From the way his passes finish to his athleticism, the skill and mechanics showed by Donovan Leary during a Pro Day offered a lot of positives for Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer.
Dilfer is best known for his 13-year NFL career that included a world championship with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 and a successful broadcasting career that followed.
These days, he is the coach at Lipscomb Academy in Nashville, Tenn., and he took some time to visit with GMTM’s Joey Grant and Max Browne to analyze video of Leary’s Pro Day-like tape.
While breaking down the video of Leary, a class of 2022 player at Timber Creek High School in Sicklerville, N.J., Dilfer complimented the way Leary’s passes stay strong from beginning to end.
“You can really see the ball finish,” Dilfer said as he watched Leary throw a pass on a crossing route. “When you talk about the ball finishing with energy - a lot of guys can throw it hard, flat. Very few can throw it with arc. When you see the ball finish...to me, that’s arm talent - the ability to throw it not just hard or long, but to be able to change the arc and still have it finish with that piercing energy.”
Dilfer added that he likes to see players like Leary who can change speeds when they throw with arc because that skill translates well to the college level.
Plenty of college recruiters also have been impressed with Leary, whose brother Devin plays for North Carolina State.
Donovan Leary is rated a 3-star prospect by 247Sports and is the recruiting service’s 33rd-ranked pro-style quarterback in the class of 2022. Leary has scholarship offers from Virginia Tech, Boston College, Maryland, Rutgers, East Carolina, Temple, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Toledo, Massachusetts and Old Dominion.
Wisconsin has shown interest but has not offered a scholarship.
The college that finally secures a signed commitment from Leary is going to get a strong athlete who already has some advanced skills, according to Dilfer.
Dilfer said he likes Leary’s strong base, the way he gathers his feet on the back end and the way he stays on balance.
“I also like how flat his shoulder stays,” Dilfer said. “You see a lot of young guys whenever they want to put arc on the ball that big tilt their spine. You really don’t want that tilt backward. It’s going to lead to inconsistency. He keeps nice level shoulders, rotates well around his lower half.”
Dilfer and Browne are also fans of the way Leary throws on the run. Browne, who played for Southern California and the University of Pittsburgh, even compared Leary to New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, who Brown played with at USC.
“In high school, sometimes I was fighting my body to throw on the run,” Browne said. “I was not necessarily smooth. There is zero sense of that (with Leary). His lower body is calm as could be. It’s almost as if he’s throwing in the pocket when he is on the run, which is a great sign.”
Dilfer is so highly thought of that former University of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sought his help when he was preparing for the NFL Draft.
Tagovailoa and Dilfer worked on his Pro Day script, and in that process, Dilfer explained to the eventual No. 5 overall pick of the Miami Dolphins that Pro Days are not all about showcasing skills.
Dilfer taught him that Pro Days are about showing command and confidence. Are you organizing the receivers? Are you bouncing back after a poor throw?
“It’s not just about (scouts) seeing you threw the corner route on time or you threw the ball hard or you did a footwork drill,” Dilfer said. “It’s the overall presence and energy you bring as the quarterback as much as the energy on the football.”