He’s one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, yet most of those around college football only know about one part of his game; his rushing ability. For a player who has posted the numbers of a Colin Kaepernick, both as a passer and a rusher for three years, it has to be frustrating. However, thanks to his showing at the recent Manning Passing Academy, the perception is starting to change for Nevada’s main man.
For the second straight summer in a row, Kaepernick knocked the socks off of a number of people associated with the NFL.
“(Overall) I think I sized up very well. I know I definitely opened some eyes,” Kaepernick said. “Most of the quarterbacks there knew who I was before the event, but I got the feeling that I was underestimated as a passer.”
A year ago, it was longtime NFL Trainer Chip Smith who came away incredibly impressed with the Nevada quarterback. Smith had heard about Kaepernick from his associate and long-time friend, Roger Theder, a quarterback expert who resides in Northern California and who is also a former college head coach (Cal) rave about him for years.
But Smith, who runs Competitive Edge Sports, a program that almost 25% of the NFL players in today’s game have trained in, including 39 Pro-Bowlers, over 20 first round draft picks, 4 college players ranked #1 in the NFL draft, 25 First-Team All-Americans and 3 Heisman Trophy winners, had never seen Kaepernick throw, or put him through one of Smith’s well-known killer workouts.
After the week in Atlanta, Smith came away raving.
“The thing that really stands out about Kaepernick is his size and his arm strength,” Smith told SilverandBlueSports after the camp. “He’s real tall at 6-foot-6, and he’s been clocked in that high 4.5 forty range, and honestly, that’s amazing for a quarterback his size. He can change direction on the spot, so his running ability and size really make him stand out.
“Another thing I love about him is his arm strength. Honestly, you hear some stories about quarterbacks breaking fingers of receivers and all that, but he honestly did that here. I kind of saw it coming, because we have some good receivers, but this kid throws it real hard. You can even hear how hard he slings it; it makes a buzzing sound, and then ‘Pop! It’s on you. He’s a flamethrower. He puts some velocity on the ball that is really unbelievable.”
If you’ve stood near the sidelines at Nevada while Kaepernick is warming up, you know that buzz sound. You know about that “Pop” too. Both are unmistakable and defining. It is a live, booming big man’s arm that makes you shuffle your feet and smile. We’ve come across a number of prep slingers who’ve gone on to become college, and even sometimes pro, quarterbacks. Most throw a pretty good ball. But few throw a ball that you honestly get to practice early just to watch, or even listen too, on a day to day basis.
Kaepernick is one of the few who fit into that latter category. You remember that arm, and you remember that pop. And you laugh a bit when wideouts and tight ends grimace.
“It is the first time I can honestly say I felt bad for the receivers here,” Smith added, chuckling at the same time. “He’s like a baseball catcher the way he throws it. He’s out on his front foot and that’s a bit unusual, but everyone has something different about how they do it. There might be some skeptics because of that, but once you see him whip it around, plus throw that tight a spiral, you’ll see something special there.
“He’s also a real coachable kid too. We train for two hours out on the field, working on mechanics and such, and then do two hours in the classroom. After that, the players all do a couple of hours with me, and then two more in the weight room. He ate it all up and wanted some more. I don’t think he wanted to leave.
“Again, I couldn’t say enough great things about him. NFL guys will be watching him closely. I can guarantee you that.”
Kaepernick had another solid season for Nevada as a junior, but like most of the Pack players, are hungry for much more success in 2010. A difficult start masked the teams brilliant, record-setting offensive performance through the Western Athletic Conference schedule, only to fall short of the teams overall goal of winning a conference championship when they lost on the road at Boise State in what was essentially the conference title game. Nevada also had a miserable Hawaii Bowl performance, which unfortunately derailed some of the accomplishments the program made during 2009.
For Kaepernick, it was business as usual. For the third straight year, he passed for over 2,000 yards and threw for 19 touchdowns, and has now passed for over 7,000 yards and 61 scores, yet just 16 interceptions, in his Nevada career. He’s also completed over 55 percent of his passes, and is just 18 yards short of 10,000 total yards in his career. But Kaepernick’s dynamic rushing ability has overshadowed most of his passing ability, and that’s what can happen when are more than likely to be mentioned as one of the greatest rushing quarterbacks in NCAA history. The Turlock (Calif.) native racked up over a 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns for the second straight year on the ground, and after finishing among the top five rushers in yards per carry (7.02 yards per carry) in 2008, Kaepernick finished third in 2009 with a blistering, playground-like 7.35 yards per carry. The only two players to do better were his Wolf Pack teammates, Vai Taua (7.82) and Luke Lippincott (7.72).
It is that last stat, plus the fact that Nevada was the first team in NCAA History to have three rushers reach 1,000 yards in a single season (accomplishing the feat in a staggering 11 games), that has put a spotlight on the Pistol offense for much of this past off-season. Without a doubt, programs are going to experiment with it more and more during the 2010 season, from other college programs to a handful of NFL teams.
For any player who plays in a powerful offensive system like the “Pistol”, and then has the talent of a Kaepernick (which is rare), perhaps the most frustrating part of his first three seasons in college football is the fact that both the passing and rushing, and of course the wins, have yet to really come together all at once. Yes, he’s played since he was a redshirt freshman, which is outstanding for any quarterback in the college game today. He’s also had the chance to play in the “Pistol”, which is arguably the perfect offense for his talent. And the Pack have been to five straight Bowl games, they’ve produced some of the top scoring teams in the country year after year, and they continue to be a threat in the WAC.
And there are those who know about Kaepernick’s arm strength, like the aforementioned Smith, and NFL scouts who recently saw him put down a strong 4.4 forty dash on Nevada’s Pro-Day. But few really understand how dedicated he is to being a great passing quarterback, and that he possesses arguably the strongest arm in the college game today.
“A lot of people know what we do at Nevada, and that we run the Pistol offense,” Kaepernick said. “But I don’t think they knew that every day we still work on the three-step and the five-step drops. I don’t think they understand how much time and effort we put on the passing game.”
Manning Passing Academy
That’s why his performance at the Manning Passing Academy two weeks ago was so special. For the media, and even perhaps the Manning family, he was the biggest surprise at the camp. Fans observed future NFL Hall of Famer Peyton Manning saying, “Wow” after a few of Kaepernick’s throws, and former Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning raising his eyebrows after another, stating to the attendees, “Now that’s some serious zip.”
Even the Manning’s father, Archie, an NFL great, let him know how impressed he was with his performance. So did camp director Buddy Teevens, now the head coach at Dartmouth, but who recruited Kaepernick during his days as Stanford head coach. Teevens shadowed Kaepernick for much of the camp.
“Colin did a wonderful job,” Coach Teevens said. “He’s just has outstanding personality, and he meshed well with the other college quarterbacks we had, and we had a bunch, as well as the Manning family. He was really respected by everyone at the camp.
“As you well know, Colin is a very talented athlete. I do remember recruiting him at Stanford from years back. I guess identifying him as a top player, well, I was correct, because he’s certainly a talented individual and he’s gone on to prove that. I’m really excited about him going into his senior year and the opportunities that will exist for him after. In fact, we did have some pro coaches and college coaches who were there, and like myself, were all very, very impressed with what he did. It wasn’t only a performance thing, but just by his personality and the way he interacted with the young kids as well as his peer group.”
It didn’t take long for some of the press, who gather every year at the Thibodeaux (Louis.) based camp, to get wind of the kid from Nevada too. Jesse Palmer, Chris Mortensen and Mike Mayock all turned their attention to Kaepernick, going from basic introductions to wanting to learn much more about the former WAC Offensive Player of the Year.
So much so that Palmer interviewed Kaepernick on ESPN College Football Live yesterday, in which he let everyone know that Kaepernick was not only the biggest surprise to him at the camp, but to many.
“By far, the strongest arm in the camp,” Palmer said.
That type of interview wouldn’t happen unless Kaepernick took the MPA by storm.
“I had a great time. It was a great experience,” Kaepernick said. “We got to throw with Peyton and Eli right when I got there, and got a workout in too. We worked with the younger kids too, and overall, it was just an excellent time. It was the only camp I wanted to go to this summer, and I’m real glad, and very thankful to Coach Ault, that I got a chance to attend.”
It was another terrific showing by Kaepernick, with his peers coming over to him time and again to let him know that he’s a lot bigger than they thought he was on television. Some of the folks in attendance noted the wide receivers, all of whom were catching balls from the various QB’s who were there, talking amongst themselves about Kaepernick’s cannon.
So it is of no surprise that Kaepernick was named this past week to numerous college football watch lists, including the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award for the second straight season, plus the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award. Kaepernick is one of 22 players on the Watch List, which can be found at www.goldenarmfoundation.com.
“It is a great honor to be named to the watch lists. I know I was on the (O’Brien) last year,” Kaepernick stated. “But at the same time, they don’t mean a lot unless you win them. So that’s the goal.”