Analyst Talks QB Recruiting, Development

Yogi Roth worked for USC coach Pete Carroll, first in the player personnel department, then serving as an assistant coach working with the Trojans' quarterbacks. Roth now serves as host and analyst of the Elite 11 quarterback camps and is a color commentator for Fox College Sports. was able to ask Roth five questions about the biggest spot on the field, QB1. First, let's start off by talking about quarterback recruiting. When you went out to evaluate a quarterback, what was the first thing that you looked for?

Yogi Roth: "I would say there are a few things, both from a tangible aspect and an intangible aspect.

"First, you want a kid who can spin the ball out of his hand. He doesn't have to be able to make every throw. If he can, great. A kid who can make a throw from one hash to the (opposite field) numbers on the comeback, that's perfect. But you look at somebody like Matt Leinart, who was 180 pounds soaking wet. He spun it. Now he didn't have the greatest arm strength, and he didn't have the mass behind him. But we knew he would fill out from 220 to 225 pounds, which he did. He turned out to be one of the best college quarterbacks of all time, and definitely of the last decade.

"So when you're talking about tangible things, you want the ball to pop off the young man's hand. You want to see what kind of feet he has. Can he move in the pocket? Those are the two biggest things, along with finding somebody's who's accurate. Accuracy is one of the hardest things to teach. So the ability to spin the ball, accuracy and feet.

"When you're looking at intangibles, you just want to find a winner. And that doesn't always translate to them winning a lot of games. Some teams are just not very good. You see dominant players whose teams aren't winning. But winners, they might be on a poor team, but you see them keep their team in the game. They do everything they possibly can, willing their teams to be competitive. Not everyone is a (potential) three-time state champion like (Texas commitment) Connor Brewer.

"You want somebody who isn't complaining. Who's a positive, and not an issue for their team. What kind of young man is he? What kind of student is he? We defined a winner as somebody who excels in all aspects of their lives. We were looking for 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 students and guys who were involved in other things at school and in the community. We wanted somebody well-rounded.

"So that's where you start. And hopefully you can get them on campus for a camp. That's an opportunity to see how well they learn, how they take things in. How do they deal with our coaching? Now you're really lucky if you can get that. When we were at USC, we could hold off on offering kids and get the top 5-to-10 quarterbacks in the country to come to camp and compete for an offer. You can't get that now, so you have to be two years ahead of it. Hopefully you can get the top 15-to-16-year olds and find guys who can develop by the time they're 18-to-19." So what's the hard part about all of that? You see big schools that struggle at the quarterback position, and smaller schools find signal-caller after signal-caller. So where do the mistakes come in?

YR: "I would say the main thing is that you can't force the player to fit the system. That's just the way football works, and the way that quarterbacking works. John Morton, who was our offensive coordinator at USC, was with the Saints when Drew Brees was brought in. And they met with him and went through, asking 'what are your favorite passes.' They went through the quick game, five-step, seven-step, every element of the passing game.

"They asked him: 'What do you love to throw', and Brees would say, you know, 'I love throwing out-routes.' So then they said 'OK, we're in 2x2 (formation) on third-and-10 and we decide to call Double Right 65 Smack Double Out, would you be confident in that?' Brees would say, 'Well, instead of out, I say Okie.' And they asked if on third-and-10 if they called Double Right 65 Smack Double Okie, whether he could make that throw with 100 percent confidence. Brees said sure, and they put a checkmark, and said 'that's in the playbook.'

"I honestly couldn't tell you how often that happens, where coaches ask players what they really like to throw, what they're confident with. There are only so many throws you can make, and when you start factoring in protections, checks and everything else, a lot of times you're just making a young quarterback uncomfortable. You're almost hampering that No. 1 trait we look for: a player's ability to operate freely.

"I wasn't at Texas, but I would guess that might have been part of what happened with Garrett Gilbert. I met him a couple of times and he was a nice kid, a humble young man. He seemed to be playing really tight. You can understand that with the way that entire state watches every move you make. And with the coaching staff not fully endorsing him (this year), to me, your quarterback has to be the guy. He has to compete freely. You give him the keys to the car and get on the same page offensively.

"I understand that you want to do so much as a coach. You work 18 hours a day for a reason. You want to script everything to a T. But you can definitely try to do too much offensively. And I think that's a tough form of discipline for a staff, not trying to do too much.

"The other thing is that I think the nature of the game has seen the purity of throwers decrease. It's like in basketball: when you drive by a playground, you don't see kids working on their jab step, triple threat position or pull-up jumper. They aren't coming off a screen. They're dunking and working on the 'wow' plays. There aren't a lot of pure throwers left. You don't find a lot of guys who just go out and spin the ball. You have 120 college quarterbacks, and what, 2 percent make it to NFL rosters? The game is just changing. Instead of the Nick Foleses, the Brandon Weedens, the Matt Barkleys, you're seeing more guys who are athletes who don't spin the ball as well." So there's an age-old coaching argument, as you know, about whether to fit the players to your system or the system to your players. It seems like you come down on the second part of that.

YR: "I think it's a two-way street. You have to recruit guys who fit your mold, and who can succeed at what you're trying to do. If you take a look at an offense like Oregon, they probably wouldn't be as successful … with a Carson Palmer lookalike. He wouldn't fit. You look at what's happening in Denver. They might have to change their whole offense to fit Tim Tebow.

"So it's definitely a two-way street. You can't do everything. You're not going to use every tool in your tool belt. So you have to find a kid that can do X, Y, Z that fits your system, and then once he's your guy, you adapt your system to what he does well."

LD: To that end, one of the popular debates among Texas fans goes back to whether the Longhorns should have picked Gilbert or (now LSU wide receiver) Russell Shepard. Shepard appeared to fit what they were doing to that point, with running a lot of zone read. But Texas picked Gilbert, with then-offensive coordinator saying that they went for the best quarterback in the state, and Gilbert was that player. Did Texas make a mistake by going against its system there?

YR: "I can see what Texas was thinking. They were thinking, 'well, we can get Gilbert, who is a thrower, and we've had success in the past with that kind of quarterback in Major Applewhite and Chris Simms. But I can tell you when we were at USC, we recruited Terrelle Pryor as a defensive end. Because he wasn't going to play quarterback the way we wanted to play it.

"Then you go on that he wanted to play two sports, basketball and football, which was cool with Pete (Carroll) and the rest of the staff, but you couldn't do that and put in the time to be a Heisman-winning NFL-style QB, in our opinion. We told him that he could be an All-American defensive end, but we didn't want him to come and play quarterback because we knew our system so well.

"If you look at Texas, they haven't really been producing NFL-style QBs year-after-year, and Vince (Young) and Colt (McCoy) were pretty different guys. So they tried to find what could fit for them, and their needs changed with the evolution of that offense. It just kind of naturally happened to them." Anything else?

YR: "I think one of the coolest things about Elite 11, with the great 24 kids that we had there, was on the second night of camp, we were able to go through the history of offensive football. We talked about the Packers pounding the rock in the 1960s. You had the 1980s and the run-and-shoot, the Dolphins' shotgun one-back. Then you had the spread.

"The misnomer 'spread QB' is totally overblown. You want to talk about the West Coast? Well, look at Texas A&M, which runs some West Coast concepts from the spread. A quarterback is a quarterback, and it's up to the coaches to get somebody who fits their system, and then work to make them comfortable within that system.

"You just have to be dedicated to it. If you're looking at Iowa State, you're running a form of the 'gun where your quarterback has to run. At USC, you're looking at a 'gun where the quarterback never runs. Oregon, the quarterback has to beat you with his legs, and his arm. Texas, you're dropping back in either 2x2 or 2x1 and slinging it with Colt McCoy or bringing Vince Young in and making the defense accountable for all 11 men with the zone read.

"It doesn't really matter what you do. You just have to be dedicated to what you want to do, and who you want to do it with."

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