When Thompson’s Conner Harrell committed to North Carolina on Sunday, it continued a recent trend of high-profile Alabama high school quarterbacks leaving the state to play college football.
Is it something for in-state schools to be concerned about or just a product of the depth at the position at Alabama colleges and the overall talent at state high schools?
“It’s just one of those things,” Sports Illustrated Director of Recruiting John Garcia Jr. said. “You only take one quarterback a year for the most part. Alabama is always going to search nationally. It just is what it is. It’s just what they do.
“Every now and then, there will be a Paul Tyson or a Taulia Tagovailoa that ends up staying in state but for the most part it will be a national search every year. Auburn is really going to move, in my opinion, to that same trend although conventionally the state of Alabama, of Georgia, of Florida is really where they have looked overall for talent, including quarterback.”
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Alabama and Auburn last signed high-profile quarterbacks out of the state in 2019, which also was the strongest class in recent years. That season, four quarterbacks were among the top 12 recruits in the state, according to the 247 composite rankings. Alabama signed No. 8 Taulia Tagovailoa, who later transferred to Maryland, and No. 12 Tyson, who remains in Tuscaloosa. Auburn signed No. 3 Bo Nix, still the Tigers’ starter. Central-Phenix City’s Peter Parrish (No. 11) signed with LSU. He is now at Memphis.
“It’s not like the in-state colleges are ignoring the quarterbacks from our state,” said Randy Kennedy, program director/host for Sports Talk 99.5 FM in Mobile and recruiting analyst for AL.com. “Auburn (Bo Nix) and South Alabama (Jake Bentley) have starters who were high-profile stars from the state. Tyler Johnston III is one of the most successful quarterbacks in UAB history and Paul Tyson is the backup at Alabama.”
Johnston III won a pair of state championships at Spanish Fort before signing with UAB. He was the state’s Mr. Football winner in 2015. Bentley played at Opelika High but finished early and signed with South Carolina. After a stop in Utah, he transferred to South Alabama this offseason.
Harrell, the 2020 Class 7A Back of the Year, is one of four high-profile quarterbacks in the Class of 2022 already committed to go out-of-state for college. He is joined by Gordo’s Tanner Bailey (Oregon), Pinson Valley’s Zach Pyron (Baylor) and Clay-Chalkville’s Khalib Johnson (Louisville). Oak Mountain QB Evan Smith committed to Northwestern over a busy weekend, though he is expected to play another position for Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats.
Pyron was the state’s lone representative in the Elite 11 QB Showcase in Los Angeles last week.
“The fact that a guy like Zach Pyron of Pinson Valley can be an Elite 11 quarterback yet not get an offer from Alabama or Auburn is a sign that the depth of talent in the state has soared,” Kennedy said. “I do think in a few years we’re going to look at the success of guys like Pyron at Baylor, Trent Battle at TCU, Will Crowder at West Virginia and Riley Leonard at Duke and realize what a special era this was for quarterbacks from Alabama.”
Leonard (Fairhope), Crowder (Gardendale) and Battle (Daphne) were all part of the 2021 in-state class, which wasn’t as highly rated overall as this year’s class or certainly the stellar 2019 class.
Auburn and Alabama showed interest in several of this year’s quarterbacks, but the Tide and Tigers already have QBs committed in the Class of 2022. Alabama has a commitment from Tennessee’s Ty Simpson, while Auburn has a pledge from Georgia’s Holden Geriner. Both of those players also participated in the Elite 11 along with Pyron last week.
“Geriner being a Georgia kid, a Savannah kid, is still semi-local to the Tigers so I don’t think we should read too much into these in-state quarterbacks leaving the state of Alabama,” Garcia Jr. said. “I think it’s a good thing because these programs now realize you can go into Birmingham, you can go into a place like Gordo – right outside of Tuscaloosa — and get a good prospect like Tanner Bailey even though Nick Saban doesn’t necessarily want to beat down the door for the kid.”
It also should be noted that former Thompson QB Sawyer Pate accepted a preferred walk-on at Auburn in the Class of 2020 and is still on the Plains.
“In general, the state of Alabama is really looked at as a quarterback state and next year’s Class of 2023 may be even better,” said David Morris, owner of the quarterback-training company QB Country. “It’s all trending in the right direction.”
ALABAMA’S HIGH PROFILE QBS IN RECENT YEARS
CLASS OF 2022
(Rank according to 247 composite)
No. 10 Tanner Bailey, Gordo, Oregon
No. 22 Zach Pyron, Pinson Valley, Baylor
No. 25 Khalib Johnson, Clay-Chalkville, Louisville
No. 26 Conner Harrell, Thompson, North Carolina
CLASS OF 2021
No. 25 Will Crowder, Gardendale, West Virginia
No. 28 Riley Leonard, Fairhope, Duke
No. 32 Trent Battle, Daphne, TCU
CLASS OF 2020
No. 7 Kristian Story, Lanett, Alabama (Played QB and safety in high school but signed as a defensive back at Alabama)
No. 12 Robby Ashford, Hoover, Oregon
No. 14 Logan Smothers, Muscle Shoals, Nebraska
No. 45 Tucker Melton, Central-Phenix City, Bowling Green
No. 53 Brett Nezat, Saraland, Arkansas State
No. 113 Sawyer Pate, Thompson, PWO to Auburn
CLASS OF 2019
No. 3 Bo Nix, Pinson Valley, Auburn
No. 8 Taulia Tagovailoa, Thompson, Alabama
No. 11 Peter Parrish, Central-Phenix City, LSU
No. 12 Paul Tyson, Hewitt-Trussville, Alabama