Prospect Evaluation: Dillon Sterling-Cole

One of Arizona State's top overall prospects in the 2016 class is Scout300 recruit Dillon Sterling-Cole, whom we've seen in various settings in person in the last year.

We've had an opportunity to watch Arizona State quarterback commit Dillon Sterling-Cole in a variety of settings including in person evaluations at last year's The Opening and Elite-11 competition in Eugene, Oregon, and at Semper Fi Bowl practices in Costa Mesa, California, as well as on television in a Westfield High School game and the Semper Fi Bowl itself. 

At every opportunity, Sterling-Cole has made an increasingly positive impression both in terms of his physical and athletic tools as well as how he has conducted himself and the manner with which he approaches being a quarterback and the habits that successful players at the position overwhelmingly tend to demonstrate. 

The major takeaway conclusion from all of this observation and interaction with Sterling-Cole in such high profile settings is that his reputation as a four-star, No. 16 nationally ranked quarterback is more than reasonable. Having seen Sterling-Cole compete against some of the best players at the position the country at the Elite-11 finals last summer, and been able to watch him again in person subsequent to that, it is our position that even though Sterling-Cole missed the cut, he is at least as good of a prospect as some of the Elite-11 honorees in this, or any class. 

Also at the Semper Fi bowl with the West squad were Terry Wilson, a three-star commit to Oregon, Zach Smith, a three start commit to Baylor. Both at the practices observed by us as well as Scout analysts Greg Biggins and Gabe Brooks, as well as in the game itself, Sterling-Cole was reviewed as the best quarterback prospect for the West. This was especially apparent with regard to accuracy and decision making from the pocket, which is the most important thing to evaluate when projecting long term potential. 

Sterling-Cole has a very high ceiling because his essential tools are great, and this is despite the fact that he's not spent nearly as much time being developed by quarterback gurus as a lot of guys are, particularly on the West Coast. Even though that's the case, and recruiting was newer to Sterling-Cole because of how he jumped onto the scene a year ago with his transfer to Houston Westfield, he is a quarterback who doesn't have any skill deficiency.

At a legitimate 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Sterling-Cole is bigger-framed in person than one might expect from just looking at his measurables or watching film. He's going to get considerably bigger and strong, and play well north of 200 pounds when he gets into a college strength program. A good estimate is that he probably ends up weighing 220 pounds with no loss of athleticism or overall mobility. He could be every bit as big as ASU freshman quarterback Bryce Perkins when he's done developing, as that's the type physical structure he has to build upon. He's clearly taller and bigger-framed than ASU quarterbacks Mike Bercovici, Manny Wilkins or Brady White, for comparison's sake.

What really stands out about Sterling-Cole though is his pocket feel and ability to deliver the ball accurately in a wide variety of applications. He has great and borderline elite potential with his footwork given how well he feels movement in the pocket and is able to get balanced prior to releasing the ball even on challenged throws where he's had to move and do so quickly. The way he's able to quickly get the ball out hot or on throws with an abbreviated drop due to immediate post-snap pressure is also pretty remarkable. He does this with great decision making as well, as his touchdown to interception rate was an impressive 4-to-1 last season.

There isn't an elongated delivery process when getting the ball to the perimeter in the screen game, but Sterling-Cole doesn't cheat to deliver it on these throws by mechanical shortcuts. He's going to get even tighter in this regard, but has a good initial package to work with as he readies for college coaching. We saw this clearly in Semper Fi practices, and also watched entire periods of quarterback-running back mesh point exchanges in read-option skill development and Sterling-Cole demonstrated poise and comfort in these sequences even as he did so without a defense present to amplify the decision-making challenges. 

Along with all this, Sterling-Cole has ample arm strength to play at the highest level of football. One of his high school teammates is Scout100 wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, a player with a legitimate 4.32 40-yard dash. Cleveland is about as fast as anyone in the country at the high school or college level and yet on vertical shots he rarely if ever on film was out-running Sterling-Cole's arm, even on unexpected pocket resets.

Sterling-Cole can run the complete ASU playbook. He's considered a dual-threat type quarterback, but is much more on the passer side of the scale than the runner side. While he's relatively mobile and can competently handle read option and designed draw plays, he's not an elite athlete for a quarterback -- not nearly as quick as Wilkins for example -- and would much rather be a play extension quarterback who is looking to find someone to deliver the football too. That's better than someone who isn't as comfortable in the pocket in terms of the process of skill development, anyway. In keeping with that, Sterling-Cole does an impressive job of keeping his eyes down the field and is accurate and throws with pop when bleeding to his right, either by improvisation or designed roll, which also suits his future well in the ASU offense. 

Short-range touch and accuracy are probably the biggest skill question at this stage, as he's had a tendency to be high or behind receivers he's not as familiar with from a timing standpoint. But that's not a big flaw at all. There really is no big obstacle to Sterling-Cole's success from a physical or tools standpoint. Ultimately, he can play as high as his ability to think the game and process the field allows him. That's really what separates good quarterbacks from great quarterbacks and great quarterbacks from elite quarterbacks with guys who have the kind of tools Sterling-Cole has to work with.


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