Which school is QB U right now?

Five places where recruits might go if their top goal is the NFL

Originally Published: April 16, 2012
By Brock Huard | ESPN Insider
Kiffin/BarkleyRon Chenoy/US PresswireMatt Barkley (once he leaves USC) will be another in a chain of recent first-round QBs for the Trojans.

There is often a difference between college programs that get great production out of their quarterbacks and programs that do the best job of developing QBs for the next level.

Two decades ago, the Miami Hurricanes, Brigham Young Cougars, Michigan Wolverines and Washington Huskies were clearly the teams most synonymous with Quarterback U (producing Warren Moon, Vinny Testaverde, Jim Kelly, Jim Harbaugh, Elvis Grbac, Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Mark Brunell and Bernie Kosar).

A decade ago, seemingly everyone Jeff Tedford tutored became an NFL first-round pick (Kyle Boller, Trent Dilfer, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith and Aaron Rodgers), and Steve Spurrier's prowess with passers seemed unmatched.

Today, the landscape has changed; coaches rarely stay put and the spread/zone-option scheme has changed the demands of the position, along with many of the traditional quarterback fundamentals. The emphasis of the passing game at the high school level, the vast number of passing camps and QB teachers, the boom of 7-on-7 passing leagues and the growth of strength and conditioning programs have advanced the learning curve and growth of the position.

These factors have allowed Matt Barkley to start as a ninth-grader at Mater Dei, Robert Griffin III as a freshman for the Baylor Bears and Cam Newton and Andy Dalton as rookies in the NFL. "The game has changed," says Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. "I used to believe that a QB had to develop behind a veteran. That's just not the case anymore. Dalton, Newton, Matt Ryan and others are proof."

So then, which programs are the best in the nation at developing top-flight pro-ready quarterbacks right now? I asked a former coach (Mike Bellotti), a recruiting expert (Tom Luginbill) and a former NFL passer (Jesse Palmer) to weigh in. Coupled with their analysis I've put together a top-five list, in addition to looking at a few other programs that reside in the next tier.

Remember, this search for "QB U" is more about projection than it is about collegiate production. Mike Gundy, Gus Malzahn, Dana Holgorsen and Chip Kelly may be at the front of the line when it comes to innovation and quarterback execution at the collegiate level, but the top five schools that follow incubate a passer in a very demanding way on and off the field, at the line of scrimmage and have a recent track record of success that differentiates them from the pack.

Palmer puts it this way, "It's hard to find the tradition, relevance, pro style and system combination with the spread offenses becoming more and more en vogue today."

Here's our look at the programs that elite QB recruits with NFL aspirations should consider first:

• 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