Commitment Impact - Joseph Gray

It has to be said; when looking at the list of Washington quarterback prospects, Joseph Gray wasn't on it. Truth be told, after Kyle Boehm (Cal), Max Wittek (USC), Cody Kessler (USC), Marcus Mariota (Oregon) and Brett Hundley (UCLA) all made their decisions, it definitely looked like the Huskies were headed toward Plan B when it came toward securing a quarterback for the class of 2011.

But that's why following recruiting can often be a maddening and fruitless pursuit. Realistically, Gray is Plan B. He's a player who clearly loves the Washington program and is on record saying he would have gone there regardless of who had offered him.

"It was my dream school, honestly," Gray told Scott Eklund Thursday. At a cursory glance, Gray appears to be an excellent complimentary piece; a quarterback much in the mold of a Keith Price - an athlete who looks to throw the ball first.

First of all, let's get the height thing squared away. Gray has been listed anywhere from 5-foot-11 to 6-foot-2. Let's say he's around 6-feet. Marques Tuiasosopo was measured at 6-foot-1/8 at his UW Pro Day, and Tui had an OK career at Washington. What is harder to quantify is the prospect's desire, competitive spirit and intangibles he brings to the table. Gray seems to ooze intangibles. According to Brandon Huffman, Gray isn't the athlete Price was coming out of high school, but he's a far better technician in the pocket and he's a heady kid.

"I've seen a ton of Gray (four different camps)," Huffman told Dawgman.com. "Joseph has tremendous mechanics and a strong arm, and was one of the more flawless quarterbacks we saw in the spring. He's got good spin on the ball and can really fit the ball into tight spaces. The holdup has probably been his size, standing around 6-feet. He's a good athlete and really has (a) good command of an offense."

These are thoughts that have been echoed by his head coach, Paul Knox, as well as other Dorsey coaches. Gray was 112-199 (56%) for 1932 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He led the Dons to a 9-4 record, eventually losing to 14-1 Crenshaw in the playoffs. Crenshaw eventually lost to De La Salle in the CIF Open Final.

So far in 2010, Gray is 54-95 (57%) for 1108 yards and 12 touchdowns, leading Dorsey to an undefeated record. They are beating teams by an average of 31 points.

The numbers appear to be very good, so it really begs a couple of questions; why weren't teams in general a lot more interested in Gray, and what did Washington see in him to offer - especially with the knowledge that he'd probably accept that offer on the spot?

Huffman probably answered the first question as well as anybody - it's probably size that kept most bigger schools away. But according to Knox, Gray's recent game against Taft - one in which he threw for 359 yards and three scored - attracted attention. Gray told Eklund that UTEP, San Jose State, Oregon State and Portland State were all very consistent and dogged in their attempts to get Gray, but he wanted to be a Husky.

If you look at all the schools looking at Gray, they all incorporate some sort of spread concept into what they do offensively, and have recruited their quarterbacks accordingly. Oregon State is the only other Pac-10 school mentioned by Gray, and if you look at him physically and what he does well, he probably compares favorably to Lyle Moevao when Moevao was set to graduate from North Torrance High School as a three-year starter and the team's most inspirational player.

Obviously Moevao turned into a legitimate D1 prospect while at El Camino Community College, and perhaps the UW coaches are looking for Gray to develop as the same kind of threat Moevao was for the Beavers in 2008, when he threw for over 2500 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Clearly the comparisons between Gray and Price appear to be the best, and the most apt considering Price is currently the Huskies' backup QB. Washington's offensive identity under Steve Sarkisian - now in his second year - is starting to finally show itself. Sarkisian's work with Jake Locker - more of a pure athlete than polished quarterback - has shaped Sarkisian's thoughts toward refining a philosophy grounded in his experience as USC's Offensive Coordinator under Pete Carroll.

At USC, Sarkisian dealt with players that were true quarterbacks first, and athletes second. If you look at Locker, Price, Nick Montana, and now Gray, they are all quarterbacks that are more athletic than the Carson Palmers, Matt Leinarts, John David Bootys and Mark Sanchezes he developed for the Trojans. They were all clearly pocket passers, and only ran when flushed and without options.

That's not the case with UW's current stable of quarterbacks, and in fact Sarkisian has had to embrace the thought of using Locker as another running back to maximize the Huskies' opportunities on offense. This has opened up a whole new chapter to Sarkisian's playbook that has - up to this point - been left unwritten.

Clearly Sarkisian sees possibilities. He sees value in quarterbacks that are dual threats, even if they aren't naturally gifted runners. No one is going to confuse Nick Montana with Chris Polk, for instance. But does Montana have escapability? Yes. Can he run the read zone? Absolutely.

The read zone is becoming more and more de rigueur, and looking at the prospects Sarkisian has offered so far for the 2011 class - whether they are bigger or smaller kids - they all can move. There's no John Navarres in that group. And in watching Gray's film, he's running the Dons' offense almost exclusively out of the shotgun and definitely runs elements of the read zone.

In fact, Gray's understanding of the spread concepts and read zone probably weighed heavily in his favor. When he goes to college, the playbook expands, but he appears to have a very firm grasp of the same fundamentals Sarkisian and Doug Nussmeier are teaching their quarterbacks at Washington.

In my opinion, what ultimately pushed the Huskies toward offering Gray when they did had as much to do with where he's from and what he offers as anything else. As was stated earlier, Gray plays at Dorsey High with current UW verbal commit Matthew Lyons. They also have a teammate, athlete Marvin Hall, that was offered by Washington at roughly the same time Gray was. By getting Gray to commit, the Huskies' chances at also landing Hall - by all reports an electric skill athlete that is also a top return man - increase dramatically. It sounds like Hall, who has been wandering under the recruiting radar despite a very productive start for the Dons, is about to get found out. According to the Dorsey staff, California, Miami, Oregon State and others are contacting them to find out more on Hall.

As we know in recruiting, timing is everything. After seeing how the timeline fell in Gray's recruitment (coaches saw him play, followed by offer), UW now has a chance to secure two players from southern California that are proving to be very productive. Last year UW secured commitments from the two most prolific running backs in southern California (Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper). Don't be surprised if Gray and Hall end up right at the top of their respective statistical categories by season's end.

Secondly, Gray's desire to be a Husky means he's in for the long haul. Quarterbacks - for the most part - make verbal commitments earlier in the process than any other position because they have to 'find their place in line'. It's like musical chairs; nearly all D1 programs only have room to take one quarterback for each class, so those spots become the most coveted in all recruiting. That's why it's no surprise to see only one of Scout.com's top-20 quarterbacks still undecided at this point in the recruiting process.

But here's the rub: What happens when a top program gets more than one highly-rated quarterback? That's currently the case with USC, who has verbal commitments from Kessler and Wittek. Think back to the 2007 class, when the Trojans secured early verbal commitments from two of the top quarterbacks in southern California - Samson Szakacsy and Aaron Corp.

For a while it appeared that both would sign with USC and compete for a spot. But Szakacsy had second thoughts and took a late, late official visit to Arizona State and ended up signing with the Sun Devils.

Am I suggesting that Wittek or Kessler might eventually get cold feet, take a late visit to UW and sign with the Huskies? I've seen stranger things happen. Bottom line - Gray's commitment will not slow UW's roll if they are indeed looking to add a second quarterback. But are they? Only Sarkisian knows the answer to that question.

The reasons why I believe Gray's commitment won't become a factor either way is because of his desire to be a Husky, his desire to play at UW with his Dorsey teammate(s), and his desire to compete. He may end up being the best passer statistically in southern California this fall, but he's more than willing to sing for his supper in college.

And ultimately, that's what makes Gray so compelling, as well as intriguing. While extremely productive in high school, he's still far from a finished product. He brings leadership, IQ and intangibles to the position, and he appears to be a strong fit for the type of quarterback Sarkisian is looking for as he continues to develop his offensive identity at UW.

In the cold light of day, Gray will be looked at as Plan B. For those not inside the UW program, it would be difficult to argue otherwise. But if he is, Plan A must be very, very good.

Joseph Gray Scout.com Profile

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