As the avalanche of recent commitments for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish slows down, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the other 7 commits and provide some analysis.
Today we take a look at Phil Jurkovec.
I’ve always been a bit partial to the quarterback position, having played it in college and coached the position for close to 20 years. There is quite a bit of information and detail that goes into grading a quarterback. So, this write up will be longer and split into 2 parts in an effort to get as much data out as possible. I have incorporated more background info that details how you assess a quarterback. This, hopefully, will allow you to paint a more accurate picture of what you have in the prospect. In Jurkovec, you have a hell of a prospect.
Jurkovec is a 6’5” 200 pound quarterback out of Gibsonia, Pennsylvania. He is currently rated as a 4 star, holding offers from pretty much every major college program in America. When you watch his film, you can see why.
His first quality is what every coach looks for in a QB prospect. Jurkovec controls the field. On every play I scouted, he showed that he not only knew what his role was, but everyone else’s job as well. That’s a leader. That’s the kind of player you want as your quarterback.
While breaking down film to grade a QB, I am reminded of a time over 20 years ago when I was working as a GA at the University of Alabama. At the time, I was working under a man named Homer Smith. Coach Smith, if you’re not familiar with him, is the bedrock of offensive football in the modern era- running everything from the wishbone to complex Pro-style offenses. Coach Smith was hugely successful wherever he went. I was lucky enough, for one year, to see why.
It all starts with your QB. In a meeting one day he was introducing his grading system for Quarterbacks. I asked what details I should focus on the most in grading the film. Coach Smith replied, “To be perfect in what you do, you have to protect and understand what you are doing. You do this by studying everything you do, only then do you know what to correct.” In short he was saying leave no stone unturned. I wrote that statement down, along with pages of notes to help guide me. As a young coach it was gold. I still have those same notes today and have used them throughout my career. I must testify to the value that it served me and many other coaches throughout the years. The grading system he was showing us is the same system being used today in most college and NFL facilities around the country.
I’ll use this system on Phil Jurkovec. The main reason I’ve decided to delve into this so thoroughly is I believe he is a special player for the most important position on the field. It’s time to get to know him.
There are 9 essential categories that you use to accumulate information to get a complete grade across the board. I took these and applied it to as much film of Jurkovec that I could get my hands on. Giving a good evaluation requires looking at your QB and judging how he performed in each category. Here are the groupings:
1. The Formation
3. Play Call
4. Pre Snap Process
8. Run Mechanics
9. Chain Mover
With Jurkovec, his formations usually involved being in the gun with 3-4 wide outs, 1 back and often times with an H-back/Tight End. In most instances, when grading this category your setting the scene on what is to follow and how the QB progressed through the play. Mainly this tells you if it was a bad play call or formation that leads to a bad grade on the sheet.
With Jurkovec, he was very active in directing the motion of the other guys and was patient enough to let everyone get set. This shows maturity and someone who is seeing the game in control. Without question, a very good sign to see in a high school kid’s film. Keep in mind, that when reading these evaluations, we are looking at junior year footage. It makes it more impressive.
So, in looking at the first 3 steps, Jurkovec exhibited a solid grasp of the play call. More importantly, his patience paid off by not hurrying the motion of the H-back or wide out. In doing this, he allowed the defense to shift down- often times moving more to the field corners side leaving the boundary in single coverage. This provides better matchups to the boundary side and seam routes that usually break open once past the LB’s since the safeties have rolled over with the motion.
This all flows into step 4, the pre snap process. Watching this closely will tell you if your quarterback is catching on to clues and tendencies a defense is showing. As noted above, the motion of the offense will help reveal what a defense is adjusting to and then, all those progressions we talk about start to occur. Jurkovec follows these reads very well. If you watch closely, on the majority of pass plays, he is doing what a seasoned quarterback will do. He is starting in the back of the defense (safeties usually) and working down. Safeties give away more coverage schemes than any other position. Jurkovec in several situations noticed the depth of the play side safety changing when a post and dig route where being run on that side. In most spread attacks, a dig pattern will complement the post, in Jurkovec’s case, cover 2 was implemented often. He picked up on this routinely knowing the depth of the safety had to be the main read. The dig influenced the safety to come up and the post was wide open. Also in this example Jurkovec would have a deep crossing pattern called on the other side, knowing the safety couldn’t cover both deeper patterns.
All this was pre-snap driven. Little hints give it away that he knew what was going to occur right before and after the snap. Jurkovec would look off receivers to one side based on what the safeties were doing. This was a purposeful act to throw off any telegraphing of where he was going with the ball and showed that he had schooled himself on reading the defense properly. He ran through his pre-snap progressions and already had the plan in his head on what to expect.
Other examples of the headiness that Jurkovec plays with happened on several corner blitzes and corners checking the backfield for the back to release. Jurkovec, on one particular play, read the corners body being positioned at an angle toward the line of scrimmage and a sure indication of a blitz off the left side. He then checked to the safety that was cheating up to pick up the wide receiver. Jurkovec looked to the right side of the field to draw the LB’s and other safety over while the back slipped out past the blitzing corner on a wheel route. The safety, having picked up the wide-out on a post, was nowhere to be found. He then patiently lofted a pass for the half-back to run under and catch easily, uncovered.
The key here is Jurkovec showed tremendous poise in not only the pre snap reads but also the adjustments going on right after the snap. Even though you would grade this in the same category, it allows you to see how Jurkovec is successful in not only reading how the defense is set up, but also how it reacts. This takes patience in many facets of the passing game, but is just as important in the zone-read concept of the running game. Your Run/Pass Option play call is based off pre snap identification as well.
When an RPO is called, the line will be in a run or pass block package. For example, with Jurkovec , if the line was in run-block mode he would read the linebackers response to the run play based on the lines blocking rules. On one of Jurkovec’s longer runs, he waited for both the DE and linebackers to overplay their responsibilities toward the back, and simply kept the ball at the mesh point. The linebackers especially were cheating more to the play side expecting the inside zone handoff to the back, they had been reading the lines blocking schemes and were trying to guess right on the hand off. Jurkovec noted pre-snap that they were cheating up and over toward the play side guard. The defensive end took a flat angle right after the snap down the line and left a wide open field to the back side. Jurkovec just kept the ball and rounded to the outside.
This is a perfect complement to what Notre Dame and Chip Long love to do. Having a quarterback who is not only physically gifted, but one who can see the game and adjust to its changes is rare. The Fighting Irish found its QB of the future in Phil Jurkovec.
In part 2 of this breakdown I will focus on the remaining parts of the grading system, which focus a lot of attention toward the physical and technique areas of Jurkovec’s game. It will also contain a few weaknesses that need to be addressed before he wins those elusive 2 Heisman trophies and is drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the first pick in the 2021 draft.
A good sense of humor never hurt anyone, except for me when I Travel through Cleveland.