Chris Elliott: Developing Qbs can be tricky

I've come to find that a good portion of my good ideas and moments of deep thought occur while I'm immersed in a video game.

While playing the latest version of EA Sports NCAA Football, my thoughts wandered to the development of quarterbacks — and for good reason. I was playing with the University of Houston, whose top-rated quarterback Case Keenum was shredding a helpless Florida secondary. In the real world, Keenum took over the starting job as a redshirt freshman and hasn't looked back. He had the offensive line and the weapons around him to develop without being overwhelmed.

High school football, like college football, allows for four years of athletic competition. This rollover provides for some interesting scenarios in developing quarterbacks. The programs that get a high volume of athletes usually have the option of starting a quarterback as a junior or a senior that is mentally and physically ready for the responsibilities of leading a team through a season.

Then there are situations that are forced upon coaches. Hutch Trinity quarterback Derek Racette started as a sophomore because the starter from the season before decided to focus on basketball. Racette was a player that was mentally ready for the challenge and is a success, compiling a record of 20-4. But experiments with young quarterbacks are risky.

"When you start a young quarterback you just need to make sure that he's ready to play," Bishop Carroll coach Alan Schuckman said. "A lot of the quarterback position has to do with confidence. You don't want to destroy a kids spirit and confidence by putting him in too early as a sophomore. Then it's too hard to get it back."

Schuckman's quarterback, Tyler Nance, is a first-year starter as a senior. He took over after Blake Bell graduated and left for Oklahoma. Nance struggled in his first game against a fierce and athletic Heights defense, then completed 4 of 4 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown against South. He had the opportunity tolearn from Bell and the Carroll quarterbacks coach, and hone his skills to fit the team's current needs.

Collegiate quarterback Markus Phox, like Nance, follows an elite quarterback. Phox took over for 4,000-yard passer Blake Jablonski, and seems to be in the perfect position. Phox entered his sophomore season knowing he would be starting for the Spartans. He also knows that he is not the same type of quarterback as his predecessor. Phox has gone over 100 yards rushing in both of his team's wins this season, forcing defenses to account for his legs as well as his arm.

Collegiate coach Bill Messamore said before the start of the season that Phox has a few mechanical issues to work out, but with two more years to develop, there seems to be plenty of upside for Phox and the Spartans. Messamore has the weapons surrounding Phox to keep his young quarterback from being the sole focus of opposing defenses. If this scenario goes according to plan, by 2012 Collegiate will have a seasoned three-year starter prepared to bear the weight of an entire team.

Who knows? There is a possibility that Phox or another area quarterback could be the origin of some poor guy's frustration in a few years as I rip apart his defense in the latest version of NCAA football.