CAMPS FOR quarterbacks were mostly unheard of a decade ago. Today, it seems as if every high school or college quarterback annually seeks specialized coaching to supplement the guidance he is getting at school.
Dylan Thompson, who sits atop South Carolina’s quarterback depth chart heading into the upcoming season, spent this past May during spring break being tutored at the Mastrole Passing Academy.
Thompson said the week-long camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was mostly about conditioning and polishing mechanics.
“We had a few days where we did strictly technique, but not changing my motion or anything like that, but better footwork and then conditioning,” Thompson said. “We’d go in the sand on the beach in the mornings and get some workouts in. But it was basically the stuff we do here.”
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A summer ago, Thompson attended the Whitfield Athletix camp, which claims on its website to be the “nation’s top private quarterback training school.” The camp in California annually attracts some of the top quarterbacks, even from the NFL. Whitfield Athletix is run by George Whitfield, most known for tutoring Johnny Manziel the summer before he won the 2012 Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M.
The mushrooming quarterback camp business across the country begs one question at the college level: Isn’t that what coaches are paid handsome salaries – some in the millions of dollars – to do?
It was clear from his answer Sunday that Steve Spurrier has pondered the same question.
“I used to think, that’s what I do is coach those quarterbacks,” Spurrier said.
Yet Spurrier is among what appears to be a growing number of college coaches who endorse having their quarterbacks attend the camps. Spurrier was asked specifically about Thompson.
“I said, ‘Yeah, come back and tell me if they’re telling you anything different,’ ” Spurrier said. “They do tell him a tiny bit different. So, I tell him, whatever is comfortable. I’m not a big stickler on the way we throw it, (but more) a stickler on holding the ball with two hands and stepping and throwing.
“But, I think, the quarterback coach and the offensive coordinator guy on every team should be coaching his quarterbacks, and not those guys. But those guys seem to be helpful, I guess. High school kids, college kids are all going to them. So, if it helps them, that’s fine.”
Not all coaches agree. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn insisted that his returning starting quarterback, Nick Marshall, remain on campus this past summer instead of getting outside tutoring.
“I’m sure there are some great quarterback coaches out there,” Malzahn told ESPN.com. “But we want our guys to think exactly like us. When his eligibility is gone, he can work with whoever he wants.”
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher agrees.
“When they go to pro ball, they can do whatever they want,” Fisher told USA Today. “We’ll coach our guys. I don’t think it benefits you. We know what we’re doing, too.”
Thompson said he made certain there was no acrimony between him and the USC coaching staff when he attended the Mastrole Passing Academy, which is run by former Maryland, Delaware and NFL Europe quarterback Ken Mastrole.
Mastrole’s camp, like the others, can be pricey. Including the camp fee, travel and lodging, a quarterbacks camp can cost an individual as much as $5,000. Under NCAA rules, the participant must cover all costs. Thompson said he is fortunate to have a supportive family.
“It’s a sacrifice for them,” Thompson said of his parents, “but hopefully it will pay off.”
If Thompson proves to be a better quarterback this season because of the camp, then the payoff to him and to USC would be great. But if Thompson polished the skills he has honed at USC, then you have to wonder what that payoff is for attending a quarterbacks camp.