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Forde-Yard Dash: Where Are 2021’s Top Quarterbacks From?

Analyzing the hometowns of the current 100 best signal-callers by passer rating draws some surprising results.
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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (“Free The Drum” shirts sold separately in West Lafayette):

MORE DASH: Struggling QBs | Crumbling Roadblocks | USC Stock Watch

SECOND QUARTER: PROFILE OF A TOP 100 QUARTERBACK

We can all name the traditional hot spots for finding football players, from South Florida to Southern California and a dozen places in between. But if you’re looking for a high-end college quarterback—one who is actually performing on the field, as opposed to simply being ranked high by recruiting services—The Dash would like to suggest starting in Charlotte and avoiding both Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Perusing the current FBS top 100 in terms of passer rating, Indian Trail, N.C., is the epicenter of efficiency. With a population of about 39,000, having two of the top college quarterbacks is pretty strong. Grayson McCall (11) of undefeated Coastal Carolina is No. 1, leading the nation in both accuracy (78%) and yards per attempt (12.5). McCall’s mullet is also undefeated, but that’s a different story. Checking in at No. 11 is North Carolina’s Sam Howell (12), also from the Charlotte suburb of Indian Trail. He’s expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick next spring.

Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall

Through Week 3, the Chanticleers' McCall leads FBS in passer rating.

At No. 29 is Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman, from Charlotte itself. At No. 56 is Louisiana Tech QB Austin Kendall, from the Charlotte suburb of Waxhaw. That’s four in the top 56, from a metropolitan area of about 2.7 million. Almost as high a percentage as NASCAR drivers.

And if you head northeast out of the Queen City, you don’t have to go too far before hitting the hometowns of No. 16 Hendon Hooker of Tennessee (Greensboro) and No. 67 Chris Reynolds of UNC Charlotte (Mocksville). Expanding further, there are two more from North Carolina in the top 100: Duke’s Gunnar Holmberg, who checks in at No. 58, is from the town of Wake Forest, in the Raleigh area; and East Carolina’s Holton Ahlers, ranked No. 91, is a hometown kid from Greenville.

Eight top-100 QBs from one state is impressive, but North Carolina ranks only fourth per capita at one per 1.34 million people. The leader by a landslide is Hawaii (13), which has four of the top 100: No. 15 Taulia Tagovailoa of Maryland; No. 31 Dillon Gabriel of UCF (who just broke his clavicle); No. 42 Jayden de Laura of Washington State; and No. 90 Chevan Cordeiro of Hawaii. That’s one for every 352,000 Hawaiians. Is this the Mariota Generation (14) coming to fruition and following the trail blazed by the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner?

The rest of the top five states, per capita: Arkansas (one per 1.01 million); Georgia (one per 1.2 million); North Carolina (see above); and Kansas (one per 1.46 million).

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(Another hot metro area: Phoenix. There are five in the top 100 from that city or its suburbs. None of them play for Arizona or Arizona State. Greater Atlanta also is fertile territory, but that’s not breaking news.)

As for where the quarterbacks aren’t from: Pennsylvania (15), the fifth-most populous state, a football hotbed that produced Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and many more, currently has zero in the top 100 in efficiency. The Keystone State may have an entire generation of rising quarterback stars on the way, but in a snapshot of the college game as it stands today, Pennsylvania surprisingly is not in the picture.

Neither is Michigan (16), the 10th-most populous state. At the five FBS schools in that state—Michigan, Michigan State, Central, Eastern and Western Michigan—nine quarterbacks have thrown more than two passes. None are in-state products. And they aren’t exporting QBs, either. (Also notably absent from the top 100: QBs from Virginia and Tennessee.)

It must be noted that this is hardly an exhaustive study. It’s a look at statistical leaders three weeks into a season. But it is instructive about where the state of college quarterbacking is today, in the latter half of September 2021. Other takeaways:

Quarterback is a transient position (17). We’ve known this for a while, but the numbers drive it home. Among the top 100, 36% have transferred at least once, most often in search of playing time when caught up in a numbers game at their previous school. And only 23% of the top 100 currently are playing in their home state. Schools will go wherever they have to in order to find starting-caliber talent, and players will go wherever they have to in order to start.

Not many will cop to being short (18). Of the top 100, just four are listed as shorter than six feet. Maryland’s Tagovailoa, Miami’s D’Eriq King and Charlotte’s Reynolds all are listed as 5' 11". Louisiana’s Levi Lewis is 5' 10". A whole lot of QBs in the top 100 are probably fudging by at least an inch.

On the flip side, there aren’t many Trevor Lawrences in this group (19). Lawrence was listed at 6' 6". The top 100 has just two QBs listed that tall: Stanford’s Tanner McKee and Akron’s DJ Irons. Seven players are listed at 6' 5". With a greater premium on mobile quarterbacks, the days of the large pocket statue are disappearing.

This is a fairly suburban list (20). As has been noted many times, becoming a college-level quarterback (and many other positions in other sports) is increasingly dependent upon substantial investments of money and time by parents in travel teams, personal coaches, trainers and camps. That’s how the game is played, at the risk of pricing some people out of it.

Where the top 100 QBs (by passer rating) hail from:

STATENUMBER OF QBs

California

15 (Ventura, Danville, Menifee, Pasadena, Fresno, Corona, Empire, Murrieta, Vacaville, Kerman, San Bernardino, Newport Beach x2, La Jolla, San Rafael)

Texas

12 (Victoria, Waco, Rowlett, Denton, Schertz, Lubbock, Carrollton, Argyle, Boerne, Mansfield, Manvel, Austin)

Georgia

9 (Atlanta, Lawrenceville, Athens, Watkinsville, Alpharetta, Grayson, Powder Springs, Sugar Hill, LaGrange)

North Carolina

8 (Indian Trail x2, Charlotte, Waxhaw, Wake Forest, Greensboro, Mocksville, Greenville)

Florida

6 (Ocala, Boca Raton, Jacksonville, South Bay, Sanford, West Palm Beach)

Arizona

5 (Chandler, Gilbert x2, Phoenix, Scottsdale)

Ohio

5 (Shelby, Dayton, Grafton, Stow, Cincinnati)

New Jersey

5 (Oakhurst, Sicklerville, Cedar Grove, Old Bridge, Cliffwood)

Hawaii

4 (Ewa Beach, Mililani, Honolulu x2)

Arkansas

3 (Earle, Little Rock, Fayetteville)

Alabama

3 (Pinson, Opelika, Montgomery)

Illinois

2 (Naperville, Chicago)

Kentucky

2 (Louisville, Union)

Mississippi

2 (Sardis, Brandon)

Iowa

2 (Council Bluffs, Clive)

Indiana

2 (Fishers, Brownsburg)

Washington

2 (Puyallup, Bothell)

Kansas

2 (Overland Park, Norton)

Nevada

1 (Las Vegas)

Connecticut

1 (Madison)

New Mexico

1 (Hobbs)

New York

1 (Sayville)

Nebraska

1 (Wahoo)

West Virginia

1 (Charleston)

Missouri

1 (Maryland Heights)

Louisiana

1 (Baton Rouge)

Oklahoma

1 (Oklahoma City)

Utah

1 (Spanish Fork)

Canada (Country)

1 (Oakville)

MORE DASH: Struggling QBs | Crumbling Roadblocks | USC Stock Watch