Even if a guy isn’t the most competitive guy, I think if he loves the game, if it is really important to him, if he really wants to win and be great, I think it shows. I think that is the number one thing. —New BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes
Editor's note: This is the second in a series of stories on new BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes and key characteristics he looks for in a quarterback.
PROVO — If BYU’s new offensive coordinator doesn’t find, develop and put a capable quarterback on the field come this fall, it will be another long season for the Cougars.
Jeff Grimes knows this and he’s on task, despite his last game with LSU on New Year’s Day in the Citrus Bowl against Notre Dame.
“Obviously I could talk for a while about quarterbacks. I’ve been around some that were pretty good and others who weren’t,” said Grimes.
It is unique to find one that checks every box on the wish list. But the No. 1 characteristic Grimes wants in a signal caller is his competitive spirit — a deep desire to win.
“It encompasses a lot of things, there’s a lot to describe,” said Grimes. “It’s the fire you see in the great quarterbacks. Obviously, it’s displayed differently with a guy’s personality whether you are talking about Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Brett Favre.
“When growing up I was a Cowboys fan and Roger Staubach had this thing about him. They all show it in a different way, and how they demonstrate that in their personality isn’t really important. It’s just that passion for the game, that drive to excel and not just to excel for themselves but for others, like a great point guard like Magic Johnson.”
It is the ability to “fuel” the players around them because of their ability and their passion and competitiveness, he said.
“Even if a guy isn’t the most competitive guy, I think if he loves the game, if it is really important to him, if he really wants to win and be great, I think it shows. I think that is the number one thing.
“Obviously that is the number one thing, but there are some prerequisites you have to have. You can’t recruit a 5-foot-11, 240-pound offensive lineman. He has to be big enough to even get on your radar. The same thing is true of quarterbacks, they have to be big enough and have enough of those things you want that you start grading them on a scale and weighing the things that are most important.”
In BYU’s winter workouts, the Cougars will be without their most experienced quarterback Tanner Mangum, who is recovering from an injury to his Achilles’ tendon. His chief backup, Beau Hoge, is questionable for spring practices. Joe Critchlow, who finished the season as the starter, may be the No. 1 candidate with Koy Detmer and Kody Wilstead making a push. Two high school recruits who graduated early will enroll for winter semester, Texan Stacy Conner and Zach Wilson.
The No. 2 thing Grimes will look for is accuracy.
All the arm strength, intelligence, mobility, charisma, charm, recruiting attention and leadership in the world count for nothing if a QB can’t deliver the ball on time to a target.
“A guy that can throw the ball to the right place and throw a catchable ball repeatedly is the most important physical attribute you need with a guy playing that position,"Grimes said. “I want a guy with arm strength, but arm strength comes a little bit down the list. I’ve been around guys with very strong arms who aren’t very good.
“With accuracy, there are a number of things that lead to that, but to recognize it, you have to see a guy and watch him for a very long time and see him in person.”
Grimes said a very deceiving thing in recruiting anyone, especially a quarterback, is looking at highlight videos.
“A highlight film is just that, a collection of his best throws, put together in a highlight.
“Anybody can take their 50 best throws and put it on film, but I want to see 50 throws in a row in the course of a game or two games or more and see how many of those are thrown to the right place, are thrown on time and thrown in a place where the receiver has a chance to make a play on the ball.”
Grimes likes a quarterback who shows toughness. In Provo, it’s called grit — a trait displayed by plenty of quarterbacks of late whether it be John Beck, Max Hall, Riley Nelson or Taysom Hill. It is the ability to play through contact, to not be afraid of injury, and when the bruises and bumps come, so does the warrior.
Weighing in at No. 3 is toughness; the opposite of being just a pretty boy after a letterman’s jacket, cameras and more dates. There are plenty of summer camp wonders who stumble when game lights go on.
“It’s one of those intangibles but something you can put your finger on,” said Grimes.
“To me, toughness is important in any football player. Obviously, having coached the offensive line, that’s something that is very, very near to my core as a coach. I think it’s just as important in a quarterback as it is in an offensive lineman. It is manifested in a different way than it is for a lineman, a running back or defensive tackle but it is essential nonetheless because the quarterback in some ways has to be the toughest guy on the field.
“There is mental toughness and physical toughness, and obviously the guy has to have both. He’s got to be able to throw a pick and come back the next play and throw it through a tight window if that’s where the read takes him and not be afraid.
“In terms of physical toughness, he has to be able to plant his foot, stay in the pocket, keep his eyes downfield and make a throw on time even if the protection isn’t great. He has to take a hit right on the chin and deliver the football and not take his eyes off of his target. I think if you know the game, you know what I’m talking about.
“Some quarterbacks immediately feel the pressure around them and start looking at the pressure. That becomes their primary focus as opposed to those who are aware of the pressure but their focus is on their primary receiver and route progression and being strong enough and tough enough to stay in the pocket, move around in the pocket if they need to, but throw the football knowing they are going to get hit.”
Grimes said that kind of toughness out of a quarterback is what fuels an offense.
“When a guy gets hit and pops right back up, it is different from the guy who gets hit and slowly rises off the ground, limps back to the huddle and looks like he just got his tail kicked.
“It changes the course of the game for them, and then ultimately for the offense. We are going to do everything we can to provide protection for the quarterback through scheme and great technique and proper route timing with the receivers, but sometimes he’s still going to get hit and he has to be OK with that. It’s part of the job description. He’s the guy with the thing everybody wants and you have to be OK with all the mad guys chasing you and still deliver the ball on time.”
Next: Grimes continues explanation of most coveted traits in a quarterback.