By Derek Johnson
Back in September, a debate raged on the Hardcore Husky message boards. I posted that I didn’t think Bothell quarterback Jacob Sirmon would be a good fit at Washington. That he had great physical tools but lacked accuracy and maturity. Dennis De_Young (The Season is Over Podcast) vehemently disagreed. He loved Sirmon and was excited that he’d verbally committed to UW.
Multiple threads broke out like brush fires. Which QB recruit did UW most want – Jacob Sirmon or Colson Yankoff? Things got heated.
This past week, Sirmon and Yankoff both made it official and signed letters of intent with UW. I reached out to DDY. I wanted to hear his thoughts.
I called him that evening. But when he answered, opera music blared in the background. Pavarotti or one of those guys. DDY was drunk out of his mind. Almost like he was crying. Tears of joy from a great signing day? I couldn’t tell. Music was too loud.
So on Thursday, I hopped a series of connecting flights and arrived in his hometown in South Carolina. In my rental car, I drove slowly down his tree-lined street. I quickly spotted his house. His home was of Antebellum architecture with huge pillars, a gigantic balcony, evenly-spaced large windows, and a smashed-up Maserati in the driveway.
I went to the door and knocked. It swung open. DDY and his Tree Guy were both standing there. They were in towels. DDY welcomed me inside and his Tree Guy asked if I wanted a pomegranate Martini.
“Just water, please,” I said as we sat down in the living room.
“So, have you come around on Sirmon?” DDY asked.
I repeated what he already knew. I had watched Sirmon play three games. All of them vs. Woodinville, all of them losses. I had been impressed with his size and arm strength. But in the 2015 game, he threw six interceptions, including two pick-sixes. In 2016, I saw him meltdown in frustration, and teammates didn’t respond well to him. Then this past September, I saw Sirmon complete 8-of-29 passes in a 36-14 loss to Woodinville.
“But I’m curious to hear your breakdown,” I said. “You study this stuff insanely.”
“I love him as a player,” DDY said. “He’s big and strong with a rocket arm. He just reminds me of all the quarterbacks we had [at UW] when I was growing up. Big pro style, big arm. And he makes plays that are not scripted. Once the defense distorts, he really can do stuff on the run.
Sirmon looks really rare. He reminds me of Sam Darnold. He’s not as mobile, but if you go look at Darnold’s film it is very similar.
“When you have an arm like that, it’s a special talent,” DDY said. “From film, you can’t tell everything. But I’ve been watching film for twenty-five years. And in that twenty-five years he’s in the top ten percent of quarterback prospects that I’ve seen. I think he’s fantastic.”
I mentioned how when I saw Sirmon play, most of his throws were wild and high. He didn’t look comfortable in the pocket, even when protection was decent. In the face of an intense pass rush. he looked horrible.
“Well, if you’re looking for technical stuff, there are things you look for,” DDY said. “Can he throw with different trajectories? Can he throw at different speeds? Can he throw guys open? Can he lead guys? Can he put it where players can makes plays? I think he can do all those things.”
I suggested that maybe Woodinville’s vaunted defense was up in Sirmon’s head.
“That’s possible,” DDY said. “Any quarterback in high school is going to be inconsistent. If they’re not inconsistent, you’re a little bit worried that their ceiling has already been hit. A guy like Jake Haener, he’s like Jake Heaps. Every decision good, every decision okay. That’s where he’s at. But with Sirmon, he has ups and downs. But the highs are so high, that with great coaching--which we will have with Bush and Peterson, you’re going to end up with a guy who is going to look like the high side of what he’s put on tape, more often than not.”
And what of Sirmon’s volatility?
“He’ll be getting totally different level coaching at UW,” DDY said. “So you’re looking for the high side of what he can do athletically, then you let the coaches worry about the other stuff.”
DDY said he felt optimistic, with new offensive coordinator Hamden Bush now at Washington. Bush is hard-driving but keeps things positive, and players love him.
“The best thing in the world for Sirmon would be to have three years with no pressure on him,” DDY said. “Learn how to play, trust his line, develop his talent, and get coached up by someone positive. And let his competitive spirit come out in a positive way. I’m really bullish on him because I think he’s about to go into a really good situation.”
I started laughing. I speculated on a scenario where Sirmon would have played for Steve Sarkisian.
“A recipe for disaster!” DDY said. “That would be the worst possible combination ever. What Sirmon needs is a Steady-Eddie. [A coach who will say] `here’s the structure. I’m not gong to blow up at you if things go wrong.’ But Sark was the most mercurial goofball. You could just see him and Sirmon getting into screaming matches on the sideline. I mean, Sark couldn’t even get along with Keith Price!”
At this point I transitioned to Colson Yankoff. I had only seen a little bit of video, I said. But I had witnessed his athleticism.
“Yankoff is a guy that has a lot of polishing to do,” DDY said. “He’s got a ton of natural talent. But if you look at his technical stuff, ball trajectory and speed of ball, he’s [not quite there]. He’s got a really good arm. Not as good as Sirmon’s, but an NFL-caliber arm. Every pass is a line drive at the same velocity. That stuff you cannot do in college. Different throws require a lot of different speeds and trajectory.”
And what of his running ability?
“He’s got straight-line speed,” DDY said. “He kind of reminds me of [former UW quarterback] Shane Fortney. Yankoff has a better arm. He can move and run away from people. But he doesn’t make people miss.”
DDY described how his pet peeve is people who put too much stock into straight-line speed. Other intangibles are needed to be a great runner, he said. When I mentioned Marques Tuiasosopo as an example, DDY lit up.
“Exactly! There were two things Tuiasosopo did that were brilliant,” DDY said. “He did what great runners do. It didn’t matter how fast he was, he could be one step faster than the guy chasing him. Second, he kept everyone off balance. Nobody could hit him super hard. And when people hit him they weren’t hitting him with their full force behind their pads.”
“Is this where we cue Sven’s favorite gif of Jake Browning getting blasted at Rutgers?” I asked.
DDY shook his head slowly in disgust.
“Jake Browning is my nightmare of a quarterback,” he said. “He’s like a middle manager of quarterbacks. He’s like a Michael Scott of quarterbacks. He’s competent enough that you understand why he plays. But for the aspects you look for and really care about, he’s awful.
“But I really like Yankoff,” DDY said. “He has that extra dimension with his speed. It will always be a threat. He just needs to learn how to pass. That will take time. But he’s got a great coach at UW, so he’s in a good situation.”
The conversation had run its course. We stood up and slowly walked to the front door. I glanced down a hallway and saw a big screen TV sitting on the floor, its screen smashed in.
“Arizona State game,” DDY said.
We stood at the doorway and said goodbye.
“If you put a gun to my head, I would pick Sirmon,” DDY said. “But fortunately I don’t have to make that choice. I’m damn happy we got them both.”