From professional to youth football, the quarterback position is evolving and as a direct result, the way by which high school quarterbacks are being evaluated and ultimately recruited is undergoing a metamorphosis as well.
For decades most major collegiate programs scoured the prep landscape looking for “prototypical” quarterbacks — those standing between 6-4-to-6-6, weighing 220-235 pounds, with big arms and just enough mobility to climb the pocket, if nothing else. It was a common belief that meeting these guidelines was a prerequisite to being successful at the position. To this day, quarterbacks who “look the part” are aptly labeled, “pro-style”, while their more athletic and/or diminutive counterparts are labeled “dual-threat”, a moniker that simultaneously signaled, ‘less than’ .
“I really wish we could get rid of those labels,” said Elite 11 assistant head coach, Paul Troth (who also serves as an analyst at NBC Sports Washington). “You see every day, and on Sundays that you can’t just be a statue and play quarterback. It doesn’t matter if you’re running option or spread — I think you have to be an athlete to be a quarterback. And what’s beneficial of that thinking, for a coach is you can put your best athlete in that position and he can lead your football team and do great things.”
It is not uncommon for dual-threat quarterbacks to experience massive success in high school; presently, Chase Williams helped Good Counsel win the WCAC championship, Jayden Sauray led Wise to an undefeated season and Caleb Williams is arguably the top quarterback in the country. Despite preferable win/loss records however, it has often been the case that quarterbacks whose athletic qualities met or exceeded their arm talent were eventually asked to change positions. This was the case with former QB’s-turned-wide receiver, Julian Edelman, Randall Cobb and Cordell Stewart, just to name a few. A practice that Troth believes is outdated.
“The development [of the quarterback position] is a detriment to those folks who have thought they could hide a kid back there [at quarterback], or that ‘my son is not as athletic, so I’m going to put him back there’, and now you’re finding out they're kind of getting pushed out of the way,” he said.
“I enjoy seeing the evolution of the position because for so long, it was ‘oh, a quarterback is just somebody who can throw’, but now you have to be dynamic. Now you have to be a playmaker to excel at the position”.
There is perhaps no greater example of the development of the position than Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Because his skill set was not prototypical, Jackson was merely a 3-star student-athlete and ranked 409th nationally in high school. After opting to attend Louisville, due in part because he would be allowed to play QB, Lamar grew into a two-time finalist and ultimately becoming the youngest player to win the Heisman trophy. Despite his success, many still doubted whether Jackson should continue to play QB at the highest level.
On February 19th, 2018, former NFL executive and talent evaluator Bill Polian suggested Jackson switch to wide receiver,
“Exceptional athlete, exceptional ability to make you miss, exceptional acceleration, exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand, but clearly, clearly not the thrower that the other guys are,” Polian said in the now-infamous scouting report. “I think [he should play] wide receiver”.
Nearly two years into his career and Jackson has silenced his critics. His non-traditional skill set has allowed him to turn his team into a championship contender and himself into an MVP candidate.
He’s not the only one opening doors for young QB’s who may not pass the “eye test”, Patrick Mahomes also thrives off of his athleticism, while Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray all stand less than 6-foot tall.
“Hopefully we can get rid of those labels moving forward [pro-style, dual-threat],” said Troth, “because, I love DeShaun Watson’s explanation, ‘I’m not a ‘dual-threat’, I’m not a ‘drop back’, I’m not a ‘pocket’, I’m a quarterback’ and so that one word should encompass what the position requires.