Watching film of a high school quarterback will reveal many tendencies. Some good and some not so good. For Thomas Castellanos, he’s still continually developing and learning the most difficult position in sport, quarterback. He’s improving in multiple areas, however, so that’s good news considering how important Castellanos will be to UCF in the future.
The UCF Football commitment provides a fit for UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn and what Co-Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach GJ Kinne plan to do with a dual-threat quarterback. Before enrolling at UCF, Castellanos will need to continue his development, just as he did from his junior season to this point of his senior season.
Proof of Progress
Sometimes a high school signal caller hits a ceiling prior to reaching the collegiate level. Castellanos moved forward between last season and the mid-point of his senior year, unlike many other signal callers, by doing the most difficult aspect of quarterback play.
He’s more refined and looks more comfortable as a true passer. Here are a few noticeable improvements for why the Waycross (Ga.) Ware County quarterback made those improvements.
Decisive Decision Making
Once Castellanos sees a passing opportunity, he releases the football with a natural and fluid throwing motion. His throwing motion looks more relaxed; he throws the football with more meaning and purpose as well.
It’s obvious that he knows where his receivers are supposed to be. Another year in the Ware County system certainly helped Castellanos. Being able to move his feet to be in position to go through his progressions quicker and be ready to launch passes with the needed force and velocity became quite clear while watching his senior film as well.
There were moments last season where Castellanos hesitated to throw because he waited for the intended target to become clearly open before releasing the football. This season, Castellanos anticipates a teammate coming open and releases the football just a little bit sooner. Football can be a game of very close plays, especially towards the perimeter of the defense when a football needs to travel 30, perhaps 40 yards towards the sideline before reaching a wide receiver.
That fraction of time that Castellanos gains from firing passes a split second sooner will increase his passing percentage and keep the chains moving. He will also minimize interceptions, too.
That’s the mark of a quarterback using his experience, athleticism, intelligence, and workmanlike knowledge of the playbook and combining them into completions. That level of quarterbacking mental development will also aid Castellanos, and UCF, during future seasons.
Castellanos always possessed a good arm as he continued to progress in the weight room and become naturally stronger.
There is a play from his fourth game where the cornerback undercut a post route. Versus most high school quarterbacks that same move by the cornerback leads to an interception. With Castellanos’ arm strength, the pass went on a line for a touchdown.
A risky pass for sure, Castellanos threw a very hard pass that also reached the receiver just above the belt buckle. Great accuracy and excellent velocity from that pass, and it led to a passing touchdown. The cornerback came fairly close to reaching it, but Castellanos proved to be up to the task. Great pass!
Moving in the Pocket
When there’s pressure, many quarterbacks drop their eyes and look down at the defenders to avoid the rush. A polished quarterback will keep his eyes on the rush while field of vision stays with the intended targets down the field.
This is arguably the most difficult task for a quarterback. No player likes being smashed by oncoming defensive players. Being able to feel confident about escaping the oncoming defenders while continuing through the passing progressions would be what truly elite NFL quarterbacks tend to do.
While Castellanos does not accomplish this task on each passing attempt where he feels pressure, it’s improved from last season. This skill will be a life-long skill to work towards improving. He’s on the right track. Castellanos does one particular move to help him track his targets while being under duress.
While keeping a good base with his feet and holding the football with two hands, Castellanos moves well to his left to earn just a little more time to throw the football. That’s unusual for a right handed player. Check out the second clip from this highlight; it's Castellanos making a great pass.
Most right handed players will move well to the right, and vice versa for a left handed quarterback. Castellanos made multiple accurate throws after moving left. That’s a great sign for what he’s learned in the last six to nine months.
Run Thomas Run
Sometimes it’s just about being an athlete. When there’s an available running lane, Castellanos will gash an opposing defense. Yes, he’s improved his passing skills, but Castellanos still knows that he can maximize his overall performance with his legs as well as with his arm.
Watching Castellanos consistently take off to run after dropping to pass displayed that fact.
When he takes off, Castellanos provides the shake-and-bake and moves that often lead to defenders grasping at air instead of getting a hold of Castellanos. It’s a weapon. He’s also explosive, allowing him to accelerate quickly and reach the linebacker-level quickly.
Once he’s there that’s when the fun begins. Few high school linebackers will be able to defend against Castellanos during one-on-one tackling situations, and that skillset will likely translate well once he reaches college football’s FBS level of play, too.
Perhaps the most important note is that Castellanos still uses his speed and overall athleticism to run despite his improved pocket presence and overall knowledge of being a passer. Combining his passing and running skills makes Castellanos even more difficult to defend.
Areas to Improve
It’s obvious that Castellanos now holds a greater understanding of the quarterback position than he did as a junior. More comfortable in the pocket, better timing with passes as well as when to take off and run the football, and his throwing motion improved, too.
All those things considered, a couple areas need work. Here are the technical areas to improve.
Dropping to Pass
His first step simply needs to be quicker as he receives a shotgun snap. He showed a very deliberate first step after receiving the shotgun snap football from his center.
The quicker he moves back into his drop, the quicker Castellanos will be in position to fire the football. It’s a point that some may overlook, but Castellanos will improve as a quarterback when his first step speeds up during his drop.
Focusing on a Primary Receiver
At the high school level, Castellanos will be able to keep his eyes on a wide receiver running a deep route and use his powerful arm to zip a pass by a defender’s head and score a touchdown. Once in college, that same situation will often lead to a defensive back picking off that same pass and returning it the other direction.
Even if he knows he wants to throw the football to a specific player, there’s an art to looking off the wide receiver, even if for just a second, so that the free safety and/or other defensive backs do not begin to head towards the intended target that will soon have a pass headed that direction.
Players like Tom Brady and Drew Brees often accomplished this task over the past 20 years, and it’s something Castellanos needs to work on as well.
Castellnos showed vast improvement with his passing game knowledge. He also improved his arm strength. Once he adds just a few more elements to his quarterbacking repertoire, he’s going to be a very consistent college quarterback, and one that’s also dynamic when running the football.
For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast; it will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!