Friday, April 15, 2005

Weis gets his quarterback | by Pat

The good recruiting news kept coming in yesterday. Pennsylvania quarterback Zach Frazer, reportedly Coach Weis's number one target, gave his verbal to Notre Dame after spending the past few days hanging out with the team and taking in Notre Dame campus life. It seems rather obvious that Frazer liked what he saw.

"Notre Dame has everything I was looking for, it's the place for me," said Frazer, who visited the Notre Dame campus this week to watch spring practice. Thursday morning he gave Irish head coach Charlie Weis his verbal approval. "I was looking for sound academics and their academics are amazing. They have outstanding coaches and I believe their coaching staff is the best in the NCAA. Their experience definitely shows. They all are related, all know each other and work well together.
This is rather unprecedented for Notre Dame to get such a high profile quarterback recruit so early in the year and can only have a positive effect on recruiting the rest of the year. For those who don't know much about Frazer, he was named the Associated Press Class AAA Player of the Year in Pennsylvania last year after breaking the state's passing record with 3,684 yards. Considering the legendary quarterbacks that have come out of the Keystone State, that is an impressive mark. And guess what, that was only Frazer's first year as a starting quarterback. As his high school coaches suggest, Frazer absorbed their complex offense at an impressive rate for a new starter.
Despite being new to the lineup, the junior adapted quickly to the very complex five-receiver passing offense Lichtel and Hakel run. Hakel even admits that prior to last season, they thought they would have to water down the offense for Frazer and spoon-feed him for the entire season.

By the end of the season Hakel said, "We couldn't give him enough."
The early scouting report on Frazer is that he is big, strong, and has an accurate cannon for an arm. However, what probably attracted Weis isn't something that shows up at a recruiting combine. Most likely, in addition to his physical talents, it was Frazer's track record at handling pressure and staying focused on the field. Am I reaching here? Perhaps, but follow me for a second. Looking at his high school's schedule, his team was involved in plenty of close games last year. Five were won by three points or less and one went to triple overtime. So it's not like Frazer was putting up video game numbers early and then sitting for the entire second half. He was earning them when the game was on the line. Check out this excerpt from a game against the Northern Polar Bears (the Polar Bears, in Pennsylvania?)
After Drew Romagnoli pulled in a miraculous touchdown catch between two Wildcat defenders with 1:43 left in the game putting the Bears up 27-22, the bench and stands erupted in what was sure to be a victory celebration.

Then, unbelievably, the Wildcats went the other way down the field. It all came down to one play. The Bears defense hammered Mechanicsburg QB Zach Frazier[sic] on the final drive setting up a last gasp 4th and 20 for the Wildcats. Coach Lichtel was equal to the task, however, pulling the old hook and ladder out of the playbook and the stunned Northern faithful could only watch as the perfectly executed H&L sent Mechanicsburg down their own sideline gaining the first down and more. Two plays later, Mechanicsburg scored ending the Polar Bears quest to get out to an undefeated 3-0 start.
So, in only his third game as a starter, Frazer led his team down the field for the win, completing a 4th and 20 on the way. Need more? How about this.
After Mechanicsburg stopped Gettysburg to start the third overtime, it scored the winner on a three-yard Frazer run.

Frazer completed 21 passes for more than 250 yards, including a 24-yarder to Pehanich in the final minute of regulation. The two connected again on the two-pointer to force overtime.
After watching Tom Brady calmly lead the Patriots on important drive after important drive, Weis no doubt has a preference for signalcallers who remain calm in the pocket and can operate smoothly even in stressful situations. The early returns on Frazer suggest as much. Perhaps Manheim Central's coach Mike Willams summed up Frazer the best.
"We have never played against a team that throws the ball every time," Williams says. "We are going to have to use a lot of coverages and we will also have to put pressure on the quarterback. But he doesn't get too excited or too rattled. He is going to get his yards and we are just going to try to score a few points ourselves."
Now, I'm not going to make any premature comparisons to another Irish quarterback from Pennsylvania with a propensity for comebacks, nor am I going to make any Beano Cook style predictions on Frazer's career at Notre Dame. I'm just going to suggest that Frazer is an excellent recruit who's quarterbacking skills extend beyond how far he can throw a football.

That, and I can't wait to watch him suit up for the Irish.