Commentary

Class of 2011 QB superlatives

No surprise, Driskel has one of the strongest arms, but Bridgewater is actually accurate

Originally Published: December 9, 2010
By Tom Luginbill | ESPN Recruiting

The 2011 class of quarterbacks is nothing if not athletic. This is a group of upside prospects that possesses both skills in the passing game, but most notably athleticism to make plays with their feet.

Seven of our top eight rated prospects are considered to be dual-threat quarterbacks and all are very similar to each other in skill set, which is why their grades are extremely close. Their developmental upside is reflected in the ESPNU 150 with only two in the top 30 overall.

Of the top 30 quarterbacks, 28 have committed and that includes the top 15. The arms race for securing a QB is ultra-competitive because every coach in America knows if you don't have one, you can't win.

Let's take a look at some of the categories we evaluate as they pertain to prospects from this class. Many guys may fit under multiple categories, but we will try and spread it out some.

Most upside

Rudock
Charles Fishbein Jake Rudock chose Iowa over Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota, among others.

What we look for: Simply put, will the prospect be the same player four years from now he is today? Is there still growth potential, both physically and mentally, for this prospect to develop into a better player down the road?

Jake Rudock
(Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas)

The Iowa commit is a prime example of a prospect that picked the right school for his skill set. He is a crisp, fundamentally-sound pocket passer who can throw from under center or out of the shotgun. There are a lot of similarities to Ricky Stanzi. Being in the right place at the right time to flourish in a scheme that accentuates your strengths was a smart move.

Kevin Sousa (Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona)
He is a prospect that absolutely committed himself to getting better this past offseason and each time we saw him at a camp/combine he was better than he was at the previous one -- and he attended many. He is a perfect fit for Wake Forest's spread attack as a runner and an improving passer. His best football is definitely ahead of him.

Tony McNeal (Chester, S.C./Chester)
After suffering an ACL injury as a junior coming off a huge sophomore campaign, McNeal returned to form as a senior and displayed what we saw from him during the summer as a crisp, yet "street-ball-like" passer. If Mcneal was two inches taller he would have been a hot commodity throughout the SEC and ACC. As it stands, McNeal fits the mold of what Clemson wants in its QB -- a quick arm, good feet with just enough athleticism and height is not a priority.

Most accurate

What we look for: These signal callers have the ability to consistently place the ball within the strike zone in all areas of the field, even when they have to throw with defenders in their faces. Accuracy is far more important than arm strength. When coupled with an understanding of timing, accuracy can make a passer with a marginal arm a lethal weapon.

Christian LeMay (Matthews, N.C./Matthews)
While he did not play this fall, nobody can dispute the fact that throwing 44 touchdowns to just two interceptions as a junior isn't sensational. Lemay is effective, quick-minded and has an extremely fluid delivery. The future Georgia Bulldog can change ball speeds and shows very good anticipation of routes, coverage and ball placement. He can zip it when necessary or lay it in if he has to. Throws a very catchable ball.

Teddy Bridgewater (Miami, Fla./Northwestern)
We know it sounds crazy, but Bridgewater? Yes, but it isn't pretty. Perhaps in the last six classes we have not seen a passer so unfundamentally sound as Bridgewater, yet he is remarkably accurate. He rarely displays the same delivery with each throw nor does he routinely set his feet, yet the ball ends up in the right spot leaving you scratching your head. We still feel he needs to be a spread guy, but don't let his appearance as a passer fool you.

Justin Worley (Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern)
Worley has had a remarkable senior campaign and is one of the better pocket passers in this class. He threw a whopping 59 touchdowns for over 5,000 yards and completed 73 percent of his passes on the year. The Tennessee commit could also be placed in the "upside" category because his best football is ahead of him.

Strongest arm

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comJeff Driskel is the No. 1-ranked QB in the 2011 class.

What we look for: The ability to make spectacular throws into tight spots with arm strength alone. These players display the skills to drive the ball vertically with power and are able to consistently throw the deep comeback route to the sideline from the opposite wide hash.

Jeff Driskel (Ovieto, Fla./Hagerty)
Quite simply, Driskel looks like a redshirt junior throwing the football and as a pure thrower is as gifted as any passer we have seen since Matt Stafford. The Gators quarterback of the future is capable of making every throw on the field and making some look easy.

Jerrard Randall
(Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade-Madonna)

The problem with Randall as a young prospect is that he only knows one speed -- 100 mph! The future Oregon Duck displays rare wrist velocity and ball speed, but must learn how to change and control ball speeds, depending on the throw. Regardless, as a receiver you better snap your head around or you may lose it.

Braxton Miller (Huber Heights, Ohio/Wayne)
Miller is a stronger-armed Pat White in terms of skill set. He is a dual-threat, but could stand in the pocket and make every throw on the field including deep out cuts from the opposite hash mark. The Ohio State commit shows tremendous rpms on the ball when his feet are set and can fit the ball into tight spots in coverage.

Best dual-threat skills

What we look for: These prospects can be every bit as dangerous with their legs and overall athleticism as they can be with their arm. Often times at this stage, dual-threat QBs are better athletes than passers.

Braxton Miller
The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder is explosive, shifty and has some strength as a runner as well. He is one of the few dual-threat guys that is not behind in the passing game, which is why he is so dangerous. He has the arm to make difficult throws on the move when out of the pocket and is a dynamic runner.

Kiehl Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Shiloh Christian)
Frazier has huge developmental upside to flourish at Auburn, having played in the same scheme in high school. He is big, strong, fast and possesses terrific upside. His combination of touch and power as a passer makes him dangerous to strike from anywhere on the field.

Bubba Starling (Gardner, Kan./Edgerton)
Starling is one of the best overall athletes in this class -- outside of DE Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe) -- regardless of position. Given Starling's physical measurables it is rare to find a player than runs as well as he does. He is an underrated passer with a 95 mph fast ball that likely will lead him down the path to professional baseball. If he follows through with his Nebraska commitment, look out.

Brett Hundley (Chandler, Ariz./Chandler)
Hundley is not as explosive as the other three and may be a bit more raw, but he is a physically strong runner and passer. The UCLA commit is still developing fundamentally and should be a shotgun spread passer to maximize his strengths at the next level.

Intangibles

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
Davide De PasJ.W. Walsh chose Oklahoma State over Arizona, Kansas and Texas, among others.

What we look for: A player with the ability to succeed on toughness, leadership, savvy and creativity. Some guys have great tools along with intangibles and others lack great measurables and physical gifts, but find ways to win regardless. Intangibles are extremely difficult to define, but you know it when you see it.

J.W. Walsh (Denton, Texas/Guyer)
Walsh just has that gritty, determined riverboat gambler style to his game. The future Oklahoma State Cowboy can keep plays alive, has the feet and anticipation skills to know when to get out of the pocket and make things happen. He is on the shorter side somewhat, but he has played at a very high level when it comes to productivity and just knows how to get the job done.

Cody Kessler (Bakersfield, Calif./Centennial)
Kessler and Walsh are fairly similar, although Walsh may be the better athlete of the two. Kessler is a guy we liked better on tape than we did in person in terms of consistent throwing mechanics. He has a gunslinger mentality and at times can get hot and look very good. USC is getting a tough and productive signal caller.

Most under appreciated

What we look for: These guys have high-level skills but aren't generating the buzz of some of their quarterback counterparts in the 2011 class. Look for these prospects to come into their own at the next level.

Gary Nova (Ramsey, N.J./Don Bosco)
Nova is a smooth, fluid, fundamentally-sound pocket passer who is extremely consistent in his methods. He has a quick, smooth delivery with adequate arm strength and the upside to really develop down the road. There will not be much tweaking needed mechanically during his development at Pitt because he is very sound in this area.

Adam Pittser (Richmond, Ill./Burton)
Pittser is a victim of his high school scheme, which has not allowed for him to develop as a passer and put up any numbers that would get schools to take notice. Simply put it is difficult to evaluate his game tape and project forward. However, aside from Driskel at this past summer's Elite 11 camp many would argue Pittser was the best guy in attendance.

Tom Luginbill is ESPN's national director of football recruiting.