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Inside Information: Is the ‘Cradle of QBs’ moving west?

It was a phenomenon. I lived it, growing up in a small town 30 miles north of Pittsburgh.

Names like George Blanda, Johnny Unitas and Babe Parilli would lay the foundation and carry the torch. Followed by Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, plus a slew of others who hailed from the Keystone State and, more specifically, small Western Pennsylvania towns in a 40-mile radius known as the “Cradle of Quarterbacks.”

All but one of the above mentioned are in the NFL Hall of Fame and all hail from areas remarkably close in proximity.

What was it about the area or the position on a football field that would see these men excel at the highest level of competition?

Here in 2021, the cradle of college quarterbacks has shifted west, with Southern California high schools producing the signal callers at some of the nation’s top college programs: Bryce Young (Mater Dei, Santa Ana), Alabama; JT Daniels (Mater Dei), Georgia; Matt Coral (Long Beach Poly), Mississippi; CJ Stroud (Rancho Cucamonga), Ohio State; and DJ Uiagalelei (St. John Bosco, Bellflower), Clemson.

Hold on, there’s more. Junior Malachi Nelson (Los Alamitos) has committed to Oklahoma in 2023.

The quarterback scene today is as exciting in Southern California as it was in the Pittsburgh area decades ago. The biggest difference is that the current crop has yet to excel on the biggest stage, the NFL. But like the Pennsylvanians years ago (other than Marino), California’s talented high school QBs are heading out of state for college. 

Another thing that hasn’t changed: The quarterback is the most important position on the football field. Today, Yesterday and Yesteryear. Don’t believe me? Read on …

• Last week, Alabama’s Young was 20-28 for 348 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Crimson Tide back after its upset loss to Texas A&M two weeks ago. Young, a sophomore, is the current favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

• Corral, a junior, ran for 195 yards on 30 carries for Ole Miss and threw for two touchdowns to also throw his hat in the ring in the Heisman race.   

• Georgia’s Daniels, a junior, was a 5-star recruit and Gatorade Football Player of the Year as a junior after throwing 52 touchdown passes on the way to a high school national championship at Mater Dei. He committed to USC, tore his ACL in the season opener and then transferred to Georgia. While he’s currently sidelined with a lat strain, the Bulldogs’ NCAA championship hopes begin and end with him.

• The Buckeyes’ Stroud, a redshirt freshman, threw for seven TDs in his first two games, earning Big Ten Freshmen of the Week honors both weeks. His 484 yards passing in Week 2 were 15 yards shy of the most passing yards in a single game by an Ohio State quarterback. He has the Buckeyes thinking of bigger fish to fry, with games remaining against one-loss Penn State and undefeated Michigan State and Michigan. He’ll be a household name soon.

• Clemson’s Uiagalelei, a sophomore who hasn’t been quite as impressive as his fellow Californians, still has quite the resume, with 48 touchdown passes both his junior and senior years at St. John Bosco and being named USA Today Offensive Player of the Year.

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NFL QBs stepping up in Week 6 included …

• Cardinals’ Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) was 20-30 for 229 yards and four TDs against Cleveland, as Arizona moved to 6-0 to remain the NFL’s only unbeaten team. DeAndre Hopkins acquisition was grand larceny and adding TE Zach Ertz makes Murray one mean machine.

• Vikings’ Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) was 33-48 for 373 yards and three TDs as Minnesota (3-3) got back to .500. As Cousins goes, so go the Vikings. He’s in stride and very dangerous after a tough few weeks.

•Cowboys’ Zak Prescott (Mississippi State) was 36-51 for 445 yards and three TDs as Dallas is off to a 5-1 start. No question who the leader of this team is. And it’s not Jerry Jones.

• Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) was 32-47 for 397 yards and two TDs. The Chiefs are 3-3 and tied for last in the AFC West. But not for long … Mahomes is just too good, even without a defense. Only thing stopping him is injuries. Sharpshooter!

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Extra Points:

• No homecoming for Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin as he returned to Tennessee to face the team he formerly coached and deserted after one year. Kiffin and his team were pelted with golf balls and water bottles after a controversial 4th and 24 stop ended the Volunteers’ potential game-winning drive in a 31-26 Ole Miss victory. The University of Tennessee was fined $250,000 by the SEC for its fans’ behavior Saturday night in Knoxville.

• San Diego State (6-0) remains undefeated after a 19-13, two-overtime win at Mountain West rival San Jose State. It was ugly, but the Aztecs showed toughness.

• Oklahoma freshman quarterback Caleb Williams produced 361 total yards, threw four TD passes and ran for another score in his first collegiate start, as the Sooners demolished TCU. He likely won’t ever sit again, and to think he’s the first true freshman to start at QB for the Sooners in 31 years.

• Undefeated CFB teams remaining are Georgia (7-0), Cincinnati (6-0), Oklahoma (7-0), Michigan (6-0), Oklahoma State (6-0), Michigan State (7-0), Coastal Carolina (6-0), Wake Forrest (6-0), SMU (6-0), UT San Antonio (7-0) and the aforementioned Aztecs.

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College picks — Week 8

Virginia vs. Georgia Tech   Over 62

San Diego State     +3  vs. Air Force

Clemson vs. Pittsburgh  Over 47½

Virginia Tech   -3 over Syracuse

NFL Picks — Week 7 

New Orleans vs. Seattle   Over 44

Last Week  4-2

Season Total : 21–15

Season Win %:   58%

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