Photo courtesy of Oklahoma athletics
Ask any fan base who “Quarterback U“ is and the answers heard will vary. Whether it’s for a backup quarterback in the NFL or the likes of Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers, every fan base may feel their team has a case.
The debate on who is college football’s premier university for quarterbacks continues to be debated and names begin to be thrown around.
Despite the claims, who is the modern-day “QBU”? Which college football program has seen the combined NFL and college success and, to this day, continue to develop NFL signal-callers?
To keep it as modern as possible, quarterbacks drafted from 2005 to 2020 are going to be considered.
Since 2010, Oklahoma has had three quarterbacks selected with the first overall pick. Sam Bradford was selected by the St. Louis Rams in 2010. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray were selected in 2018 and 2019, respectively, with the first pick. Outside of the first round, Landry Jones’ name was called in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft and Jalen Hurts was selected with the 53rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
In college, the three first overall picks combined for successful careers in Norman. Bradford finished his Oklahoma career as the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner and a Consensus All-American. Although Bradford’s NFL career was prematurely ended because of injuries, the talent was there to be a big-time NFL star. In 2010, Bradford captured the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Although the jury is still out on Murray and Mayfield’s NFL careers, their respective college careers ended in multiple awards. The two combined for 164 passing touchdowns and 21 interceptions over their Oklahoma careers. The two also won back-to-back Heisman Trophies in 2017 and 2018. Murray was the 2019 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year for the Arizona Cardinals.
Although Texas has only seen two quarterbacks selected since 2005, the college success of the two is hard to compete with. In 2006, the Tennessee Titans selected Vince Young with the third overall pick. In 2010, the Cleveland Browns selected Colt McCoy in the third round. The two have combined for 78 games started in the NFL.
In 2005, Vince Young led the Longhorns to an undefeated record and a 41-38 win over USC in the Rose Bowl for the BCS national championship. Young finished the 2005 season with 3,306 yards passing, 1,050 yards rushing and 38 total touchdowns (26 passing, 10 rushing). Young finished second behind Reggie Bush in the 2005 Heisman Trophy race.
In 2014, the Florida State Seminoles captured a BCS National Championship with Jameis Winston under center. The following draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made Winston the first overall pick. Before that, the Seminoles sent both Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel to the NFL in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Both were first-round picks.
Although Manuel and Ponder are both out of the NFL and Winston is now a backup, the NFL success was shown in spurts but not enough to push them. In 140 combined NFL games, the trio has combined for 177 touchdowns and 140 interceptions. Winston was named to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season after throwing for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Although the NFL success was sparse for the trio, the college success was where the three shined. In 105 games, the three combined for 22,577 passing yards and 161 touchdowns. Winston is by far the most decorated of the bunch, coming home with the 2013 Heisman Trophy.
Based on the number of players taken in the NFL Draft, no team competes with USC. Since 2005, the Trojans have had seven quarterbacks drafted. Of those seven, three have heard their names called in the first 10 picks of their draft: Sam Darnold (selected third overall in 2018), Mark Sanchez (fifth overall in 2013) and Matt Leinart (10th overall in 2006).
Although Darnold is the lone active starting quarterback of the bunch, Cody Kessler (drafted in 2016) and Matt Barkley (2013) are still on NFL rosters. Although the high-end NFL success is lacking for USC, the Trojans have seen a few quarterbacks become solid backups. Matt Cassel (2005 NFL Draft) built a 14-year career as a backup, complete with a Pro Bowl appearance in 2010. Sanchez, who last played in 2018, also saw limited success as a backup quarterback in Philadelphia.
In college, Matt Leinart led the way, In 2004, Leinart was named a Unanimous All-American and won the Heisman Trophy. Leinart finished his USC career with 10,693 passing yards and 99 passing touchdowns.
Auburn has only had three quarterbacks drafted into the NFL but the first two have seen both college and NFL success. In 2005, the Washington Redskins selected Jason Campbell with the 25th overall pick, making him the first Auburn quarterback selected in the first round since Travis Tidwell in 1950. In 2011, Cam Newton was Auburn’s first No. 1 overall selection since 1988, when the Carolina Panthers selected him.
Campbell and Newton have since combined for 215 games and 203 starts. In those 215 games, the two have combined for 45,812 passing yards and 269 passing touchdowns. The two also have a combined 64 rushing touchdowns. In terms of NFL success, no quarterback from any of these five schools has seen as much success as Cam Newton. Since becoming Carolina’s starter in 2011, Newton has made three Pro Bowl appearances and in 2015, won the league’s MVP award.
In college, Newton has once again captured most of the school’s success. Not only did Newton win the 2010 Heisman Trophy but he was also a Consensus All-American and won the Davey O’Brien Award in the same year. Newton also helped Auburn capture a BCS National Championship — its first national title since 1957.
Basing it strictly off NFL success, no school has come close to competing with Auburn. Not only has Auburn seen the success from Jason Campbell, who played until 2014, but Cam Newton was once one of the league’s best quarterbacks. The 2015 MVP, Newton, and the Panthers were a consistent force to be reckoned with in the NFC. Newton and the Panthers also made Super Bowl L, where they fell to the Denver Broncos.
However, “QBU” can not just be based on NFL success. When combining college success and NFL success, no college closely competes with Oklahoma. Since 2005, Oklahoma has sent three different Heisman Trophy winners to the NFL and all three were the first overall selection in their NFL Draft. Although the success has been limited thus far, the early returns for Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray show promise.