Does anyone think Nelson doesn't have heart, grit, toughness and moxie – the list could go on, but I'll stop there – after what transpired over the course of last year? Over the first couple of days of spring camp, it's visibly apparent that the backbone and resolve of Riley Nelson haven't diminished, but only stiffened.
With another year under his belt, and being a senior signal-caller, Nelson's leadership, grit and spirit have not only grown, but have become infectious. It was visibly apparent last year how the team played when Nelson was at the helm, and that same infectious demeanor has spread to what has become one of the more physical first few days of spring camp in recent memory.
However, while Nelson has brought that contagious demeanor to this offensive unit, Nelson is still Nelson. He's athletic and can run the ball, there's no question there. However, he's limited when it comes to deep-passing part of his game and doesn't have quite the zip downfield.
Nelson's ability to extend plays with his legs and buy time in the pocket has often allowed him to make a play and at times made up for that inefficiency. However, trusting the offensive line should be more of a focus with Nelson.
As the expected number two man in the program so far, and someone who didn't take many snaps last season, Lark has looked very comfortable and poised in the pocket. He doesn't have jittery feet in the pocket while gazing downfield, and looks generally confident in regards to his pocket presence. This is one of the keys to being a very good quarterback.
In his drop backs he's looked to read the defense a little longer in order to make the pass, which is good, and although he's not ill-equipped to run the ball, he has made more of an attempt to stay in the pocket. In terms of arm strength and zip, Lark has more range than Nelson but hasn't been as successful as Nelson in terms of sustaining drives. Given Nelson's superior experience, that's to be expected.
Like Nelson, Lark has let receivers know when a route was cut short or if a nuance in the route running was missed. While Lark understands the offense, time will be needed for him to develop chemistry with the receivers.
Evaluating Taysom Hill, a new kid on the block, has been a delight. Sure, he's got some work to do with getting the muscle memory back in specific quarterback drills, and that's to be expected given the fact he is coming off a mission.
However, let's talk about potential here, because Hill has plenty of time to hone his craft. He throws a nice ball with very good velocity. In the drop-back drills he's thrown the ball with zip and accuracy, which means he keeps his elbow high in his throwing motion. He's in possession of quick, nimble feet, which will not only aid him in quick drops from under center, but also open up more diverse opportunities for the offense.
Hill has received reps but needs more time to get a feel for the speed of the game once again. When a quarterback holds the ball too long, the offensive line generally gets the blame. However, in the case of Hill, holding the ball longer than needed is more because his head is now on a swivel than anything else. In time the game will slow down for him and his talents will be put to effective use.
The first thing one notices with Olsen is his size. He's tall and that will aid him in seeing the field more than a shorter quarterback. However, size is overrated and not as essential as arm strength and accuracy, and Olsen has these in abundance.
In the quarterback drills, Olsen's arm strength is visibly noticeable. He throws with a lot of heat and zip on the ball in shorter passing routes, but has yet to find the connection, or chemistry, with the receivers downfield. Olsen has good touch in the intermediate routes, much in the same way Tayson Hill had thrown during skeli drills. And, much like Hill, Olsen will need more time developing the fluid motions of his setup. His drop back isn't as sharp as Nelson's or Lark's, as is to be expected of a young man who hasn't spent the last two years developing the skill.
Hill is another that passes the size test. In the position drills, he's thrown the ball with good velocity and accuracy. His dexterity and mobility are also good, but as expected, he needs more work in the setup portion of his drop back. He has a good release – his elbow is high – and in time the little nuances of his game and his confidence will come under the tutelage of Coach Doman. Overall, the talent is there for the molding, but is raw.
There is a good mix of old and young quarterbacks, which is good for the younger group to absorb from. Nelson often takes charge and acts as an extra pair of eyes for Coach Doman when it comes to helping the younger quarterbacks in position development. Nelson and Lark are definitely the most polished, while the younger quarterbacks in the group have a wide mix of very good skill sets that Coach Doman will be able to develop independently, much like he did with Nelson and Heaps last year.