Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Tale of Four Quarterbacks

With National Signing Day only one week away, I thought about reminiscing about past signing days and how those recruitnik dreams panned out, especially in terms of four quarterbacks.

The first quarterback was rated four stars by Rivals and three stars by Scout. Rivals had the 6'4" quarterback rated the #9 pro-style quarterback in the country and the #27 prospect overall in one of the largest states in the country. Scout was less impressed, ranking him merely the #38 quarterback in the country. Among the schools that offered him scholarships were Michigan, Illinois, and Arizona State.

The second quarterback was rated two stars by both Rivals and Scout. The 6'3" quarterback didn't make any national lists, but did squeak into the top 25 list of his midwestern state. Other schools interested in him were Ball State and Eastern Michigan.

The third quarterback was a consensus four star recruit by both Rivals and Scout. The 6'1" quarterback was consider Rivals #3 pro-style quarterback and Scout's #11 overall quarterback in the country. This quarterback was recruited by Florida, Florida State, Miami, and Michigan among other schools.

The fourth quarterback was a consensus four star recruit as well. The 6'6" quarterback made the Rivals100 as one of the top 100 prospects coming out of high school, and Scout named him the #11 quarterback in the country. Among the other schools offering scholarships to this prospect were Oregon, Texas A&M, and Colorado.

At first glance, one of these stands out like a sore thumb. He barely gained any interest from MAC schools, while the others all were recruited by big names from BCS conferences. So let's concentrate on the other three names, who were destined for college football greatness.

#1 was Sam Keller, who would become Arizona State's starting quarterback late in 2005 and went 4-4 before becoming injured and losing his starting job to Rudy Carpenter. He then transferred to Nebraska, and went 4-5 as the starting quarterback before a collarbone injury ended his senior season.

#3 was Harrison Beck, who was pulled out of his redshirt late in his freshman season to throw 10 passes, completing one to a Husker receiver and one to a Kansas State defender. He then transferred to North Carolina State where he's throw 240 passes, completing 119 of them for four touchdowns and 16 interceptions. After a particularly horrific performance in the bowl this past season, his teammates were reported ready to "kick his ***" for laughing about his latest interception.

#4 was Josh Freeman, who backed out on his commitment to Nebraska to attend Kansas State. He went on to go 14-18 as a starting quarterback for the Wildcats, scoring 44 touchdowns but also throwing 34 interceptions in his career. Despite his career losing record as a quarterback, he declared for the NFL draft and is viewed as a potential first round draft pick by Mel Kiper of ESPN. Ironically, if people ranked Big XII quarterbacks this past season, Freeman would rank by most in the lower half (and maybe lower third) of quarterbacks.

Kind of a disappointing run for those quarterbacks. But let's go back to that other guy; the guy that only got a sprinkling of interest from the MAC initially. He went on to ride the bench for most of his first three years in college. But he got his break late in 2007 when he came in to replace the injured starter, and then went on to a 10-6 record as a starting quarterback, including some record setting performances (including a 510 yard passing game in just his second start). For a career with just 3 seasons (and really only playing 16 games), he threw for 44 touchdowns against 18 interceptions.

Whoa. The 2-star guy far out surpassed the 4-star guys? Who was that guy, and how did the recruiting services get it wrong?

Simply put, recruiting services tend to focus on only part of the picture. They focus on the measurables: height, weight, speed, arm strength, etc. They tend to ignore or dismiss the intangibles that they can't evaluate. So what happens is a quarterback like Joe Ganz tends to fall through the cracks of the system because for whatever reason, talent evaluators can't quantify what's inside players.

But that something is something that can be observed, if you look hard at the person. Character counts, and how you respond to adversity might be as important, if not more important, than having the greatest 40-yard time or having the strongest arm. That drive is something that isn't apparent to folks focusing on measurables. But you see in the responses to adversity. When Sam Keller got passed on the depth chart at Arizona State, his father flew him around the country to find a new program. Josh Freeman's father didn't even wait for adversity to come at Nebraska, pushing the eject button and diverting Freeman to Kansas State before he even had a chance ot sign. And we all know about Harrison Beck's disappearance at Nebraska.

Joe Ganz? What was his response to getting jobbed out of the starting job at Nebraska? He worked harder, and didn't complain at the time. That's character. That's something that was completely missed by the so-called experts.

And thus became yet another example of why the only meaningful information you'll find out next week as recruits sign letters of commitment is their names and home towns. The rest is pure speculation at best, and frequently irrelevent when they actually hit the field.

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