SIGNING DAY: Lobbestael has 'it' says coach

MUCH ABOUT Marshall Lobbestael is understated, says his prep coach. The MVP of the state 4A title game for champion Oak Harbor, Lobbestael plays in a small, out of the way island town and owns a quiet confidence. But Dave Ward, a 31- year coaching veteran, says Lobbestael's ability to make plays when it counts, among other things, is part of what makes him a great find for the Cougars.

It's crunch time against Skyview in the state quarterfinals and Oak Harbor is trailing with time enough for one final drive. During the time out, Ward and Lobbestael talk about finding Rodrick Rumble, the primary receiver on the upcoming play. But at the snap, the safety doubles down on Rumble. Marshall immediately checks off as he drops back, fires one to the opposite side of the field and hits Jeff Lamont in stride for a 40-yard gain on what what will eventually be the winning drive.

"Now, he had his feet and his balance there," says Ward. "So he could go from one side of the field to the other, still get rid of the ball with a quick release and hit a guy right in the chest, in stride. Imagine the thought process in his head, and then his body being able to function fluidly while making the snap decision that's where he's going with the ball. And he put it on the money. That's just one example of what (sets him apart)."

Lobbestael (6-3, 195) also has all the requisite characteristics usually associated with a Pac-10 quarterback.

"I know Pac-10 coaches are looking for height and for arm strength and Marshall has that -- plus his accuracy is pretty incredible," said Ward. "He's able to put the ball there and with different levels of touch, pretty much wherever the receiver is or where the open spot is. What I've been amazed with is watching him develop his vision to see down the field and to check off. A lot of people might think he was going to throw to this or that kid all along, and he was actually the second or third guy."

WARD SAYS HE KNEW he was coaching a future Pac-10 quarterback when Lobbestael became his starting QB as a sophomore. But there were also earlier signs.

"We actually saw that when he was a freshman, he had a natural throwing motion and pinpoint control ... Getting to start for three years, he also grew in confidence, and that's a huge factor," says Ward.

ALTHOUGH RECENTLY NAMED one of only four Seattle Times Blue Chip prospects in the state, along with future Cougar Kevin Freitag, Lobbestael didn't see the same kind of recruiting attention after his junior year that other signal callers in the state did. Ward says there was a reason, actually several, for that.

For one, Lobbestael was too busy with baseball and basketball to attend all the football camps and combines last summer that recruits flock to. Second, what few schools he sent game tape to saw his play in the offense Oak Harbor ran before deploying the vastly different, heavy passing version of 2006.

"Marshall, being way up here on Whidbey, and not having a big newspaper here that pumps him up, that makes a difference," says Ward. "And his first couple years of starting, we were a running team. We would throw maybe 10-15 times a game, so he didn't have those super stats after his junior year. He'd complete 60 percent of his passes and have a nice number of touchdowns but other guys had flashier numbers.

"His senior year, we found our personality as a team. We found we were better when we were passing the ball, we're kind of dangerous when we start passing."

This past season, Lobbestael passed for 34 touchdowns and 2,776 yards on his way to being named the Class 4A Player of the Year by the Associated Press and the Seattle Times.

"That was when some people started noticing him," said Ward.

But by then, many colleges had long since received verbal commitments from quarterbacks and by the time others started making inquiries, Lobbestael was already firmly committed to Washington State.

PLAYMAKING ABILITY IS something difficult to coach in a quarterback, but Lobbestael has it, says Ward.

"He was able to create things when the pocket broke down," says Ward. "When he felt the pressure, instead of getting sacked, he would move out of the way almost like a sixth sense. And not that he didn't get sacked, but when he did, he didn't let it bother him.

"His intelligence translates from the classroom, where he's a solid student, to the football field. He learns, and he's become like a coach on the football field. As a coach, I was able to talk to him and get ideas from him, and then he was also very coachable. His attitude is excellent.

"He's also got an interesting characteristic that's hard to pin down and that's leadership," said Ward. "Other players like him and trust him. Sometimes Marshall would take too much of the credit when things didn't go well. And when they do go well, he won't take the credit, he'll thank his linemen and his receivers. And his teammates respect that and appreciate that. They loved going to the wall for him."

THE OTHER THING Cougar fans should enjoy seeing for the next 4-5 years is that Lobbestael loves crunch time.

"He just bounces back if something didn't go well and makes a big play," said Ward. "He had some of his better games in our tougher games and ones against the best defenses. And he keeps getting better -- and I think that's something the Cougars noticed. He still has a huge upside -- potentially, who knows how good he could eventually be."

Marshall Lobbestael profile

SPECIAL PROGRAMMING NOTE:
As part of our Wall to Wall Signing Day Coverage, Washington State recruiting coordinator Greg Peterson will be taking questions from CF.C subscribers in the Cougfan.com ChatRoom on Letter of Intent Day. The special lunchtime chat with subscribers begins at 12:30 pm on Wednesday. Don't miss it!


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