High-level football coaching forever has intrigued me, largely because I'm a quintessential Average Joe when it comes to football knowledge.
Which is why I wondered exactly why Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf was drawn to quarterback Patrick O'Brien the first time he watched video of the offensive anchor of the Huskers' recruiting class of 2016, which was formally unveiled Wednesday.
Langsdorf watches hours of video of prospects. What jumped off the screen as he watched O'Brien's junior tape?
"He's a very strong, very athletic kid," Langsdorf said. "You could see that he runs well. You could see his good footwork. He dropped back well (into the pocket). He had good, quick, deep drops. You could tell he had a live arm. He had a lot of big completions downfield.
"He threw all kinds of different pass routes in that offense. In that regard, it was easy to evaluate him."
Many high school quarterbacks operate in systems that require only a limited number of throws, which can make for a challenging evaluation.
"With this kid, you could tell he could make all the required throws," Langsdorf said. "I know his coach (Aaron Flowers of San Juan Hills High School in California) and kind of had an idea what they were doing in their system. It's pretty challenging for a high school kid. I was encouraged he was able to handle it."
Langsdorf also looked at negative elements of O'Brien's game. The coach studied a reel of interceptions and noticed many of them weren't O'Brien's fault. Bottom line, Langsdorf had no qualms in April about extending a scholarship offer — the first offer O'Brien received.
He verbally committed in May, graduated from high school early and began classes at Nebraska last month. He'll almost seem like a veteran come spring drills.
OK, not really.
Langsdorf is quick to note the 6-foot-4, 220-pound O'Brien "has a lot of learning to do." With veteran quarterbacks on the roster — most notably returning starter Tommy Armstrong, a senior — there's no reason for Nebraska coaches to force O'Brien into situations for which he isn't prepared.
"Patrick has some physical tools," Langsdorf said. "But with any true freshman, there's definitely a transition period in terms of learning what we're doing. It's going to be baby steps with him.
You have free articles remaining.
"It's like the quarterbacks last year at this time," the coach added. "We were introducing something brand new to them. We'll want to take the same approach with Patrick, where we want to make sure we challenge him, but we don't want to overdo it, either."
In the words of the late John Wooden, be quick but don't hurry.
Langsdorf is a veteran coach who is measured in his assessments of players, perhaps even a bit more measured than Nebraska head coach Mike Riley. But both Langsdorf and Riley strike me as coaches who will bring players along at the proper rate.
"We're going to have to give Patrick some reps to look at him, but we also don't want him to get overloaded and frustrated," Langsdorf said.
Let's be clear, though: Langsdorf is open-minded about playing true freshmen who show they're ready for the bright lights. Stanley Morgan and Devine Ozigbo are shining examples from last season's Husker offense.
In other words, keep an open mind about O'Brien playing as a true freshman.
Repeat it to yourself: Keep an open mind.
Langsdorf doesn't rule it out.
You never know what sort of twists and turns a season might take. Granted, you also never know how a true freshman quarterback will react to the ultra-challenging responsibilities associated with leading a team of young men in an environment as boiling hot as Nebraska in the autumn.
Riley said he tells all true freshmen to come to campus ready to play. But the quarterback position carries with it unique challenges for anyone, let alone a teenager.
"He's studying," Langsdorf said of O'Brien. "He's in the film room and he's got an iPad. He's asking questions. The mental part has already begun. And the physical part, he's done a good job of getting some receivers together and throwing a route tree and learning the proper footwork.