Zepeda on Andrew Luck's 7-on-7 Tournament

The biggest event of the summer in Texas high school football was the 7-on-7 State Championship, held last week in College Station. Alan Zepeda of TexasPrepInsider.com was on hand to watch the state's best compete, including Houston (Tex.) Stratford senior QB Andrew Luck, who is committed to Stanford. We asked Zepeda afterward all about the Class of 2008 Cardinal quarterback and his progress.

How did Andrew Luck look at the Texas 7-on-7 State Tournament?

"He looked great, and Stratford ran all the way to the championshp game, where they lost.  In the championship game, you could see that he got frustrated.  He just threw a 50-yard bomb and nailed his guy in full sprint right over the shoulder.  It was beautiful.  He looked awesome.  As good as he looked last year, he looks even better this year.  I've seen him since he was in eighth grade and watched him up to now, and he gets better and better.  Now he can haul off 50-yard bombs like they're nothing.  Unfortunately, Stratford doesn't have high D-I wide receivers.  They have some solid high school guys, and they can handle some of his passes.  But he puts some serious zip on them.  Stratford played pretty good and almost won it, but in the championship game, Georgetown was just on a mission.  It was fun watching."

Had you watched Andrew in person at all during this spring?

"No, I didn't."

So I guess then this was your first time to see him compete since his junior season.  What kinds of things jumped out to you, where you can tell that he has improved either in his quarterbacking ability or in his physical abilities?

"He's filled out more.  He's probably grown a little bit, but you can definitely tell that he's filled out.  He has more muscle on his body.  As far as his throwing ability, his passes are crisper.  He has now that long-range bomb.  I think Stanford fans will love that clip when we put it up on Scout.com.  He was throwing frozen ropes, and that deep pass in the championship game was just fantastic.  The team looked like they were way down.  They were down by three touchdowns and didn't have much of a chance, and Andrew just starts rallying them.  He just said, 'Screw it,' and bombed away.  That was the best pass of that tournament.  He has just gotten progressively better all the way around."

You've told us before that they dink and dunk sometimes in the passing offense at Stratford, because they don't have receivers who can stretch the field.  As a result, it's been a question mark whether Andrew Luck has the long ball in his arsenal.  Do you revise that opinion a little bit after watching him in the 7-on-7 state tournament?

"Yeah, there is no question he can nail that long ball.  That was a 50-yard pass, and he just flung it.  Wherever I have seen him, I have never seen him take the ball really deep like that.  It was a beautiful pass, and I don't think you could throw it any better than he did.  That answered any lingering doubt in my mind of how good he is and he can be.  If he can hit the 50-yard pass, that just opens up so much more in the five-, 10- and 15-yard range."

In the rules for Texas 7-on-7, how much opportunity is there to see a quarterback's running ability, rolling out or taking off on his own?  If there was any of that, were you able to check out Andrew's current athleticism and mobility?

"One thing that is bad about the 7-on-7 is that quarterbacks develop bad footwork because there is no pass rush.  They get lazy and start throwing off their back foot.  Andrew was following through, stepping into his passes and just zipping it.  He had very good footwork.  You can tell, with his dad Oliver as a former NFL quarterback, that he knows that you practice how you play.  You follow through; you do your footwork.  When you throw the ball, you bring your arm all the way down.  You could tell that he was doing all the proper technique, which I liked seeing.  His footwork looked great."

"But in 7-on-7 football in the state of Texas, there is no pass rush.  You have three seconds, so there is no need to dance around back there.  You take the ball from the snap, you drop about three yards back and you start looking for a receiver.  There is no need to scramble.  You only get three seconds to get rid of the ball.  Quarterbacks don't run."

The neat thing about 7-on-7 is that we are just weeks away from the start of these kids' fall camps and then the start of their season, so you are getting a sneak peak at what these teams and these players will be like this fall.  Any updated thoughts on what Andrew Luck ought to be showing at Stratford this fall different or better from last fall?

"Last year they went 9-1.  They answered some questions as far as finding receivers to replace the guys they had last year.  Their tight end looked really good - in fact, he'll be named to the All-Tournament team.  He has good hands.  I think they answered a few questions.  They showed that they could play some defense, with the exception of the championship game.  But Georgetown couldn't be stopped.  Their defense did a solid job.  Their receivers stepped up and showed that they have a couple of guys who will be players this upcoming football season.  They answered some questions I had about their football team.  They went 9-1 last year, and the district they're in is a solid district.  But I think they can go 9-1 again."

You talked about him filling out, throwing the long ball and throwing frozen ropes.  I saw that from him, as well, a few weeks ago at the Stanford camp.  His upper body looks bigger and stronger.  Do you see much more velocity on the ball relative to what you saw him throw last fall?

"Most definitely.  When you see the video of him, you'll see the musculature of someone who is getting older.  He's filling out.  His arms are bigger.  It's hard to see if he's a shirt size bigger than last year [laughs], but he's really filling out nicely.  He's getting that upper body strength and looks the part of an NFL quarterback.  He's got the height.  He's got the build.  He's got the arm, and he's showing that he has the deep ball in this tournament.  He's making a very good progression physically and in his passing game - which is great to see because sometimes you see kids flatten out at a certain age."

How was he doing in terms of locating his passes and his decision-making with the ball?

"There were three picks in the championship game.  Two were of the variety where they bounced off a receiver's hands or body.  He made one clear mistake where he made a bad choice.  I think that was coming out of frustration with how the game was going.  That was probably their sixth or seventh game of the day, so they had been out there for a while.  That's such a grind that the championship game is often mistake-filled.  I don't really fault a player for making a mistake in the sixth or seventh game of the day."

What are the remaining holes or question marks for Andrew Luck that you will be watching and that observers of Texas high school football might watch this fall, based on what you saw this last week?

"I think the only remaining question is if he can hit that deep ball consistently.  He doesn't get too many opportunities to throw that, and he won't have many opportunities once again during this season.  That's the only lingering doubt out there because he doesn't have the offense around him really that can see four or five deep passes.  He will have intermediate passes of 20, 25 or 30 yards, but I don't think Stratford has the receivers who can stretch the defense and outrun a DB for a deep ball.  Especially in the district where they are playing, with teams like Eisenhower and all these places with good defensive backs.  They are not going to have the opportunity to go for a deep pass too often, so that is going to be the lingering doubt.  But he went a long way to answering the question with that one pass in the championship game.  He showed me that he can hit that deep ball."

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