on their rankings in the 247Sports composite, ascending toward the nation’s top prospect. We’ve focused only on players in the top 30.
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KJ Jefferson, Arkansas: Ty Storey spent most of 2018 as the starter, but he never played well enough to lock down the job for next season. KJ Jefferson, a 4-star dual-threat QB, will join Connor Noland in the competition to unseat Storey.
Max Duggan, TCU: The offense’s failure to adequately replace Kenny Hill resulted in a six-loss regular season. TCU’s returning players have hardly proved anything more than Max Duggan, so he should be given a real chance to start immediately.
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin: The highest-rated QB prospect in program history, Graham Mertz will at least have an opportunity in 2019. Alex Hornibrook continues to struggle with interceptions, and the passing game lacked explosiveness with Jack Coan.
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Once the 2018 campaign is over, Boise State will need to replace four-year starter Brett Rypien. He’s headed to the NFL.
The expected succession plan, however, is a bit complicated.
Chase Cord is recovering from a torn ACL, so he likely won’t be completely healthy until October or November. His absence has created an opportunity for 4-star Hank Bachmeier, who will challenge current backups Riley Smith and Jaylon Henderson.
Bachmeier plans to enroll early, and that additional time around the team could propel him to the No. 1 job.
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The first order of business for Mack Brown‘s second tenure at North Carolina is finding a quarterback.
In 2018, the Tar Heels trudged to a 2-9 record while relying on Nathan Elliott. He’ll return next season along with Chazz Surratt and two backups in Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder. UNC ranked 104th nationally in passing yards per attempt.
That’s the long way of saying Sam Howell is a real option. Landing the 4-star was Brown’s first major recruiting win, and Howell plans to enroll early.
He racked up 13,415 yards and 145 touchdowns as a passer with 3,621 rushing yards and 60 more scores in high school.
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Arizona State trotted out Manny Wilkins for the better part of three years, but his eligibility is all used up. The long story short, though, is the Sun Devils have no shortage of options for a competition.
Dillon Sterling-Cole has served as the backup recently, yet he’s attempted only two passes since the beginning of the 2017 season. Ryan Kelley has no college experience. Neither player is clearly above the incoming talent.
Like both Bachmeier and Howell, Daniels will enroll early. Given that he threw 60-plus touchdowns in both 2017 and 2018, he should push Sterling-Cole and Kelley for first-string reps this spring.
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According to Ben Breiner of the Charlotte Observer, junior quarterback Jake Bentley will decide whether to declare for the NFL draft after South Carolina’s bowl game.
If he returns, he’ll start.
But if Bentley tries to capitalize on what’s currently considered a subpar class of quarterbacks, the Gamecocks could turn to a freshman. Ryan Hilinski, who amassed 74 passing touchdowns with more than 8,000 yards in high school, will enroll early.
Hilinski’s main competition would be Dakereon Joyner, a 4-star prospect in the 2018 recruiting class.
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The impending quarterback battle at Auburn is a classic case of “prized freshman arriving as NFL-bound starter leaves.”
Jarrett Stidham decided to skip his senior year, and that decision rapidly sent visions of Bo Nix tearing apart defenses in 2019. The 4-star is considered the top dual-threat quarterback in the class, and he holds the Alabama state record for total offense.
After arriving in January—barring transfers—he’ll attempt to surpass soon-to-be redshirt freshmen Joey Gatewood and Cord Sandberg, as well as Stidham’s multiyear backup in Malik Willis.
While climbing that depth chart would be a remarkable feat, none are experienced enough to discount Nix’s chances.
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One popular topic of debate lately is whether Kyler Murray should pursue a professional baseball or football career. For Oklahoma, however, the key word is “professional.” He’s gone.
Current backup Austin Kendall will return next year, and he’ll attempt to fend off a charge from the nation’s top-ranked QB of 2019.
Spencer Rattler set Arizona state records in high school and has garnered high praise from Lincoln Riley. The Sooners coach said Rattler possesses elite physical talent and “the mentality” to compete early, according to Cliff Brunt of the Associated Press.
Tanner Mordecai and Tanner Schafer will also battle Kendall and Rattler to replace OU’s second straight Heisman Trophy winner.
No pressure in Norman this offseason.
All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.