Ask any college football coach about the key to success and the majority will tell you that it is recruiting.
Recruiting is the life blood of any college football program. It’s something that coaches must do every day. To build off that point, coaches will also tell you that football ‘is about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s not the X’s and O’s—and that part is definitely true. You need talent to win.
But if you look deep within that statement, it actually involves a hidden element that allows it to become truth: Player development.
As much as everyone talks recruiting, X’s and O’s, strength and conditioning, how coaches are able to develop the talent they acquire, for the most part, determines how far they can go as a team.
We’ve seen this play itself out numerous times over the course of a season where the most talented team on any given Saturday may not win the game, as a more developed team would have the edge in a few key spots, enough to get them the victory.
One place where player development is critical, is at the quarterback position.
Many will agree that quarterback is the most important position in all of sports. It requires the player to be both physically and mentally talented, while also having the leadership skills necessary to be an extension of the coach out there on the field. And there has been a boom in that department in the HBCU ranks.
Which HBCU is "Quarterback U?" @BRAVESSPORTS is certainly in the running. Everyone knows about Steve McNair but he's part of a lineage that spans before and after his historic run.— HBCU Gameday (@HBCUGameday) April 2, 2019
Read more: https://t.co/dG8zcr7olJ pic.twitter.com/4IhjrrQhJ4
Since 2015, 18 players have been drafted from an HBCU. And since 2017, we’ve seen the impact some of those players have had on their respective NFL team.
Running back Tarik Cohen (North Carolina A&T) has been a star for the Chicago Bears. Last year Darius Leonard was taken in the second round out of South Carolina State and ended being named Defensive Rookie of the Year as well first team All-Pro.
A month ago, we saw Tytus Howard of Alabama State go in the first round, making him the first HBCU player drafted in Round 1 since Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was taken 16th overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008.
The talent pool has definitely gotten deeper at HBCUs, and the coaches have done a fantastic job in developing their players into draftable pro prospects.
With that said, there hasn’t been an HBCU quarterback selected in the first round since 1995 when the then-Houston Oilers took Steve “Air” McNair third overall. The last signal caller from the league to be drafted at all was Alabama State's And one hadn’t been selected in the draft since the Minnesota Vikings took Alabama State’s Tarvaris Jackson in the second round in 2006.
But times are changing.
Like all positions in football, having played the position that you’re coaching can help a coach better illustrate, direct and get the message across. It allows the coach to speak from a position of experience, which tends to resonate with the player. I am not saying that a coach who hasn’t played a particular position can’t be an effective coach at a position. But I am saying that the message is received differently by the player, which is a net positive.
When you look across the HBCU landscape, there are some former standouts at the position leading the next crop of talented signal callers—some of which are former HBCU stars themselves. Their ability to recruit, instruct and subsequently develop players, has led to an increase in production, efficiency and success across the board.
Here are some of the excellent quarterback coaches in HBCU football that are doing a fantastic job of getting the most out of their players.
Kendrick Nord | QB Coach, Grambling
Nord was one of the best quarterbacks in Grambling history, breaking numerous records set by the great Doug Williams. He went on to a pro career that spanned across the NFL, NFL Europe, CFL and Arena League as both a quarterback and wide receiver.
Nord understands how to perfectly blend athleticism within the passing game, and has developed two stars at Grambling in Jonathan Williams (2015 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year) and DeVante Kincade ('16 and ’17 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year), using their abilities as dual-threat players to help them set both school and conference records in the process.
Allen Suber | Associate HC/OC/QB Coach, Bethune-Cookman
Suber, like Nord, was also one of the best quarterbacks in program history. In 2003 he was the MEAC Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, becoming a two-time All-American.
He’s played a big role in bringing balance and stability to the Wildcats offense. In 2017, he led a unit that finished fifth in total offense and first in red zone efficiency. Quarterback Larry Brihm (Calgary Stampeders), who became an All-Conference performer, saw his completion percentage, passing yardage, and touchdown-to-interception ratio all improve under Suber.
Ted White | OC/QB Coach, Prairie View A&M
The current PVAMU Panther offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach was once a top-notch signal caller for the Howard Bison in the mid-to-late-90s. White went on to set school records in both career passing yards and total yards before embarking on a professional career that saw him compete in the NFL, NFL Europe and CFL.
He has been coaching since 2006, spending the last decade as an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at four different HBCUs.
Last season, at Prairie View A&M, he did tremendous work with quarterback Jalen Morton, who nearly helped PVAMU upset Rice in the opener, finish with over 2,300 and 18 passing touchdowns, as well as over 870 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, in his first full season as a starting quarterback.
Tyrae Reid | OC/QB Coach, Bowie State
Reid was a four-year starter for the Bulldogs, winning CIAA Rookie of the Year back in 2009.
He immediately jumped into coaching after his playing days were done, starting at Bowie State in 2013 as a quarterback coach and student assistant before coaching the same position at McDaniel College for the next two seasons.
Reid helped develop one of the most prolific quarterbacks in HBCU football in Amir Hall—who should’ve had his named called in the 2019 NFL Draft. Hall won the Black College Football Player of the Year award twice (2017 & 2018) and was named to numerous All-American teams, earning an invitation to the NFLPA game this past January.
In Reid’s first season as offensive coordinator in 2018, Bowie State averaged 30 points per game and over 420 yards per game in total offense.
Matt Leone | QB Coach, Southern
Leone is entering his third year as the Jaguars quarterbacks coach. Prior to arriving to Baton Rouge, Leone was a standout quarterback and coach at Webber International in Florida. During his time there as a coach, Webber enjoyed its most productive offensive output in program history, ranking Top 10 in many statistical categories in the NAIA.
His work at Southern with the quarterbacks has been excellent. Former Jaguar quarterback Austin Howard enjoyed his best season as a Jag in 2016, throwing for 29 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, averaging 13.8 yards per completion.
This past season, he helped develop Ladarius Skelton into one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the FCS. Skelton tossed 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions, and ran for another eight with 530 yards rushing in only six games.
Quarterbacks under Leone have seen a spike in efficiency, which, in conjunction with the great work by offensive coordinator Chennis Berry, has made the Jaguar offense one of the more effective in the SWAC.
Pat White | QB Coach, Alcorn State
White should be recognized as much for his offensive innovation as he was as a great college quarterback. You can pretty much credit him for spearheading the RPO revolution we’re seeing now in college football.
During his career, he was named Big East Player of the Year twice and finished with a 42-9 record as the starting quarterback. White accounted for over 100 touchdowns and over 10,500 yards from scrimmage in his career.
Last season was his first as the quarterbacks coach for Alcorn State, and his impact on the position was immediate. The Braves' junior quarterback Noah Johnson became a finalist for the HBCU Player of the Year Award, Walter Payton Award, and C Spire Conerly Trophy, which is given to the top college player in the state of Mississippi.
Where White made the most impact was in Johnson’s efficiency. He was able to inject situational aggressiveness, which allowed him to take calculated risks on when and/or where to run and when and/or where to stay patient in the pocket. His tutelage helped the Braves quarterback lead his team to a SWAC title and a birth into the Celebration Bowl.
The impact these coaches have had on their programs and quarterbacks have been outstanding. And it shouldn’t be long before we start to see some of the quarterbacks they’ve developed turn into NFL Draft picks.
It also shouldn’t be long before we start to hear these names being talked about as potential head coaching candidates as a result of the knack they've shown for developing players at the most important position in sports.
In HBCU football, the quarterback position, particularly from a developmental standpoint, is in great hands.