If the Tennessee Vols are going to find sustained success in the next several years under Josh Heupel, they’ll need to continually find great quarterbacks who can play at a high level in the SEC.
Finding great quarterbacks is one of the toughest things to accomplish in recruiting. There are only so many five-star quarterbacks to be signed. And it’s nearly impossible for a down-on-its-luck program like Tennessee to sign a five-star quarterback over programs like Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia.
Fortunately for the Vols, Heupel doesn’t necessarily need a five-star quarterback to be successful.
In fact, Heupel isn’t overly concerned about landing a five-star quarterback with elite skills. Sure, that’s nice to have. And Heupel needs a quarterback who can execute at a high level.
But the trait that Heupel views as the most important for a quarterback to have — above all else — is leadership.
“We’ve had tall ones, short ones, fast ones, and we’ve had guys that did not run quite as fast and some others moved around like probably I did back in the day, it doesn’t matter,” said Heupel this week. “They’re accurate. Some of them had huge arms and some of them have been really great with their timing.”
“To me, it’s about the intangibles,” added Heupel. “You’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to be competitive, willing to go lay it on the line every single day, 365 days out of the year. You’ve got to be able to demand it from the guy that’s next to you.”
“Those intangible things are what we’re looking for in our quarterback here at Tennessee. We’re going to find it, and it’s going to be a guy that’s going to help lead us to a championship.”
If a quarterback is extremely talented but isn’t a good leader, Heupel is going to pass. He wants a kid that can make others rise to the occasion. Heupel wants a kid that can essentially be an extension of the coaching staff on the field.
It certainly makes a lot of sense. We’ve seen plenty of highly-touted quarterbacks win national championships. But we’ve also seen quarterbacks who weren’t five-star studs win national championships.
The last two quarterbacks to win national championships — Mac Jones and Joe Burrow — weren’t lauded by the recruiting services. Burrow was rated as a four-star by 247Sports and a three-star by Rivals. Jones was rated as a three-star by 247Sports and a four-star by Rivals.
Neither quarterback received the same hype as a Justin Fields or Trevor Lawrence type player during the recruiting process, yet they still managed to take their respective teams to the highest level of college football. It’s because they have the intangibles that Heupel is talking about.
Fans shouldn’t get too caught up in the recruiting rankings when it comes to the quarterbacks that Heupel recruits over the next few years. He knows what he’s doing and he’s probably not paying a bit of attention to where a player is ranked by Rivals or 247Sports.
Featured image via Tennessee Athletic Communications/Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports