San Clemente (Calif.)
is about four Sam Darnold
touchdown bombs from the ocean. There's something in that water. Over the course of the last ten years, they have developed six NCAA FBS quarterbacks. Is there a high school in the nation that's developed more successful quarterbacks in the last decade? Three have spent time with NFL teams, including Darnold who was the third pick of the 2018 Draft.
One thing head coach Jaime Ortiz says that his staff does differently at San Clemente is working to adapt the offense to their signal caller, instead of the other way around.
"The only thing I would say that we do different, hopefully most coaches do this, is we don't want to put a square peg in a round hole. Chase Rettig and Travis Wilson, they were pro-style quarterbacks. When Sam Darnold came aboard, we spent time with Noel Mazzone, Rich Rodriguez, Dennis Erickson, and we went to a zone read offense. One thing that I think coaches need to do, while you have a system in place, I think it is important to surround your players with a system that best benefits them.
"A good lesson I learned from Rich Rodriguez, if you run the zone read you have to trust your quarterback. It's like giving the keys away to a brand-new Ferrari, he make scratch it, he may dent it, but when he gets that thing purring, there is nothing like it on the football field," Ortiz said.
Ortiz gives all the credit for developing this strong string of quarterbacks to his Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks coach Troy Kopp.
"Coach Kopp spends a lot of time with our quarterbacks during the season, out of season, before school, during lunch, reviewing game film, schemes," Ortiz said. "Iron sharpens iron. He has done a great job of adapting our offense to what our kids can do. Sam (Darnold) can be a pro-style quarterback, he can be a zone read quarterback. He can still run our power game, blast, iso (isolation), things like that, but we can also run the zone read, and bubble pass, and things like that."
In today's age of quarterback gurus, $150 an hour private coaches and big time 7-on-7 club championships, it's important to note that only one of these quarterbacks, their current one, has ever been a part of a club team. (And he only did that last year, but is not currently on one.)
Ortiz went on to explain, "Not one of them, while earning a scholarship, were 7-on-7 club kids.
Sam got asked, Jack got asked to be on club teams. Their response was ‘I'd rather spend time with my own team.' So on the weekends you saw those guys out with their own receivers, working on that chemistry and relationship as opposed to traveling all over Southern California and different states trying to win a mythical national championship."
Ortiz said the most important characteristic his program relies on in their quarterbacks is leadership. He relayed a story about a PAC-12 assistant coach who said that he loves recruiting San Clemente quarterbacks because they're used to being leaders in the program, leaders on campus and in the community.
"Whether you like it or not, your quarterback is a leader in your program. I think it's important that players understand that when they step foot on San Clemente's campus. There have been some great guys to come before them. And it's up to them to continue to build that tradition, to keep that going," Ortiz explained. Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.