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By Jess Nicholas
June 27, 2015
The NARCAS (North American Recruiting, Coaching & Athletics Survey) contributing staff has utilized game tape for years, but as a site, we’ve never made it a part of our published, post–analysis reports. With the amount of video now readily available at low or no cost to consumers, the time is right to integrate some of that video into analysis reports for our readership. As in previous years, however, NARCAS rankings will not be assigned until after all players’ senior seasons have been completed.
Up first is a discussion of five quarterback targets for Alabama’s 2016 recruiting class, listed in no particular order:
*Park would be eligible to transfer to Alabama immediately, but not eligible to play until 2016.
The first thing that stands out about all five players is their athletic ability. With the possible exception of Park, who most people described as a pro-style quarterback coming out of high school despite good mobility, is they are all dual-threat athletes. Alabama potentially has a sixth player in this group in Laurel, Miss., athlete Keon Howard; Louisville, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are recruiting Howard as a quarterback, while Alabama might be looking at him for other positions. Howard’s measurements are close to those of former Crimson Tide starter Blake Sims.
Here’s a look at the players on the above list. We’ll link one video per player for reference:
1. Jawon Pass
video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNuvRZsa1QE
Strengths: The first thing that stands out about Pass is his obvious physicality. Pass towers over most of the other skill players on the field and clearly has the ability to add more weight to his frame. Pass has plus arm strength, spins the ball well and doesn’t float many passes. He runs with a forward tilt, looks for contact and doesn’t shy away from it when it arrives. While he will look to run quickly, he also keeps an eye towards the outlet pass and will coax defenders in before throwing over them. Once he does begin to run, he is fairly elusive but clearly prefers to power over defenders – a strategy he’ll have to modify somewhat at the next level.
Weaknesses: Pass isn’t afraid to challenge defenders, but sometimes goes too far. Even though the video linked above is a highlight reel, the pass at the 1:38 mark in the video is a likely pick in the SEC. Pass’ athletic ability doesn’t translate to quick-step elusiveness against the rush. He is faster than he is quick and sometimes has issues with rolling to his left. Perhaps the most consistent criticism is his lack of touch on deep passes. Pass prefers to throw on a flat plane and will not lead deep receivers well.
Summary: Pass has the potential to be the top quarterback on Alabama’s board. But he’s very raw and would need a lot of development time. Pass is viewed by many scouts as something of an oddity in this class. He’s physical with a high ceiling but also has, potentially, a high bust factor if he can’t work out the nuances of the position. A good comparison for him at this stage is former Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf, but Pass has far more potential than Relf ever did. Although Alabama has a commitment already from Jalen Hurts, the Crimson Tide might also take Pass as a project.
UA’s competition: Pass claims 19 total large-school offers. Louisville, Ohio State, Clemson, Miami and North Carolina all look like likely fits. In the SEC, Pass claims offers from Auburn, Texas A&M, Missouri, Mississippi State, LSU and Florida, along with Alabama.
2. Jalen Hurts (UA commit)
Strengths: Hurts is the most polished of the four high schoolers listed here. He is calm in the pocket, with quiet feet and the ability to work a progression. A coach’s son, he has obviously been schooled in the nuances of the position. His arm strength is above average, but it is his field vision and check ability at the line that makes college coaches drool. He is a true dual-threat player, faster on the field than in front of a stopwatch. Hurts is elusive outside the pocket, with quick change of direction. He does not seem to relish contact but does not shy from it, either. QB running is definitely a part of the gameplan when Hurts is on the field. His arm motion shows technical refinement although there is still some inconsistency in execution. He throws a nice deep ball with good arc and leads receivers well. He shines in two-minute situations and seems to perform better the higher the pressure gets.
Weaknesses: Although Hurts has a classic throwing motion and release, he does occasionally let the ball get on top of him. When this happens, he pop-guns the throw and the ball will exit with a distinct wobble. His quiet feet also can get too quiet; he has a tendency to not drive through the throw sometimes and shot-puts a few long balls. His running skills are superb but he doesn’t invite contact and lacks the size to drive the pile. His challenge at the next level will be timing, particularly when the defense speeds it up for him.
Summary: There aren’t many high school quarterbacks available in 2015-2016 that are as far along in their development as Hurts. His calm demeanor on the field gives him a solid shot at early success. As a passer, he favors former Louisville star Teddy Bridgewater, but Hurts’ running ability far outpaces what Bridgewater had to work with. The question will be how quickly Alabama can smooth out the spikes in his delivery.
UA’s competition: Hurts has received 19 large-school offers, including 3 from the SEC. The biggest question in regard to Hurts sticking with his UA commitment is whether taking a second quarterback would cause him to look around. If he does, Texas A&M, Arizona State and Florida would seem to be the logical picks. Hurts does not claim an offer from Texas, where Bridgewater’s former coach now resides.
3. Josh White
Strengths: White has an excellent frame, good hands and plus field vision. He has the athleticism to play other positions (tight end has been mentioned as a destination) but for the most part, he comes across as a pocket passer. He reads defenses well and his release is quick enough, although he can wind it up sometimes. He feels the pocket well and will step up and drive the ball. As a runner, he is always moving forward, and has the power to get out of tackles and to move the pile in short yardage.
Weaknesses: White’s overall arm strength is average, and his release point is inconsistent. He loses pop on the ball when he comes too far over the top. Although mobile, he can’t translate mobility to power when rolling out. On rolls to his left, particularly, he frequently floats the ball, especially on throws back into the grain, and underthrows out routes. He loves the seam route as a passer but he can’t push the ball unless he’s in the pocket, which will limit his game at the college level unless he can fix mechanical issues.
Summary: There’s a lot here to like, but White will need plenty of coaching at the college level before he’s ready. The offensive style he plays in high school gives him a big edge at the next level, however. White compares somewhat to two former Kentucky quarterbacks: His skill set recalls Jalen Whitlow, but he seems to favor the throws and routes that made Andre Woodson successful. There’s a fairly high ceiling here but White will need a good QB coach and plenty of patience if he’s to reach his potential.
UA’s competition: White does not currently have an Alabama offer. In fact, he has few large-school offers and Mississippi State is the only program pursuing him heavily at the moment.
4. Xavier Gaines
video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur0cR_sCmwA
Strengths: Gaines’ scrambling ability is what separates him from most of his peers. He has quick feet and exquisite balance and gets more effective the more the play breaks down. He throws a beautiful deep pass and also works the short game well. Gaines developed quickly as a younger player and many of his internet highlights came from his freshman year in high school. He has the frame to add additional weight and should be able to do it without impinging his mobility. He’s a creator, which is probably his greatest asset.
Weaknesses: His mid-range game needs work, and he throws back into traffic too often. His throwing motion is still long now, but has improved greatly since his freshman year, when it resembled a pitcher’s wind-up. He doesn’t drive the ball consistently, and his delivery mechanics suggest it might not ever happen on a consistent basis. He sometimes looks to run too soon, likely a function of instruction he got as a freshman helming a high school team at a young age.
Summary: In terms of ceiling, there is probably none higher on this list than Gaines. He would be the perfect fit for a team running a spread offense. There’s a lot about his game that is reminiscent of former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, and Jefferson in a true spread offense would have been deadly.
UA’s competition: Gaines claims 21 large-school offers including 9 running some form of the spread. Gaines has, for years now, been a favorite of many in and around the Auburn program, and the Tigers will be a major player for his signature along with Florida, Baylor and Florida State.
5. Jacob Park
video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZRTmWBlDGg
Strengths: Park’s physical game sets him apart from most. He has a big frame, a strong base but is also light on his feet. Not a true dual-threat, he in nonetheless an athletic quarterback with the ability to scramble out of trouble. Perhaps his biggest edge over the other quarterbacks on this list is his roll-out game. Park is able to deliver many of his pocket throws equally well while being chased, especially on rolls to the left. He squares his shoulders quickly and gets through the ball. His release is quick to the point of being snappy. As a runner, he has power to burn and doesn’t shy from contact.
Weaknesses: Park has the tendency to be too soft in throws over the middle. He underestimates defender speed at times and leads receivers into trouble. He also has a tendency to put too much air into outside routes, especially fades, and he needs to hammer throws in, as he has the arm talent to do it. His field vision is average at best.
Summary: Unlike anyone else on this list, Park is somewhat of a known quantity because of his time at Georgia. Unfortunately for Park, what is known is that he couldn’t make a dent in the Bulldog QB competition. He failed either to grasp or to execute Georgia’s pro-style attack. If Alabama takes Park, it will be taking a chance on a player that has burned out of one SEC program already. Park’s comparison point is former Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace. It remains to be seen whether he can rise above that comparison.
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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