Commentary

Gabbert emerges as top prospect

Originally Published: April 6, 2009
By Tom Luginbill | Scouts Inc.

The EA Sports Elite 11 Regional camp on the campus of Texas Christian University on Saturday displayed much of the same level of talent that we saw in Orlando back in March. An eclectic group of size, varying arm strength and athleticism was on display as prospects worked through the circuit stations adjusting to unfamiliar drills. Many prospects worked on their footwork and drops, as opposed to being in the shotgun, which was just what the doctor ordered.

Highly-touted quarterbacks Zach Lee (McKinney, Texas) and Scotty Young (Denton, Texas/Billy Ryan) were both expected to attend, but had scheduling conflicts, yet many of the top signal callers from the Lone Star state were in attendance to showcase their skills.

Let's take a look at who made an impression throughout the two-hour long workout.

Best Prospect

Tyler Gabbert (Ballwin, Mo./Parkway West)

He was clearly the most polished and fundamentally-sound player, especially in terms of footwork. It is a shame he does not possess the same height his brother -- Blaine Gabbert -- was blessed with, but he possesses a live arm. He showed excellent feet, drop speed and set up. The ball jumps out of his hand, especially in the short-to-intermediate passing game and he throws very well on the move.

Gabbert may not have had physical tools that were head and shoulders above a few other prospects in attendance, but he was definitely further along in terms of mechanics and fundamentals. We have seen this young man three times now in person and he has really improved, added bulk and gotten stronger. We have raised his grade some too, but his height (5-foot-11) will present challenges, if he is not in the spread.

Stock Up

James Franklin (Lake Dallas, Texas)

We put the Missouri commit in this category strictly from a passing standpoint because he showed he can be a true quarterback, not just an athlete doubling as one. He is a great looking prospect with strength, good feet and a much stronger arm in terms of revolutions on the ball than we expected. Mechanically, he was like many of the other prospects in attendance: inconsistent, especially with his footwork, which affected his accuracy very much. However, there were times when you could argue he had the best physical tools to groom of any prospect in the event.

The Closer

Matt Brown (Allen, Texas)

This is a player we were really intrigued with on tape and liked as an unheralded prospect, who would likely gain some recruiting steam as a senior. He was the most improved player from the beginning with warmups to the routes at the end. He has a lean, wiry build with a late-bloomer's frame. He possesses a quick release and shows very good RPMs on the ball. When he became comfortable with what was asked of him in the drills, he got better and better. By the end of the day, Brown made a nice impression.

The Clones

Case McCoy (Graham, Texas) and Colt McCoy (Texas Longhorns): Essentially, Colt McCoy's younger brother Case is a leaner, less sound version of his older brother. However, he possesses almost identical fundamentals, but the younger McCoy has to work on his mechanics. He was inconsistent -- like every other prospect for the most part -- but he can zip it and looks very good when his feet are set. It is all about footwork for McCoy when it comes to accuracy. With McCoy's mentality and gambling style, a workout is not the best forum to evaluate his ability level because some of the things he does on tape cannot be gauged out here.

Jacob Morgan (Austin, Texas/Stephen F. Austin) and Moses Alipate (Minnesota Golden Gophers): It was uncanny how similar Morgan's physical tools and stature were to Alipate's. We felt Alipate was raw and Morgan may be even more green. Alipate possessed slightly more arm strength, but the height, build, footwork, zip and delivery were on point with each other. Morgan has tools, but a ways to go before he is honed and polished -- which is the process Alipate is beginning right now at the University of Minnesota.

The Sleeper

David Piland (Carroll, Texas/Southlake)

Southlake Carroll has obviously produced some terrific quarterbacks over the years with the likes of Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy and Riley Dodge. All three of those players were significantly known quantities heading into their senior seasons, but Piland is still trying to make a name for himself. Piland showcased a live arm and made an impression with his ability to change ball speeds, show zip and touch. You can be sure he is being well coached and has a high expectation level to succeed because nothing less than a championship is accepted at Carroll. Keep an eye on him.

The Lefty

Tanner Price (Austin, Texas/Westlake)

Price could also fall into the sleeper category, but he stood out because not only was a crisp passer that showed good footwork, touch and timing, but obviously he's left-handed. Moreover, he had an over-the-top delivery which we like to see because lefties have a penchant for being sidearm throwers. The well-built signal caller was sharp throughout the day and Price should see more attention coming his way as a senior.

As Advertised

Matt Joeckel (Arlington, Texas)

His workout looked almost identical to his film, which is not always the case in a workout forum. He has very good size and is truly a pocket-passer with adequate-to-good arm strength and a very smooth delivery. He had one of the more fluid deliveries of the group.

Best Dual-Threat

Jamiell Showers (Killeen, Texas/Shoemaker)

Much like Brown, Showers got much better throughout the day and displayed good zip, the feet to make plays when things break down and his accuracy improved throughout the workouts. He has only adequate height (6-1, 200 pounds), but he carried himself well and was confident.

Luginbill's Lessons

There are two tips I'd like to provide for prospects, coaches and parents of all high school quarterbacks, not just the ones at Saturday's event.

1. Start throwing newer footballs
I know it is much easier said than done and I have been there myself. It feels so good to find that ball that you have worked in perfectly. It is worn in and the grip is perfect, so you get great spin on the ball. However, once you enter college those days of the worn-in ball are over. They require you to throw newer, more slick and slippery footballs both for practice and games and it affects your grip and velocity. I am not saying to abandon your favorite ball just yet, but start to ween yourself away from them. You will be better off in the future and less of an adjustment will have to be made at the next level. Trust me, you don't want to look like an inaccurate mess because you can't throw newer footballs.

2. Work on dropping from center
The spread offense has become so prevalent at the high school level that most kids are in the shotgun 90 percent of the time, if not more. However, this has really hindered the development of footwork, timing and the necessary intangibles it takes to drop from center and read on the move. The most staggering and glaring inefficiency we see when evaluating high school prospects in a camp setting is poor, underdeveloped footwork and an inability to take three- and five-step drops, plant and throw on time.

If you are in the spread, great, but it can only help you to work your feet in drills that force you to drop from center, read progressions and throw on time. Accurate passers and efficient play starts with footwork, so do not neglect it.

Tom Luginbill is the National Recruiting Director for ESPN's Scouts Inc.

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