QB skills - nature vs. nurture

Submitted by UMdad on April 3rd, 2010 at 9:52 AM

Maybe it is becasue I played QB, but why is it when we discuss our QB situation the argument comes up that Denard is such a great athlete that if he just spent the summer learning to be good at reading defenses and passing than he could be a superstar (paraphrased loosely). I absolutely agree that Tate will never learn to be a great athlete with 4.4 speed. However, I am a firm believer that the skill set it takes to be a QB is born into people just like speed is. In the last couple of years, it seems like there is this idea floating around that you can take an athlete and just 'make' a QB. The concept is as rediculous to me as saying that a doctor has great diagnostic abilities so with a summer of practice he could work for NASA designing research craft. If Tate isn't the QB I think he is and Robinson is better, he should play. I just don't think the fans or the coaching staff saw Robinson in HS and thought that he was a D1 QB talent. They saw a D1 athlete and hoped he could learn to be. I do think the coaching staff thinks of Garder as a legitimate QB, though, which gets me excited about his future. P.S. strong arm does not = QB skill set. Joe Montana had a sissy arm, Jamarcus Russell has the best arm most scouts have ever seen.



April 3rd, 2010 at 10:23 AM ^

Living in New York as a big Jet fan, a couple years ago I was huge Chad Pennington fan (and still am). It use to kill me when I heard people say he sucked because he has weak arm strength. I used to always say that there were a milllion people that could throw 100mph and sucked at playing quarterback. (i.e. your reference to Jamarcus Russell). Some guys just know how to play the position.


April 3rd, 2010 at 10:38 AM ^

So, Tate's umpteen years of private coaching has nothing to do with his ability? C'mon; get real. I think its reasonable to suggest that there's a limit to what you can teach someone, but so what? You don't need an awesome QB, you need an adequate one (see Brian Griese and Pat White). The more important question is who will be able to execute this offensive system more effectively? That's where the discussion becomes interesting.


April 3rd, 2010 at 12:00 PM ^

Brian Griese was raised by a father who was an NFL quarterback and makes a living watching and analyzing football, then went on to a solid NFL career. There are only 32 guys in the world who start football games each week in the NFL so I think calling him an adequate QB is probably a little unfair. Also, I never said that you don't need to work to improve on natural born ability. World class sprinters spend a lot of time practicing and perfecting a natural born skill.


April 3rd, 2010 at 10:46 AM ^

Obviously people can improve, but the feel Tate showed as a true freshmen is stuff that can't be taught and is why I think he needs to be the "main" qb. I am not a fan of rotating qb's but in our case I do support a 70/30 split between Tate and Denard because of the unique opportunity we have. Tate can learn taking care of the ball and better play action fakes, but on his 1st td where he broke the pocket, but still had the feel to keep his head focused downfield and then hit Hemmingway with an extremely tough touch pass I was sold instantly and the ND game sealed it. Kids a gamer with accuarcy....2 most important things for qb I think.


April 3rd, 2010 at 11:25 AM ^

I definitely think QB takes the most "nuturing". That being said, you can't always teach someone organic chemistry just like you can't always teach an athlete to play QB. So maybe Denard just hasn't had as much "nurturing" or maybe his potential to grasp the nuances of QB is less than Tate's. I suppose we'll find out next fall.


April 3rd, 2010 at 11:59 AM ^

Tate got here because of thousands of hours of practice. If Denard had the same amount of practice, he'd probably be just as good. He's just not going to get that practice over a summer, so it will seem like Tate is just "naturally" able to throw a pass more accurately than any other player in his class.


April 3rd, 2010 at 12:43 PM ^

Too much is made of the time Tate spent training as a kid. He is not here only because of the time he spent practicing. You act like any kid who spends the same time will automatically be a D1 QB. I don't think the average person understands what it takes to be a QB.


April 3rd, 2010 at 1:06 PM ^

Practice is what makes people better. I absolutely believe that any kid with even moderate physical tools (because it's not as if Tate is the prototype; he's barely six feet tall, and arrived on campus somewhere in the 170 lb range, yeah?) who has that much practice can be a good D1 QB. It's just that most won't get the opportunity or have the discipline to put in that much time. I don't see how there's any particular "innate" ability that would just make someone a good QB, though I could be wrong, and I'm sure we have some bio majors on here eager to show me where I'm wrong. Until such point, it seems to me that a ton of practice is what makes someone really good at being a quarterback, or a musician, or a mathematician, or whatever. I believe that all that training Tate had as a kid had a pretty sizable effect on what he is now. I don't think he was just naturally born to be an unnaturally accurate passer.


April 3rd, 2010 at 1:38 PM ^

I agree with this almost completely, but there are some things that would be a detriment to developing as a great QB. One that I can think of is a kid's demeanor and how he handles situations. A lot of people would get incredibly nervous in front of a crowd like you see at football games. Their physical build also has to at least accommodate a football body.

The same goes for the other professions you mentioned as well. I know that if I put in all the time in the world on becoming a fantastic sculptor, I'd always be average at best. In the same way, if you had one of my sisters study calculus for the next ten years, she'd probably grasp most of the concepts, but she's never going to be doing difficult proofs.

Football players always have the ability to improve if they practice enough, but there is still the genetic lottery that determines a lot.


April 3rd, 2010 at 2:43 PM ^

Right, but, I don't exactly think Tate hit the genetic lottery, except maybe in confidence/cockiness (not that I think it's a bad thing, but one of the WLA said last year that if Tate played for another team, we'd hate his guts, and I completely agree). I mean, I'm probably better size for a quarterback than Tate is. I think we're forgetting about Tate's own innate weaknesses. I suppose I agree, though, about certain mental aspects of it. Certainly not something Tate's lacking in, other than the whole trying to do to much tendency.


April 3rd, 2010 at 12:10 PM ^

I find it interesting that TP isn't brought into this discussion more often, considering the similarities to Denard. A lot of people seem to think TP will never "get it" as a passer ... and he's entering his third year as OSU's main QB. Is there a reason to treat the two differently?

Zone Left

April 3rd, 2010 at 1:03 PM ^

Isn't this really a "raw" vs. "polished" argument? I think the real issue is that a kid without great QB specific coaching can still have the personality makeup and arm strength, but needs time to reach that potential. Vince Young wasn't a great QB out of high school, but he obviously had lots of potential.

I think very few people think you can just throw the best athlete on the team behind center and expect instant improvement for the team--especially on a D-1 level. Some guys will never pick it up, because there are mental makeup issues that probably can't be taught.


April 3rd, 2010 at 9:56 PM ^

No, it is not. At least, not my argument. I am saying that you can polish a ruby all you want and it will never be a diamond. Rubies are valuable and diamonds are valuable but they are not interchangeable. I am not arguing that Robinson has no QB skills, nor am I worried about who is starting this spring. I am merely pointing out in all of the discussions recently about TP, Tebow, Robinson, etc. that most people are assuming you can just teach someone to be a good QB. Having played the position (admittedly, not at the college level), I disagree. I think that the physical tools can be improved, and you can also improve your ability to read defenses and make decisions. Leadership and ability to handle pressure are tough to learn. So are moxie and desire and the other so called 'intangibles.' There are a lot of guys with physical gifts of speed, strength, and can throw a spriral 70 yards. Most of the guys in hte NFL have a similar physical skill set. Some are great and some are adequate and some suck. It is not merely how many hours of coaching they have had that separates them.


April 3rd, 2010 at 10:24 PM ^

That may be true. However, I don't think that a difference in leadership or moxie was what separated Forcier and Robinson last year. I think it was a difference in skill/talent/development, whatever you want to call it. Something that I believe can be worked on, improved. If we get to the point that they're equal, then we can start worrying about leadership, but we don't know much about how Denard would handle being a starter, because he plays a play at a time. I believe Denard has the capacity to be trained up to that point. Not that that means he has the time.

Elno Lewis

April 3rd, 2010 at 2:38 PM ^

to me, at least, is prolly the single most important skill for any qb. you can make up for many shortcomings by just knowing what the defense is doing--especially the secondary and linebackers. Denard made some bad throws, but they were mostly downfield throws. He just didn't see what was actually there. that is part of reading defenses. but, that is also an acquire-able skill. Film work. most successful qb's talk about all the time they spend watching film. they probably know what they are talking about.

no potato salad here


April 3rd, 2010 at 4:15 PM ^

You can't make a great athlete a great QB, but you can make a great athlete a great passer. I think it is very possible Denard could play at a all big ten level this season. He has a lot of work to do from what we saw last year, but last year he was the definition of raw.


April 3rd, 2010 at 4:28 PM ^

Clearly, Tate is where he is because of a considerable amount of god-given talent. He's also where he is because of tireless instruction, practice, time, and...money put in to make him how he is.

Robinson had none of the above items other than god-given talent. He had high-school coaching that was indifferent to making him a passer, and had no coaching outside of that.

It's completely possible that Tate has more "Quarterback ability" than Denard. It's equally possible that Denard has as much, if not more, and has merely not had it unearthed yet.

In the end, who we become as people is not nature OR nurture. It's both.

So look - Rodriguez has a brain. He knows that if he doesn't win this year, he's gone. So if Robinson plays, it's because he's as good, or better in the minds of the coaches, not because of Rodriguez chasing "potential", because he doesn't have that luxury.

Finally - this whole thing is overblown. It's like 6 days of practice. At this time last year, Brandon Herron was breing breathlessly promoted. Two years ago, Mike Shaw was the flavor of the month. It's all irrelevent until games start.