Quarterback Domino Report: April 2021

SI All-American tracks trends in recruiting the game's most important position
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About half of the Power 5 is in the clear when it comes to recruiting the game's most important position -- quarterback. Picking up the potential signal-caller and face of the on-field product at a major college football program plays paramount regardless of cycle, even during the uncertain recruiting climate produced by the pandemic. 

More than 30 P5 programs now hold verbal commitments at the position, with several adding passers over the last two weeks, led by Peach State star Jacurri Brown picking the Miami Hurricanes in late March. With that 'spot' at The U claimed over being the second QB at programs like Texas A&M, Florida or Auburn, it reinforces the notion that the position pays attention to the recruiting landscape beyond their own more than any other. 

The fifth finalist for Brown's recruitment, Arizona State, was thought to be the front-runner for their next prospect on the board following Brown, AJ Duffy. He was to commit on March 31, between ASU, Michigan State and Florida State, but elected to hold off even after a visit to Tempe. Now he'll make more visits, including to Florida State this weekend for its spring game, en route to making the final call. Fellow uncommitted arm MJ Morris will also make a visit to Tallahassee over the weekend as the Seminoles look to impress their potential QB2 in the class. Nebraska, Georgia Tech\, NC State and others are also involved with Morris.

Programs Picking Up QB1

Miami scored the biggest pledge at the position in March, but it was followed by relative surprises at QB thereafter. In addition to Duffy pushing things back, up-to-the-minute changes affected other programs' board. California QB Katin Houser elected for Boise State over a P5 option like Arizona, among others. The Wildcats countered three days later in landing another SoCal QB in Noah Fifita to represent the first recruiting win of the Jedd Fisch era at the position. Days earlier, another new staff locked in its QB of the future as Illinois and Bret Bielema secured the commitment of Donovan Leary out of New Jersey. 

Drew Dickey, the Texan coming off of a state championship in 2020, represents what many uncommitted prospects aspire to this offseason. He capitalized on a strong performance at the Elite 11 Houston, where he stood toe to toe with QBs headed to A&M, LSU and USC. SIAA was thoroughly impressed (video above) and so was Vanderbilt, which extended him a scholarship offer days later. Dickey took the holiday weekend to sit down with his family before making things official with a commitment to new coach Clark Lea on Monday. 

Like many of the top prospects looking to make decisions, Dickey took a self-guided visit to Vandy's campus on his own despite the NCAA dead period. He did it in mid-March, before securing the Commodore offer so when it came, there wasn't much more research needed.

"Just the energy that all of them bring collectively and how much they prioritize winning and building this program," Dickey told SI All-American of his decision. "I believe in these coaches and that we’re gonna have the guys to do it. They were willing to bet on me and I’ll bet on myself everyday and I can’t wait to build something special in Nashville so it was an easy decision for me."

Vanderbilt of course plans to overhaul the offense under new offensive coordinator David Raih and passing game coordinator Joey Lynch. 

"Coach Lynch has gone into a little bit of detail about it, so far what I know is that we will take lots snaps from shotgun and work out of the spread but also mix in some under-center stuff and work play action out of that to freeze linebackers, which I love," he said. "Coach Raih coming from the NFL will definitely be fun to watch how he incorporates his knowledge of the game at such a high level into the offense at Vandy, similar to an NFL offense.

"I’ve built a great relationship with Coach Lynch and I’m excited to build something special."

The Uncommitted 

In addition to Duffy and Morris making trips ahead of what is expected to be a spring decision, the crop of top uncommitted quarterbacks continues to navigate the process. Arguably the most coveted dual-threat resides in Owensboro, Kentucky in Gavin Wimsatt. The in-state Kentucky Wildcats have yet to add their QB of the 2022 cycle and the rising-senior is on top of their list while Rutgers, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss are among the other programs in the hunt. 

Ole Miss has been active in its pursuit of the next Lane Kiffin pupil. The Rebels offered NFL legacy Rocco Becht in late March and he recently told SIAA he is aiming to play in the Power 5. West Virginia, where his father Anthony played, has been in contact but has yet to make a scholarship offer known. Iowa State was the first P5 offer and stands to remain in the hunt moving forward. 

Arguably the biggest Rebel target, when compared to the amount of programs in the mix, is Tayven Jackson of Indiana. The two-sport star, who led Greenwood (Ind.) Center Grove to a football state title in 2020 before leading the basketball team to a deep playoff run as the Daily Journal Player of the Year. Football is Jackson's college focus, where Ole Miss is in his top group along with programs looking to fill the top spot like UCLA, the aforementioned Arizona State and Tennessee under its new staff. Those in search of a second QB commitment, like A&M and Auburn, also represent offers into the dual-threat. 

Jackson appears to be in no rush despite the classic demands at the position, similar to the approach of Braden Davis, Jayden Denegal and Conner Harrell. Davis has long been the most coveted of the bunch, but has seemingly been focused on his health and getting back to top form after an injury cut his 2020 season short. He has since moved back to Delaware, from Florida, but the recruiting hasn't slowed down much. South Carolina offered on Tuesday and it was one of the many stops he has made on self-guided visits, per Brian Dohn. Several ACC programs were apart of the plan and it could influence a top group as his list narrows in the coming weeks. 

Denegal is a Californian playing his spring high school season and another Arizona State could be in on. UCLA, Louisville, Northwestern, and Michigan State are also involved but expect the 6'4" talent to hold off on a decision until the condensed season wraps up.  

Harrell, like Davis, is focused on health. He broke his collarbone in December and is rounding the corner on getting back to top form, he tells SIAA. The Alabaster (Ala.) Thompson state champion continues to add offers along the way, including Washington State, TCU, Houston and Memphis over the last two weeks. Duke, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Louisville and many others have also joined the mix this year.  

Like Houser did with Boise State, don't sleep on the Group of 5 QB commitments in the class, even with 'bigger' interest. SIAA was impressed with Cardell Williams at the Elite 11 Houston and the local Cougars are in strong position to keep him in-town, perhaps even if the P5 comes calling. With a tall, developmental frame and legitimate athleticism (4.67 40-yard dash on a cold, rainy day in Houston), Williams is hoping for more options and tells us he is in no rush to make a decision.  

The trend of waiting, especially for QBs on the bubble of the P5 or FBS all together, may be influenced by the camp circuit presumably set to open in the month of June. While prospect visits, mainly official visits, will dominate the recruiting conversation as programs host for the first time in 16 months, their on-campus showcases could result in more tangible movement. 

For the quarterback position, the longtime adage of not taking one until he is able to be seen by a decision-maker (in person), could bridge the gap between on the radar and the extension of an actual scholarship offer. It should be a busy summer. 

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