Coaches: QBs should play multiple sports

Jacob Eason is the No. 3-ranked pocket-passer in the country and a Georgia commit, but if you're looking to catch a glimpse of him on Signing Day, your TV might not be the best place. You might want to head out to basketball practice.

The Lake Stevens (Washington) High School product is part of a growing group of elite-level players who have turned their back on specialization and year-round football. Eason says he still plays basketball, baseball and football in order to stay well-balanced mentally and physically.

"I think it's great because instead of just being a quarterback all year, you get to compete in other sports. You're always competing whether it's hitting a baseball or playing basketball, I think it's what make a quarterback better is that roundness," Eason said. "Being around different sports and competing is something I think is important."

His logic of keeping himself in constant competition is exactly what many college coaches are hoping to see. If those coaches had it their way, the days of high school quarterbacks specializing and training year-round would be a thing of the past. The trend of the overcoached player with his personal QB guru, which has increased in popularity over recent years, could come to a screeching halt with college coaches seeking more well-rounded athletes and letting the players know it.

"It seems elite or different to do this whole year-round stuff," Houston coach Tom Herman said, "but it's actually a detriment and a hindrance."

The idea isn't new, but with more and more high school players deciding to give up other sports to train all year, coaches have made finding a true athlete their priority.

"If I had my druthers, I'd rather more multiple-sport guys. I like normal kids and normal development; it's just the way athletes should be raised," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "If I had anything to advise to a young parent, it's quit some of this specialization. Let summers be summers and sports seasons be sports seasons."

Playing multiple sports, according to Herman and Cutcliffe, requires players to use different athletic movements and compete mentally through varying situations, preventing the burn of constantly playing football.

Herman sees the changes as an almost self-fulfilling prophecy. With coaches seeking different types of athletes, and those playing more sports, recruits are starting to follow.

Eason's logic of keeping himself in constant competition impresses coaches, including Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

The Sooners' coach says he understands the need to better themselves and hone their craft, but ultimately nothing will prepare the athletes as much as being in a live game, no matter the sport.

"Guys that have been in other sports, they've been in more competitive situations. They've had to lead in different situations and it shows their versatility as an athlete," Riley said. "The quarterback training, I think it's part of it, and you want them to be good at their craft, but you gotta have guys that know how to compete first and foremost."

New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh echoed those thoughts when he held a quarterback camp over the summer geared toward finding the best athlete.

Instead of just the typical quarterback drills, Harbaugh and his staff put the camp attendees through other competitions that held point values. They went through everything from fielding a baseball and throwing it to first base to soccer games, dodgeball and even running through a bounce-house obstacle course, eventually tallying up the points for each event to name a sole winner.

It all sounded a little odd from the outside, but when Harbaugh later explained that former San Francisco 49ers' coach Bill Walsh told him he looks for the best athlete at a high school when trying to find a quarterback, it all started to make sense.

Harbaugh's future quarterback, Brandon Peters, an ESPN 300 quarterback, plays basketball and football and never used a quarterback coach throughout his high school career. That is rarity for a top quarterback in today's game, as it seems most high schoolers and even middle school signal-callers have some sort of quarterback coach or trainer.

Herman has experienced that on both sides in recruiting and in the college level. While at Ohio State, then-quarterback Braxton Miller worked with private quarterback tutor and ESPN analyst George Whitfield.

Whitfield has worked with some of the top high school and college signal-callers across the country, but Herman had one rule when Miller spent time with Whitfield in the offseason.

"[Personal QB coaches] have these kid's ears and their opinions matter to these young men, so I've gone out of my way to develop relationships with them. The biggest thing I said to Braxton when he worked with George Whitfield was: Go get work you might not have gotten in the offseason, but let's make one thing clear -- when you get back, I better never hear, 'But George said this or George did this, and George knew that, too,'" Herman said. "He knew our expectations and didn't want to step on anyone's toes. Braxton was great when he got back and maybe practiced some good habits over the summer and came back and was great."

Herman recognizes the need to establish relationships with the personal coaches for recruiting purposes but cautions that those coaches are also selling something.

"There are a lot out there that do a great job and it can be very beneficial. But there's a lot of guys out there that are just looking to make a quick buck and don't have anything to lose in the game," Riley said. "That's where you have to be careful and do your research: what the person is teaching you is correct, and they understand the limits of what you can and need to do."

The quarterback coaches, Riley says, have nothing on the line if the prospect burns out in college, so it can be a slippery slope if poor choices are made.

That is also why coaches have even expressed to the parents of targets and commits that it can be a dangerous game to have their children focus on one sport and do it all year.

Whether parents are heeding the advice of some of the best coaches in the country, Herman isn't sure. But he does know that playing second base or shooting guard doesn't make a player any less talented at quarterback.

"It's scary to look at these kids that are doing these things year round," he said. "Gosh, go be a kid. Last time I checked, you only get be a kid one time, and if you're good enough, eventually the people that are supposed to find you will find you."