Top 10 Best Freshman Quarterbacks Ever
10. Terrelle Pryor (Ohio State, 2008)
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Forty years after freshmen became eligible to play for a college varsity team, two of the most exciting QBs in 2012 are Marcus Mariota (Oregon) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M). How do they compare to our list of the Top 10 Best Freshman QBs Ever?
In just his fourth game (and first start), Pryor threw for four TDs against Troy. Later in the season he would gouge Illinois for 110 rushing yards on just 13 carries.
If only Pryor’s career at OSU had ended the way it started.
Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
9. Robert Griffin III (Baylor, 2008)
While No. 10 Terrelle Pryor was making all the headlines for his dual-threat play as a freshman, RGIII — who himself was a consensus four-star prospect — was doing the same in Waco, TX, and breathing life into a moribund Baylor program.
The Bears finished 4–8, but by no fault of Griffin’s. He accumulated nearly 3,000 yards of total offense and 28 total touchdowns (15 passing and 13 rushing). His electric play was befitting of someone who enrolled at Baylor a semester early in order to run for the school’s highly-regarded track team.
Anyone who’s surprised at how RGIII has handled himself in the NFL shouldn’t be. He’s used to putting a downtrodden team on his back and carrying it.
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8. Danny Wuerffel (Florida, 1993)
Steve Spurrier needed a dead-eye marksman to make his Fun ‘n Gun offense go. He found one in Fort Walton Beach, FL, native Danny Wuerffel, whose combination of skills (the top high school recruit in the state) and smarts (Fort Walton Beach High’s valedictorian in ’93) were a godsend for the Head Ball Coach.
Displaying poise normally found in quarterbacks with three years more experience than he had, Wuerffel was the starter from Day One in Gainesville and threw for over 2,200 yards and 22 TDs in his first season at the helm. The Gators went 11–2, won the first of four consecutive SEC championships and delivered Spurrier his first Alliance Bowl win when they blew out West Virginia, 41–7, in the Sugar Bowl.
Wuerffel only got better with age. As a senior in 1996, he won the Heisman Trophy and guided the Gators to their first ever national championship.
7. Kellen Moore (Boise State, 2008)
Unlike Terrelle Pryor and Robert Griffin III, fellow Class of 2008 recruit Moore was overlooked coming out of high school. Both literally (he stood at just 5-foot-11) and figuratively (he hailed from small-town Washington). But when handed the controls to Chris Petersen’s offense, Moore put up better passing numbers than either Pryor or RGIII.
Displaying the cool mien one would expect from the son of a high school coach, Moore led a road upset of No. 12 Oregon in just his third start, throwing for 386 yards and three TDs. By season’s end, Boise State was the WAC champion and Moore had collected 25 TDs against just 10 INTs. The Broncos went a perfect 12-0 in the regular season before finally falling to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.
And those would represent the fewest TDs and most INTs Moore would have in any of his four seasons in Boise. Talk about maturity.
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6. Colt McCoy (Texas, 2006)
Initially, Longhorns fans were more drawn to the Tuscola, TX, native for his name than they were to any potential he had in replacing 2006 Rose Bowl hero and No. 3 overall NFL draft pick Vince Young. But it wasn’t long until the player whose name made it sound like he was born to be a Texas QB started impressing those same fans with his play.
McCoy’s 29 touchdown passes as a freshman were the most ever by a Texas quarterback and tied the then NCAA record for a frosh QB. McCoy also set a program record for TD passes in a game (six) and recorded the first of three victories over archrival Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout.
One year after Texas’ run to the BCS title, McCoy had them ranked No. 4 in mid-November before a shoulder injury sidelined him and upended the Longhorns’ repeat hopes. Rare is the first-year quarterback who comes in and keeps a program humming at a Top 5 level.
5. Pat White (West Virginia, 2005)
By 2005, West Virginia had been improving steadily each year under Rich Rodriguez, managing a pair of shared Big East titles in ’03 and ’04. Upon White’s arrival, the Mountaineers stopped being Big East contenders and started being national ones.
The Alabama native started the season as a co-starter along with Adam Bednarik, helping WVU accumulate a 5–1 record through six games. After replacing an injured Bednarik in a triple-OT victory against No. 19 Louisville, White had the starting job for good.
Teaming up with another freshman, RB Steve Slaton, White spearheaded a spread rushing attack that set college football on fire. White enjoyed back-to-back, 200-yard rushing games late in the season and was flawless in the Mountaineers’ 38–35 upset of Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl.
WVU’s “Mountaineers” nickname was never more fitting than in 2005 as White led the program back to college football’s apex.
4. Tommie Frazier (Nebraska, 1992)
The Bradenton, FL, native represented a change in recruiting strategy for Huskers coach Tom Osborne, who sought faster players at all positions after suffering blowout losses in bowl games. When Touchdown Tommie came of age, so too did Nebraska’s offense.
In his first start, Frazier rushed for three touchdowns against Missouri and belied his reputation for being the first freshman starting quarterback in Nebraska history.
But it was his performance in the Huskers’ next two games that really had people sitting up and taking notice. In consecutive weeks, Frazier was the catalyst behind a 52–7 romp over No. 8 Colorado and a 49–7 rout of No. 13 Kansas. Nebraska finished the season 9–3, and Frazier was on his way to a career that included back-to-back national titles and still gets Huskers fans misty-eyed.
3. Sam Bradford (Oklahoma, 2007)
It’s hard to believe that the Sooners’ 2007 season started out with Bob Stoops trying to decide between six quarterbacks for the starting position. Bradford’s performance as a redshirt freshman made that indecision, in retrospect, seem foolish.
In his first start, against North Texas, Bradford threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns. In a little over two quarters. He carved up Miami (FL) the following week for a school-record five TDs. And until he was sidelined in a loss at Texas Tech late in the season, he had the Sooners in BCS title contention.
Bradford’s final numbers — a 69.5 completion percentage, 3,121 yards and an NCAA freshman record 36 TDs — were Heisman Trophy-worthy. Not bad for a rookie.
Photo Credit: Brett Davis/US Presswire
2. Michael Vick (Virginia Tech, 1999)
When Vick literally flipped over would-be James Madison tacklers for a touchdown in his first collegiate game, he put the college football world on notice.
Few opponents could keep up with the Newport News native’s combination of breakaway speed and seemingly effortless 60-yard bombs. Vick’s stats (2,425 total yards, 20 TDs) didn’t tell the story of his greatness. When West Virginia threatened to derail the Virginia Tech’s dream season in Week 9, it was Vick that led his team downfield for a game-winning field goal as time expired.
Vick and the No. 2 Hokies would succumb to top-ranked Florida State, 46–29, in the BCS title game. But to this day, almost as many people remember Vick’s 322 total yards — just 37 less than what the mighty Seminoles gained as a team — as there are people that recall the final score.
1. Jamelle Holieway (Oklahoma, 1985)
The Sooners sure know how to groom quarterbacks.
Nearly three decades have passed and Jamelle Holieway is still the only true freshman to lead his team to a national title. Holieway was initially the backup to another freshman sensation named Troy Aikman but Aikman broke his ankle in the fourth game of the year vs. Miami (FL).
Not only did the jitterbugging Holieway rush for 862 yards and nine touchdowns in the wishbone offense after sitting on the bench for a month, he also went 8–0 as a starter and led the Sooners to a national championship over Penn State in the Orange Bowl, 25–10.
As the Nittany Lions found out the hard way, Holieway could also throw it around a little bit. Now a sad cautionary tale who has had trouble with the law in recent years, Holieway’s Barry Sanders-like moves are now sadly too often lost to history.