Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel has plenty of experience when it comes to quarterbacks.
The former Oklahoma quarterback has a reputation as a great quarterback developer, working with guys like Sam Bradford, Drew Lock, and most recently Dillon Gabriel at UCF (who passed for over 3,600 yards as a true freshman in 2019).
It’s safe to say that Heupel knows what he’s looking for in a quarterback.
So what does he view as the most important trait in a quarterback?
Surprisingly, it’s not arm-strength.
Heupel appeared on 3HL on 104.5 the Zone in Nashville this week and detailed exactly what he’s looking for in an elite quarterback.
ICYMI: @Vol_Football @CoachjoshHeupel details the evolution of his offense, his interview process with Danny White, what he has seen watching the #Vols film, QB development, “closing the boarder” + more on @1045TheZone. https://t.co/VKL9lLhSnu
— 3HL (@3HL1045) March 10, 2021
“The huge arm, yeah that’s a great added bonus,” said Heupel. “But that’s not the determining factor for the amount of success a guy has inside of our offense.”
“We’ve had big, strong pro-style quarterbacks, we’ve had guys that have been a little bit shorter on the tape measure stick that use their feet a bunch. At the end of the day, I think the competitive makeup of that position is really important. They better be ultra-competitive first and foremost because that’s going to drive what they do inside and out of your building.“
“That is the ultra trait we are looking for,” added Heupel. “And if you have that, you probably got yourself a guy that’s going to lead in a positive way.”
It makes sense. We’ve seen plenty of talented quarterbacks with big arms end up not going very far in their careers.
The ultra-competitive players, however, are able to make up for their lack of a “big arm” with their unique ability to lead.
Guys like Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield, and Tim Tebow were incredible leaders in college, even though their physical skills weren’t exactly on par with someone like Trevor Lawrence. There’s nothing wrong with a physically gifted quarterback — and Heupel obviously wants players with the physical abilities to compete in the SEC — but those physical abilities mean nothing to UT’s new head coach if “ultra-competitiveness” isn’t present.
That ability to lead is essentially what Heupel is looking for above all else. That can be a hard trait to identify on the recruiting trail. But fortunately for the Vols, Heupel has plenty of experience in that area.
Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports