It wasn’t so long ago that Brad Smith was a relative unknown. In two years, he went from an anonymous name on a recruiting list to one of the most talented dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation.
His future replacements don’t have the luxury of limited expectations. For Chase Patton and Darrell Jackson, the pressure to perform and build on Smith’s performance will be there from day one.
Day 1 is Wednesday, the day Patton, Jackson and the rest of Missouri’s recruiting class sign letters of intent to join the Tigers next season.
That pressure comes with being as highly rated as both quarterbacks are heading in to signing day.
Patton, Rivals.com’s No. 4 rated dual-threat quarterback, is 6 feet 4 inches tall, 205 pounds and possesses the talent to make an impact when his time to play comes.
He led Rock Bridge to an 8-2 record, racking up 2,622 passing yards and 30 touchdowns on his way to earning Gatorade’s Player of the Year in Missouri.
Patton said he is ready to get started at the next level.
“I’m excited to get it all started,” Patton said. “I am eager to learn from Brad Smith and learn the whole system. That’s the most important thing right now.”
Jackson earned his reputation by doing what many of the best quarterbacks excel at, winning. He led Webster Groves to the state championship in 2002 before a runner-up finish last season.
Rivals.com ranks Jackson, who was 20-4 as the Statesmen’s starter, the No. 10 dual-threat quarterback. By the time he was done, Jackson accounted for 7,251 total yards and 83 touchdowns.
Webster Groves coach Cliff Ice said Jackson is one of the most talented players he has coached.
“I don’t have any adjectives left to describe D.J.,” Ice said. “He has every little intangible that you would want in a kid. There are no holes in his game.”
With departure of backup quarterback Sonny Riccio, who transferred to Delaware, Patton and Jackson could play earlier than expected.
Coach Gary Pinkel prefers to redshirt most of his freshmen, especially quarterbacks, but the uncertainty at the quarterback position will make it difficult to keep both Patton and Jackson out of the black jerseys and in the red ones.
Danny Heitert, of the STC Grid Report, said there is a strong possibility one of the freshman quarterbacks won’t redshirt.
“Out of necessity you probably will see one of the two freshmen takes snaps at the Big 12 level before the season is over,” Heitert said. “It’s a collision sport and Brad Smith is a phantom, but he’s not bulletproof.”
As it stands, Smith is the surefire starter with unproven Brandon Coleman as the backup. Coleman, who struggled at times in practice, is athletic but has yet to show that he can consistently pass with accuracy.
Coleman played in two games last season, working mop-up duty against Ball State and Iowa State. He did not attempt a pass.
As long as Smith stays healthy, the question of redshirting the quarterbacks doesn’t matter, but if Smith is injured, it could mean one of the rookies gets a chance right away.
“Anything can happen, but I am definitely hoping that Brad doesn’t get hurt so I can use that redshirt year,” Patton said.
After seeing Riccio leave because he wanted playing time, Patton and Jackson are aware that both can’t play at the same time.
Patton said that he knows how talented Jackson is, but that good players don’t fear competition.
“If you get caught up in all that, you might get stuck going to a place that you don’t want to be,” Patton said. “There is going to be competition anywhere, but you have to look at it like that competition helps motivate you and makes you a better player.”
Regardless of the outcome of the competitions and possible injuries, the quarterback position is in good hands for quite awhile.