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RIVALS: Utah recruits RBs who can throw, not quarterbacks

Utah Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) and Utah Utes quarterback Jack Tuttle (14) warm up prior to the Washington Huskies game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

“How is it that some schools or pro teams, just are really good at recruiting quarterbacks and some aren’t?” former NFL quarterback, Scott Mitchell, asked former NFL defensive lineman, Jason Buck, on a recent episode of the ‘Rivals’ podcast.

That question could reference countless college football programs throughout the nation, but both Scott, a former University of Utah Ute, and Jason, a former BYU Cougar, have experience with their respective alma maters failing to successfully recruit and excel at the quarterback position.

Utah’s lack of ‘traditional’ quarterbacks

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University of Utah Ute, Travis Wilson. Photo: Matt Gade

In the past 10 years, the Utes have recruited three four-star recruits, the most recent being Mission Hills standout, Jack Tuttle. While Tuttle was heavily touted and verbally committed to the U. in December of 2017, his position behind Tyler Huntley and Jason Shelley forced him to make his transfer known mid-October.

Travis Wilson, another four-star recruit, who is debatably the most successful quarterback for the Utes in recent memory, caused a clear shift in the way the school was going to be analyzing quarterbacks — they wanted dual-threat quarterbacks.

In Wilson’s four years at Utah, he totaled 54 passing touchdowns on 60.5% completion and 21 rushing touchdowns averaging 3.1 yards per carry, leading to 24 career wins and becoming the Pac-12’s highest rated QB in the red zone in 2015.

“Utah to me definitely recruits runningbacks that throw the ball, they’re not recruiting NFL style quarterbacks,” said Buck when analyzing Utah’s recent QBs and many Utes fans feel that same emphasis — recruiting a traditional NFL-style quarterback just isn’t there. Instead, the program has opted for more ‘Run-Pass Option’ oriented quarterbacks that are more prevalent in the modern college game.

The lack of a traditional quarterback is something that Buck feels is hurting the program though.

“Look at Utah, I think Utah is a great example,” he said. “I know you’re not going to hit an Alex Smith or a Scott Mitchell every time when you go recruit a quarterback but why isn’t that your goal, to recruit a true NFL style quarterback.”

“You’re going to find lightning in a bottle and you’re going to strike out once in a while but consistently … I don’t think Utah has got a quarterback that’s impressed me for 10-15 years, and BYU, over 20,” he added.

BYU’s quarterback problems

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Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (11) takes the snap in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.

Utah isn’t the only local program that has been unable to hit their stride though. BYU has had its own fair share of QB standouts that have failed to produce. Even four-star recruit, Tanner Mangum, who was heavily recruited by BYU, was never able to fully make a strong impact on the program after injuries and position competition kept him from excelling.

But according to Scott Mitchell, there could be a simple explanation why Mangum didn’t pan out.

“You and I went to BYU practice last year and in ten minutes, you had Mangum assessed. You’re like, ‘That guy throws a bad ball, he doesn’t know how to read his routes properly.’ It took you ten minutes to figure that guy out,” said Buck, while referencing Mitchell.

“It’s really not that hard to look at a guy and go, you know what, this guy can play and there’s a higher probability of that than him being a bust,” Scott Mitchell said.

Shifting the ‘traditional’ mindset

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Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (15) is stopped by Oklahoma’s Nic Harris (5) during the third quarter of the BCS Championship NCAA college football game in Miami, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

In the last decade alone, we’ve seen so many different variations of offense, most notably — the RPO.

The option to have your quarterback as a runner is just not seen as often in the NFL but has excelled in the college game thanks to dual-threat QBs like Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, and Michael Vick.

This alone has caused a shift in what a “traditional” college QB could be according to Buck: “These guys like Kyle [Whittingham], Kalani [Sitake], that never were in the NFL, don’t see it and they look at us like we’re dummies because we want NFL guys but the NFL guy is going to win.”

He also had high hopes for local quarterbacks that might be more suited for the NFL game.

“I think Zach Wilson has NFL potential in him and will win more games and he’s going to be a threat,” Buck said.

The bottom line is, being able to sit in the pocket and pass effectively is still the most efficient and reliable source of offense, if you’re asking both Buck and Mitchell.

“The thing I’ve learned in my career, you cannot beat a perfect throw,” Scott Mitchell said.

“I agree. When a quarterback throws the perfect throw, they make the perfect catch against my defense, and I had a great defensive coverage and nice pressure, I say, ‘Hey guys, there’s nothing to do about that one,'” Jason Buck added.

You can listen to the entire interview from the ‘Rivals‘ podcast below.