Thursday, October 22, 2015

Justin Fuente, the rise of a coach, and the search for a QB

At SB Nation I wrote a post on how Fuente discovered Paxton Lynch and built Memphis into a non-AQ power in the middle of SEC country.

There are two interesting dimensions to this story. The first is that a up and coming coach who is in his first head coaching job and is hoping to springboard himself into a major opportunity somewhere needs to find a QB to be his meal ticket in order to get those opportunities.

The surest way to land a better gig is to develop a QB, win big with him as an upperclassman, and then cash in your chips. Plenty of coaches that were really only decent were catapulted into major jobs because they had a good QB before it turned out that they couldn't replicate that success again. Brady Hoke, anyone?

Finding and developing the QB is the real key and you can't just pick off the top rated QBs in a given year. For instance, take a look at the top QBs in the Big 12 right now:

Trevone Boykin: 3-star Athlete

Boykin was one of many 2/3 star "athletes" that TCU recruits every year and as far as anyone knew, he was going to end up as an All-American, but perhaps at DE, or LB, or SS, or perhaps as a RB or WR where he initially started out with the Frogs.

Then he was pressed into action at QB because of Casey Pachall's collapse into substance abuse and showed decently in his first year before turning in a terrible performance the following year. Then Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham came with the Air Raid and voila! He's the best QB in the league.

Baker Mayfield: 3-star QB

I like to bag on the services but they are often more accurate with the QBs than schools are. They had Mayfield as a 3-star despite the fact that his best in-state offer was from Rice. Mayfield had a higher vision for his own career and decided to prove it as a walk-on. He tried to walk-on at Texas and received little interest so he ended up at Texas Tech.

He thrived there as a true freshman starter but was miffed when it seemed they were going to pass him over with scholarship player Davis Webb, so he left and walked on at Oklahoma. Now he's the foundation of their offense.

Seth Russell: 3-star QB

Russell was not a terribly well-regarded prospect coming out of Garland, TX with offers comparable to the one he got from Art Briles to come and learn at his feet in Waco. Most of Baylor's QB recruits have not been highly-regarded studs, although the services are now beginning to regard anyone Briles chases as being good since none of his takes have been anything less than a 4k yard passer as of yet.

You think maybe the system in Waco for development and deployment might be a factor here?

Pat Mahomes: 3-star QB

Me and my man Justin Wells knew Mahomes was going to be good based on his high school film but he was a player that the biggest schools ignored and left for Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to fight over.

Of course now it seems obvious that he's a true dual-threat with a cannon arm that he combines with his legs to do insane, indefensible things like scramble for five seconds and then hit a go route 60 yards downfield.

Mason Rudolph: 4-star QB

Rudolph is the only blue-chipper on this list and OSU plucked him out of South Carolina while beating out Ole Miss, LSU, Louisville, Virginia, and Virginia Tech for his commitment. No one else listed above had anywhere near that kind of attention or competition for his commitment.

The lesson? I see two:

1). Offensive coaches should very carefully evaluate multiple players at QB because conventional wisdom on who will be great and who won't is often terribly misguided.

2). The system for developing a QB after he arrives on campus is probably much more important than people realize.

If I were a young coach trying to climb the ladder I'd invest time sorting through leftover QB prospects and I'd either try to specialize in QB development or attach myself to people who have a gift for it.

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