When you compare the film of recent Maryland commit Dwayne Haskins Jr. to all the other blue chip quarterbacks the Terps successfully recruited in the last 20 years, the first thing you notice is ... oh wait, Maryland hasn't so much as sniffed a blue chip QB since, oh I don't know, forever?
Was Boomer Esiason a blue-chipper? You tell me. There were no Rivals, 247 or Scout types back then fawning over high school football players so you didn't really know much about them until they showed up in College Park.
Maryland had a great run of quarterback success starting back in the Bobby Ross years, with Boomer leading a parade that saw Frank Reich, Stan Gelbaugh, Neil O'Donnell, Scott Zolak, Scott Milanovich and Shaun Hill find their way into The League -- but I don't think any of those guys were coveted as high school prospects the way Haskins has been.
Chris Kelley was a Haskins-type national prospect in 2000 -- a few years before the age of frenzied following of high school recruits. Kelley pledged to Maryland but was quickly derailed by an injury and eventually was moved to safety. Jordan Steffy was also a nice prospect who in 2003 chose the Terps over Penn State, Clemson and others, but he was a 3-star and rated 13th in Pennsylvania. That's good, but it's not Haskins. Still, we were very excited about Steffy. Unfortunately, he never lived up to the hype either.
Eventual Terp Josh Portis was a Haskins-level elite prospect who committed to Florida back in 2004, but by the time he arrived in College Park a couple years later, his stock was in question and he never panned out.
The point I'm trying to make here is that evaluating an incoming Maryland QB of Haskins' caliber is truly uncharted waters. Let's go swimming!
The Recruit: Dwayne Haskins Jr.
High School: Bullis School, Potomac
247sports composite: 4 stars (.9646), No. 61 player nationally, No. 5 pro-style QB, No. 2 player in Maryland
Measurables: Haskins is listed at 6-foot-3 and between 185 and 190 pounds.
Junior season: With Haskins under center, Bullis went 9-1, including a perfect 5-0 mark in the Interstate Athletic Conference. Haskins was the only QB to throw a pass for the Bulldogs and he completed 159 of his 259 attempts (61%) for 1,936 yards with 22 touchdown passes compared to five picks. He also rushed for a pair of TDs and was recorded as having 37 total carries for minus-51 yards, though that number is a tad misleading since in high school, sacks count as negative rushing yards. Haskins did in fact gain some yardage with his feet, as his longest listed rush of the season was good for 26 yards.
Offers: Haskins was one of the most recruited players in the country and was offered by just about everyone. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and so on. You name the elite program and Haskins got that offer. Before pulling the trigger for the Terps last week, Haskins had narrowed down the candidates to Maryland, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Florida, Virginia Tech, Alabama and Penn State. Most thought it was a battle between the first four on that list.
On film: This extremely eye-pleasing film compilation comes out of the gate firing -- literally. Haskins' first two clips are 40-yard strikes, in stride, for touchdowns and both of them are exhibits of arm strength and accuracy. Neither are lofty passes and neither required him to rear back and air it out. You can see right away that this kid can get the ball downfield quickly, and you like it.
Then, you keep watching and realize there's much more to like about Haskins than just his big arm. By my count, in this eight minutes of film, we see nice examples of slants, screens, quick outs, hitches and a whole bunch of mid-range strikes over the middle of the field. Haskins can make all the throws right now, before ever setting foot on a college campus. About the only thing we don't see out of him in this film, from a passing perspective, is finesse. There are no wheel routes, fades or lofty touch passes. That doesn't mean he can't do them or hasn't done them, they just aren't on this collection of clips. Everything Haskins throws has mustard on it, which is fine for now. If he wants to be an NFL star someday, he'll expand his already-ahead-of-the-curve repertoire to include some softer stuff, but that's not an issue whatsoever for a high school junior.
Now, let's talk mechanics a little bit. Emphasis here on "little bit" because that's a fair description of how much I know about QB mechanics, but my friend Google and I will give it a whirl anyway. If any of you are smarter than I am about these things (likely), feel free to discuss it below -- I'd love to learn more.
So, a few basic fundamentals to look for in a passing prospect include keeping your head vertical, keeping your shoulders open to the field, ball carriage, foot placement and arm motion. With Haskins, on the upside, his head and shoulders as well as ball carriage (keeping the football relaxed and properly placed under your chin during dropback) look pure textbook to me. His footwork looks good but not perfect. He's got a nice strong step toward his target, giving him a good foundation, but his trailing foot tends to lift a little higher than coaches might like to see and he has a tendency to not square up after release. Sometimes his target step is focused and balanced, but other times -- especially when he's on the move -- his leg really stiffens up underneath him and his foundation weakens.
One final bit of criticism, from my amateur eye, is related to his actual throwing motion. Haskins' elbow stays low during the pass -- it's definitely below his shoulder throughout -- which gives him a little bit of a whipping motion. It's problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it puts unnecessary strain on his elbow and wrist; second, it lowers his release point and puts him at higher risk of batted balls. Am I nitpicking? Of course I am! And it should be noted, as it was back when we reviewed Gage Shaffer, who is way less polished than Haskins, that when a young QB has less than perfect mechanics but still manages to dominate with his arm, you can go ahead and look at it as a positive. Colleges can coach these kids up, correct flaws, find untapped potential and watch them blossom into something way bigger and better than you ever expected in the first place.
Let's move on to some other skills Haskins exhibits, and there are many. He's been labeled a pocket passer, but it's not fair to call him immobile. Haskins tucks and runs for a 26-yard TD at the 3:12 mark and he doesn't exactly look like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning when he does it. He also moves well in the backfield and can throw while rolling left or right -- there are many clips of both. He seems exceptionally good at rolling left and throwing across his body. Haskins also executes play action really nicely in several clips and though he's definitely a pro-style passer, I wouldn't rule out him being effective in some of the option schemes Maryland has been running in recent years. Last but not least, he has pocket awareness and does show that inherent instinct the good ones have in which they move away from blindside pressure just before it materializes.
Finally, and this is so important, let's talk about the great intangible factors for the quarterback position: leadership and charisma. Can he command the huddle and truly lead the offense? It's a great question and as much as we outsiders like to think we're insiders who know these kids, we aren't and we don't. With Haskins, just from reading stories, looking at tweets and watching video interviews, it's not hard to come to the conclusion that he's a special kid with a good head on his shoulders who has the respect of countless other prospects around the country that he has played and camped with. So many other recruits have mentioned Haskins as the key to the alleged "Movement" and expressed their interest in playing alongside him. It sure seems like Maryland has some potential here to have a (gulp!) Tebow-sized personality to build this program around. Maybe it's unfair to say that or to put that type of pressure on a teenager, but hey, you don't sign up to play quarterback unless you can handle pressure.
Outlook: To me, Haskins is a redshirt. This is not a knock on him. Repeat: it's not a knock on him. Quarterback is hands down the toughest and most demanding position on the field and it carries the most material to learn. Haskins absolutely looks like he could be a great one but his body still looks like a high school body, his mechanics need some fine-tuning and he'll need to learn a very complex offense and also learn how to check down through his options, which you rarely see in high school football and which I don't see in this film reel.
I view redshirting a true freshman quarterback as more a reflection of the program than the quarterback himself. If you have to play a true freshman at QB, you probably had depth chart problems. A strong program should have experienced and coached-up guys ready and able to take the reins each and every year. Maryland has at least one of those in Caleb Rowe and ideally, that's who should be taking the snaps this fall (and next) at Byrd. Haskins will benefit greatly from a year of training, conditioning and acclimation. In 2017, all bets are off. We all certainly hope that Haskins has the goods to be a multi-year Maryland starter and an NFL prospect but let's take it one step at a time, folks. Maryland just reeled in one of the most important prospects in school history who happens to play the most important position on the field. Welcome aboard, Dwayne Haskins Jr.. We're thrilled you're a Terp!
How do you feel about Haskins' prospects for early playing time?