Steve Clarkson on Tate Martell spoke Thursday talking with noted quarterback guru Steve Clarkson, who is known for helping find and develop some of the top signal callers on the west coast, including USC QB Matt Barkley and incoming UW frosh Jeff Lindquist. The reason for the call?

The verbal commitment of 14-year old prospect Tate Martell of San Diego to Washington. Martell won't be able to sign a letter of intent until February 2017, but that didn't stop him from announcing his intentions Wednesday.

Below are Clarkson's thoughts on the early commitment, including whether or not players not even in high school yet can be properly evaluated, and if Washington fans should see this commitment as more than just a great slice of positive publicity for Steve Sarkisian and the UW program.
When did you first see Tate Martell and did you see the news of Martell's commitment to Washington coming? - "It was about two years ago. At that time I was doing the Dreammakers Tour. That came after the David Sills big announcement. He was in our San Diego group. He was someone that our staff had pointed me to. I saw him and thought the kid had huge potential. He came to my Santa Barbara retreat and I had him work with Jake Locker, who was one of my counselors at the time and a kid that I had worked with. The similarities there were very striking. To say at that time that somebody could get an early scholarship offer? That would be untrue, because nobody goes into this thinking that this kid is good enough to do X. When David did it, it was like lightning in a bottle. The stars aligned.

"In this case now, about a week ago there was a kid who went to LSU's camp and he made a commitment. It shows you the power of the quarterback position, because nobody was really talking about it until Tate Martell does it yesterday. From his ability standpoint - it's hard to say he's his own unique brand. Everyone is sort of a derivative of something. I thought when I watched him play - he played in my football league I started last spring called the Throwback Football League - it was a way for my quarterbacks to get another unique and different experience about learning the position. It's geared toward 6th, 7th and 8th graders. He was a 7th grader that played up on our 8th grade team and he was superior to the kids in the league and ended up getting the MVP.

"In evaluating his film, when we put together the clip on YouTube, it was like - are you kidding me? There were some things…this is a two-game capsule that's up there. This kid is throwing a regulation-sized NFL football…that's another thing that should be duly noted. The things he's doing with this football and with his feet, the combination of strength and athleticism and accuracy is something I don't think I've ever seen in that combination at that age. So I immediately thought - who does he remind me of? There's no one person he reminds me of, but if I could take a clone of Fran Tarkenton and Brett Favre, that would be Tate Martell."

Is QB recruiting happening earlier and earlier because of the importance and scarcity of the position? - "I think as a whole kids are just a lot more developed. When I played high school ball and youth ball in the 70's, you played all three sports. I played and practiced within a four-month period for just football. When that four months was done, I was in basketball. I didn't want to see a football. And when that was done, I was in baseball and I didn't want to see a football or a basketball. Now we're just seeing at the age of 10 and 11 years old, kids are playing one sport - maybe two - and these kids are practicing these sports 10-11-12 months out of the year. To put the past in today's perspective, you would say a kid that is essentially Tate has been playing for six years and has been training with me for two years now…if they had that mindset back then they'd be like 19 years old. So that's the thing that makes it more unique and why the trend is such - and then the quarterback position in particular…those guys know where they want to go. So it's really about who can maximize their potential. So it's almost more about who is there at the time than it is the university, because if you have a coach that has a reputation for developing quarterbacks, that's where your quarterbacks are going to migrate to."

So why did this decision have to happen now? - "He was offered about three weeks ago. It wasn't a knee-jerk reaction where it was like, 'Let's do this because it'll make a lot of noise'. There isn't a binding commitment out there, including a high school kid, prior to the completion of his eligibility. A college coach can't comment on it, so what you have is what you have. A kid who makes a commitment essentially means if you have a place where you want to go to school and a coach you want to play for and you have an opportunity now, you might as well lock it up now. It's really a win-win proposition, because the truth of the matter is - he could change his mind. But from his standpoint, what if the kid got hurt? That scholarship would still be honored because ethically that coach and that university, they can't pull the rug from underneath the kid because other schools would bury them. So it's a very calculated thing.

"But here's the thing that people don't understand - that's what these coaches do for a living. In everyday life you may invest in the stock market and you may have a money manager that does that stuff for you or an investment group - they get paid to analyze the growing trends and predict success based on past precedents. In this case, you're looking at college coaches that have access to a lot more things than you or myself - and I'm in the business, but they have access to a litany of digital technology and things of that nature where they can make really detailed, educated decisions based on what they see. That's where the market is. A fan, or someone who is making comments on a board, they only see what's reported to them. It's like looking at me as a black person and also looking at Barack Obama and assuming that I would vote for him because we're the same skin color. The truth of the matter is, we're nothing alike, so I can only go by the information that I read or hear about that the media is able to gather. And that ultimately is what shapes what you see."

Is it fair to assume that players that young can develop in a linear way - the same way baseball scouts can project prospects years in advance? - "Yeah. Fortunately for me, this is what I do. I've come across thousands of quarterbacks over a 30-year span and I'm quite confident in my ability to assess what will make it and what won't. I have the advantage because I've been there before and I have relationships…over that 30 year span I don't have to talk to a media person. I talk directly to the head coach, or the offensive coordinator, or other players. You get a pretty good feel - and obviously having played the position - you just understand it. So that's why I'm at the position I'm at because of the years of dedication and grinding away at it. I can make those type of assessments. And guess what? The guys that are actually offering up the very valuable college scholarships - they have even more resources and more access and more…at the end of the day they are making decisions that will shape their next contract. So they better be right."

Why look at this is something more than just a smart publicity move for UW? - "Number one - the kid had an opportunity to meet a guy by the name of Jake Locker. He spent some quality time with him, and Jake gave him his first taste for what U-Dub might be like. And my relationship with coach Sarkisian…the fact that the kid took a long, hard three weeks to make this decision with his family. Keep in mind; people come to do private training or if their parents decide that this is what the kid really wants and it may give him the best opportunity to be successful as a student-athlete - this isn't like something that, if it happens we won't be ready for it. They made themselves ready for this years ago. It really shouldn't be that shocking anymore. When David Sills did it, it was the most publicized - he wasn't the first, but it was the most publicized because of the day and age in which we live. But if you take the analogy of if you've got your back turned to me and I throw a bucket of ice water on you, the shock would be unbelievable. But if you're still wet from the first one and I do it again, it doesn't have the same effect.

"So from a fan's perspective wondering if they'll ever see this kid at U-Dub? I'd say the chances are likely that you will see this kid. What he's doing also is giving an opportunity for the best kids to start lining up and say, 'You know what? The University of Washington - it's a happening place'. By the way, you've got other recruits between now and then that will make commitments in 2014, 2015…so the pendulum is starting to move in that direction. The recruiting process is happening a lot earlier than it once did."

Offered at around the same time as the Rising Stars Camp? - "Yes, but he wasn't an attendee of the Rising Stars camp."

Has he been to Seattle? - "No."
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