It takes a special type of player to be called the next Michael Vick, and Jackson quarterback Antonio Bass has sure heard his share of comparisons to the super star Atlanta Falcons quarterback. But the question is, will Antonio even play quarterback in college? Is he a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or defensive back? What are his strengths and weaknesses? Here's the GBW take on the 6-2+, 200 pounder who ran a 4.4 at the OSU Nike Camp this spring:
First and foremost, Antonio Bass is a very rare specimen in terms of athleticism. His speed is unmatched by anyone he's played against at the high school level, and it will be difficult for most college defenders to stay with him in that category. As a quarterback, he can definitely make plays when things break down. He can also be effective on designed runs from the pocket. Obviously he grades out excellently with his running ability. He is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the football. He avoids the rush well, has quick feet, and is a superb scrambler. He has shown surprising poise in the pocket and will take a hit while delivering a pass instead of getting nervous feet.
Bass is a deceptively tough runner. In fact, he has outstanding power and can literally run defenders over. He breaks quite a few tackles and isn't easy to bring down. At the same time, he has wicked elusiveness. I've seen very few kids as quick as Antonio is. He anticipates well, makes sharp cuts, and has excellent vision (as a runner).
Antonio has pretty good rollout pass ability, but he doesn't possess a great dropback passer's arm. That said, he throws well on the run and can make plays with his arm outside the tackle box. He has enough quarterback skill to head a run heavy system, but would struggle in a pro style passing offense. He could REALLY flourish as a wide receiver.
Every year there are scores of players who report inflated forty times, vertical jumps, and other testing stats. That, however, isn't the case with Antonio Bass. At nearly 6-2 and 200 lbs. he can blaze the forty in 4.4 seconds (hand timed at the OSU Nike Camp, but Antonio also ‘slipped to that time' while wearing the wrong kind of shoes for the surface … GBW was watching the heats) and jump over 35 inches. While that combination is pretty rare, there are still a number of other highly regarded prospects nationally that can legitimately boast similar attributes. What separates Antonio from even that class of players and makes him one of the truly elite prospects in the country is his inline quickness. Bass has the uncanny ability to stop and start on a dime. He can freeze defenders with a shake and then reach top speed in just a few steps. That is something generally seen only in much smaller players, so he very is unique in that regard.
When you combine his speed, size and elusiveness with power, you get an accurate picture of what Antonio brings to the table. Defenders can get lulled to sleep thinking that he is just a finesse player but that's huge mistake. He is also a very physical runner that can be punishing at times. He literally drags players around at the high school level. Simply put, he is a defensive nightmare when he has the ball in his hands. He is the type of player that coordinators have to account for on every play. He's a true difference maker.
Areas That Need Improvement
Most of Antonio's weaknesses deal with him at the quarterback position. He has a strong enough arm to throw the ball downfield, but lacks the velocity needed for the out and comeback routes. He needs work on the accuracy of his deep ball, but is fairly accurate in the mid-level passing game (sub 15 yards). His delivery isn't that bad. The initial half of the throwing motion is average, but he finishes quickly and throws from a mid-level release point.
He threw a few "jump balls" when I went to see him play and that will be frowned on at the college level. He isn't really called on to make complex decisions in his run heavy high school system. As a result, he throws to his primary option the majority of time and his reads are still at a raw stage.
As an athlete, there basically isn't any weakness to his game. While he certainly will benefit from a college strength and conditioning program, he is already physically able to play at the next level. The area that needs the most improvement is his quarterbacking. He has limited experience as a passer because of the offense he runs in high school. The lack of passing has stymied both the progress of his accuracy and his experience going through progressions while reading defenses. He can throw the ball on the run, but won't be asked to throw some of the arm routes (like a 20-yard out from the far hash).
The good news for Bass is the technical flaws can be corrected. The first order of business for a coach wishing to make him a QB is to get his footwork is together. His accuracy could see marked improvement if/when he receives instruction on proper throwing mechanics like getting his feet set when he throws and squaring toward his target.
I would be hesitant to compare Antonio Bass to an established quarterback like Michael Vick or any mobile quarterback with an above average arm. It is so hard to compare him to one player because he's such a rare athlete and doesn't really have a set position for college yet. If he chooses to play quarterback, I think he could be compared to a much faster, more elusive Bryan Randall (Virginia Tech). If he plays receiver he is like a bigger Steve Breaston.
The comparisons to Vick are a bit exaggerated in my opinion. While Antonio has similar skills as a runner, his arm strength isn't comparable to that of the former Virginia Tech star. When Vick was in college he may have had the strongest arm in all of college football. It was obvious then that he had a cannon because he threw rockets without even having his feet set.
Antonio's skill set reminds me most of another high school quarterback/receiver that went on to almost win the Heisman trophy six years ago. Peter Warrick had the same electric ability with the ball in his hands that Antonio does. The former Florida State star would have taken home the esteemed trophy all of those years ago if it were not for his off-field troubles. The scary thing is, Antonio is both bigger (6-1.5 vs. 5-11) and faster (4.4 vs. 4.5).
In my opinion, Antonio Bass could be a superstar at wide receiver. I have a hard time seeing him becoming anything more than an average quarterback because he is so raw in those areas of the game. It would be comparable to putting Steve Breaston at quarterback or not moving Jermaine Gonzales to wide receiver. Simply put, Antonio can be better utilized at another position. I'm not a fan of putting him on defense because he is even more raw there. This kid simply needs to be on the offensive side of the ball because of the impact he has on games when he has the ball in his hands.
We at GBW travel around the country to see the top high school players every year. Whether it be Nike Camps, the Army All Star Game, the Army combine, MSL combines, or just plain high school games/practices … we go out in person to watch the top kids, in addition to watching scores of tape. I've seen first hand those players considered to be the best over the past few years and I have no problem saying that Antonio Bass should be ranked right up there with them.
I make it a point not to throw around unearned praise, so when I say Antonio Bass is a special player, I really mean it. His talent is just plain off the charts. It is such that scouts look at him and say he has definite pro potential. To be clear, I'm not saying that he is a player that could jump straight to the NFL. What I'm saying is he has a skill set that evaluators view and say, "This is a kid that will likely be in the pros in four years." His ability to do what he can do with the ball in hands translates to any level, and scouts have told me as much. The question now is what is the best way to maximize his potential?
I have little doubt that with hard work and a dedicated college coach, Antonio can be an effective quarterback in the right system. An offense that makes great use of his feet and gives him a lot of high percentage throws would offer him the best chance to succeed at that position. He would immediately be one of the best running quarterbacks in all of college football, and that would be the case until he moved on. So from that standpoint, he could have a good career at QB, but I think he is capable of so much more.
He has the talent that would make him an elite wide receiver. ELITE! Hands, size, speed, strength, elusiveness … the entire package. Furthermore, Bass could be a great catch at wide receiver at ANY school he picks.
What position would he best maximize his potential? To me the answer is clear.
Scouting Report: Antonio Bass (Re-Visited)
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