The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

August 12, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Quarterback: It’s the eyes that have it

MORGANTOWN — In politics, it’s the ayes that have it, but in quarterbacking it’s the eyes that have it.

Mostly, when you talk of quarterbacks, you talk of his arm, if he happens to be Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck, or more increasingly each year, you talk of his legs, as in Pat White, RGIII or Johnny Football.

But here at West Virginia University, where quarterback is king, the man who teaches the art of playing the position in Dana Holgorsen’s system — offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson — says the eyes have it.

During this camp Dawson is trying to mold another quarterback in transfer Clint Trickett, who is in a triangular battle for the starting job with last year’s backup Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress.

Millard and Childress have a year or more working within Holgorsen’s offensive system, but Trickett, a junior transfer already in possession of his degree, is in the process of being molded into a Holgorsen quarterback.

Holgorsen has always maintained that arm strength doesn’t really matter and that the legs don’t need to provide much more than a sturdy base from which to throw.

But the eyes.

“Every play you program differently,” Dawson began, giving his “Quarterbacking 101” lecture. “I talk about pre-snap, post-snap thoughts. Every time the ball is snapped the QB’s eyes need to be in a certain place.”

How, though, does a coach know where his quarterback is looking?

Some coaches use a helmet camera, which will show exactly where he is looking at every moment, but Dawson doesn’t go that route.

“I don’t use a helmet camera,” he said. “Then there are some guys who put a stripe down the middle of the helmet so they can see where they’re looking, but I can tell by looking at film. We watch three different angles on every play — from the side, from the back and from behind the defense — so it’s clear where the eyes are looking.”

The best view, of course, is from behind the defense.

Dawson is particularly interested in where he is looking when things go wrong.

“If things do break down, I’m trying to figure what his thought process is and watch his eyes. Is his thought process accurate? Is he panicking? I want to know what he’s thinking and what he’s seeing because his thought process does figure into it,” Dawson said.

“There’s so many intangibles,” Dawson continued. “It’s not always just what’s going on with the play, although that’s a big part of it. There are intangibles about body language, leadership. It doesn’t matter who is on the field for that; you have to be the leader.”

In looking at the quarterback, Dawson is seeking clues as to why a certain play may have broken down or a throw gone astray. With Trickett, things are different than he learned before, so he almost has to relearn all that was taught him in the Florida State system.

“It’s different. Every system programs quarterbacks a different way. We’re different from the system he came from,” Dawson said. “To be 100 percent honest, I don’t get involved in what he was programmed in there. My job is to get him into what I want him to see and do.

“Clint is a very coachable kid. If you sit there and stress, ‘This is what I want you to do,’ he does it. He’s already made leaps and bounds from Day 1,” Dawson said. “Our progression is different. Our feet and eyes are different, but he’s probably ahead of where a normal kid would be coming into the system.”

And the amount that must be learned is far more than at any other position.

“The learning curve is different from other positions,” Dawson said. “A receiver who comes in new is worried about what he is doing. A lot of times routes are carried over. There really aren’t a lot of spread route concepts that aren’t done all over. Everyone just puts a different emphasis on different parts of the route.

“The communication is probably the hardest part for a receiver. Once the communication is there, their job is to take care of their deal. They don’t have to know what 10 other people are doing. With the quarterback, it’s a little bit more significant based on they have to know where everyone is.”

So how does Dawson approach his assignment of creating quarterbacks within the Holgorsen system?

“You can tell by watching him whether he has a clear understanding of what’s going on and a clear plan. The problem with some quarterbacks is, if you take a snap and start hitting the panic button, then there was no clear understanding the play or understanding the layout. In the end the job of the quarterback is to put the ball in play.

“You want to put the ball in the hands of a skill guy where you have a chance to create momentum and create yards. So if there is not a natural thought process — and you can see it when you are watching tape — if those eyes aren’t where they are supposed to be throughout the progression of that play, then you are pushing the panic button. You don’t have a clear thought process,” Dawson concluded.

Email Bob Hertzel at or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Arrest warrant out for WVU recruit

    West Virginia University’s newest men’s basketball recruit, Tarik Phillip, has an order out for his arrest in North Carolina, according to a story in The Dominion-Post, which said three Gaston County Magistrate office spokespersons confirmed.

    April 20, 2014

  • WVU baseball powers past Oklahoma, 9-5

    The WVU baseball team tied a season high with 18 hits to defeat Oklahoma, 9-5, on Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The win gives the Mountaineers their second Big 12 series win of the season and improves the overall record to 19-16 and 4-7 in conference play. Oklahoma drops to 25-16 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos