Commentary

The next wave of star QBs

These five passers are in line to replace Luck and Co. as the nation's best

Updated: November 2, 2011, 11:20 AM ET
By Brock Huard | ESPN Insider
James Franklin Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJames Franklin leads the list of the next potentially great college quarterbacks.

College football is in the midst of a disarmament it hasn't seen since 1983, when the game graduated quarterbacks like John Elway, Dan Marino, Tony Eason, Jim Kelly, Todd Blackledge and Ken O'Brien. The crop of quarterbacks who will be drafted this coming April may not be as prototypical in stature (save for Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Landry Jones), but the group's departure as a whole will leave a massive void to be filled.

Consider this: Departing stage right will be the college game's most prolific statistical passer (Case Keenum), the game's biggest winner (Kellen Moore), and the quarterback whom Todd McShay has said will receive the highest grade of any prospect he has ever scouted (Luck). Other passers who will be -- or in some cases, could be -- leaving the collegiate ranks after this season include Brandon Weeden, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles and Robert Griffin III. All told, the 11 aforementioned passers have combined to throw for 103,112 yards -- or nearly 59 miles -- in their careers.

With a group this talented leaving the college game, it's only logical to ask the following question: Who will be taking their place as the next group of star quarterbacks? We already know some of the up-and-coming talent that has tantalized of late (Denard Robinson, Tajh Boyd, Darron Thomas), but I've got my eye on five super sophomores who are quietly developing with a chance to be special in their own way. These are the guys primed to emerge as the sport's next star QBs, after this year's elite group of passers has moved on.

1. James Franklin, Missouri Tigers

Sturdy, strong and athletic, Franklin is the most powerfully built of the quarterbacks mentioned here. He's been thrown right into the fire this season with road tests against the Arizona State Sun Devils, Oklahoma Sooners, Kansas State Wildcats and Texas A&M Aggies in his first eight games as a starter.

Franklin had his first signature win in College Station last weekend, and the early adversity he has faced in his career will pay dividends for him and the program in the future. Franklin has weathered the brutal schedule with 13 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 61 percent completion percentage, plus an additional 542 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He is calm, even oblivious at times in the pocket, and his unwavering poise has won over head coach Gary Pinkel.

• College football analyst for ESPN
• Six-year NFL QB and three-year starter at University of Washington
• Co-host of the Brock and Danny Show on ESPN 710 AM in Seattle