As you all know, Dr. Recruitnik is a man of science. And I just love the stuff. Empirical research, deductive logic – hey, I eat that junk for breakfast!
And when it comes to predicting which high school football player will become a great college player, well…I am wallowing in my milieu. That's right – with most predictions, we're going right down Main Street with the good doctor. But I gotta tell you – there is nothing scientific about predicting quarterback performance at the college football level. Let's look at some cases:
Case #1: Walt Harris, legendary offensive genius and stalwart evaluator of quarterback flesh, had two openings available when he was recruiting QB's for The Ohio State University some 6-7 years ago. He reportedly sent out four offers and told the adolescent gunslingers that he would take the first two to commit. Those two happened to be Austin Moherman and David Priestly. The two that didn't pull the trigger fast enough were Spencer Brinton (now at Michigan) and Jesse Palmer (an undistinguished career at Florida).
So far, so good. In hindsight, we should note on the charts that Moherman was slow of foot and slow of release and he eventually released himself to toil in Division I-AA obscurity at Northeast Southern Missouri something. Priestly wasn't even that good. But in trying to prove that the scientific approach works (it doesn't…), Walt Harris took him again at Pitt only to watch him work his way to the bottom of that Pitt, too.
Case #2: As Ohio State was sorting through the detritus for kids who could be back-ups to the infamous troika of Moherman/Priestly/Bellisari, they extended offers to two large Ohio kids that were pretty good athletes. One was Rick McFadden from Struthers, a 6'7" QB who would have made a great tight end. The other was a slightly smaller Ben Roethlisberger from Findlay. Ben had only played one year of quarterback in high school and – as legend has it – OSU tried to convince him to become the Buckeye tight end.
Case #3: Big local Ohio kids who weren't good enough to play football at Ohio State included Dave Ragone (went to Louisville) and Josh Harris (currently under center at Bowling Green). Both have been mentioned as Heisman Trophy candidates during their college football campaigns. And we had Bellisari, Priestly and Moherman…
Now, let's be fair (a first for this series…). If Roethlisberger or Harris or Ragone had come to Ohio State, they might have languished on the bench because OSU's "system" is not user-friendly to guys who throw 50 times a game. It was probably best for all three that they did their things elsewhere. Of course, that kind of "understanding" might have also cost us future high profile quarterback potential: say Michael Bush or Brady Quinn or Chad Henne or Anthony Morelli, etc. But when push-comes-to-shove a QB our direction, it is a complicated process that seems to defy known science.
Can we complain that we are "stuck" with Craig Krenzel? Only if we want to complain about 19 straight wins and a national championship. And back-up Scott McMullen? He threw for an 80% completion rate last year and guided the last two of those 19 wins this year.
Let's not focus on the past, but look, instead, toward the future. As opposed to recruiting the fullback position, which we still don't know what we are aiming for (see last week's edition…), we have a pretty good handle on what we want out of a quarterback: A Craig Krenzel type who can go 10 for 16 with two deep balls, make exemplary decisions, turn the ball over infrequently, and be able to create first downs out of the ether. Now, look at our two applicants who hope to be the starter next year: Justin Zwick and Troy Smith. That's right – Zwick fits that profile whereas Smith is more your Stanley Jackson to Zwick's Joe Germaine.
The Buckeye/Tressel "system" seems to love a kid who has been playing quarterback since his freshman year in high school (won the state championship) and has performed under fire (led Massillon to the playoffs) and has physical presence (say 6'3" 220 pounds). That's your basic Justin Zwick. The "system" seems tilted against quarterbacks who played multiple positions in high school (receiver, running back, defensive back), has a huge arm but happy feet (thinks run-first-then-pass) and played against less-than-stellar competition in those schoolboy days (the Senate League, for example). That's the case with Troy Smith.
Let's look farther into the future. And we will see Todd Boeckman. A kid who is a terrific athlete (All-State baseball and basketball), started since he was a freshman (threw for over 2000 yards that year), had a father who was also his coach, comes from a storied program (same school as the Hoyings) and has physical stature (6'5" and 220 pounds by the time he's ready to play).
And who else will we have at the end of the rainbow? A potential pot of gold named Joe Bauserman. The ying and the yang on Joe is that he has won his last four high school games on gritty comebacks, but he completed a total of five passes in two of them. Another nagging problem: Bauserman might be a high draft choice for baseball and skip college altogether. Kind of providence's revenge for that whole Drew Henson caper…
So let's assess our situation.
Dr. Recruitnik sez that Justin Zwick is your starter next year and that Troy Smith won't be moved until we find a capable back up. Todd Boeckman might be that guy but – let's not forget – he seemed like the #3 choice behind Brady Quinn (now playing as an 18 year old at Notre Dame) and Michael Bush (seeing action at Louisville).
We need to recruit a guy this year that can possibly play in the next two years. We swung and missed at Chad Henne and Anthony Morelli from Pennsylvania. And Robert Reid says he's going to OK State. Brian Hoyer is having a terrific year at St. Iggy but has pledged his troth to John Smith at Michigan State. Xavier Lee is toying with us in Florida but is likely to stay south.
So…Dr. Recruitnik sez that OSU may work on changing Reid's mind, then try to convince Lee to march north. If both of these long-shot options fail, we will take the decidedly unscientific route and work to convince Brian Hoyer to not pull a Dave Ragone by leaving the state.
Interestingly, maybe the QB of the future is another St. Ignatius product, Nathan Szep, who transferred to Ohio State already this year. He put up great numbers in high school and some scouts say he was every bit as good as Zwick.
Maybe. But as a man of science, I am concerned about the results coming out of the lab right now.