As the 2021 football season draws near, SI All-American continues to evaluate the nation's top prospects at every position for the class of 2022. The first wave of the evaluations are the 'Watch List' selections, also known as SI All-American candidates, to be released throughout the month of July.
It precedes the SI99 rankings, our preseason mark of America's top college football prospects regardless of position, to be released in August.
Naturally, the quarterback watch list is up first and it will be released in more detail than the rest. The 25 SI All-American candidates were broken down in groups of five, with the top five rounding things out before other positions see a reveal.
1. Cade Klubnik
Vitals: 6'2", 190 pounds
School: Austin (Texas) Westlake
Committed To: Clemson
2020 Stats: 3,495 yards, 67.7%, 35 TDs, 3 INT
When it comes to projecting for college, specifically, with an emphasis on a strong floor, production and modern tools for execution, the Clemson commitment is about as good as it gets in the 2022 cycle -- and it goes well beyond dominating the Elite 11 Finals the way Klubnik did last week. Some of the reasoning, especially with data, plays the same but the top spot for the Texan is plenty deeper.
There are almost no weaknesses in Klubnik's game at this stage of his development. Perhaps the lack of a truly special arm and/or filled-out frame is something to knock against him, but the strengths -- from an elite release, comfort on the run, accuracy and most importantly decision-making -- combine to help him stand on his own. Late in the 2020 season we learned more of his grit, too, as if he needed more on the intangible side. Beyond leadership and gaudy production as a passer and more-than capable runner, Klubnik playing through the AC joint issue through a near flawless Texas State playoff solidifies how sharp of a bet he seems to be.
Heading into the evaluation's most important period of consideration, the senior football season, Klubnik has the chance to build on one of the best prep resumes in the class and sharpen up current strengths. Tightening up his throwing motion, which sometimes drops unnecessarily (though it helps while on the move), could extend his advantage on this list. Klubnik is already quick through progressions, comfortable avoiding the initial threat in the pocket and executing on the run.
2. Quinn Ewers
Vitals: 6'5", 210 pounds
School: Southlake (Texas) Carroll
Committed To: Ohio State
2020 Stats: 2,442 yards, 65.9%, 28 TDs, 5 INT
If this was a longer-term projection, with an emphasis on the professional level or solely based on physical traits, Ewers is tough to beat. The class' most head-turning arm, the velocity is consistent in his game regardless of how tapped into strong mechanics he is on a given throw. Comfortable making any throw, of any distance, from anywhere possible, it doesn't take long to get hypnotized by the torque coming from Ewers' right shoulder. It helped him explode onto the national scene in 2019 before a rock-solid 2020 where like Klubnik, he played through considerable pain (sports hernia) through a state title game appearance.
The arm strength is considerable, but it's far from alone in what separates Ewers from most. His throwing motion is as pure as it gets, with relative quickness upon release, he has little issue dropping his arm slot for work on the move or in the off-speed game, and pushes the ball down the field with the Texas gun-slinger type confidence even an amateur football fan can appreciate. The moment is never too big for the nation's biggest-name recruit of 2022.
As Ewers returns to full health, somewhere he admits he hasn't been since that flashy sophomore campaign, he will be able to cycle through deeper progressions and play more technically sound outside the pocket. The future Buckeye may be Friday night's most frustrating opponent in that no target, regardless of reach, is out of range while the ball is in play. Ewers is simply a special talent.
3. Ty Simpson
Vitals: 6'2", 200 pounds
School: Martin (Tenn.) Westview
Committed To: Alabama
2020 Stats: 1,868 yards, 61%, 20 TDs, 4 INT
The top pair on this list represent the floor vs. ceiling debate to a high degree, and it won't soon end, but Simpson is a blend of said argument. The physical tools are worth a second look, from a strong frame to near-elite arm strength and relatively clean mechanics. The intangibles, areas where SI All-American is now spending more time than ever, are near off the charts. The son of a college coach and a two-sport standout (baseball) yet to focus on football 12 months a year, Simpson has an intriguing combination of known tools and positional upside.
From an arm standpoint, he has little issue driving the ball to the second and third level with consistency. He isn't asked to get through secondary reads as much as most on this list, not to mention the offense isn't as pass-heavy, but finds open options when things break down like few in the class can. More play-maker than surgical volume passer, Simpson's ability to move in the passing game or in RPO scenarios provides another element of consideration for opposing defenses.
Don't confuse play-maker with risk-taker as much as Simpson's lack of reps may suggest. He is an efficient passer, smart runner and chain-mover, again highlighting the decision-making instilled in him from a young age as the son of Jason Simpson. Alabama's latest addition to the QB room may take some time to ready for the SEC West, but another year of prep success and that physical floor will help to bridge the gap.
4. Connor Weigman
Vitals: 6'3", 210 pounds
School: Cypress (Texas) Bridgeland
Committed To: Texas A&M
2020 Stats: 3,812 yards, 62.5% 42 TDs, 11 INT
Speaking of two-sporters with a baseball background, Weigman fits that bill in the Houston area. It hasn't slowed his production on Friday nights or in the off-season, where he was another to shine bright at the Elite 11 Finals in Los Angeles. Despite an uneven start to the competition, the A&M pledge dazzled the rest of the event to the point where the MVP was under consideration at SIAA. One of his Elite 11 peers told us similar, pegging him as "the best guy" in the field thanks to a strong arm, great anticipation and enough touch to push to the third level.
After Weigman won the first day's rail shot competition at the Elite 11, things settled for him and he executed as well as any passer in attendance. It shows up aplenty on tape, with a poise in the pocket and ability to put juice on the football while stationary or otherwise. When his feet are set, there is as much velocity on intermediate throws as the best in the class. But where the Texan separates himself from the pack is the total package with the right arm and when it combines with athleticism. Elite pocket instincts and twitch register at a high level with the rising-senior, who combined for 51 scores in 2020.
5. Sam Horn
Vitals: 6'4", 195 pounds
School: Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill
Committed To: Missouri
2020 Stats: 3,910 yards, 65.3%, 41 TDs, 14 INT
The guy who gets star wideout Travis Hunter the ball on Friday nights is no slouch on his own. Horn, with a great frame and explosive right arm, took his game to another level in 2020 in leading Collins Hill to the state title game. He has an easy release that doesn't require as much effort as others, even when throwing to his left or off of one foot like he sometimes does. As the mechanics tighten up over the next year plus, few weaknesses will flip over to strengths for the right-hander.
Horn does a lot very well, from moving to his left, extending the pocket or throwing window. He knows how to take something off of the football in general, and re-routing targets at level 3. He can clean up one of the elements that makes him great, risk-taking, to a degree where he can take shots but not force the football or trust his arm too much (even though it will get stronger as he fills out). Strong progression samples litter the Missouri pledge's tape as does flashes of mobility that make for quite the fit under Eli Drinkwitz.