The Nuance That Separates Trey Lance

“Watch the 15 to 20 seconds before the play, and this is when you get to understand what the expectation is for Trey."
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Since the San Francisco 49ers pulled off the trade that landed them the third selection in this year’s draft, there has been a great deal of debate among media, local and national, along with the fan base about which quarterback they should select.

Will it be Justin Fields, Mac Jones or Trey Lance?

On Thursday’s episode of The Hammer & Nayls Show, my co-host Jessie Naylor and I had a chance to speak with Sean McEvoy from Quarterback Takeover. Coach McEvoy has been working with Trey Lance the past five months, getting him prepared for the draft process and for the start of his professional career.

When going through the process of breaking down the film on each of the three likely targets, it’s clear that each of the three have their own specific strengths and weaknesses. During the interview I asked Coach McEvoy about the nuances to look for that would separate Lance from Field and Jones.

“Watch the 15 to 20 seconds before the play, and this is when you get to understand what the expectation is for Trey to run that offense,” said McEvoy. “The play call may be the formation, then the protection, which for them may be a combo, which means Trey is going to go up to the line, see what the defensive front is, see where the threats are, and then he’s going to call the protection at the line.” McEvoy continued, “Then as far as the concept, half the time they’re just going to say ‘Trey.’ That means that Trey is going to decide at the line what concept he wants run on the front side, and what the complimentary option is on the backside.”

This process puts a lot on the plate of the quarterbacks at North Dakota State, and is very different from what many of the other top quarterback prospects are asked to do. When watching Alabama or Ohio State, you will repeatedly see the quarterback step back and turn his head to the sideline to get a check or audible from the offensive coach.

The amount of teaching and preparation that the coaching staff at North Dakota State is putting into their quarterbacks could play a key role in their ability to adjust and adapt quickly to the speed and complexity of the NFL game.

To see proof of this, look no further than Carson Wentz. This is the same system and process that Carson Wentz used during his time with the Bison prior to being the second player selected in the 2016 draft, and while his rookie season was a little up and down, by Year 2 Wentz was being mentioned as a possible MVP candidate before injuring his knee late in the season.

This isn’t something that has gone unnoticed by 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, either.

Prior to San Francisco’s Week 4 matchup with Philadelphia, Shanahan had this to say when asked about Wentz: “We’re coaching like we’re playing against Carson Wentz, who is one of the better quarterbacks in this league. He was the best player in the league the year they won the Super Bowl. I think he’s done a lot of good things since. I know his numbers aren’t great this year and I know a lot of people are saying things about him, but when I watched the film, I’d see Carson Wentz. 

"He’s a guy who can make a lot of plays. He’s very hard to take down, he’s got a strong arm, he competes as much as anyone in this league. I’ve got a ton of respect for him and anytime you get picks and stuff, which aren’t always on the quarterback, but when numbers are like that, that just goes with the territory. I would tell someone like that it would be somewhat easy to deal with because perception doesn’t have to be your reality. He’s a hell of a quarterback and I know how this league feels about him.”

There are a number of similarities between Carson Wentz and Trey Lance, and Shanahan’s words could easily be describing Lance who has added a lot of size to his 6’4” frame. Like Wentz, Lance shows the ability to stand in and take a shot from the pocket while delivering a pass, or shake off defenders to get away when he is forced to move.

Shanahan was with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 and didn’t have a chance to take the quarterback from North Dakota State. He will have a chance to change that in a few weeks.