Scouting Combine Research Series: Quarterbacks (Part 2)

Who is the son of a former Major League pitcher? Who lived in a home built by Warrick Dunn's charity? Who went from "horrible" to a projected top draft pick? We have those answers and more as we get to know this year's quarterbacks.

Here are the quarterbacks who have been invited to the Scouting Combine. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Heights and weights come from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com. For Part 1, CLICK HERE.

Sefo Liufau, Colorado (6-3, 240): Liufau owns 98 school records, including 63 for passing and 24 for total offense. Among those: total offensive yards (10,509), passing yards (9,763) and 300-yard passing games (10). Impressively, he became just the second player in Colorado history to be a three-time team captain, and he was voted the 2016 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. If not for missing two games as a senior due to an injured ankle, he would have finished with 10,000 passing yards. In his final season, he completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 2,366 yards, with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions, and added 494 rushing yards and eight more scores.

Liufau is renowned for his toughness. When he was in third grade, he joined his father during Army physical training sessions. “He’s a tough, strong-minded guy,” offensive guard Tim Lynott said. “He’s always a physical player, too. You don’t see too many quarterbacks like that. He’s a phenomenal leader who makes us better and pushes us to the best of our abilities. To see him get up from a big hit, it just makes us want to be better.” Liufau is “the toughest sucker in the building,” which he showed as a senior in leading the perennial doormat Buffaloes to a 10-win regular season and a berth in the Pac-12 title game.

Liufau’s father, Joe, was born in America Samoa. He’s been there frequently. An uncle, Jack Thompson, was coined the “Throwin’ Samoan” at Washington State and stints with the Bengals and Buccaneers. “I think going back to Samoa and kind of seeing the state it's in, I think a lot of people in the states take things for granted, just with football alone," Liufau said. "Going out there and watching them, some guys have to share helmets. Other guys don't have the best cleats. A couple nights I slept outside just under like a covered cement area with a blanket and slept on that. I just think people take things for granted here in the states. ... It was great to be there.”

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech (6-2, 229): Junior. More than 9,700 passing yards and 77 touchdown passes would be a great career for most quarterbacks. But those were Mahomes’ stats from the last two seasons in the Red Raiders’ pass-happy attack. In 2016, he threw for 5,052 yards with 41 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 65.7 percent accuracy to finish 12th in passer rating. He won the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation’s top quarterback and was a second-team Academic All-American. He set the NCAA single-game record with 734 passing yards (and 819) total yards vs. Oklahoma. Of course, a lot of ridiculous numbers have been posted by spread-offense quarterbacks, in general, and Texas Tech quarterbacks, in particular. Graham Harrell is a chief example. So was his coach at Tech. But Mahomes is different. He can throw the ball 65 yards from his knees and 85 yards standing up. “Not too many cats on the planet can do that,” said that coach, Kliff Kingsbury.

His ability to make plays while on the move — with the occasional no-look pass — was compared to that of Aaron Rodgers. In 2015, he played three games for Tech’s baseball team. Baseball is in Mahomes’ DNA. His father was Pat Mahomes. In 11 Major League seasons, he went 42-39 with a 5.47 ERA. In high school, he was the Texas football player of the year, a star in baseball and a 20-points-per-game scorer in basketball. "(Basketball is) his third sport, but if he focused on it, there’s no doubt he could be a Division I basketball player," Whitehouse High School athletic director Richard Peacock said. "In 38 years in the business, I’ve seen a lot of great athletes, but he’s as good as I’ve ever seen."

Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh (6-2, 225): After throwing only 43 passes in two seasons at Tennessee, Peterman — already with his degree — went to Pittsburgh and flourished immediately. He completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 2,287 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a junior and 60.5 percent for 2,855 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a senior. The big difference was his yards per attempt increased by 2.0 as a senior, which led to him finishing eighth in the nation in passer rating. Among the highlights: a five-touchdown day in a shocking upset of eventual national champion Clemson. “It brought everything to a full circle for me,” Peterman said. “From the lows to the highs, it made everything worth it. The lows — and there’s been some very low, lows — make the highs even better. Absolutely, it was something I’ll never forget.”

At the Senior Bowl, Peterman was a star — ahead of the guy who beat him out at Tennessee, Joshua Dobbs. “My time at Tennessee was tough, but it made me who I am today,” Peterman said. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way because I think it’s made me a great player. I learned how to overcome adversity and to have thick skin. I learned to focus on football.”

The guy has skills.

Cooper Rush, Central Michigan (6-3, 229): Rush threw for 12,891 yards and 90 touchdowns — including three consecutive seasons of at least 3,100 yards and 23 touchdowns. As a senior, Rush threw for 3,540 yards with 23 touchdowns. However, he threw a career-high 16 interceptions and his 59.8 percent completion rate was down from his career mark of 62.0 percent. He’s got two Aaron Rodgers-quality Hail Mary wins, including a stunner vs. Oklahoma State early in 2016.

There’s no doubt he’s smart enough to play the game’s most challenging position. He graduated in May with a 3.89 grade-point average in actuarial sciences. "Do I think he has the ability? I do," says CMU coach Bonamego, a former NFL assistant coach. "I think he'll get a chance to prove that. He's a big, strong guy, but he's not a statue. He can move and slide in the pocket. He can make all the different throws. And he's highly intelligent, both intellectually and football smart. And he's got that burning desire to learn and improve."

Before his senior season, Rush competed in the Manning Camp. "Just being around other college quarterbacks and the Mannings was cool to see. It shows you that you're on the right path. Eli and Peyton always prepared, take notes and help coach the receivers up to get everyone on the same page."

Seth Russell, Baylor (6-3, 203): Russell suffered season-ending injuries as a junior and senior. As a junior, he played in seven games, completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 2,104 yards with 29 touchdowns and six interceptions before he broke a bone in his neck. At the time of the injury, Baylor was No. 2 in the country. As a senior, he played in nine games and completed 54.7 percent of his passes for 2,126 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions before sustaining a broken ankle that sounded as bad as it looked. Russell, who won his first 14 collegiate starts but lost his last three, attended Senior Day in a golf cart.

Russell impressed Baylor’s coaches during the recruiting process by throwing down a reverse tomahawk dunk.

Russell was set to go to Kansas, though that plan changed when Charlie Weis was hired as coach.

Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina (6-3, 220). Redshirt junior. Trubisky replaced Marquise Williams, who spent training camp with the Packers, and had a monster season in his first and only year as the starter. He completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 3,748 yards with 30 touchdowns and six interceptions. He finished 11th in the nation in passer rating and added 308 rushing yards. In the blink of an eye, Trubisky went from overhyped prospect to potential No. 1 draft prospect.  “What am I doing on the cover of a tabloid? Me, in a tabloid? I just don’t get it,” he said of being on the back page of the New York Daily News and linked to the quarterback-starved Jets. “You go from nobody talking to you, even people talking bad about you. [As recently as] last year you’d hear people say, ‘He’s a horrible quarterback’ — now being projected as one of the top quarterbacks taken if I decide to come out? That’s a crazy thing.”

On his North Carolina biography, it lists the Cleveland Browns as “the team he would choose to play for.” Who on earth would wish that? Someone from Mentor, Ohio. “They used to call him Brett Favre,” his high school coach said. “He was that kind of kid.” Or, you could call him “The Natural.” He won five straight Punt, Pass and Kick titles.

Deshaun Watson, Clemson (6-2, 215): Junior. Watson threw for 4,593 yards and 41 touchdowns, finishing 19th in passer rating, in helping Clemson win the national championship. He added 629 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, giving him more than 5,200 total yards and 50 total touchdowns. As a sophomore, Watson completed 67.8 percent of his passes and became the first player in FBS history with at least 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season. In both seasons, he won the Manning Award as the nation’s top quarterback and was a Heisman Trophy finalist. In between those seasons, he kept himself incredibly busy.

Remarkably, in two-and-a-half seasons at quarterback, he ranks third in ACC history with 10,168 passing yards and 90 passing touchdowns. “You recognize that ‘It’ factor. Those special guys have it,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “I think about Cam Newton, when he was at Auburn. You knew he was going to will his team to win. It didn’t matter what the situation, he was going to put the team on his back and get it done whenever they got in tight situations. That’s what Deshaun has does for us. Every time that we’ve gone to him, needed it, he finds a way get it done.”

Just before Thanksgiving in 2006, Watson and his family moved into a home donated by former NFL running back Warrick Dunn as part of Dunn’s Homes for the Holidays charity. "I felt grown having my own room," said Watson, who was 11 at the time. "Just having my own bed, not really being squished, not really worrying about someone sneaking up on me, it was a great moment, a special moment." Five years later, Watson’s mother, Deann, had her tongue removed as part of her battle with cancer.

Davis Webb, California (6-5, 229): With Patrick Mahomes entrenched at Texas Tech, Webb took his degree to Cal, where he replaced Jared Goff and turned in a huge season with 4,295 passing yards and 37 touchdowns. Webb ranked in the top five nationally in attempts, yards, completions, points responsible for, total offense and touchdown passes. His 43 total touchdowns and 10 300-yard passing games tied the school records, and his yardage total led the Pac-12.

Webb is big, smart and tough. The smarts comes from being the son of a football coach. He spent most of the day at Cal’s football facility and ran the Friday receivers meeting without the aid from any of the coaches. His toughness comes from his time as a hockey player. He didn’t even start playing football until the seventh grade. "A different type of human has to play that sport," Webb said. "Hockey players keep fighting — nobody cares what's wrong with you, as long as you have one foot to skate on, you keep playing." Just how tough? As a freshman at Texas Tech, “I went from 203 pounds to 168 in three days. I looked really sick. But I didn't want to miss practice. I wanted to be around football.”

Webb was no slouch at Tech. He set a school record with at least one touchdown pass during his first 18 career games, and he had at least two touchdown passes in nine straight games. He sustained a shoulder injury during his sophomore season and couldn’t win back the job as a junior. Webb threw for 5,557 yards and 46 touchdowns at Tech. “I thought nothing would happen, that this is my team, I’d ride off into the sunset.”


Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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