Aug. 19, 2015
Mike Sanford - Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach
On the number one quality that he looks for in evaluating quarterbacks…
"One thing that's almost too simple to say, but it's reality, is they've got to be able to throw the football. I know it sounds very simple, but a lot of coaches at our level think they have to 'fix' a flawed throwing motion, so they have to have a natural stroke to begin with. For them to think that you can change somebody's arm action, I still have yet to see that accomplished. So they have to be a natural thrower first and foremost. Secondly, always looking for a guy that's won football games, someone who, winning surrounds them, because that's what we're all about is winning football games. Lastly, there's a quote where I had a chance to be around Bill Walsh in his last days at Stanford, and he talked (about) a quarterback play, and he said 'you're always looking for a guy that can get you a minimum of three first downs a game with his legs'. That would fit into the ability to improvise, and it fits nicely into what we try to do with the quarterback running game. You want a guy that does strike some fear into the defensive coordinator's mind throughout the course of the week, and has him thinking 'we better contain this player, otherwise he's going to get out of the pocket.'"
On the benefits of having a player who can run and throw well…
"I think the day and age of just recruiting a quarterback that can strictly throw a football and lack any form of athleticism, I think those days are few and far between. With what defenses are doing, with the pressures and the different defensive line stunts, I think it's difficult to not be athletic. I think it's so important to recruit someone that has the athleticism, insofar as you know first and foremost they can convert third down and 10 for you with their arm because they're an accurate passer and they have a natural motion. I think that's a big part of finding that balance, because you can err on the side of getting too athletic of a quarterback, and then you give up a negative play on first down, on second down you get a yard or two, and then it's third and 11 and there's not a lot of quarterback-driven run games that are going to convert third down and 11, or even third down and five, or third down and seven consistently. The number one thing that really does start, in my opinion, in winning football games is being great in situational football and as a quarterback position, we make our weight. Our value is what we do on third downs, and obviously in the NFL that's how most quarterbacks are evaluated."
On what immediately jumped out to him about Malik Zaire…
"I would say his overall engagement, what with wanting to know all the information, and wanting to be coached. There's an old saying that I've always said about players, you want them to have the mentality of 'coach me, coach', and he's a guy that personifies that in every way. He wants to be coached. He's always looking for something else that he can improve his game, and he's been very diligent with that ever since the day that I arrived on campus. His desire to be great would be number one in my mind, and then his overall athletic skill set. He does have a very natural throwing process, and the thing that's great about him is arm action, the ball comes out naturally. You can tweak small things with him because it's usually lower-half based, not upper-body based or arm angle. I like that there are small correctable things about his throwing process, as opposed to someone with a natural hitch in their arm motion."