Thursday, July 31, 2014

the recruit: Nick Johns

Name: Nick Johns
Position: QB
Hometown: Washington, DC
School: Gonzaga
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220

24/7: 86, three stars; #21 P-QB, DC #6
ESPN: 78, three stars; #31 P-QB, DC #7, East #79
Rivals: 5.7, three stars; #17 P-QB, DC #4
Scout: three stars; #27 QB

Other offers: Maryland, NC State

UVA whiffed, and whiffed badly, in recruiting the so-called DMV hotbed in 2014.  Unless you count Purcellville and Fredericksburg as part of the region - quite a stretch, really - the first commitment from the area came in January, and that was Cory Jones, a two-star flipped from Toledo.  UVA's recruiting efforts were a near-total failure in what should be a pipeline the size of the Trans-Alaska.

Mike London got an early start on reversing that this year, with a springtime commitment from a top WCAC program.  The WCAC - which includes Good Counsel and DeMatha - is an extremely high-profile league, to the extent that any commitment to any school east of the Mississippi gets fans of that school boasting about "establishing a pipeline."  It's generally not easy to pull anyone out of there because you're constantly fighting off the sharks.

Nick Johns is quarterback at a Gonzaga program that's moved past "up-and-coming" stage and has turned what used to be a big two in that league into a big three.  There were a lot more schools "showing interest" than actually offering, because round about the time you might start to offer a talented quarterback from a high-profile school (which is to say, his junior season) Johns broke his collarbone.  UVA extended their offer in the summer of 2013, and the only other school to make a serious push was Maryland, who would certainly have had plenty of familiarity with him.  (NC State offered too, in March, but that didn't go far.)  A fair amount of big names were testing the waters here too, but wanted to see Johns in person before taking the plunge.

Johns is unequivocally a pro-style passer with good size at 6'3", and ESPN even lists him at 6'4".  He plays with good polish already - he hit the camp circuit hard in the spring and Rivals often mentioned his arm strength and "ability to make all the throws," particularly on sideline routes.  His mobility is good for his size; he's definitely not going to be confused with a dual-threat quarterback, but he's got good pocket mobility.  His highlight tapes have a larger number than you'd expect of escape throws.  Elite arm strength isn't quite there; the phrase that comes to mind is "good enough."  ESPN called him "a slight pusher" and this is borne out in those highlight tapes: his release point is a little bit odd, probably a bit early and behind where it should be.  His arm strength will appear to improve if he can learn to release the ball a little later and more out ahead of his body, extending a his arm a touch more, and keep his accuracy the same.

In the big-picture intro post, I wrote that neither taking a quarterback or not taking a quarterback would surprise me, and then brought up Johns as the kind of name who'd be good enough that the coaches would take a QB despite already having five.  UVA will now go into 2015 with six on the roster if there's no attrition, which is a lot but is also fine by me, as I've at times lamented the fact that we have never had a decent QB conveyor belt going.  We could reverse that trend if Greyson Lambert turns out to be the real deal this year; we'll have the depth to make it happen especially if Corwin Cutler redshirts.  Taking a quarterback in every recruiting class is not at all a bad policy, and if you find one you like and can zero in on, you absolutely do it.

This is a roundabout way of saying that Johns won't be needed in 2015 or even 2016 unless a coaching change nukes the depth chart.  In the best-case scenario, Lambert will be a three-year starter and graduate after 2016, which would be Johns's redshirt freshman season.  Cutler would be a redshirt junior by then with two years to make his mark, and only then would Johns pop up on the conveyor belt.  That's how it works with good programs.

We'll also have to consider competition from later recruiting classes.  Johns is sort of in a limbo world in the recruiting rankings - lower-ranked guys usually look like they're headed for clipboard central, and it usually takes a higher ranking to be called the Future Of The Program.  Johns, having been to a lot of camps, has managed to earn very consistent rankings from the gurus, and I think his offers and interest also line up with those rankings too - they're just about what you'd expect given what he's shown so far and the collarbone injury.  Based on the evidence so far, we have a pretty good picture of Johns from the tools that are supposed to give us these pictures.  A good season this year, which is very possible as he's surrounded by a lot of talent, could conceivably give him a fourth star.  (It might also attract vultures should the coaching transition come to pass - as a quarterback, in the WCAC no less, Johns should be considered a much higher risk than the average recruit to see extra attention.)  But if the best case is Johns hopping the conveyor belt, the worst (obviously besides him leaving at some point) is that he provides a solid option and a blanket of security during the same kind of turbulent times the program has already seen at QB for the past decade.

No comments: