July 19, 2024

Why high school QBs are committing earlier than ever — and then putting on their hard hats

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A year ago this week, Tavien St. Clair walked into the Woody Hayes Athletic Center at Ohio State with news to share.

The five-star quarterback from Bellafontaine (Ohio) was ready to commit to the Buckeyes, a childhood favorite team with a rich history of producing top talent at his position. Two-time Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud had been taken second overall in the NFL Draft just two months prior, and St. Clair could not wait to start mapping out a similar blueprint in Columbus. He stepped into coach Ryan Day’s office equally nervous and excited.

“Coach Day and coach Corey Dennis had started asking about a commitment a couple months before that moment, just dropping hints here and there and wondering when I wanted to do it,” St. Clair said at the Elite 11 Finals. “My family and I were overwhelmed with joy when we finally did it. Enrolling early was a big factor in the timing. Obviously it was two full years before the start of my first college season, but it’s big for the quarterback to jump in early and recruit the guys he wants around him.”

The results, at least for Ohio State, have been tangible — the Buckeyes hold a healthy lead atop the 247Sports Team Composite Recruiting Rankings for the 2025 class with six months remaining until the Early Signing Period. St. Clair is one of three five-star prospects in the group that also features 12 other Top247 members. 

Ask any coach and they’ll tell you there’s no better way to kick-start a class than by landing an elite quarterback recruit. He’s a magnet for other elite players. He’s a testament to your fans, boosters and bosses that your program’s going in the right direction. And he’s usually the most vocal one in building out the class, organizing group texts, visit weekends. He’s a quarterback, after all. 

“You already know who you are, but I’ll call you out again: Dakorien Moore, David Sanders, Jordon Davison, Justin Hill,” St. Clair said when asked who he’s recruiting to Ohio State, rattling off a who’s-who of 2025’s best players. “Vernell Brown was out here. I’m recruiting him. Just get ready for it. We got the best class in the nation. I’m trying to have the best team in the nation for the next forever. Keeping Ohio State on the top is the main thing.”

A now-prevalent early-pledge structure in the world of quarterback recruiting first hit the mainstream in 2010 when Delaware middle-schooler David Sills made national headlines by committing to then-USC coach Lane Kiffin at 13-years-old. Not every modern case is that extreme, of course, but there are a variety of influential factors that have accelerated the process for these coveted players and their families.

Nine of the 20 participants at last week’s Elite 11 Finals made their college decisions prior to the 2023 season. Two others came off the board before the calendar turned to 2024 and all but two of the competitors are currently uncommitted (quarterback Malik Washington will commit Friday on the 247Sports YouTube). 

“The quarterback is so essential in building a class and that position, for any given program, is so crucial to the team’s success,” said Trojans quarterback Miller Moss, an Elite 11 Finalist in 2020 who served as a college counselor this week. “Having that quarterback to build around and other recruits to look at as a centerpiece is big. Coaches are great at recruiting, but in the end players know which other players are coming in with them. There’s absolutely pressure coming from coaches, too, because they understand how essential the quarterback piece is to everything else.”

Moss, after waiting his turn behind Caleb Williams, holds a post that five-star Julian Lewis has his sights set on and that was a major reason why he came off the board last August before promptly reclassifying from 2026 to 2025.

“I just wanted to lock down that spot in coach Lincoln Riley’s offense,” said Lewis, who has taken additional official visits to AuburnIndiana and Colorado. “I was the first guy coach Riley offered in 2026 and he actually had not offered any other 2025 prospects, either. I took my chance while I had it. I could not pass that up.”

Denton (Texas) Guyer three-star Kevin Sperry, who committed to Oklahoma back in March of 2023 and was the longest-tenured commit among the Elite 11 Finalists, had a similar outlook in his process.

“I was definitely nervous calling coach Jeff Lebby, who was the offensive coordinator at the time and had offered me,” Sperry said. “I did it on a phone call, so I just kind of wanted to get it done and lock in. We were at Texas on a visit when I got the Oklahoma offer. Driving back from Austin, my dad and I made the decision in the car. I knew that was the spot for me — I felt it in my spirit. The main positive is you get to build up the commits and right now we have one of the biggest classes in the country.”

UNC QB commit Bryce Baker loved his experience committing early

The commitment anniversary is coming up for North Carolina-bound Bryce Baker next week. An advantage for the Kernersville (N.C.) East Forsyth standout has been getting an opportunity to visualize himself under center, particularly on Saturdays in the fall.

“I went to every UNC home game except the one they lost to Virginia,” Baker said. “Not only did that allow me to recruit other guys in person but schematically I was able to really dial in on what we were doing offensively. That’s only going to help me play earlier when I get in that stadium for good.”

Some of the Elite 11 Finals participants speculated that both sides hold leverage in the process, creating a logjam of sorts the moment coaches shift their attention to the next cycle. In a recruiting era turbocharged by the twists and turns of the coaching carousel and transfer portal, among other factors, the process has become increasingly more cutthroat.

“Most of the schools are only going to take one quarterback and if you want to be that one, you better lock in your spot,” Notre Dame commit Deuce Knight said. “A lot of times guys get stuck out in the water because they want to wait, they want to take all these unnecessary visits. It doesn’t make sense to go to a place six times. What else are they going to show you?”

Two of the top four and seven of the top 11 quarterbacks in the 2026 class, per the 247Sports rankings, have already come off the board. Several others are expected to decide in the summer months. 

They will all be off to the races looking to reel in the type of group that St. Clair has helped build.

“Committing early helped me calm down, get the noise out of my head, but in the year since I’ve been more motivated than before,” said St. Clair, who took an official visit last weekend. “Ohio State is such a big national brand that it’s motivating to live up to that. We want to be the best in the country and they recruit the best in the country. You want to get to that standard and, above all, it was a huge motivator to commit when I did.”

MORE: Tracking the fast-falling QB dominoes in 2026