Aging like fine wine

In discussing Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, Matt Hinton makes a good point that maybe this is the year of the grizzled veteran quarterback.  There sure do seem to be a fair number of examples of them.

For his efforts, Hooker went to bed on Saturday night as a bona fide Heisman candidate, a remarkable turn after he was effectively shown the door after 4 years and 15 starts at Virginia Tech, and began his tenure in Knoxville last year as a backup. Through 4 games this year, he’s looked like the ideal QB to bring Josh Heupel’s up-tempo, vertically-oriented vision to fruition, ranking in the top 5 nationally in total offense and Total QBR, and posting the top overall Pro Football Focus grade among FBS quarterbacks. He’s accurate, mobile, consistent, and hasn’t thrown a pick in 211 consecutive attempts dating to last year.

He’s also just one example of a relatively grizzled QB taking full advantage of his bonus season. At Georgia, Stetson Bennett IV (age 24) has shed the last remaining vestiges of his underdog persona to throw his hat into the Heisman ring. Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan (23), coming off disappointing seasons in 2020 and ’21, just had his best month as a starter for the 4-0 Gophers after reuniting with his old coordinator, Kirk Ciarrocca, who oversaw Morgan’s original breakout campaign in 2019.

Nebraska refugee Adrian Martinez (22) delivered a triumphant performance on Saturday for his new school, Kansas State, accounting for all 5 of the Wildcats’ touchdowns in an upset win at Oklahoma. Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell (24), another former walk-on, ranks 15th nationally in QBR. Penn State’s Sean Clifford (24) and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson (22), both long-running targets for their respective fan bases, are off to a combined 8-0 start; further down the food chain, Illinois’ Tommy DeVito (24) and Rutgers’ Noah Vedral (23) are a combined 6-2 at a couple of perennial Big Ten doormats.

Now, to be fair, as Matt himself notes, some of that may be puffed up by early cupcake scheduling, but it doesn’t take much of a leap of logic to see a couple of factors in play here.  One, how the extra COVID year has given some of these QBs the opportunity to experience greater maturity and growth, and, two, how the open portal rules have allowed some to find places with better opportunities and fits for their skill sets.  That being said, it will be interesting to follow this group to see how this unfolds as the scheduling gets tougher.


Filed under College Football

8 responses to “Aging like fine wine

  1. RangerRuss

    It almost seems as if the 4 years of eligibility (5 with redshirt) was a well thought out plan to separate boys from men. The reality is it’s just a random number based on the average years it takes to graduate.
    After years of observing the NCAA and their regulatory usual suspects I’m not sure they could contrive proper guidance for washing their own ass.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. 79dawg

    I can’t believe I’m the only one who thought Adrian Martinez must be in like his eighth year of eligibility – I mean didn’t he play under the Pellini regime at Nebraska?

    Liked by 2 people