Skip to main content

Ryan Downes is the Next Quarterback Up at IMG Academy Football

Freshman quarterback prospect ascending to QB1 for the No. 2 high school team in the nation

The 'Next Man Up' mantra in football is tried and true. It suggests a given roster should always be prepared for change, individually or collectively, as the game creates natural attrition and fluctuating availability. 

National power IMG Academy knows it year to year more than most given the amount of turnover it has as a nationally-known boarding school for some of the most coveted college football recruits over the last decade or so. 

On Friday, though, it will see a change almost in real time. As IMG looks to continue its perfect season, of its national title defense no less, the keys to the Ascenders offense will be handed to a 15 year-old. 

Of course it's not the typical backup quarterback, as Ryan Downes already holds four scholarship offers having been showcased on other IMG teams as a young prospect. Indiana, Kansas, Marshall and Brown are already in on the class of 2025 talent. 

Downes steps into the spotlight Friday night against a Canadian power program, Clarkson North, on the heels of longtime starter and Florida State commitment AJ Duffy no longer available to play. Multiple sources around the program told Sports Illustrated he is no longer living at the Bradenton, Fla. campus. An external report suggested injury as the reason why. 

Either way, Downes is up as IMG attempts to stay perfect in 2021 and potentially close the gap with Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei in the race for the prep national title

The combination of expectation and excitement is palpable for the young, albeit big 6'4", 215-pound impressive underclassman. 

SI Recommends

"Time to show out!" Downes told SI ahead of his first start. "You know I’m really just trying to get better and improve and this is going to be a great chance to see what I need to get stronger at.

"When it comes down to it, though, I’ve been with these guys all year, just in a back up role. Nothing's really changed. We’re looking to be even better as an offense these next few games."

The IMG offense is as talented as any in America, with Power 5 offensive linemen across the board, a running back corps led by future Penn State back Kaytron Allen, No. 1 tight end Jaleel Skinner, do-it-all junior wide receiver Carnell Tate and so many others. 

Downes wants to get through his progression and make the right play, something he feels is a strength early in his development. He feels comfortable with the raw talent he possesses and the varsity experience he has, having led the secondary IMG roster in 2019 (IMG has three levels of varsity football, the national team, varsity white and varsity blue). 

Almost two years to the day from his last game as the first QB under center, the freshman with roots in New York will get the nod as a starting quarterback with a national high school football storyline following his every move. 

Downes has had all the reps in practice, he says communication with his teammates is improving and the goal remains the same no matter who trots out there with those sometimes infamous three letters across the chest. 

Ryan Downes

Ryan Downes