Six true freshmen have already seen time at quarterback this season for non-AQ teams around the country. Some went into the season as starters. Others came in because of injuries to the guys in front of them.
Let’s take a quick look at the Freshmen Six and how they have fared so far.
Tarean Austin, New Mexico. Austin made his first career start last week against UNLV because of an injury to starter B.R. Holbrook. He had played in every game this season, and coach Mike Locksley says Austin has shown glimpses.
“I was definitely impressed with Tarean’s poise,” he said. “That was one thing about him when we made the decision on the No. 2 quarterback position, that played a huge role for us. He has a presence of a veteran even though he’s a young guy. Even when things may not go well, he very rarely loses his poise, and so I was proud of the way he competed last week. His best football is still ahead of him.”
Austin was 17-of-40 for 177 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Austin will start again this week against UTEP.
Terrance Broadway, Houston. Broadway was supposed to redshirt this season but got thrown into the starting lineup when Case Keenum went out for the season with a torn ACL and backup Cotton Turner went out for the season with a broken clavicle. Broadway made his first career start last week in a win over Tulane, but the Cougars relied more on their ground game. He went 19-of-28 for 174 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
Coach Kevin Sumlin said the team would continue to evaluate where it was at quarterback in the bye this week. That could mean action from another true freshman, David Piland.
Jeffrey Godfrey, UCF. Folks in Orlando figured it would only be a matter of time before Godfrey took over the starting job from Rob Calabrese. Godfrey had broken Jacory Harris’ high school passing records, and he could run, too. Calabrese, meanwhile, had a history of playing poorly in games. Well, it did not take long for a change to happen. Though he and Calabrese split carries in the opener, that ended for good midway through the third quarter of the NC State game. Godfrey rallied the Knights and almost erased a 28-7 deficit before they fell just short 28-21.
Godfrey won the following game on the road at Buffalo, but UCF lost in the closing minute to Kansas State last week because the defense couldn’t hold the Wildcats. So far on the season, Godfrey is 36-of-59 for 394 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, and has 43 carries for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
Jake Heaps, BYU. This has been quite the introduction to college football for Heaps. Coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to have Heaps and veteran Riley Nelson split the reps this season, and they did that through the first three games. But Nelson hurt his shoulder and is out for the season, leaving Heaps in the starting role. He made his first career start last week in a loss to Nevada, going 24-of-45 for 229 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Cougars have had a hard time stretching the field with their quarterback rotation, but even with just Heaps playing they could not get many long completions. Heaps averaged just 5.1 yards an attempt.
But Mendenhall maintains that Heaps is a special player, and was encouraged by his performance.
“I thought Jake Heaps played very well for his first college start, and he’s more mature and poised than what I gave him credit for,” Mendenhall said. “I liked his resilience. I liked his hope and optimism. It’s one start from a true freshman quarterback with a long career ahead.”
Pete Thomas, Colorado State. Thomas was named the starter before the season began, making him the youngest player to start for the Rams since 1981. He has had some growing pains, in large part because of an inconsistent offensive line and non-existent running game. Colorado State has trailed in its games, too, so he has had to throw the ball. A lot. But that throwing paid off last week in a 36-34 win over Idaho. Thomas was named Mountain West offensive player of the week after going 29-of-37 for 386 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. It was the first game all season he had more touchdowns than interceptions. On the year, he has 1,081 yards passing, but four touchdowns to seven interceptions.
“Every step of the way, from when he got here learning what he did to function in spring ball, all the way through this, finally having to run some two-minute offense, every step of the way he has not only impressed me but this entire football team,” coach Steve Fairchild said. “He’s special and he’s certainly got a very bright future here.”
Ryan Williams, Memphis. Williams stepped in after Cannon Smith went down with a concussion. Though Smith has been cleared to play, Williams is slated to make his third career start Saturday against Tulsa. He became the first true freshman to start at quarterback there in 24 years. He is 1-1 as the starter and got the Tigers close to a win over UTEP last week. He went 20-of-30 for 144 yards and a touchdown against the Miners, but had two interceptions and was largely shut down in the second half.
Still, coach Larry Porter also has been pleased with his poised and said, “He understands there is still some growth to be made.”