Take six of the top high school quarterbacks in the nation. Bring them to a state of the art facility. Give them intensive training for three days with elite coaching. Oh, and throw in a little paintball.
That was the premise behind the inaugural QB Flight School last weekend in Emerson, Ga., led by quarterback tutors Quincy Avery and Lavelle Durant.
“We thought it would be a good idea to bring in the quarterbacks we trained to display them in one place,” Avery said. “We felt six could showcase the elite of the elite QBs.”
Among that group was Jacob Eason from Lake Stevens, Wash., who has worked extensively with Durant. Eason is rated as the No. 1 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com and is a Georgia commit. Austin Kendall, from Cuthberston in Waxhaw, N.C., is the No. 3 pro style quarterback. Kendall committed to Oklahoma on Tuesday.
The group also included three of the top 10 dual-threat quarterbacks in the Class of 2016, according to Rivals — Shea Patterson, an Ole Miss commit from Calvary in Shreveport, La., is ranked No. 1. Jawon Pass from Carver in Columbus, Ga., is ranked No. 5 and Oregon commit Seth Green, now at Allen, Texas, is No. 10.
David Moore from nearby Milton, Ga., already has 15 offers.
“It was fun to get out there in a small group and compete,” Eason said. “It lets the coaches be more hands on. All these guys are going to be Division I football players. They are all pretty good at the game and it makes it that much more competitive than the bigger camps where you have some players who aren’t as good.”
The six quarterbacks were selected by Durant and Avery – five of the six had worked with one of them previously. There was no cost for the camp, but the players had to get themselves to Georgia.
At a time when there are a number of camps specifically designed for top quarterbacks, such as the Elite 11 as part of Nike’s The Opening, Avery said he was aiming for something different. Avery and Durant also are part of the staff for the Elite 11 camps.
“The guys in Elite 11, they want to win a competition,” Avery said. “Our only concern is to give them skills they can take home to their high school team and eventually their college program and provide confidence so they can be the best quarterback they can be.”
That applies, even if the skills aren’t so obvious.
As part of Flight School, the players arrived Friday and had physical training sessions about throwing mechanics, developing shoulder strength and engaging the muscles in the arm. They also had a session about social media.
“They are going to be the CEO of somebody’s program so they have an obligation to represent those programs, themselves and their families as best as possible,” Avery said.
Saturday morning was devoted to making specific “off-platform throws.” Avery said that 60-80 percent of throws are not made from the pocket and a quarterback needs to have tools to make those throws such as when a defensive lineman comes charging, the QB darts out of the pocket and then needs to get reset to make a throw.
The afternoon was for paintball.
“Their lives are a lot more stressful than many 17-year-olds in the country,” Avery said. “This was a chance to let their hair down, have fun and get to know each other but still be competitive and rely on their teammates, a lot of things they encounter in football. They got to something where they might not be as good and when they don’t have the same type of talent as they do in football but have to respond in the same way in those situations.”
On Saturday night, the players went to the sand to provide less stable footing and test their ability to keep their base compact and bend their knees to get set.
The Sunday morning session was geared toward throwing on the run when the quarterback can’t get his feet to the target or is moving away from the target but still being able to make strong throw.
“We want give them confidence they can do everything that needs to happen,” Avery said. “Some of these are throws they don’t have to make in high school. We put out soccer nets to simulate throwing over the defender and dropping the ball in before it gets to the safety. We want them to have confidence in their strength and conditioning and their shoulder.
“There are all these little things to feel better about. They’re not necessarily thinking they are not good enough, but more ‘I’m not sure I can do that.’ They might not have that skill set before, but we’ll teach it up and you can get better.”
For Eason, the experience was about continuing to refine his game as he heads into his senior year.
“Overall, this is about the smaller things that we can take away from it,” Eason said. “At this point, we’re not going to get trained on the big things right now. They are small things that you can bring back to your school.”
“Most of the drills I’d seen before because of coach Lavelle, but there were some smaller drills that were new. You are always going to learn some stuff.”
Avery said the plan is for a gathering in June that will have 15 quarterbacks from the class of 2017 and 2018. They also plan to bring back the current six next year as they prepare for college and they are working with a number of college quarterbacks. Presumably, those 15 will eventually be trimmed to a smaller number to retain the ability for hands-on training.
“We want to keep the same guys in the system and also filter out who the top underclassmen are,” he said.
As for Eason, his advice for potential Flight Camp students: “I’d tell them to do it. You get to hang out with great coaches and great guys and get better. It’s a fun experience.”