As we continue our analysis of Notre Dame 2018 commit Phil Jurkovec, let's take another look at the categories used to get an accurate assessment when grading a QB.
In part 1 of this write up the focus was concentrated on steps 1-4. Jurkovec excels in the mental heavy aspects of the game.His film shows that time after time he displayed a firm grasp of the offense he was charged to run. The article today focuses on his strengths that fit within steps 5-9. These fall more within the physical ability and technique driven grading system. As before, Jurkovec exhibited strong abilities in grading out very well.
Here, again, is the complete list.
1. The Formation
3. Play Call
4. Pre Snap Process
8. Run Mechanics
9. Chain Mover
As I started to move past the progression and decision making portion, I focused on his release and accuracy. I carefully watched Jurkovec's recognition of matching his footwork to go with what route he was throwing to. A coach when grading a QB is not just looking at the delivery or throwing motion, he is carefully studying the QB's lower body and how he is stepping into his throws. Jurkovec showed a great ability to generate his accuracy through his legs. After all, that's where a pass begins.
Jurkovec, on most of his passes displayed the proper stance and foot placement that would allow his throws to have a good trajectory. He would step into his pass and be able to guide it better with correct lower body positioning.
An example of this in Jurkovec's film was a play involving a hot read with a receiver. There was a good cushion given to the wide out as a blitz was coming. Jurkovec read this, and without taking an extra hitch step, delivered the ball with quick precision. He stepped into his throw in one motion with his torso open toward the receiver to allow the passing arm to follow through. Jurkovec, like all successful passers, completes his passing motion with his throwing arm end up on his opposite side hip. This indicated complete delivery and proper release point. An accurate throw would result for Jurkovec when he followed this procedure.
On his longer passes, Jurkovec showed good technique as well. On one particular play there was a post-corner route called with a corner playing inside coverage. Jurkovec read that there was no safety help over the top, and that he needed to adjust his drop. Jurkovec set his feet toward the target, under control, and followed through with his delivery. This time he changed the velocity and arch on the pass by adjusting the release point to be a little further back on the follow through. Jurkovec would adjust this point on what was required to get the ball within the frame of the receiver and away from the defender. He didn't try to throw a 90 mph fastball on a deeper route that required a higher point of release to take something off the ball to give the route time to develop. Jurkovec wasn't perfect with this, as will be discussed in some of his weak areas later.
Overall he showed great decision making prowess in moving through his progressions in both the run and pass. Jurkovec has a good habit of being patient in not moving his eyes too quickly away from a safety or corner. This allows him to see what coverage may have changed during the course of the play and would result in many of the long pass plays you see on his highlight reel.
Jurkovec also showed the same method of being patient by taking what the defense gave him. When grading a QB the coach is generally focused on the correct read against what the defense is showing. Jurkovec, by taking what the defense gave him, was a plus in this category. On one play in particular, the defense brought 5 guys heavy, showing press on the wide receivers and keeping 3 deep in coverage. On the snap, the corners all bailed and essentially moved into a zone. The thing about this type of coverage, which has become so popular with the Saban influence on the game, is the corners are still playing the man and not an area of the field. Its a tough read to make, but Jurkovec identified it.
In this situation your QB has two options in a spread concept; he must recognize if it’s a blitz off the corner, the read for both the QB and WR is a dig in the slot as a sight adjustment. If it’s a LB with an inside blitz, the read is a draw or screen/slant underneath to the vacated area. In Jurkovec’s case, he read the LB blitzing and the safety playing even deeper in the zone to back up the corners that had shifted back. Jurkovec used good footwork to sidestep the oncoming LB and identified the short slant route by the slot to the empty field. This play went for 10 yards but showed how Jurkovec used his high football IQ to avoid a sack and generate a 1st down.
Lastly, Run Mechanics and Chain Mover. This is a simpler concept to grade. When breaking down this category you’re looking for the speed in which the QB carries things out, and if his run and body mechanics are always the same. This is vital as to not give any difference in motion so the defense can read if it’s a true run or play action pass.
Jurkovec shows good mechanics with this on play action by getting his hips all the way around to set himself in good position once he has carried out the fake. I didn’t see any difference in his steps when handing the ball off or pivoting out to complete the fake. This is a small detail in the overall scheme of the game, but one that can be the difference later in a contest when you’re trying to catch the defense napping.
Jurkovec exhibits a high sense of detail in his game, which is a big compliment to his maturity level considering his age. The chain-mover grade is directly related to when your QB’s mobility elongates a play and buys time for a throw down field. Jurkovec regularly bought time with his feet by sliding out of the pocket to avoid pressure. On numerous occasions while doing this, Jurkovec was still looking down field waiting for a route to break open. This is another example of using patience to look for an easier throw to develop instead of forcing something because he simply wouldn’t wait.
In the film Jurkovec showed his awareness that a route simply will not be there and would use his athletic ability to tuck it down and run. The goal here is to get at least 10 yards, thus the name of the category “chain-mover”. In Jurkovec’s case, it often turned into 30-40 yard gains. It’s a good example of how dominant a player he is at the high school level.
A final observation on Jurkovec is his toughness and ability to stand in the pocket. An intangible you can’t coach or really give a grade to is a QB’s ability to take a hit. Jurkovec on several plays avoided using his legs to run around to buy time because he quickly recognized that he had a good matchup going deep, and moving around would take away the ability to make a good throw. This again showed tough, mental awareness that he was going to be hit as he was drilled off the edge many times. On those occasions, Jurkovec stood his ground and stepped into the deep pass. This is a player that other guys will rally around, and another one of his invaluable traits.
Earlier in this analysis I wrote about a weakness that will need to be addressed. The main adjustment that Jurkovec needs to work on is his overall delivery. I’m talking about his follow through on a consistent basis. On a few occasions, Jurkovec doesn’t complete his arm motion all the way through to where it ends up on the opposite hip. As Bill Walsh used to preach, “right hand, left pocket”, meaning your right hand, when throwing, will land in your left pants pocket if you have completed the delivery. This is a small defect and one that probably has to do with Jurkovec on his longer throws while trying to get more touch on the ball.
When a QB does this he is losing more velocity than he needs to achieve this arch on the pass and it will end up fluttering a bit. In college this will be enough of a pause in the delivery to give the DB a chance to make a play on the ball, even if he is beaten on the route. Something easily corrected and usually done so in practice as the young QB starts picking up on the different speed of the game. Really, a small flaw here to pick out as it didn’t happen often.
In concluding this more lengthy evaluation, I was trying to not only give you a detailed analysis of Phil Jurkovec, but a look into what coaches are looking at through their eyes. Jurkovec is an easy one to grade. At the level he is playing, Jurkovec stands out as the best player on the field. Mechanically and physically, he is advanced beyond his years and will only get better.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have gained a commitment from a very special player. A quarterback like Jurkovec will thrive and fit perfectly in the merging systems of Brian Kelly and Chip Long. Hopefully, this is a productive effort in synergy to bring in players of this caliber, and allow them to be successful with what best fits their skill set. In this case, a very good quarterback is on the way.