Finding the right quarterbacks to recruit involves more than picking up the telephone and requesting one from central casting. So many factors, mental and physical, enter the equation when coaches try to determine which high school quarterbacks have what it takes to perform in a college game played at a faster speed with bigger players executing more sophisticated schemes.
Kansas University quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus, the top-rated high school quarterback in 1992 out of Berwick, Pa., and a four-year starter at Notre Dame, agreed to talk about what he examines, from head to toe, in a quarterback prospect.
“First of all there’s no perfect body and build because you’ve got guys playing now who are as close as you can get to being as good as there is — Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rogers, the way he’s playing now — and they’re all different,” Powlus said. “I don’t think there’s an exact perfect guy. You’ve got tall guys. You’ve got small guys. You’ve got guys who can run, guys who can’t run.”
With that qualifier out of the way, Powlus went to work answering the question.
“So from head to toe, first of all in the head you’ve got to have a guy who’s a hard worker, who’s mentally a person who’s willing to put in the hard work and time to have the success they want to have,” Powlus said. “They have to be a good decision-maker, on and off the field. When you’re talking about quarterbacks, especially on the field, you have to be able to make a decision, based on the information you have, in a split second, and it’s got to be a good decision because you’re responsible for the ball.”
Staying with the head, Powlus continued: “You have to have leadership qualities. You have to have courage, courage and conviction. You have to be able to hear yourself talk and it sounds strange, but some guys don’t like their voice as the only voice in the room. They like to be mumblers in the back and whispering between each other. It’s hard to stand up and ask your peers to follow you. So those guys, the Bradys and the Breeses, those guys, you know that they’re willing to do that. Those are the factors to me that really separate a good quarterback from a great quarterback.”
Powlus next addressed the arm.
“The most important thing about throwing a football is accuracy. You’ve got to be accurate,” he said. “If you can’t get it from Point A to Point B, then you can’t play. People will say, ‘Well, he releases it sidearm.’ Does it get from Point A to Point B? Does he release it over the top? So there are certain things we kind of look for that I think can put you in position to be more physically accurate, but that’s not, I mean, Philip Rivers has got an odd throwing motion. And everybody will say Bernie Kosar was sidearm. Yeah, that’s one, but it doesn’t mean you have to look exactly a certain way throwing a football. It doesn’t mean we put a silhouette of Drew Brees or Tom Brady throwing a football and we lay you over the top of it to see if you look the same to know if you’re any good.”
Powlus’ boss, Charlie Weis, prefers a pro-style offense, but that doesn’t mean mobility is not important.
“You’ve got to be able to move your feet in the pocket to get out of trouble,” Powlus said. “We’ll ask the quarterbacks to run a little, but we’re not looking for a running back playing quarterback. We’re looking for a quarterback playing quarterback.
“So I look for guys with good feet who have good body control, have quick feet. Being able to move around in the pocket quickly and avoid pressure is a lot more important than your 40 time.”
The next factor Powlus discussed, the quickness of a quarterback’s release throwing the ball, blends head, arm and feet.
“You’re trying to figure out how long from the time they say, ‘it’s open’ and their mind says ‘throw it,’ until they can get it out of their hand,” he said. “So the action of the throw, yes, that’s a factor because windows close. You see an opening and if it’s taking you forever to get the ball out, why then, you’re going to miss your window.
“When he decides it’s open, does he get it out quick or is it a long process to get his feet turned and get his arm up? When we see it and anticipate it, we’ve got to get it out quickly.
After breaking it all down from head to toe, Powlus concluded: “Those are the factors we look for physically, but the mind is really more important than anything.”