GREEN BAY, Wis. – Texas Tech’s David Yost knows quarterbacks.
At Missouri, he coached longtime NFL backup Chase Daniel and former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert. His iPhone still has the number for a high school sophomore in Georgia named Cameron Newton. He coached Justin Herbert at Oregon. On the recruiting circuit, he spent two days in Hawaii with Tua Tagovailoa and probably 15 days with Washington native Jacob Eason.
“Other than (LSU’s Joe) Burrow, I think I dealt with all the top quarterbacks (in this year’s draft) at some point,” said Yost, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas Tech. Those are the titles he held at Utah State in 2017 and 2018, when Green Bay Packers first-round pick Jordan Love rose to national prominence.
While Love was the fourth quarterback selected in last month’s NFL Draft, he was arguably the most physically talented in the class.
“In any walk of life, the great ones make look easy. He makes things look easy on the football field,” the Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy said.
However, there are a lot of physically talented quarterbacks who failed to play to lofty expectations. There’s a “fine line” between those who succeed and those who do not, Yost said. The aforementioned Gabbert, the 10th pick in the 2011 draft, is on his fifth team. DeShone Kizer, who spent 2018 as Aaron Rodgers’ backup in Green Bay, is on his third team in four years. Paxton Lynch, who like Love was the 26th selection of a draft, is on his third team in five years and hasn’t thrown a pass since 2017.
“It’s the stuff in between their ears – how they can process and make decisions in a split-second-type deal,” Yost said. “So much of it comes down to how well they prepared themselves to be the best they can be. Every guy’s a little bit different. They’ve got to know themselves. Jordan’s going to be Jordan. He’s going to do everything he can to learn from Aaron Rodgers and from Coach (Matt) LaFleur and their staff. The bottom line is he’s going to play the position with his personality to it.
“The guy that normally has the best arm on your team a lot of times isn’t your best quarterback, I’ve always joked. I had a guy named Chase Daniel, I don’t know if he could throw the ball 55 yards when he was playing for us at Missouri but he threw it to the right guy at the right time and the right way at a high percentage. I always tell the quarterbacks, when we throw the football, did you throw it to the right guy at the right time in the right way? If you do those three things, we’ll be OK. If there’s a breakdown, it’s normally somewhere within there. Then it’s why? Why didn’t we throw it to the right guy? If we didn’t, why didn’t we? What happened? Did we throw it at the right time? So much of it is timing. The passing game is so much more timing-based than anything else. We’re throwing it to a guy when we’re supposed to throw it to him because it gives him the best chance to make something happen.”
Love had a lot of success with Yost in 2018. The Aggies finished 11-2 as Love, in his first season as the full-time starter, completed 64.0 percent of his passes for 3,567 yards with 32 touchdowns vs. six interceptions. Having earned freedom at the line of scrimmage, he consistently got the offense into the right play. It was a convergence of arm talent, intelligence and how to play the game.
“When you’re looking at a high school kid, you joke around because he’s throwing to a guy who might be a Division I player but he’s also throwing to the school board president’s kid who is playing because you know why he’s playing,” Yost said. “The bottom line is you’ve got to catch it, so you better know how to throw it to a guy. If he can’t catch a high ball, don’t throw it high. If he needs it thrown a little softer, you better throw it soft.”
Love broke into the starting lineup midway through his redshirt freshman season of 2017. By early 2018, it had become increasingly apparent to the coaching staff that it had a star on its hands. Knowing Yost’s history with quarterbacks, the Aggies’ coaches started asking him to compare Love with his former star pupils.
“I’m like, ‘He’s right there with those best guys,’” Yost said. “The other guys were like, ‘Really?’ The other guys on the staff, I had not worked with before; they were all new when I got there in 2017. Even Coach (Matt) Wells one day, we were talking, and I said, ‘Coach, he’s a first-round talent.’ Coach Wells was like, ‘You think so?’ I said, ‘No, Coach. That’s what they look like.’ On top of it, he’s got the physical attributes of being his size and his arm talent that check all those boxes. He’s got that ability.”
Love didn’t play nearly as well in 2019. With Wells getting the head job at Texas Tech and bringing Yost with him, and with nine offensive starters graduating, Love threw 20 touchdowns vs. 17 interceptions last season. Still, Love’s combination of arm talent, intelligence and experience leave Yost convinced his former pupil will be a hit in the NFL.
“How he looks at a defense and analyzes and has ideas about things,” Yost said, “he’ll be able to take that stuff and it will speed up his process in being able to attack people and not just rely on, ‘I’ve got a big arm and I’m athletic.’”
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