TAKING THE JUMP FROM HIGH SCHOOL QB TO COLLEGE QB
Playing QB at the high school level requires a certain amount of skill, athleticism, smarts and leadership, but if you want to play at the next level you are going to need to develop the complete package.
You won’t be able to rely solely on the superior athleticism that made you a star for your high school team and you won’t be able to disguise the weaknesses that playing with great teammates covered up. College teams run a lot of different offenses and while the attributes they look for in a QB can vary, every coach is looking for a solid combination of the following qualities and skills.
If you really want to set yourself apart from the guy you are competing with to get that college athletic scholarship it is your package of intangibles that will do it. These are things that can’t be measured by a coach, a scout or anybody else. We are talking about things like the size of your heart, your mental toughness, your work effort, and your leadership ability. You have them or you don’t.
1. Leadership – On any given offensive play, as a quarterback, you are the most important person on the field. Admittedly, you might get too much credit and receive too much blame on that given play. But it is what you signed up for. You touch the ball on every offensive snap and have more influence over the final result than any other player on the team. You had better be a great leader on and off the field. Do you inspire those around you to rise up and play at a higher level? Do you make the people around you better?
2. Mental Toughness – Successful QB’s have a very thick skin. How do you react when everything goes wrong? Do you keep sawing wood or do you quit trying? If you throw a pick do you shake it off and move on or do you feel sorry for yourself? How you react to these things and more will tell coaches all they need to know about your mental toughness.
3. Work Ethic – As a quarterback you need to go above and beyond with your mental and physical preparation. Are you the first in and last out? Do you stay after practice to get those extra reps in with your receivers? Do you spend time outside of practice working on your footwork? Are you making the effort to study film independently? If you want to be great you have an incredible work ethic.
4. Confidence – Great QB’s have an unshakeable belief that they are the best player on the field. This level of confidence is almost bordering on arrogance when it comes to your belief in your game and you skills. This doesn’t give you permission to be cocky, but coaches want quarterbacks with strong self-confidence.
5. Competitiveness – Every time you step on the field you believe you are going to lead your team to a win. It probably goes without saying, but you had better hate losing more than you love winning. Are you competitive in everything you do? Are you always out to win, whether it is on the field or playing ping pong in the basement with your friends. A coach wants to know that as long as there is time on the clock his quarterback believes he can win.
6. Consistency – Everybody has an off day occasionally, but coaches are looking for quarterbacks whose level of play is consistent from week to week. If you are an up and down player or a streaky player a coach won’t feel that they can rely on you to bring your best every game and it will be difficult for them to envision giving you the keys to the offense.
7. Coachable – You may be the most talented quarterback to play in high school for decades, but there are always areas to improve and more to learn. Are you good at taking constructive criticism, do you want to learn, do you want to continue to improve? If you aren’t willing to take coaching, you will not be successful at the next level.
8. Character – Coaches are always looking for players of high character and it is no less important for the quarterback. You are the team leader and you are expected to act as such on and off the field. How do you treat your teammates and coaches? How do you treat all the people around you? This includes everybody from your parents, to your teachers, to the janitors, to the team managers. College coaches will talk to everybody you interact with during the evaluation and if they don’t talk to them directly they will ask others about it. The evaluation better show that you are a great teammate, friend and person in all aspects of your life.
9. Intelligence – You had better have an above average football IQ and above average grades if you want to play football in college. Do you understand coverages and protections? Can you read the defense? Do you understand where your opportunities are? Are you capable of getting a pre-snap read right? Do you make smart decisions? Are able to make adjustments? When it comes to school, the answer is simple, hit the books! Coaches expect their quarterback to be intelligent.
Now it’s time to discuss those things coaches can measure, time, weigh, analyze, and see with their own eyes. Often referred to as the Measurables, these are the attributes that will first catch a coach’s eye and lead to the further evaluation into your intangibles. Naturally, it is essential that you excel at these attributes if you want the coach to take the next steps in the evaluation process.
1. Accuracy – Accuracy is arguably the most important attribute a coach wants from their QB. Can you put the ball in the right spot with the right touch? Can you make the tough throws like the deep outs and do it with good velocity? If you are not delivering the ball with consistent accuracy the coach will eliminate you as a prospect.
2. Arm Strength – Although we have listed arm strength and accuracy separately, they really go hand-in-hand. When it comes to arm strength the coach wants to know if you can make all the throws? Can you make the tough throws like the deep outs and do it with good velocity? In the end, you need to have both strength and accuracy.
3. Mobility – We aren’t talking about just your ability to run. Do you move around the pocket with purpose? Do you have the ability to extend a play when the pocket starts to collapse? Do you have escape-ability? Can you win with your legs? Coaches aren’t looking for you to be Cam Newton, but they aren’t looking for a statue either. Your ability to move can be a difference maker.
4. Footwork – We are always hearing the analysts talk about footwork, but what does that really mean and what are coaches looking at when they evaluate your footwork? Are you good with the 3, 5, and 7 step drops? Do you keep a proper base? Are you letting the ball sail because you over stride or are you throwing the ball into the ground because you under stride? Can you throw without a hitch step? Without good footwork, everything else you do will suffer.
5. Mechanics – In this context, mechanics is referring to everything that happens from the waist up. Do you load the ball low or high? Do you have a compact throwing motion or do you have a long sweeping throwing motion? Is your release point low, high or even out to the side? Do you properly transfer your weight for back to front? Do you keep your head aligned with your shoulders? Do you follow through properly? There are a lot of things that go into the mechanics of throwing the ball and the coaches want to know that you can either do them correctly now or that you can be coached up.
6. Size – Quarterbacks come in all sizes, but every coach has an ideal size in mind. But in general, a coach wants to see a kid that can see over the line and is big enough to withstand the punishment from week to week, game to game, and throughout the entire season. There isn’t a lot you can control about your height, but you can get in the weight room to get bigger and stronger.
The bottom line is this, if you are a high school QB and you want to play at the college level you need to possess the total package. Few college coaches have the bandwidth to “teach” you once you get to them. You need to come to the game with a mastery of the basics, an understanding of general scheme and concepts, and the right amount of confidence in your abilities but a willingness to improve every day.
Work to become the most complete quarterback you can be and you will give yourself a chance to realize your dream of a college athletic scholarship.