- Tim Tucker
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BILLERICA, Mass. -- There's something to be said when you're considered the best athlete to come out of your high school since 1984 -- and you're just a freshman playing quarterback. It's even more alluring when the player you're being compared to close to 25 years ago is a current Atlanta Brave and future MLB Hall of Fame pitcher.
"Nick LaSpada is the real deal, he may be the best athlete we have had go through here since Tommy Glavine," stated Billerica High School head coach Peter Flynn.
Aside from Glavine, Flynn has seen his fair share of Division I athletes pass through the halls of Billerica during his 35-plus years at the school. As a football coach, Flynn has placed a handful of former players into FBS programs, including James McCluskey, currently a starting fullback for Boston College.
"Nick's a whole different breed of kid, he's really unbelievable," Flynn said.
"We wanted to bring him along slowly, but he just ingested everything real quick. He grasped the offense and entire playbook."
During his 38-year tenure with the program, Woburn High School head coach Rocky Nelson has coached against several FBS players and produced a few of his own, including current BC middle linebacker and junior caption Mike McLaughlin. Nelson got a taste of LaSpada in a nonleague loss versus Billerica in September and was amazed with everything he brought to the table at such a young age.
"He looks and plays like a senior; he is very impressive," Nelson said. "Everyone in college is running the spread now, and this kid has everything they are looking for already; size, speed, arm strength and all the physical ability."
While Billerica and Woburn are traditional powers in the Bay State, Massachusetts is not typically known for producing elite national football talent. There has not been an ESPNU 150 prospect since Scouts Inc. began evaluating national talent in 2006 -- but we feel that could change in three years if this 14-year-old from Billerica continues to develop.
We have come away very impressed with our early film and in-person evaluations of LaSpada and feel he has a high ceiling for upside when projecting as a college prospect. The poise, moxie and competitiveness he displays as freshman quarterback are impressive in their own right. When you take that natural savvy and blend it with his physical tools and polished skill set, it's easy to see why we are excited to watch him blossom over the next four years.
LaSpada displays both the mental and physical intangibles normally expected from a high school upperclassman. Aside from his natural athleticism, he is a tough, fierce competitor who rarely steps off the field. LaSpada shows good range and ball skills at safety, as well. On offense, he flashes all the tools you look for in the development of a spread quarterback. He can hurt defenses with both his arm and legs and makes a lot plays outside of the pocket with his natural feel for the position. At 6-foot-1, he lacks ideal height but can create his own throwing lanes with his good agility; he has a long body that looks like it is far from done growing. LaSpada throws a tight ball with good zip spreading it in the short-to-intermediate game. His throwing mechanics are in need of some refinement, but he has a high release-point, shows natural wrist snap on his delivery and is accurate distributing the football underneath. LaSpada displays a good feel for timing routes and anticipates his receiver's breaks very well for his inexperience at the position. He flashes good initial burst, speed and deceptive strength when he keeps the ball on zone-reads. Like any young quarterback, he tends to force throws into double-coverage, stare down his intended receiver and struggles going through his progressions. He also accentuates his over-the-top deliver at times resulting in the ball not coming out as a quickly as needed. LaSpada lacks the arm strength at this point to strike the ball downfield with good velocity and fit it into tight spots of coverage. But this kid is just a pup; he has a ton of physical developing left and appears very coachable.
Despite great 2008 seasons for Boston College and UConn, the top prospects in Massachusetts and Connecticut continue to commit elsewhere, writes Billy Tucker.