If you’re ever in need of a good debate, ask anyone involved in athletics about specialization at the youth level versus playing multiple sports. It’s fascinating because everyone has an opinion on this, from the volunteer Pop Warner coach to NFL Hall-of-Famers.
That question is sort of the basis for this article on Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen by Ian Boyd of Football Study Hall. Husker fans might remember Allen as the quarterback who threw five interceptions against Nebraska last fall, but he went on to earn second-team All-Mountain West honors last season as a sophomore while leading Wyoming to the conference title game. More than that, however, the pro scouts love him.
The thing Boyd is picking up on in his article, however, is that Allen, while drawing rave reviews as a prototypical pro (and pocket) passer, didn’t have what is quickly becoming the classic quarterback trajectory of 7-on-7 camps and individual instruction from the class of QB gurus.
That has an interesting effect on the college and pro games:
Programs like Ohio State, Alabama, or Clemson aren’t necessarily designing their offensive systems to develop the kinds of QBs the NFL needs to execute precision passing attacks. Most major programs focus on the run game because it’s more stable from year to year.
For a school like Wyoming, that could potentially create a market inefficiency in drawing top QB talent if they can build a claim to fame as a program that finds and develops the kinds of signal-callers the NFL is looking for. Of course, being able to find and develop QBs is already a major college efficiency. The top QB prospects in the 2016 NFL draft shared similar stories to Josh Allen, they were big, talented, and yet largely overlooked coming out of high school.
Some interesting parallels to Nebraska’s current situation there. One, the run game being “more stable.” Based on the numbers I’m always looking at year after year, I wouldn’t dispute that notion. Passing-game continuity matters a lot when you’re trying to project teams and Nebraska in 2017…well…it doesn’t have that with a new QB and a handful of receivers to replace.
Two, that puts Nebraska in the second group here, the group currently occupied by Wyoming according to Boyd. Pocket passers have had and will continue to have interest in Nebraska based on the Huskers’ coaches and their past success at the position. Good quarterback play is obviously important, but, given the choice, can you win big enough at Nebraska being the school that may be best known for its ability to attract pro-prospect quarterbacks? That’s an interesting question that probably requires some more research but off the top of my head I can think of one school that fits that profile in the recent past — USC. For a school like Wyoming or even a Washington State under Mike Leach it probably works pretty well.
Finally, Nebraska’s quarterback spot currently provides a mix of the specialization/multi-sport schools. Tanner Lee has been a quarterback for a long time. He went to the Manning Passing Academy twice. He’s had a good deal of specialized training.
Patrick O’Brien sort of blended the two philosophies. He excelled first in swimming and baseball before choosing to devote his full attention to quarterbacking, and picking up a quarterback coach in Steve Calhoun, in the eighth grade. That’s a lot of specialized training, too.
What’s it mean for Nebraska? I don’t know. It’s an intriguing way to view Nebraska’s progression at quarterback now that the Huskers “have their guys.” I think you can bank on pretty good quarterback play over the next few years. I’m less certain about what it will mean for the bottom line of wins and losses.
The Grab Bag
- Nebraska volleyball unveiled its 2017 schedule on Monday.
- This is the “era of the transfer” so the NCAA has formed a new group focused on reviewing transfer rules.
- Brian Bennett of ESPN writes that the Big Ten is shaping up to have a promising season at quarterback.
- Batch of spring-game recaps that includes Ohio State and Michigan from CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.