Former Tampa Bay Bucs head coach and present ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said Luck is the greatest prospect he’s ever studied.
The Heisman-hopeful quarterback took part in the 2011 Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La. last weekend where Gruden, a former Tampa Bay head coach, kept a wary eye on all the prospects.
Following an Orange Bowl performance that saw Luck complete 78 percent of his passes and throw four touchdowns, many believed he would be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. But Luck announced he was returning for his senior year, and the Heisman buzz began.
“I wasn't ready to leave,” Luck said. “There were more things for me to finish in college, and I wanted to improve on my game and finish my degree.”
Gruden believes Luck is as good as advertised and maybe better.
“He’s the best prospect I've studied, period,” Gruden said. “Look, I’m not the oldest guy, and I’m accused of liking everybody. I think this kid has it all. Provided he stays healthy, this guy has a rare upside. This guy has a photographic memory and has tremendous talent.”
Gruden and ESPN’s Jesse Palmer raved about Luck’s talents and intangibles. Palmer said Luck is already “NFL ready” and believes he’s worth the hype.
“Andrew would have been the first pick last year had he come out,” Palmer said from the Manning camp. “When you watch him at the camp, look at him physically and mechanically, he’s ready. He’s at a point now in college where they’re actually asking him to have more input in the offense. He’s talking about plays that he likes and things he wants installed (in the offense), because he’s at a cerebral level where he can handle all of that.”
Luck admits that he does not feel any additional pressure this year with the Heisman hype because he does not read much on the Internet and does not watch too much television.
“I don’t know if all the eyes are transfixed on me,” Luck said. “There are a lot of great players in college football. I don’t pay attention to it too much.”
Luck finished as the Heisman runner-up a year ago and had some of the best stats in the nation at quarterback last year. Luck completed 70.7 percent of his passes, threw for 3,338 yards and had 32 touchdowns with eight interceptions.After seeing him at the Manning Camp at Nicholls State, Gruden was impressed with Luck’s passion and desire to go along with his work ethic.
“He’s built like a linebacker, and he’s got tremendous movement for a big guy,” Gruden said. “There are not a lot of things that Andrew Luck can’t do, but the thing I like about him is his work ethic. He’s a workaholic and that’s what impresses me the most.”
Gruden said Luck is a detail-freak like Peyton Manning was and said he was “blown away by his passion.” The Super Bowl 37 winning head coach said Luck has tremendous intangibles, charisma, desire, clutch-playmaking and that the comparisons to Manning are fair.
“I sat with him in the production meeting before the Orange Bowl and David Shaw, the head coach at Stanford, was my quality control guy at Philadelphia, so I know the volume of offense that they have,” Gruden said. “It’s incredible. I mean, their center wears a wristband with plays on it because they can’t fit all the plays on Luck’s wristband. There’s a mastery that this Luck kid has in terms of the Stanford offense, and I admire that.”
Luck said he’s been steadily trying to polish his game this offseason and has been working on the fundamentals the most.
“I’ve been working on my footwork especially,” Luck said. “I’ve been getting in the film room and understanding football more. Understanding why things happen, why things are called, how I can attack this defense maybe not as well as another defense and things of that nature.”
When asked if he would be more protective this year and not try to run people over as much Luck replied, “I definitely don’t try to go out there and run people over, but football is fun and games sometimes.”
Jake Martin is a Member of Bleacher Report and a sports writer for the Concordia Sentinel in Ferriday, La. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the Concordia Sentinel.