A Shift in Size

It's been said by more than one NFL commentator that Vince Young will "revolutionize" the quarterback position. But that's impossible, because there will never be another like Young, right? Inside Texas' Ross Lucksinger says hold on, there may be something to this...

The idea of Vince Young revolutionizing the quarterback position on a national scale initially seems rather preposterous. After all, he can throw, he can run, he can lead, he can do everything a team asks of him and he does it best when he's needed most.

And he's not the first to be given the mantle of Positional Revolutionary. What seemed to football analysts to be axioms were espoused concerning other players before Young ever arrived in the National Football League. When we heard it the most frequently was when Michael Vick was dubbed the "most electrifying player in football."

I say "axiom" because the statements seemed to be self-evident truths:

-He's great. No one plays like him. Others will now play like him.-

Yeah, how's ol' Mickey doing now? Where's his supposedly endless bag of tricks? Perhaps he hid the rest in his water bottle (ok, I admit, low blow).

The NFL is still dominated by the Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer and Tom Bradys. Now we've heard that the position is changing again. This time because of Young.

Too be 100 percent clear, we are talking about Vincent Paul Young, Jr.

This is a man who has surpassed the conversation of greatest player in Texas football history and is in the debate with Red Grange, Herschel Walker, Wa-Tho-Huk (Jim Thorpe) and others for greatest player in the history of college football. I'm not suggesting that a player of equal caliber will come through any time soon. What I am saying is that players of his style will become more common.

A primary example is Tim Crowder.

Who-jiga-wa? Crowder? Stay with me on this one, people.

6-foot-5, 4.55 40 yard dash, 235 pounds, significantly powerful throwing arm. Vince Young, right? Wrong. Those are Tim Crowder's listed statistics coming out of high school. The massive Crowder was a successful pitcher for John Tyler High School and joked with me before the Alamo Bowl that he wanted the Texas coaches to give him a shot at quarterback. It was in jest, but it raised a legitimate issue.

Naturally with the presence of Young, Crowder's considerable skills were better put to use at defensive end, but what if he'd gotten a shot a quarterback at a much earlier stage of his career? With his arm strength and speed for his massive frame, the possibility was there.

If this was 30, even 15 years ago, Vince Young wouldn't have ever been a quarterback. A 6-foot-5, 210-pound athlete with good upper body strength and runs legitimately in the 4.5s? Sound's like you've got one heck of a linebacker there. Maybe he could throw on some mass and play defensive end. If he can catch maybe he can sub in at tight end occasionally. But the definition of the most ideal player for the quarterback position is changing.

Is Crowder's foot-speed at Vick's level? No, of course not. But neither is Young's. The critics said, "Young is outrunning people now, but he won't be able to do it in the NFL."

What those who criticized Young, such as ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, didn't understand is that Young had never been monumentally faster than his competition. At the Longhorn's pro timing day, Young ran a 4.54 40.

Fast, but not killer speed, especially not for the NFL. But what he did was read the field and make clean, smart cuts better than anyone who's ever played the position. Early in Vick's career, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback shredded the Minnesota Vikings defense to score the winning touchdown in overtime, producing one of the most impressive runs in NFL history. Vick darted in-between tacklers, narrowly avoiding capture and wowed the crowd. Young produced a similar run his rookie year, a 39-yard TD in overtime against his hometown Houston Texans. But Young's run didn't have the flash and flare of Vick's touchdown scamper. Young made one cut, one, but it was all he would need. That sort of intelligence and vision exists in players who previously never had the chance to play QB.

Intelligence has always been important to being a quarterback because he is the player who has the ball in his hands every snap, but ever since the forward pass became a frequent staple of the modern offense, coaches have always liked QBs who were tall and could see the field. Then, much more recently, there was a reemphasis on players who could move and create. Only very recently have we seen a fourth quality emerge: power.

Tall, fast and strong players, who used to have no other option but defensive line, are finding themselves at quarterback more and more often. A player doesn't have to be the biggest or the fastest or have the strongest arm, but players who possess a modicum of each are becoming more prevalent.

Does the name Josh Freeman ring a bell?

It should. The 6-6, 238-pound freshman led the Kansas State Wildcats to an upset of the Texas Longhorns in Manhattan, Kan. this past season.

Take John Chiles. True, the Texas freshman isn't particularly tall or thick, but he wouldn't be list as a quarterback for Texas if he hadn't at least dabbled at QB while in high school at Mansfield Summit. The lower levels of football are the key. It's where everything grows from. Young wouldn't have played quarterback for Texas if Coach Ray Seals at Houston Madison hadn't given him a shot. He wouldn't have been Madison's quarterback if he hadn't gotten a shot in junior high and on down.

Although we are growing larger as a people, players of this size existed long before Young. What we're seeing now is that they're playing quarterback in greater numbers.

Look at what player is projected to go No. 1 in this year's NFL Draft: JaMarcus Russell. The former LSU quarterback is very large and has a powerful arm. He may be more in the mold of a Daunte Culpepper, but he's also more in the mold of what we're seeing more and more often at the quarterback position.

Understandably, Russell and Culpepper were lining up under center long before Young torched USC in the Rose Bowl to the tune of 467 yards and three touchdowns, but at the lower levels of football we're seeing a significant increase in this style of athlete.

The latest name being associated with Young's is Tyrelle Pryor. The 6-6, 210-pound quarterback from Jeannette, Penn., and one of the top players in the class of 2008, says he fashions himself after Young and hopes to be able to repeat some of the things Young was able to do in college and now in the NFL.

Pryor is not the next Vince Young. Young is simply one of the first of a new kind of quarterback. He is not the first, simply the best among them. Sure, there have been other players with his size attempt the position, but it took Young to plow the way and create significant attention for a new kind of quarterback.

Just as it took Roosevelt Leaks to show the old guard that African Americans deserved a place on the field at Memorial Stadium, Young is doing the same for high school coaches across the country. Where there were the rare few, now there will be many.

Perhaps none may be able produce the ethereal nature of Young's heroics, but a great number of quarterbacks are about to try.

What do you think?

Inside Texas Blog Archive

Horns Digest Top Stories