Scouting Combine Quarterbacks: Prolific Pac-12 Passers and Hurts
From first-round picks to developmental prospects, there will be 17 quarterbacks at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Get to know them in this three-part feature.
Anthony Gordon, Washington State (6-3, 210): Gordon replaced Gardner Minshew and became the latest Mike Leach legend. In his lone season as the starter, Gordon completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 5,579 yards with 48 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He led the nation in completions and was second in yards and touchdowns behind only Joe Burrow, and set Pac-12 single-season records for passing touchdowns, passing yards, total offense (5,559) and completions (493). He authored three of the top four single-game performances in the country with 606 yards vs. Oregon, 570 yards vs. UCLA and 520 yards vs. Stanford ranking first, second and fourth, respectively.
Gordon had to be patient. Coming out of high school, he was a zero-star recruit with zero scholarship offers. He played at City College of San Francisco in 2015 before going to Washington State. It was his only scholarship offer. "If someone told me last year that I had the chance to play in the NFL, I would've said, 'Man, you're crazy.' I wouldn't have believed it," Gordon told Bleacher Report. "Not because I don't think I'm good enough. It has just been unthinkable with this path I have taken."
Under Leach, he redshirted in 2016, didn’t appear in a game in 2017 and threw five passes in 2018. He could have transferred – the chic thing to do in today’s game – but bided his time. “A lot of guys in his position would’ve got out of here, just being honest,” Easop Winston Jr., a senior wide receiver at WSU and former teammate of Gordon’s at City College of San Francisco, told the Spokesman. “But he just believes in himself. He wasn’t going to go anywhere else. He believed in his heart he would play here. I think he’s closer to his dreams. I tell him every day, I have so much respect for you for hanging in there through that.” Before football, there was baseball. An uncle, Greg Reynolds, was the No. 2 pick of the 2006 draft as a pitcher. Gordon was drafted as an outfielder by the Mets in the 36th round in 2015. “Seeing him as a can’t-miss prospect, second pick in the whole draft, in the same draft as Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, all of them,” Gordon told LMTribune.com, “and then to see his career go down and those other players’ go up, I was like, ‘Wow, if that could happen to him’ — I’m nowhere near as talented as he was in baseball. So when football came to me the way it did, I was quick to jump on it.”
Justin Herbert, Oregon (6-6, 237): In four seasons, Herbert threw for 10,541 yards with 95 touchdowns vs. 23 interceptions. As a senior, he completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,471 yards with 32 touchdowns and six picks. He finished second in school history in career passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage, and he helped the Ducks score 37.2 points per game during his tenure.
"I've done everything that I've wanted to do," Herbert told the school athletics site. "I think this has been the best year of my life, and it's been an experience that I've learned so much from. And I'm 10 times the player I was last year, and I think to be here with the team and to be in this opportunity, it's awesome and an honor to be here." He ended his career by being Rose Bowl MVP and Senior Bowl MVP. It’s a career not even he envisioned. “I think I remember telling you, maybe I step in my junior or senior year and get a couple snaps,” told the Register-Guard. “I never envisioned what was going to happen. It’s been so much fun these past four years. It’s crazy to think about all the things that have happened and where we are today.” With his career complete, he penned a thank-you note published in the Register-Guard. “My brothers and I were introduced to Oregon football through our grandfather Rich Schwab. He instilled in us a passion for the game that only grew stronger during our time growing up in Eugene. Watching the Ducks play every home game from Section 12, barely a mile away from our home, are cherished childhood memories. My brothers and I would replay those games in our front yard, pretending to be Joey Harrington, Kellen Clemens and other Oregon greats. Receiving a scholarship to play at the University of Oregon was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.” He spent his final season playing alongside his brother, freshman tight end Patrick.
Herbert, a native of Eugene, Ore., went from No. 4 on the depth chart to starter as a true freshman who was so young that he hadn’t started shaving. Herbert is a three-time Academic All-American with a 4.01 grade-point average. Herbert repeated as the Academic All-America Team Member of the Year, joining Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow as the only other plays to accomplish that feat. He also won the William Campbell Trophy – aka the Academic Heisman. Said National Football Foundation President & CEO Steve Hatchell: "He truly embodies the scholar-athlete ideal and we are proud to have him as a member of this elite fraternity. He stands as the perfect example for the next generation to emulate."
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (6-2, 218): Hurts led Alabama to the national championship game in 2016 and the national championship in 2017 before losing playing time and, ultimately, the job to phenom Tua Tagovailoa. With degree in hand, he transferred to Oklahoma, started immediately and finished as runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. A second-team All-American and a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, Hurts completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 3,851 yards with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions and rushed for 1,298 yards and 20 more scores during a stellar senior year. For his career, he threw for 9,477 yards, rushed for 3,274 yards and accounted for 123 total touchdowns. His record as a starter was 38-4.
Hurts led the Sooners to the College Football Playoffs this year. The game was played in Atlanta, where Hurts was benched in favor of Tagovailoa in one national championship game but rallied the Crimson Tide the following year when he replaced an injured Tagovailoa. “I think my story is a bit unique,” Hurts told the Oklahoman. “Just from the standpoint of the success I had early playing for one of the best coaches ever to do it and starting as a freshman. I don’t think there’s anything that’s comparable just from that standpoint.”
“Having six different coaches in my time has helped me more than anything,” he told Sports Illustrated. Six coaches? Yes, six: Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian, Mike Locksley, Josh Gattis and Brian Daboll at Alabama, and Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma. Hurts is a physical powerhouse and wise beyond his years. After enrolling at Alabama, one of his first tasks was pretending to be Clemson’s Deshaun Watson as the Tide’s scout-team quarterback. His father and brother played a big role in his success. His dad, Averion, was a high school coach. "I was that kid in the field house," Hurts told the school athletics site. "Just being around the older guys and seeing those guys play for my father. Being a ball boy, running down the sideline, throwing the ball to the refs when they need a new ball in a game. Just those little things. Those are things that I'll never forget.” Both of his parents were special-education teachers. With that, he participated in Tim Tebow’s Night To Shine prom for special-needs children and he formed a special friendship with a man with Down syndrome. “I would ask him the score, and the score would be reasonable,” Hurts told The Athletic. “It would be a reasonable score. Then I’d ask him, ‘OK, how many touchdowns?’ And he’d say ‘37!’ or ‘45!’, like really crazy numbers. Then I started recording him on Snapchat and sending it to my friends. He’s a really sweet guy. I loved his honesty.”
Brian Lewerke, Michigan State (6-3, 216): In four seasons, Lewerke threw for 8,293 yards with 47 touchdowns vs. 32 interceptions even though he missed most of the 2016 season with a broken leg. As a senior, he set career highs in completion percentage (59.6) and passing yards (3,079 yards) while throwing 17 touchdowns vs. 13 picks. He finished his career with a school-record 9,548 total yards.
His junior season was the worst of his career by any measure, including just eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His play on the field, and his life off the field, built new resolve for his senior campaign. As written by the Lansing State Journal: Brian Lewerke thought he was about to take the world by storm last season. Instead, midseason, a storm toppled a tree onto his car in the driveway of the house he shared with several teammates. He had his debit card stolen twice, his phone stolen once. Then Michigan State’s football season spiraled into one full of pain and frustration for its starting quarterback. The score last season: The World 1, Lewerke 0. Fans clamored for backup Rocky Lombardi. “I was very impressed with how he handled it,” his father said. “There were times I would have wanted to curl up in the corner in a ball and he just kept going out on the field. That Purdue game, when everyone (in the crowd is) chanting, ‘Rocky, Rocky,’ I wanted to leave the stadium. I wanted to leave. I said, I’m not leaving, my son can’t leave. If he can’t leave, then why would I? That was a really hard moment.”
Lewerke is from Arizona, which meant a lot of travel for his parents. “We just leave the luggage out,” his mom told the Lansing State Journal. “We wash clothes and throw them right back in the suitcase.” He graduated with an economics degree in December 2018 and a second degree in interdisciplinary studies in social science in December 2019. Late in the season, he surprised a teen with cancer.
Jordan Love, Utah State (6-4, 225)*: Love had three big-time seasons with 8,600 passing yards, 60 touchdown passes and a school-record 9,003 total yards. In his final season, he completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 3,402 yards, but his touchdown total plunged from 32 to 20 and his interception tally soared from six to 17.
Love had quite a growth sport from his days at Liberty High School in Bakersfield, Calif. He went from 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds to 220 pounds by his freshman year at Utah State. Graduating from high school a semester early helped. “Coming up here early and getting reps at the college level, it always helps,” Love told Bakersfield.com. “Leading into that next semester, I had a big jump on everyone else. I put on about 30 pounds. It was good to get into the weight room and actually start lifting for once.”
Utah State was his only FBS scholarship offer. "It is kind of sinking in, yet at the same time, you can't really let it sink in," Love told Bleacher Report. "But growing up and wanting to be in the NFL your whole life, the time is here where it's like, 'It can happen.'" He made it happen despite his father’s death by suicide in 2013 when his son was 14. "My darkest moment was definitely the day it happened, just hearing about it right there in the car," Love told NFL.com. "I didn't want to believe it. … "If you knew him, he was the happiest dude you would ever see. He was always smiling. Even if things in his life got him down, he never showed that," Love said. "Our family knew it was the medication messing with his head, not acting like himself, not acting right. If people make assumptions about depression that aren't right, there's nothing that can be done about that. It's good enough for me to know it was the medication. As long as I know, I'm good with it.” With his degree, he played in the Senior Bowl. Marijuana charges recently were dropped.
Jake Luton, Oregon State: After one season at Idaho and another season at junior college, Luton threw for 5,630 yards with 43 touchdowns vs. 15 interceptions in three seasons at Oregon State. As a senior, he completed 62.0 percent of his passes for 2,714 yards with 28 touchdowns vs. only three interceptions.
Including a redshirt year at Idaho in 2014, the NCAA gave him a sixth year of eligibility after missing most of his first season at Oregon State (2017) with a spine injury and most of 2018 with an ankle injury and concussion. "I'm just trying to stay healthy and just trying to be consistent throughout the year. I'm not trying to light up any record books or anything like that," Luton told The Associated Press before the season. "I want to put the team in position to win games and make sure I'm on the field. If I can do those two things I think we'll have a good year." He took advantage by winning the Mayo Clinic National Comeback Player of the Year Award and putting himself on the draft radar. "I feel really honored," Luton told the Portland Tribune. "A lot of cool things have happened ths year, but this one is really special to me. It's been a long road for me at Oregon State — a lot of ups and downs. Having to persevere through some things, to be recognized like this feels pretty good." He impressed his teammates along the way. “A lot of people who go through an injury like that, I don’t know if they ever set foot on a football field again,” tackle Brandon Kipper told Oregon.com.