|Carson Palmer became the first overall pick in the 2003 draft after winning the Heisman Trophy in '02.|
It's the most important position on the football field, and for many NFL teams, it's the most difficult position to project. For every Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, there are a handful of busts in the mold of Akili Smith and Tim Couch. However, some colleges tend to have a better success rate at getting their quarterbacks to the NFL.
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College Football 24/7 took a look at college football programs across the country and took into account their history of producing NFL quarterbacks over the past 25 years, the quality of signal-callers they've produced, the offense they typically run and even took a look into future a little bit to see what kind of pipeline there is for the school. As impressive as Auburn, Baylor, Texas A&M and others have been at sending quarterbacks to the league in recent years, they haven't quite risen to the same level as the schools on this list when it comes to depth and recent historical impact.
With that in mind, here are the 10 programs that can proudly lay claim to the title "Quarterback U" based on their success in sending quarterbacks to the league during the past quarter century or so (teams ranked from least to most impressive QB collections).
10. N.C. State Wolfpack
Draft picks last 25 years: Three (Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Mike Glennon)
The skinny: Yes, we're counting Wilson in the Wolfpack trio even though he spent his final college season at Wisconsin. While the quantity hasn't been as great as others, the quality is pretty high dating back to the Norm Chow-coached Rivers. Glennon is apparently the future in Tampa Bay and looked decent as a rookie. Head coach Dave Doeren is known mostly for dual-threat signal-callers, but that's not an automatic disqualifier here with a better-than-expected recruiting base in the region and potential for big things down the road.
9. Michigan State Spartans
Draft picks last 25 years: Five (Jim Miller, Tony Banks, Jeff Smoker, Drew Stanton, Kirk Cousins)
The skinny: While you're more likely to look to the Spartans for a defender, they've had solid success in sending quarterbacks to the NFL the past few decades. The list of recent draft picks doesn't even include a possible starter in Cleveland's Brian Hoyer. Plus, Connor Cook will be one scouts have an eye on and the program's recruiting has ticked up quite a bit with signal-callers as of late.
8. Georgia Bulldogs
Draft picks last 25 years: Six (Eric Zeier, Quincy Carter, David Greene, D.J. Shockley, Matt Stafford, Aaron Murray)
The skinny: The presence of head coach Mark Richt in Athens is a significant reason why the Bulldogs land on this list -- he's recruited several talented passers. Stafford and Murray stand out for their impressive production, while the other QBs on the Georgia list form a solid group of middle-round picks. Carter might have been average for the Cowboys, but he still ended up with more than a cup of coffee in the NFL. Hutson Mason is penciled in as the starter this season and could draw NFL looks if he pans out, and there are a number of interesting options in the pipeline behind him for Georgia.
7. Florida Gators
Draft picks last 25 years: Four (Danny Wuerffel, Jesse Palmer, Rex Grossman, Tim Tebow)
The skinny: This number might be even higher had Steve Spurrier stayed in Gainesville instead of departing for D.C., but it's not a bad list either way. All the Florida QBs drafted in the past 25 years ended up starting NFL games, and NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt is high on current starter Jeff Driskel, a former top QB coming out of high school. Plus, for all the flack Tebow takes, he was still a first-round pick and has as many playoff wins as Tony Romo.
6. California Golden Bears
Draft picks last 25 years: Five (Mike Pawlawski, Dave Barr, Pat Barnes, Kyle Boller, Aaron Rodgers)
The skinny: The reason Jeff Tedford is the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and no longer the head coach in Berkeley is largely due to the fact that he no longer was considered the quarterback whisperer (looking back, he was more of a running backs guru, anyway). Still, the Bears saw recent success with a pair of first-rounders under Tedford, including a Super Bowl winner in Rodgers. With a great local talent base at the high school level and a wide-open, pass-happy offense under head coach Sonny Dykes, scouts should soon have more reason to stop by campus after visiting rival Stanford.
5. LSU Tigers
Draft picks last 25 years: Seven (Josh Booty, Craig Nall, Rohan Davey, Matt Mauck, JaMarcus Russell, Matt Flynn, Zach Mettenberger)
The skinny: The Tigers are no doubt scarred by the fact that Russell is one of the biggest draft busts at the position in recent memory, but don't overlook the fact that the program has done pretty well at the position as far as quantity. With Cam Cameron installing an offense that will look familiar to those who watch more football on Sunday, LSU isn't likely to stop sending quarterbacks to the league anytime soon.
4. Stanford Cardinal
Draft picks last 25 years: Five (Steve Stenstrom, Todd Husak, Randy Fasani, Trent Edwards, Andrew Luck)
The skinny: While Stanford hasn't produced the quantity of some of the others on this list, it has been a historically great school when it comes to quarterback quality (John Elway and Jim Plunkett, among others, back in the day). Luck certainly carries the banner for this group, but the Cardinal's offense is nearly indistinguishable from what you'll see on Sundays and they have been as good as anybody at landing talented blue chippers out of high school. Kevin Hogan is already on the radar of NFL scouts and he won't be the last from the Farm to draw their attention.
3. Florida State Seminoles
Draft picks last 25 years: Eight (Peter Tom Willis, Brad Johnson, Casey Weldon, Danny Kanell, Chris Weinke, Adrian McPherson, Christian Ponder, EJ Manuel)
The skinny: When you consider that one Heisman Trophy-winning FSU quarterback didn't get drafted into the NFL but could have played in the league (Charlie Ward), it makes the Seminoles' list even more impressive. They had a few hits and misses over the years, but head coach Jimbo Fisher seems to have turned the program into a must-stop for top talent at every position. Jameis Winston is next in line to go from Noles QB to the pros.
2. Michigan Wolverines
Draft picks last 25 years: Seven (Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Drew Henson, John Navarre, Chad Henne)
The skinny: Thanks mostly to Brady, the Wolverines might have one of the better hit rates on sending QBs to the NFL in recent years. All seven quarterbacks drafted in the past 25 years started at least one game in the NFL and four of them have thrown for more than 10,000 yards as a pro. While it's unclear if head coach Brady Hoke will keep his job much longer, it's doubtful Michigan moves away from a pro-style offense after the failed Rich Rodriguez experiment. With a big brand name and the ability to get signal-callers from any part of the country, this is one area where Michigan wins a head-to-head with its rival, Ohio State.
1. USC Trojans
Draft picks last 25 years: 11 (Rodney Peete, Pat O'Hara, Todd Marinovich, Rob Johnson, Kyle Wacholtz, Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel, Matt Leinart, John David Booty, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley)
The skinny: A lot of NFL-centric viewpoints might question the Trojans' place atop this list given the number of players that failed to live up to the hype in the pros, but it's hard to argue with the numbers and the relative success most of the USC quarterbacks have had in the NFL. All but two multi-game starters for the Trojans in the last 25 years were drafted, so becoming the BMOC at USC is a good indicator that you'll hear your name called during the draft. With a pro-style but up-tempo offense in place under Steve Sarkisian and a five-star quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class, you should continue to see a Trojans quarterback in the draft every few years. The only program that could make a case to be ranked ahead of USC is the one right behind them on this list.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.