This week Kentucky Sports Radio had the pleasure of highlighting Owensboro quarterback Gavin Wimsatt in Kroger’s KSR Game of the Week. The No. 37 recruit in America is the highest-ranked quarterback from the Commonwealth in 25 years. On Saturday Wimsatt was in Lexington for Kentucky’s victory over Mississippi State. The night before we saw what makes him a special football player in a 28-14 victory over the Red Devils’ rival, Owensboro Catholic.
FIRST DOWN: Vertical Passing Ability
To be considered one of the best quarterbacks in America, you need to have a cannon. Wimsatt’s arm is so big, even when he over-throws a receiver it’s impressive (“Holy crap, what a bomb,” is a line I uttered on radio after he threw an incomplete pass 60 yards). If you would like to see an impressive completed pass, scroll to the 1:58-mark and watch Wimsatt roll to his non-throwing left side, let the ball rip, take a hit and deliver the ball perfectly to a receiver in stride 42 yards down the field.
Not only does he have a big arm, he throws a beautiful touch pass. One play-action pass was placed right in the corner of the end zone for an over-the-shoulder score. The best play of the night set up Owensboro’s first score, a 33-yard pass that was lobbed just over the defender’s out-stretched arms and into the hands of his receiver, Ben Flaherty. Two plays later he found Flaherty again, this time delivering a dart in between the cornerback and safety for a 20-yard touchdown.
Simply put, Wimsatt can make any throw you ask of him. What makes him one of the top quarterbacks in the country is that his arm is big enough to accurately deliver the deep ball, a rarity for a high school junior.
SECOND DOWN: Passing Through Progressions
Quarterbacks are taught to keep their head on a swivel to avoid getting wrecked by pass rushers. Their head should also be moving from side to side as they scan the field from one read to the next. You’d think it would be a prerequisite to be a college quarterback, but for most passers getting past a second read to a third or fourth is more of an exception than the norm.
Wimsatt showed the ability to move from his primary to secondary reads effortlessly. He also used his eyes to put the defense on their heels. On one long touchdown pass, two receivers to his left ran slants. Wimsatt told me after the game he knew the single receiver would be open deep down the right sideline. He looked left to the slanting receivers long enough to hold the safety and buy his man, letting Flaherty run free on the go-route down the right sideline for a score.
THIRD DOWN: Between the Ears
It may just be a little thing, but it was a big deal Friday night. Looking to build on some momentum, Wimsatt used a hard count two times in three plays to move the chains on second and short. The drive kept alive by those plays ultimately finished with the go-ahead score early in the third quarter.
Wimsatt isn’t the first elite high school quarterback to use a hard count. What sets him apart from many elite high school quarterbacks is his attitude. Most of these high profile athletes love all of the trappings that come with being the star quarterback. Instead of gobbling up any and all attention, Wimsatt is most comfortable just talking ball. He is happy to talk about his teammates, but he gets shy when recruiting comes up. In a world full of recruits desperate for attention online, Wimsatt’s attitude is a refreshing change of pace the should help him block out the outside noise in the future.
FOURTH DOWN: Gamer
Nothing went right for Wimsatt and Owensboro in the first half. Breaking in a new center a week after the starter suffered a torn ACL, many plays started with Wimsatt bending over to pick up rolled snaps. His timing was off, the running game was betting blown up in between the tackles and receivers were dropping passes. When faced with adversity, he was at his best.
Backed deep into their own territory trailing 7-0 with 54.7 seconds until half, Wimsatt completed a pass across the middle, a pass that was ultimately dropped after the wide out was sawed in half by a defender. Wimsatt kept his cool and just kept completing passes up and down the field, ultimately finding Ben Flaherty twice to tie the game with about 15 seconds to spare.
Starting with that final drive, Wimsatt completed 13 of his final 17 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Bad things happen in football games. A player is often defined on how they respond to adversity, a trait you can’t coach. Some call it the “clutch gene” or “mojo.” Whatever you wanna call it, Gavin Wimsatt has it.
He’s not just a thrower, folks. Wimsatt is also the Owensboro’s left-footed punter. What can’t this kid do?