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Evaluating the most likely Northwestern transfer quarterback targets - Part Two

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From household names to four-star backups, we bring you Part Two of a relatively comprehensive list of QBs that Pat Fitzgerald will look to add.

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Texas A&M v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

With bowl games, new signees, players entering the transfer portal and the holidays on the horizon, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

As Northwestern fans are all too aware, the Wildcats’ quarterbacks were among the worst in the country last season. The rotation of Hunter Johnson, Andrew Marty and Ryan Hilinski combined to complete only 57.1% of their passes for 2,109 yards, 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, earning a “D-” overall grade in our reviews.

Even after signing former Notre Dame commit Jack Lausch, it’s almost a guarantee that NU will acquire a quarterback to compete with Hilinski come spring.

Who are the gunslingers that could make Evanston their new homes in the coming weeks? Get to know each of the eight below as well as their likelihood of committing to Northwestern.

Note: Part One of this series is available here.

Zach Calzada, Texas A&M

Years of Eligibility: Three

2021 Stats: 12 games, 56.3% completion rate, 2,185 passing yards, 17 passing touchdowns, nine interceptions, 35 rushing attempts, -10 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown.

After backing up Mond in 2019, Calzada saw no snaps in 2020. Entering 2021, the former three-star recruit served as the backup yet again – this time, to Haynes King. However, King was injured against Colorado, opening the door for Calzada to start for the remainder of the season. Calzada was under center when the Aggies upset No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 9, throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns as well as one interception.

Likelihood of Coming to NU: 25%

Calzada received an offer from Fitzgerald out of high school, so the foundation has been laid for a commitment to NU. Moreover, Calzada would seemingly have the academic prowess to thrive at Northwestern, as he was recruited by Brown and Princeton. At the same time, the 6-foot-4 quarterback was given scholarships out of high school to Georgia, Cincinnati, Pitt, North Carolina and more leviathans, many of which are looking to replace signal-callers.

Emory Jones, Florida

Years of Eligibility: Two

2021 Stats: 12 games, 67.6% completion rate, 2,562 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 133 rushing attempts, 696 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, two receptions, 28 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown.

For three years in Gainesville, Jones largely had to wait his turn, as the Gators started Feleipe Franks in 2018 and Kyle Trask from 2019-2020. Entering this past season, many pundits had billed Jones as the next great Florida QB, but the former four-star prospect failed to live up to those expectations. Jones threw interceptions in each of the Gators’ first three games and was benched for Anthony Richardson against Georgia on Oct. 30, but Jones did enter the game in the third quarter. With Billy Napier taking over for Dan Mullen, Jones has elected to take his talents elsewhere.

Likelihood of Coming to NU: 15%

Jones has lots of career parallels to Myles Brennan, who was discussed in the first part of this series — and has since decided to remain at LSU. The former Florida QB was given offers out of high school to Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, Oregon, North Carolina and more, so those would figure to be potential destinations. I anticipate Jones wanting a spot where he’s a relatively solidified QB1. NU could be interested in Jones’ dual-threat ability and starting experience, but Fitz & Co. don’t seem adamant on totally giving up on Hilinski just yet.

Ta’Quan Roberson, Penn State

Years of Eligibility: Three

2021 Stats: Three games, 39.3% completion rate (11-for-28), 85 passing yards, one passing touchdown, two interceptions, 12 rushing attempts, 24 rushing yards.

Since joining Penn State in 2019, Roberson has served as Sean Clifford’s backup. When the Nittany Lions faced the Iowa Hawkeyes on Oct. 9, Roberson saw ample playing time with Clifford down with an injury, but PSU scored just three points with Roberson under center. Roberson played in just four career games in University Park.

Likelihood of Coming to NU: 15%

Thus far, Roberson has accrued offers from UConn and Tennessee State, neither of which is particularly close to the echelon of Northwestern. Given that he was a four-star prospect, though, expect more teams to enter the conversation, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Fitzgerald were among the coaches luring him.

Taisun Phommachanh, Clemson

Years of Eligibility: Three

2021 Stats: Five games, 57.9% completion rate, 131 passing yards, one passing touchdown, one interception, 11 rushing attempts, 69 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown.

After starring in relief of Trevor Lawrence, D.J. Uiagalelei was Clemson’s starter in 2021, with Phommachanh as his backup. However, Dabo Swinney & Co. greatly underwhelmed, and Uiagalelei was momentarily benched for Phommachanh during the third quarter of Clemson’s loss to Pitt. Phommachanh went 3-for-7 on his passes for 47 yards. He also saw snaps during Clemson’s blowout win over South Carolina State, as the sophomore completed 7-of-10 passes for 75 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Likelihood of Coming to NU: 15%

This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I suspect that Fitzgerald has some misgivings about adding a high-ranking Lawrence backup considering how Hunter Johnson turned out. Having a .9156 247 Sports Composite Score, there should be a litany of teams inquiring about Phommachanh, including Cincinnati, LSU, Ole Miss, Pitt, Florida and Iowa, all of which offered him out of high school.

Zach Gibson, Akron

Years of Eligibility: Three

2021 Stats: Seven games, 69.4% completion rate, 1,262 passing yards, 10 passing touchdowns, zero interceptions, 43 rushing attempts, 57 rushing yards.

As a freshman in 2019, Gibson started one game for the Zips, throwing for 193 yards and an interception. After taking over the starting reigns in 2020, Gibson struggled, posting just four touchdowns to five interceptions as Akron went a miserable 1-5. Fast forward to 2021, though, and Gibson hit his stride despite starting just three games.

Likelihood of Coming to NU: 10%

Gibson is a Georgia native and visited with Georgia Tech, not to mention that his brother Zach is part of the Yellow Jackets’ 2022 recruiting class. Likewise, the fact that Gibson didn’t visit Nebraska after scheduling a meeting in Lincoln indicates that his odds of landing in the Big Ten, particularly NU, are not substantial. It’s a safe bet that Gibson will commit to GT, especially since he had no P5 offers out of high school.

Chubba Purdy, Florida State

Years of Eligibility: Three

2021 Stats: One game, 100% completion rate(5-for-5), 98 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions, one rushing attempt, five rushing yards.

Purdy was hampered by injuries during his time in Tallahassee, as he played in just four career games due to a nagging collarbone/shoulder problem. In his lone career start against NC State, Purdy went 15-of-23 passing for 181 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Likelihood of Coming to NU: 10%

Purdy has already met with Pitt brass on two occasions, having an in-home visit on Dec. 6 and a visit to Pittsburgh on Dec. 12. Although the Panthers lost offensive coordinator Mark Whipple – who recruited Purdy – it appears as though the younger brother of Brock will commit to Pat Narduzzi and playing in Heinz Field in the immediate future. It is worth noting that Brock mentioned that Chubba does not envision following in his footsteps at Iowa State.

Harrison Bailey, Tennessee

Years of Eligibility: Four

2021 Stats: One game, 42.9% completion rate (3-for-7), 16 passing yards, zero passing touchdowns, zero interceptions, four rushing attempts, eight rushing yards, one rushing touchdown.

In his freshman campaign in 2020, Bailey made three starts for the Volunteers but was benched in his third and final nod against Texas A&M on Dec. 19. After former Michigan signal-caller Joe Milton landed in Knoxville, Bailey’s role was greatly reduced. Factor in Hendon Hooker returning for 2022, and Bailey’s opportunities under Josh Heupel are greatly restricted with the orange and white.

Likelihood of Coming to NU: 5%

Bailey was the third-ranked pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2020, earning a four-star accolade. Considering that Bailey was offered by Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma, LSU, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and more, I would strongly doubt his desire to join Fitzgerald’s ranks in Evanston.

Peter Costelli, Utah

Years of Eligibility: Four

2021 Stats: N/A

Although the Utes had a marvelous 2021 culminating in a PAC-12 title, their quarterback situation was rather untidy. After starting newly acquired Baylor QB Charlie Brewer to begin the year, Utah turned to Cameron Rising, who totaled a 143.5 efficiency rating. Rising is in line to start for Kyle Whittingham in 2022, and given his junior status, there’s little room for Costelli or others to see snaps.

Likelihood of Coming to NU: 40%

Costelli received an offer from Fitzgerald — and Costelli liked this Dec. 9 tweet saying that he should come to Evanston — but NU was far from the only school to home in on the four-star. The California native received no initial offers from UCLA or USC, so those universities showing interest could prompt a commitment. Moreover, Costelli did obtain an initial scholarship from Oregon; under new head coach Dan Lanning, the Ducks very well may move on from Anthony Brown. Altogether, Costelli coming to Northwestern is starting to heat up, but I wouldn't outright guarantee the 'Cats landing the four-star just yet.

Other Names to Watch: Jack Sears (Boise State), Deuce Hogan (Iowa), Parker McQuarrie (UCLA), Casey Thompson (Texas), Cammon Cooper (Washington State), Jacob Clark (Minnesota), Zach Annexstad (Minnesota), Jordan Yates (Georgia Tech), Toddy Centeio (Colorado State), Riley Keller (Bowling Green), Cade Fortin (USF), James Graham (Georgia Southern), Dillon Markiewicz (Syracuse), Maddox Kopp (Houston), Jordan Weeks (UTSA), Jack Zergiotis (UConn), Bryce Veasley (Duquesne), Cornelious Brown (Georgia State)

Already Transferred: Bo Nix (Oregon), Quinn Ewers (Texas), Spencer Rattler (South Carolina), Michael Penix, Jr. (Washington), Dillon Gabriel (UCLA), Adrian Martinez (Kansas State), Max Johnson (Texas A&M), Jack Plummer (Cal), Charlie Brewer (Liberty), Tommy DeVito (Illinois), Gunnar Holmberg (James Madison), Navy Shuler (Tennessee), Clay Millen (Colorado State), Joey Gatewood (UCF), Brendon Clark (Old Dominion), Carter Bradley (South Alabama), Nick Scalzco (Samford), Jarren Williams (Alabama A&M), Jacob Zeno (UAB), Layne Hatcher (Texas State)