Had a chance to ask Brandon Huffman, Scout.com's national director of recruiting, a few questions via email last week. A couple of these answers appeared in our profile of Huskies quarterback signee Jake Browning, but I figured I'd pass along the rest of the Q-and-A here before signing day.
1. In your opinion, has quarterback recruiting become more or less difficult in the past 10 years? In other words, is it less of a sure thing that a 4 or 5-star prospect will pan out than it used to be? Or has the prevalence of summer passing leagues and individual QB gurus made the scouting process more accurate?
Huffman: “It’s hard to say because you still have 3-stars flourish like Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota and five-stars become busts like Jake Heaps and Gunner Kiel. To me, the key is all in development and not trying to fit a square peg in a round hole or rushing a quarterback when he’s not ready. Individual QB gurus are good on one hand but sometimes, quarterbacks come in TOO trained and they’re stuck in their ways and coaches can’t fix them when they get to college.
“That said, you’re seeing more throws from these quarterbacks in their high school games with the spread and during the offseason, so you have a bigger body of work to evaluate off.”
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2. Staying on that topic -- do you think there is a common trait shared by the highly-rated QBs who do turn into college starters? And is that trait(s) more physical or mental?
Huffman: “I think it’s clearly more mental than physical- more about their ability to grasp an offense and read defenses than just their pure physical advantages. Some of the better quarterbacks in college football have been because of their brains as much as their arm (Kellen Moore, A.J. McCarron), while more physically gifted quarterbacks have scuffled because they just can’t read defenses or pick up offenses (like Jeff Driskell, Tyrone Swoopes).”
3. Staying on that topic (still), what's your read on how Jake Browning fits into the Washington Huskies system under Chris Petersen? And is it ever surprising to see such a highly-touted (and, in his case, statistically prolific) QB commit to a school so early, before some bigger programs even offer?
Huffman: “Browning will be very interesting to watch, because so many Folsom quarterbacks were great prep quarterbacks but weren’t D-I caliber players, which Browning clearly is. So is it the system or the quarterback? At Folsom, it’s the system. But Browning makes it as much about the quarterback. And it’s not too uncommon to see guys commit early, before more offers come, at the quarterback position, because the offers are at a premium per school.”
4. Seems like a lot of folks want to make the Kellen Moore comparison with Browning. Do you see that? If not, is there a player Browning reminds you of?
Huffman: “No, I don’t see the comparison being that good of one, even though I see why fans want to. But Moore was winning and setting records in smaller school Washington while Browning was shattering records at a much more high profile program in a much more high profile state. He’s also bigger than Moore and has a better arm. Obviously, the connection is Chris Petersen, but one is a righty, one is a lefty, one is bigger, one is smaller. I think the player Browning reminds me the most of recently is Derek Carr, who also was a four-star coming out of Bakersfield, and played in a pass-friendly offense there.”
5. As a whole, how do you think the (perceived) talent level of this UW class compares to some of Petersen's best classes at Boise?
Huffman: “Easily better than any class he got at Boise State, and that’s because he’s recruiting them to a Pac-12 school and not to a Mountain West school, so his talent pool is far greater to select from. And its pretty balanced too across the board.”
6. What kind of impact can it have down the road when a program lands so many of its own state's top-ranked recruits, like UW has in the 2015 class?
Huffman: “It’s going to be huge down the road and in the now because UW is back to being the “it” program in state. They’re not losing guys to the California schools like they did in 2012 and 2013, when they lost key in-state targets to USC (Zach Banner, Max Browne), UCLA (Myles Jack), Stanford (Josh Garnett) and Cal (Cedric Dozier). This class is going to be key in Petersen’s efforts in the future to keep the best talent home and there is no more precedence of guys staying rather than leaving.”
7. Anyone who stands out to you among UW's commits who folks might not be talking about quite as much?
Huffman: “As crazy as it sounds, especially being from Seattle and a four-star, I’d say Myles Gaskin. The season that Chico McClatcher had and that Austin Joyner had, plus their later commitments have people forgetting a bit about Gaskin, who committed 11 months ago. Trey Adams committed to Steve Sarkisian, but as an in-state lineman, at a position of major need, folks are well aware of him. But I think Gaskin has been overlooked a bit, especially with the Huskies still pursuing Chris Warren out of Texas.”