As the college football season gets underway, the rankings we carefully evaluated before the season are about to be dismantled. During the first week of the season, there’s always a shocking upset, and there’s always a debut from a rising star. Today we were treated to both in the same game, as Stanford fell to Northwestern 16-6, led by an outstanding performance from redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson.
Thorson was named the starter just over a week before the Wildcat’s first game, and proved today he deserves to be their signal-caller this season. A highly ranked recruit from Illinois, Thorson may be leading Northwestern into a new era for their program.
Here’s the scoop on Thorson:
1. He Was the 7th-Ranked QB Recruit in 2014
Thorson was a highly-rated recruit in the class of 2014 after scoring 41 total touchdowns in 2013 at Wheaton North High School. He received offers from 12 schools including Syracuse, Michigan State, Penn State, and Vanderbilt. Being from the area Thorson has stated he’s always wanted to play in the Big 10, and he signed in February of 2014.
Signing Thorson was a huge deal for Northwestern. He is the highest ranked prospect to commit to the school since 2006, and has fans excited about their future with him at QB.
2. Thorson Won the Job Over Two Other QBs
Thorson redshirted his freshman year, and watched as Trevor Siemian led the Wildcats to a 5-7 mark. Siemian has since moved on, but Thorson was not handed the reins right away. He competed in camp alongside two other passers, senior Zack Oliver and sophomore Matt Alviti. Thorson was named the starter over a week before the Wildcats first game to give him time to settle his nerves, according to coach Pat Fitzgerald.
Thorson was chosen to start not just for his physical attributes. Fitzgerald said “He’s been pretty much unflappable” during training camp, and it’s his mental game that has coaches excited.
3. He’s Big, But Can Still Run
Despite standing at 6’4″, Thorson is considered a dual-threat quarterback. While he looks somewhat stiff in the pocket, he showed what he can do with some momentum against Stanford. Halfway through the second quarter, Thorson put his team ahead with a 42 yard touchdown run.
In what appeared to be a designed run, Thorson was untouched during his scamper. Thorson finished with 8 rushes for 68 yards.
4. He Told Reporters Last Year He’d Start Today
Thorson redshirted last year, and learned the system under senior Trevor Siemian. Although he knew he’d have to compete for his job this season, he was confident in a 2014 interview he wasn’t going to wait long to get onto the field.
The coaches always say to prepare each week as if you’re going to start the game, so I’m going to do that every week. I just want to get better at leading the team and knowing the playbook and everything. The Lord has a plan for me and, whether that’s starting this year or next year, whatever happens happens. I’m just really looking forward to getting on campus and playing with these guys.
Thorson has stayed confident throughout his time on campus, and that confidence should only grow with today’s upset.
5. He Might Be the Best QB in Northwestern History
When Thorson took the field today, he took a step towards making Northwestern history. A Northwestern freshman hasn’t started at QB for 10 or more games since Brett Basanez in 2002. Basanez started all four years at Northwestern, and finished his career with a school-record 10,580 passing yards.
Thorson is the highest rated recruit for Northwestern since 2006. If he can grow from today’s success, the Wildcats will make the Big 10 a much more interesting place for college football.