Spread offense fuels quest for mobile QBs

A common misconception when grading a quarterback prospect is "bigger is better." But size isn't everything, and the position has become less about height, weight and speed and more about feel, vision and mental toughness.

A good QB prospect must have at least adequate arm strength and show good zip on the ball. The deep comeback route is the best measurement of arm strength – if the quarterback can deliver the comeback throw on a "rope" and without a lot of arc, then his arm strength is at least adequate.

Also, the transition continues from the big, immobile drop-back passer to the player who can buy extra time with his athletic ability. He doesn't have to be Michael Vick, but guys like former Utah QB Alex Smith are what programs would love to have. Today's quarterback must also have leadership qualities and above-average character. The ability to play under pressure is scrutinized, as any team will often mirror the personality of its quarterback. This position requires a tough person, mentally and physically.

That being said, the grading system isn't perfect. Because intangibles are such a factor, many quarterbacks can be mis-evaluated coming out of high school. Plus, these kids are young. Making projections on 17-year-old players two to four years in the future is not an exact science. "System" quarterbacks with great high school numbers also tend to get overrated, just as quarterbacks with little to no statistics get passed by because of the often-used Wing-T or option-oriented offense at the high school level.

QBs to Watch in the Class of 2006
Alabama's Neil Caudle (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) from Hoover Spain Park may be the nation's top quarterback. He's physically ready to play, shows a great arm and athleticism and looks like the total package. Caudle has already taken an unofficial visit to Auburn and also plans to unofficially visit Michigan and Louisville.

It's not a surprise Texas boasts a deep, talented group of quarterbacks this year. Arlington James Bowie's Sherrod Harris (6-2, 195) and Colleyville Heritage's Christian Ponder (6-3, 195) have received offers from schools in at least four different conferences. Abilene's Taylor Potts (6-5, 210) will stay in-state and has verbally committed to Texas Tech, while Stephensville's Jevan Snead (6-4, 205) has verbally committed to Florida and Dallas Highland Park's Matthew Stafford (6-2, 212) has verbally committed to Georgia. Aldine's Terrance Anderson (6-1, 185) has drawn interest from several Big 12 schools.

The Lone Star State isn't the only QB hotbed. California boasts four top QBs in Hilmar's Nathan Costa (6-2, 198), Garrett Green (6-1, 190) from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Valencia's Michael Herrick and Tyler Lyon (6-6, 210) from Newhall Hart. Pennsylvania has three must-see QBs in Exton Downigton East's Patrick Devlin (6-3, 194), Jeremy Ricker (6-1, 191) from Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt and Mechanicsburg's Zachary Frazer (6-4, 209), who has verbally committed to Notre Dame.

Maybe it's something in the water in Utah. First the 49ers made Smith the first pick in the NFL draft, and now two home-grown Utah QBs are two of the top prospects in the country. Alex Cate (6-1, 183) from Salt Lake City Cottonwood has verbally committed to travel to the bayou and play for LSU. James Lark (6-3, 200) from St. George Pine View has received offers from in-state schools Utah and BYU.

Florida currently only has two major QB prospects in Tim Tebow (6-3, 220) from Jacksonville Nease and Jarred Fayson (6-2, 195) from Tampa Hillsborough. Tebow has drawn big-time offers in-state from Florida and Florida State while also garnering interest from USC. Fayson's stock shot through the roof after he dominated the Miami Nike Camp.

Fayson is one of several dual-threat QBs to make the list. Others include Austen Arnaud (6-3, 205) from Ames, Iowa; a pair of Chicagoans in Morgan Park's Demetrius Jones (6-3, 190) and Vocational's Isiah Williams (6-2, 220); and O.C. Wardlow (6-0, 180) from Winston Salem (N.C.) Mt. Tabor. Williams has given a verbal commitment to stay in-state with Illinois.

The gaining popularity of the "spread" offense on the high school level is decreasing the learning curve for many QBs entering college. The option aspects of the offense showcase the run/pass ability level of quarterbacks more than ever before. The trend also reflects how immobile pocket passers are becoming a thing of the past.

There are nine top quarterbacks 6-4 or taller, the tallest being Lyon.

Quarterback Grading System
Scouts Inc. will evaluate the quarterbacks on the following criteria:

1. Arm Strength: Do they show good RPMs and wrist snap to get good velocity? Do they consistently throw a tight spiral? Do they have enough zip on deep outs?

2. Set Up Quicks: Do they have quick feet and is their drop speed at least adequate? Are they balanced when they are set? How is their body positioning?

3. Accuracy: Do they have the ability to throw the deep ball and the touch to throw the short ball? Do they throw a catchable ball? Do they have the ability to fit the ball in where only their receivers can catch it or where their receivers can make a play?

4. Field Vision: Do they see the whole field? Are they quick enough to go through their progressions and locate the second or third receiver?

5. Running Ability: Are they a threat to run out of the pocket? Can they make plays on the run? Can they avoid the rush? Do they have quick feet and can they make people miss?

6. Delivery: Do they have a quick release or is there a windup? Is their release high or low? How are their overall mechanics?

7. Ball Handling: Are their ball fakes good enough to freeze linebackers? Do they have the ability to look off defenders, or do they zone in on one receiver and force it?

8. Leadership: Do they possess the ability to move the team when the chips are down? Do they have poise under pressure? Do their teammates believe in them? And how do they play after an interception? Do they get rattled?

Tom Luginbill is the National Director of Recruiting for Scouts, Inc.