California QBs Matt Corral, Bryce Young lead Ole Miss, Alabama, SEC's West Coast takeover
OXFORD — The SEC has gone Hollywood.
When No. 1 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) and No. 12 Ole Miss (3-0) play Saturday (2:30 p.m., CBS) in Tuscaloosa, it'll be a battle between quarterbacks Bryce Young and Matt Corral, two of the frontrunners to win the Heisman Trophy. It'll also be a battle between two Southern Californians who relocated to the deep South to play college football.
Corral is a Ventura native who played high school ball at Oaks Christian before transferring to powerhouse Long Beach Poly. Young is a Pasadena native who started his high school journey at Cathedral before transferring to quarterback factory Mater Dei.
In the last four recruiting cycles, California high schools have produced 16 quarterbacks rated four-star or better by the 247Sports Composite rankings. As many of those players have signed with SEC schools as have signed with schools in California.
"It's a pretty neat deal," Corral told the Clarion Ledger. "I don't want to say I started it, but my class, after the 2018 class, it really started to become a thing. People want to play where football means something. They want to play in the SEC."
Until recently, SEC quarterbacks almost exclusively came from within the SEC's footprint. Between 2010-17, only three California quarterbacks ranked four-star or higher signed with SEC teams. Corral, former South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski and Young did so in three consecutive years. Four-star quarterback Justyn Martin from Inglewood took an official visit to Ole Miss two weeks ago and de-committed from Cal four days later, giving the trend a chance to continue.
Only four of the top 20 quarterbacks in league history by passing yards attended high school in a state without an SEC team. Of those four, only former Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen came from California. And Tyler Bray of Tennessee in 2012 has been the only California QB to lead the SEC in passing yards in the past 25 years.
Of the top 25 seasons in SEC history by passing yardage, only one came from a native Californian, Tennessee's Tyler Bray
Now the league's coast-to-coast conquering of the quarterback market is inevitable. It's not just Corral and Young. There's also Georgia quarterback J.T. Daniels, a transfer from USC who battled against Corral in high school and was Young's predecessor at Mater Dei.
And if you venture outside the SEC, you'll find California quarterbacks leading high-profile programs like C.J. Stroud at Ohio State and DJ Uiagalelei at Clemson.
Young described the Southern Californian quarterback community as "tight-knit." He and Corral never played against each other in high school, but they knew each other from camps and the recruiting circuit. He voiced similar reasons as Corral did for why he chose to come to the SEC instead of playing somewhere like USC or UCLA.
"I can't speak for everyone, obviously," Young said. "But speaking for myself, this was a place where I was able to compete against the best in practice and being in the SEC and being able to compete against the best week-by-week was really big as far as what attracted me to here."
Saturday's showdown will be the most high-profile battle between West Coast quarterbacks in modern SEC history. As Corral puts it, these types of matchups are why he's seeing more California kids come down south.
"They want the 102,000 (fans) and everything that comes with it," Corral said. "You're going to get that, and much more. The football is just on a bigger stage. It's hard to explain unless you experience it."
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.