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Friday, December 23, 2011
QBs adjust on the fly

By Corey Long
ESPN Recruiting Nation

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Preston Dewey played with a new center for the first time in four years. Jameis Winston was sacked despite wearing a non-contact jersey. Tanner Mangum admittedly threw a pass in practice he would never have thrown in any other situation.

The first day of practice for the quarterbacks in the Under Armour All-America Game was a learning experience.

When Dewey, a Miami commit, struggled taking the snap under center, it was thought to be the residuals from a wrist injury he dealt with this season. However, Dewey said it was less about the wrist and more about taking snaps from Jay Guillermo -- a player he met just a day ago.

"I played with the same center for my entire high school career so I put my hands where I always put them but the snap was different," Dewey said. "It took us a few minutes to get things right."

Scout's Take

ESPN Director of Recruiting Tom Luginbill, a former college and pro quarterback, watched the QBs closely during the practices.

"Timing is going to be the biggest challenge for all of these quarterbacks to deal with because they are playing with guys that they have no prior experience with," he said. "The receivers and defensive backs are even faster than you expect and the overall game speed has been amped up several times from what they have grown accustomed to during high school.

Countering the speed, Luginbill says, is as simple as taking what the defense gives them on any given play.

"The natural instinct for the quarterbacks is to make the tough throws and prove they can fit the ball in tight spaces," Luginbill added. "But as the week goes on they will make smarter throws and the get the ball to the running backs out in the flats or the tight ends on checkdowns. Just like they will be expected to do in college.

Of all the positions in the Under Armour All-America Game, it would appear that the quarterbacks have to make the biggest adjustments.

They must learn new plays in 24 hours and have four practices to get comfortable with a different offense.

The offensive line is new and unfamiliar, and the receivers are faster than any of the QBs have played with before. And before they even think about testing the nation's best defensive backs, they have to walk up to the line and see players such as Mario Edwards, Noah Spence, Leonard Williams, Peter Jinkens and Dalton Santos ready to attack.

Winston already got a taste of the dirt when he was sacked by fellow Florida State commit Dante Fowler Jr. during 11-on-11 drills late in Sunday's practice. Fowler was quickly warned not to touch the quarterback but that warning was too late for Winston's liking.

"I didn't even see him and then all of a sudden I'm on the ground," Winston said. "It happens. I wasn't hurt or anything."

Winston's problem wasn't the new playbook, as he says he's well versed on the plays he's been assigned, but he did admit the timing was giving him trouble.

"The receivers are much faster than any I have thrown to," Winston said. "They are sharp and crisp on their breaks, and the ball has to arrive on time because the defensive backs are so talented, too.

"We'll improve as the week goes on."

Mangum and Dewey admitted to making a few passes in practice that they wish they could have back.

"When you're playing around this much talent you want to try to get everyone the ball a couple of times," Mangum said. "And in the process, I probably tried to fit a few in there that would have had my coaches scratching their heads."

The quarterback from Eagle, Idaho, also admitted to being taken aback by the speed of the game.

"As you can probably imagine, the level of play out here is a little higher than what I saw in high school," Mangum, a BYU commit, joked. "So it's a pretty exciting to throw to guys that are this good."

Dewey's bad practice pass is one he can live with, however.

"I tried to force one into Angelo [Jean-Louis]," Dewey said. "It wasn't my best decision but you know I wanted to take care of my fellow Miami guy."

With all the changes and adjustments, there is one area that all the quarterbacks felt comfortable with -- commanding the huddle.

"I felt real comfortable relaying the plays, and everyone in the huddle was real attentive," Winston said. "That's always something you aren't sure about because everyone's so good and everyone wants the ball and the opportunities.

"But there a lot of professionalism here and these guys mean business."

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.