UK football commitment Mac Jones earned top honors at the Rivals Quarterback Challenge in Baltimore on Sunday, winning an event that featured some of the top high school QBs in the country.
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell spoke to the Herald-Leader on Monday morning about Jones’ progress on the field, his demeanor as a player, recent interest from other Southeastern Conference programs and other aspects of his recruitment.
Here are some highlights from that conversation:
First off, what made Mac the standout of the weekend at the Quarterback Challenge?
“I think it comes down to accuracy. Obviously, our quarterback events are based on accuracy. We try to make them make every throw possible that you would see on a football field. The finals, we combine a new element to the quarterback challenge. It’s not just throwing at targets. We add the element of wide receivers being covered by defensive backs, so you get a rhythm of timing and leading receivers and seeing how catchable a football a kid throws. And I think with Mac, he’s just very well prepared. Accuracy is something that he really focuses on in his training. And I think, his consistency – some of the guys had really good sessions in certain areas, certain throws – and I don’t think Mac struggled in one area, except maybe here and there with his long ball.
“The thing that surprised me – he’s a skinny kid, he’s not a big kid and he’s got a lot of filling out to do, he’s got a lot of strength to add – at one point, and this is a long three and a half hour final, and there’s a lot of throws. At one point, it looked like his arm was going. It was really dying on him. And then he just rebounded from there. So he showed good stamina and a good second wind there.”
From the Rivals.com write-up, it sounds like he brings some competitiveness to these things. Is that something you’ve seen from him?
“I call him the poor man’s Josh Rosen, and that’s not an insult to Mac at all. I think Josh Rosen is the best high school quarterback I’ve scouted in all my years. Josh has a stronger arm than Mac. Josh is bigger and taller than Mac. Josh is more filled out. But that competitive nature mixed in with a little bit of cockiness, he reminds me of that personality-wise. He’s the type of guy that’s going to own a huddle. He’s the type of guy that’s going to get on people if they’re not running the proper routes or handling their assignments. He’s going to be harder on himself than anyone else. And he just has this undying desire to win. And that can turn some people off, but I love it. That’s what I want. I want that quarterback mentality.
“I think quarterbacks these days emulate guys that appear to be unfazed and robotic, which is surprising because the best quarterback in the world is Tom Brady, who is anything but. On the field, maybe he’ll say nothing bothers him. But he’s going to get in the face of a receiver who screws up, he’s going to throw things on the sideline, he’s going to get ticked off, he’s going to get fired up. I see a lot of that in Mac, and it’s something that certainly came out in the competition.”
Is that type of confident demeanor something that helps Mac as he’s trying to recruit other players to join him in college?
“Again, I want to emphasize the physical traits are not there with Rosen, but it’s the attitude. With Josh, he didn’t really do a lot of recruiting, but he was so over the top, ‘I’m above this. I am what I am, I’m going to do what I do, you give me a two-star receiver or a five-star receiver, I’m going to make him look good.’ He was on a different plane. I think, with Mac, he’s more personable for sure when dealing with other kids. Seeing him at two different camp settings where there were over 180 kids, he definitely blends in. He definitely is a guy who’s more than willing to recruit, more than willing to go out there. He has a social media presence. I definitely think it’s something that’s going to help him recruit other people.
“And there’s some things he needs to work on. He doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world. He has a pretty ball, but his long ball can wobble. His arm can wear down. He’s got to get a lot stronger. He’s thin right now. But the one thing you can’t teach, I don’t think, is that moxie and cockiness. From the moment he stepped on that field, he felt he was going to win this thing. And there was no doubt in his mind. Second place was never an option for him. And I really like that about him. I wasn’t sold on him at first. My regional guys liked him better than I did early. And then after seeing him a few times, and seeing that competitiveness – that’s kind of why I said, ‘All right, I want to invite this kid to the Five-Star Challenge. I think he can be special.’ And I think he can.”
You mentioned the Five-Star Challenge. Is he in a position where he could realistically earn a fifth star in the rankings?
“The physical issues really make me hesitate. He’s just so thin. So, do you project that he’s going to be a guy who’s going to get big enough, strong enough and be an elite college and potential NFL quarterback? And that’s what we base things on. Jared Goff was a very similar build, much more laid-back attitude than Mac, but a very similar build coming out of high school. And we didn’t pull the trigger on Goff because he was so skinny and we were wondering if he’d get crumpled in college, and now he’s going to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. So, did we learn anything from that? I don’t know, because I still have trouble with guys and projecting how big and strong they’re going to be able to get. And I still think Goff is a little bit thin, and I think he could get crumpled in the NFL.
“Will (Mac) be in the discussion? I think he needs to continue to do what he’s doing. So, let’s say he goes to the Five-Star Challenge (in June) and he dominates there. Let’s say he’s the best quarterback at that event, and then he has a tremendous senior season and the he’s at whatever all-star event he plays in … I think it’s going to be that kind of process for him. Sort of like the quarterback version of Landon Young. If he gets there. I don’t think he’s there yet. There’s other quarterbacks in this class that I think are closer to that, simply because they’re more dynamic offensively. Like a Tate Martell, who’s a shorter kid but is electric. Or a Hunter Johnson, who is definitely filled out and looks the part of a college quarterback already.”
“If you went to a camp with 20 good-looking quarterbacks, and you didn’t know who was who prior to throwing, prior to watching them go through numerous drills, there’s no way on earth you would point at Mac and say, ‘Oh, that’s a four-star or five-star kid.’ And he’s grown a lot over the past two years. He was so tiny two years ago. So that’s kind of the thing I think he really needs to do, just get bigger and stronger. If he continues to dominate, anything can happen. But I don’t think he’s close right now. … This kid is doing a lot right now with a real skinny body and frame, which I think is exceptional. I really do think that’s great.”
With the recent offer from Alabama and interest from other schools, what are UK’s chances of holding on to his commitment though national signing day?
“That’s a good one, because it’s hard to predict. … He’s got a great relationship with those guys (at Kentucky). Alabama is a very tempting offer. I think Florida is going to offer him as well. And as he continues to do better and wins these things, more and more schools are going to come in. Originally, the thought was if he got one of those huge SEC offers he was going to stay close to home and go play there. But, it’s not like he jumped on the Alabama offer. So, you just kind of have to think about that.”