College Football: How QB Coaches Are Changing the Future of the Position
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Just ask Johnny Manziel what working with a renowned QB guru can do for a talented young athlete.
Manziel worked with George Whitfield Jr. before bursting onto the college football scene in 2012 and becoming the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy. Whitefield was ranked by Bleacher Report as the finest QB guru in the country, and Manziel's transformation from 3-star recruit to Heisman Trophy winner is proof.
In the last few decades specialized QB camps and one-on-one workouts have become popular for high school and college stars. Young athletes are choosing a specific sport to focus on at a younger age than before. Which could improve their chances of getting an athletic scholarship and possibly a professional contract.
The use of gurus like Whitfield, Chris Weinke, Terry Shea and others is the latest trend in the continuation of specialization of the quarterback position, especially QBs in a spread offense that are trying to make the change from "best athlete on the team" to a true QB.
The Rise of Elite 11 and High School QB Camps
While at the camp, the QBs work with former coaches and QBs to get that last piece of coaching to help make the transition from high school to college.
Elite 11 camps offer prestige and coaching, but haven't always made a discernible impact on its alumni's college football career. It has been more of a competition to see who the best QBs are.
But there have been a number of participants that didn't go on to success in college. Players like Aaron Corp, Robby Schoenhoft and Bobby Reid (the QB who this classic press conference tirade was about) were all Elite 11 prospects that didn't find success in college.
However, that hasn't kept young QBs from putting themselves through a Rob Marinovich-like training schedule to try to make it to the NFL.
But the cost of training, which must be paid for by the student-athlete, with a good QB guru could be a wise investment for many players, like Manziel.
QB Gurus Making a Difference
Manziel didn't make the Elite 11 camps; he wasn't a highly regarded recruit. But after a redshirt season in 2011 and a summer with Whitfield, he won a Heisman.
The last two No. 1 picks in the NFL draft, Cameron Newton and Andrew Luck, have turned to Whitfield for instruction. Likewise, Whitfield has instructed two of the last three Heisman Trophy winners, Newton and Manziel.
Hoping to continue that string of success, Clemson's Tahj Boyd, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Ohio State's Braxton Miller have worked with Whitfield to improve their chances of taking down Manziel in the Heisman race.
Whitfield isn't alone in his success as a QB sensei success.
Weinke worked with Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson sparking three successful rookie seasons in the NFL and Shea helped four first-round draftees, Robert Griffin III, Blaine Gabbert, Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford, prepare for their NFL careers.
How the Gurus' Successes Will Continue to Change the College Game
College programs won't have to worry as much about whether a high school QB prospect is a polished passer out of high school because of the growing opportunity for improvement.
It is hard to make too many drastic changes in a young QB's fundamentals while putting in plays, game-planning and running a scout team. Especially with practice time limited by the NCAA. That has caused a delay in the progression of many QBs.
Take Miller for example. He came into Ohio State as a highly touted recruit, but not a polished passer. Because of the situation he stepped into, Miller was the Buckeyes' starting QB just three games into his college career.
For the remainder of the year, he found success as a runner due to his athletic ability, but struggled to throw the ball consistently. Then, in his sophomore year Ohio State brought in Urban Meyer and a new offense, so instead of building consistency as a passer, Miller was learning a new playbook.
Thanks to his great athleticism, Miller finished fifth in the Heisman voting despite still not being a consistent passer. But this winter he worked with Whitfield in California and the immediate results are encouraging.
In Ohio State's spring game Miller went 16-of-25 for 217 yards and two TDs in what amounted to a seven-on-seven drill for him. While those numbers didn't match Manziel's spring numbers (24-of-30 for 303 yards and 3 TDs) they were an improvement.
Perhaps most encouraging, Miller didn't throw a single pass that left viewers wondering "What the heck was that?"
What the example of Miller and Manziel can show other coaches is that they don't have to bring in polished passers, they can bring in athletes to run their offenses and let the QB gurus help speed up the process of getting those great athletes on the field as capable passers.
As Griffin, Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Newton are proving in the NFL—and all of them proved in college—if the best athlete on the field is playing QB and can throw the ball efficiently, then the possibilities are endless.
Or as Meyer told the BuckeyeTimes.com
"If [Miller] becomes fundamentally the best QB in America, then I think he'll be the best QB in America. I think it will be comical what he will do."
Meyer knows what it feels like to have a QB dominate games like Manziel, Griffin and Newton have done on their way to the last three Heisman trophies because he had Tebow.
Now Meyer, Dabo Swinney at Clemson and another handful of coaches are hoping Whitfield and the other QB gurus are the way to build a dominant dual-threat QB to lead their offenses.
It certainly looks like they are on to something.
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