The rise of the freshman

In the last 10 years, freshman quarterbacks have gone from benchwarmer to the big man on campus, a transformation that flies in the face of everything we've seen in the last 150 years of college football.

It’s hard to imagine there was a time not that long ago when the college football season ended with co-national champions, the highest paid head coaches still made considerably less than the ones in the NFL and the Heisman Trophy was reserved almost exclusively for upperclassman.

Fortunately, these old trends have given way to newer, better ones that reward talent over seniority on such a wide scale we’ve seen multiple freshman quarterbacks win Heisman Trophies and even lead their teams to national titles.

Between 2012 and 2018 college football saw its first freshman Heisman winner with Johnny Manzeil from Texas A&M only to be outdone that very next season by a 19-year-old freshman quarterback, Jamies Winston out of Florida State. That said,   would only be remembered as the youngest winner in history for a few more seasons before Lamar Jackson took home the trophy as a slightly younger 19-year-old quarterback in 2017.

The freshman even got involved in taking home the biggest prize of all – College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy. In the 2018 CFP title game, 18-year-old quarterback Tua Tagovailo led the Alabama Crimson Tide to victory over Georgia and then that following year another true freshman would do the same, except this time it would be Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence against Bama.

This past recruiting class included a 5-star quarterback and three 5-star wide receivers that all committed to the Oklahoma Sooners, a team that’s already a regular in the College Football Playoff. If this freshman quarterback trend continues don’t be surprised if you see a sophomore Trevor Lawrence going home a losing while the Sooner’s freshman sensations keep the streak alive.

Freshman quarterbacks are essentially running the college football world and not that long ago a lot of people wouldn’t have thought that was possible. That said, the game is changing on every level and the emergence of the high school football factories – most notably IMG Academy is setting new precedents on what’s to be expected out of these up and comers.

At the current rate, we’re at, I wouldn’t be surprised if ESPN starts airing 8th-grade football sometime in the not so distant future – and who would blame them, the game just keeps getting better and so long as that’s the case, expect fans to continue tuning in and paying up.



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