PROVO — Knowledge is QB power.
Freshman quarterbacks have a greater chance of making an immediate impact on college football teams because of their knowledge and private tutoring while in high school. This is exactly the case with Utah’s Jack Tuttle and BYU’s Zach Wilson. Both have a chance to make an impact.
“What high school quarterbacks get now compared to a few years ago is just crazy,” said former BYU and NFL quarterback John Beck, who works as a professional throw coach in Southern California. Both Tuttle and Wilson have been his clients.
ESPN.com published an in-depth feature Monday on the increasing impact of freshman quarterbacks on the college game, interviewing at least 20 coaches from across the country. The issue was never more apparent than in the college football championship game in January, when eventual winner Alabama rode the arm of Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia was led by Jake Fromm, both true freshmen.
Tuttle and Wilson fit the formula set forth in this research. They enrolled in college in January by graduating early. They received training from personal coaches, a growing trend among top talent. They had extensive off-season training, including participation in combines and seven-on-seven competitions.
ESPN lists myriad reasons why freshmen are contributing early. They include early scouting by recruiters; development, where early isn’t early anymore; private coaching; enrolling early to adapt to campus and conditioning while building chemistry with teammates; and a transfer culture that shakes up depth charts, where winners star and losers leave.
Beck said his firm trains a dozen top-level high school quarterbacks in California during the course of a year. Some 50 or so QBs fly in from all over the country to work with Beck and the 3DQB staff.
QB Elite, a Utah-based personal training camp led by Dustin Smith, who has Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer and NFL QBs Mark Brunnell and Kurt Warner on staff, trains about 150 QBs from all over the West, ranging in age from junior high, high school and college players during the course of a year.
Beck said this personal coach path is making young quarterbacks better and that it has nothing to do with their maturity or arm strength. Beck’s high school coach in Mesa, Arizona, didn’t allow personal coaches. He first hired help after his freshman year at BYU, between the departure of Robbie Bosco and Gary Crowton taking over.
“The big thing nowadays is that the training and information available is nothing like it was a few years ago,” said Beck.
“It’s not like people have gotten stronger arms," he said. "I look at baseball players and there are high school guys who can throw 90 miles an hour but there are professional pitchers who can’t throw 90. It’s about foot placement and specific moves, mastering particular kinds of throws. You start by building knowledge of the game so when he gets to college, he’s already running versions of it and doing it with proper technique and experience in high school.
“That completely changes his ability to run a college offense when he gets to the next level. I think the same is true in the NFL. I see guys coming out of college and I say, ‘Wow, you are going to be so much more prepared to play in the NFL than other guys.’”
Beck felt like he was someone who was always searching for information. But it wasn’t until he came off his freshman season at BYU, in which he had broken his hand, that he ran into former NFL coach Rod Dowhower. During Christmas break, he had his first session with him in Scottsdale, Arizona.
It began a series of meetings that he believes elevated his knowledge and ability to play the rest of his career. He was selected in the second round of the NFL draft and enjoyed stints with the Dolphins, Redskins and Ravens.
In the ESPN piece, it cites the fact that since 2012, the total QBR (quarterback rating) for true freshman quarterbacks has risen steadily across the nation.
"It's amazing to see how it's evolved," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury is quoted in the article. Kingsbury himself was a true freshman quarterback 20 years ago.
This is the phenomenon that Tuttle, Wilson and BYU QB Jaren Hall, who recently returned from an LDS Church mission, bring with them into the summer. “Jaren is a stud,” said Smith, whose group has also worked with other former missionaries, including QBs Tanner Hammond (Dixie State), Jason Money (Snow), Tyler Skidmore (SUU) and Braden Miles (Weber State).
Hall worked with QBE during his high school career before his church service and he is working with that group now as he prepares to challenge Wilson and others in BYU camp.
Apparently young is not young anymore.