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Thomas: Is there another Joe Burrow out there?

| Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Before I start this blasphemous article, be assured I am not suggesting any of the quarterbacks on this list can match what Joe Burrow did this season. His numbers were historically great, and to predict someone could come close to that would certainly be bold. However, by predicting the next Joe Burrow, I’m taking a look at QBs who are not necessarily a favorite right now to win the Heisman, but have the potential to experience a Burrow-esque breakout season and earn some hardware.

Before starting that list, I just wanted to present the QBs who were too good to make the list; in other words, these QBs have odds too high (+1,000 or better) to be considered for the Next Joe Burrow Award: Trevor Lawrence, Spencer Rattler, D’Eriq King, Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Bo Nix.

With that being said, here are three picks (one with a little hometown bias) to be the next Joe Burrow.

Ian Book, Notre Dame

Why he could: Book looked absolutely dominant in the second half of the season. After rushing for a game-winning touchdown against Virginia Tech, Book was lights out, tossing 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions and racking up 295 yards on the ground at a 6.7 yards per carry clip. The potential is there, and with a home game versus Clemson and a road game against Wisconsin, Book has the potential for some Heisman moments if he can perform and lead the Irish back to the Playoff.

Why he won’t: Book has not performed consistently against good teams. He threw just three touchdowns and two interceptions in their two losses, finishing 8-25 for 73 yards against Michigan. Book also loses several offensive playmakers in running back Tony Jones, tight end Cole Kmet and wide receiver Chase Claypool. Adjusting to life without Claypool and Kmet especially will be tough, and there may be a learning curve that hurts Books’ stats.

Kyle Trask, Florida

Why he could: Trask is probably the most similar to Burrow as far as where the LSU QB was heading into this season. Trask is a long-time backup who got a chance to start this season and performed fairly well if not great. He’s on a very good SEC team that has long played second fiddle within its own division but has a chance to go further next year. The initial CBS Sports projection has the Gators in the Playoff next year, which could happen if they usurp Georgia in the SEC East. If that happens, and Trask is a major reason why, expect the Florida signal-caller to be near the top of the lists.

Why he won’t: Obviously he is not a favorite, but there’s no other obvious reason to not like Trask’s chances. The biggest concerns are probably Florida being able to finally take the next step and whether Trask can level up. The long-time backup avoided any horrible games, but he also only had a couple games that you could qualify as “great.” His biggest difference from Burrow’s 2018 season is that Burrow played his best four games of the season in the last four games, indicating a sign of things to come. You can’t say that about Trask who was probably actually a little bit worse in his final four games.

Sam Ehlinger, Texas

Why he could: I could really see this one happening. Ehlinger had an amazing sophomore season, but many people blamed him for Texas underperforming this year when, in fact, he was actually statistically better than last year on several levels. Aside from a couple duds, Ehlinger was really good, posting a quarterback rating of 89 or above in six games, including his best two performances in his final two games. Texas absolutely has the talent to be a national title contender; they just have to put it together for once. But Ehlinger, at a traditional football powerhouse? Coming off a slightly disappointing season that ended in a massive bowl win over a ranked team? Sounds a lot like Joe Burrow…

Why he won’t: The same reason for hope with Ehlinger — that he put up the numbers he did without playing his best — are also reasons for concern. Ehlinger had two total duds against Baylor and Oklahoma and a bad stretch of mediocrity for most of November before he turned it around late with two great performances. Can he avoid long slumps like the one that plagued him this season. He had five games with a QBR under 73.8 — Burrow’s worst mark of the year. Also, can Texas avoid being Texas and actually perform to expectations? Those questions will be key if Ehlinger wants a chance.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Aidan Thomas

A senior marketing and ACMS major at Notre Dame, I've countered the success I've enjoyed as a New England sports fan with the painful existence of a Notre Dame football fan.

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