Nov 12, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) passes the ball during the first half against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
John McClain: Young, Stroud impressive in interviews but Levis steals the show with brash comments
INDIANAPOLIS – General manager Nick Caserio and coach DeMeco Ryans can tap dance like they’re auditioning for Broadway, but they’re not fooling anyone when they try to sidestep the issue of how desperate the Texans are to find a franchise quarterback in the draft.
Caserio and Ryans know it. Janice, Hannah, and Cal McNair know it. So do fans and media. The only question is how will the Texans have the quarterbacks rated? At this point in the scouting process, Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are the highest-rated prospects. Will Levis is third, but Anthony Richardson could be closing in.
The Texans have met with each of the top-four quarterback prospects. Common sense says the Texans aren’t going to use the second overall pick on Levis or Richardson. That means they’re most likely to select Young or Stroud. Each was asked about his meeting with the Texans during media sessions at the combine on Friday.
“My meeting with the Texans was great,” Young said. “I was super happy to be in that room. It’s an amazing staff. To be able to talk ball with them, and then for them to ask me some questions and for me to learn a little more about them and them to learn more about me, it was a great environment to be in that room.”
Young said he’d be excited to be reunited with his former Alabama teammates with the Texans – linebacker Christian Harris and receiver John Metchie III.
Stroud also sounded impressed when he said about his meeting with the Texans, “It went really well. I got to meet everybody in their front office and had a great conversation. They asked me some questions, and I feel like I did really good in the interview with them, and I’m looking forward to going deeper and deeper and building a relationship with them.”
Stroud is represented by David Mulugheta, who is Deshaun Watson’s agent. That won’t keep the Texans from drafting Stroud if they believe he’s the best quarterback on their draft board.
On Saturday, the quarterbacks will be weighed and measured, and scouts will be holding their breath to learn exactly how tall Young is and how much he weighs. He’s the only prospect among the top four who won’t throw. He’s waiting for his pro day at Alabama on March 23.
Young knew his size – or lack of it – would be a big topic on Friday. He was well-prepared with his answers and wasn’t irritated or flustered. He’s used to being asked about it and how he thinks it’ll impact his transition into the NFL. He’s been working with a nutritionist and a weight specialist to gain pounds of muscle. He was listed at 6-0, 194, at Alabama. He’s closer to 5-10 than 6-0.
“Where I end up (on size issue) is it’s something I can’t control,” Young said.
“I’ve been this size, respectfully, my whole life. I know who I am. I know what I can do. Everyone can speculate. I’m going to continue to control what I can control. I’ve been in the 200-pound range. We had an amazing nutritionist. We put more stock in making sure I’m eating the right things, making sure that my body’s right. I’ve been able to take this time to focus on getting ready for my (pro day).
“I’m going to keep working my hardest to improve myself at the position. I’m just excited to be at the next level. It’s an honor for me to be able to be selected by whatever team it is that takes a chance on me. I’m going to give my all to whatever team that takes me. It’s my dream to play in the NFL, and to be able to be here for whatever team I’m taken by is a blessing.”
During their interviews at podiums, Young and Stroud made their cases to be the first quarterback drafted. They were confident, humble, and impressive, but Levis stole the show with a bombastic comment about his arm strength. Asked why he’s electing to throw on Saturday, Levis said, “I’ve got a cannon, and I’ll show it off. I’ve got the strongest arm of anyone in any draft class in recent memory.”
Richardson may have something to say about that. He showed tremendous arm strength in his only season as a starter at Florida. When Levis and Richardson take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, may the strongest arm win.
Levis definitely won the podium with his comments. Asked about what the team that drafts him will get, Levis said, “I can bring them a championship team.
My goal is to win more than anybody. I want to be the greatest of all time. I think you’re crazy if you don’t think that way.”
Young and Stroud may think that way, too, but they’ll never admit it publicly.
Each said he felt good about his 15-minute interviews with teams, including the Texans.
“You’re able to sit in all these different chairs and think about playing for all these different teams,” Young said. “You get to hear a little about their system. Throughout these meetings and throughout this process, you look at other people’s systems, talk to coaches and decision-makers. You try to get a feel for the coaching staff.
“My job isn’t to necessarily prove anything. It’s to try to explain all the things I see to all the coaches, all the decision-makers, to express myself and talk about how I see the game, my experiences. It’s a big learning experience.”
Young played for offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien at Alabama. He won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore. O’Brien left to become Bill Belichick’s offensive coordinator at New England, and you know Caserio will call his good friend to try to find every piece of information the former Texans’ coach can provide.
“I have a really good foundation. I’ve been blessed to be in the system I had, and I think it translates pretty well to the next level,” Young said. “Obviously, there’s going to be stuff I’m going to learn. I’m excited to do that.”
Young is the fan and media favorite in Houston. He was asked about his skills, including the intangibles.
“I’m someone who pushes myself and prides myself on my preparation and processing and leading the offense,” he said. “I make sure I do whatever I feel like is best for the team. I try to make sure I’m playing the most efficiently for the team.”
Young is so impressive. He’s polite, polished and humble, but ask any coach or teammate, and they’ll tell you he’s dynamic and is loaded with the kind of charisma that gets teammates to gravitate to him.
“I really pride myself in my leadership,” he said. “I know that’s something I have to earn at the next level. I’m excited to get into a locker room for whatever team does take me and try to earn that trust and respect from the locker room. I get that it’s not something I’m entitled to, but at the next level I’m excited to put in the work to try to earn that trust.”
Unlike Young, Stroud doesn’t have size issues. He was listed at 6-3, 215 at Ohio State. Teams will get accurate measurements on Saturday. Stroud came to the combine on a mission.
“I want to show first and foremost my foundation of how I am as a man, as a person,” he said. “Of course, I want to show I’m a man of God and let that be known. And then secondly, I just want to show who I am. I want to be myself and be unapologetically myself. No matter what room I step in, I want to let them know that I control the room and that I’m a leader. Then third, I want to show the IQ I have about the game.
“When they asked me questions about plays or different things, I let them know I am a student of the game, and I’m willing to learn (because) I have a lot to learn. I do come from an offense that was high-powered and did put a lot of points up, but I’m willing to go back to square one and learn it all over again just to be great in this league.”
Stroud, who played for Buckeyes coach Ryan Day, made clear there’s one team he doesn’t want to play for, and that’s the Bears, who have the first pick. They also have his former teammate, mentor, and close friend, Justin Fields, as their starting quarterback. Stroud learned a lot from Fields, Day, and his other coaches in college.
“Coach Day and everybody at Ohio State do a great job in our building because it is a mini-NFL team,” Stroud said. “They make you get up on the board and explain the plays. It’s not just them coaching you all the time. You have to be the coach on the team. That’s something that I took very seriously, not only being a leader but being that coach on the field. I think that shows what I’m willing to do just to be great.”
Asked about his personality and style of play, Stroud said, “I tried to describe myself as free-flowing but still disciplined. Able to take the completion when it’s there but at the same time making plays. I think I’m a playmaker. I think I’m very creative. And I think I’m smart when it comes to protections and things like that because I solve a lot of issues before they’re even there. And one thing about me, I think I’m a ball-placement specialist. I like to be very accurate.
“I also like to extend plays and take the routine plays. I don’t try to press the envelope, and I think sometimes that’s very important being a quarterback. You want to let your teammates know you’re not always trying to be Superman, but when you need to make that play, and you can extend that play, you get a lot more respect from your teammates.”
In every interview with teams and the media, Stroud is asked about his incredible performance in Ohio State’s playoff loss to Georgia last season. He threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. The team that drafts Stroud hopes that performance was a sign of what’s to come in the NFL.
“Everybody kind of highlights that game, but I think I’ve been the best player in college football two years in a row, and I think I’ve consistently done that,” Stroud said. “Honestly, I think I haven’t even touched my potential yet. I think I have a lot more to get better at. I have a lot more to prove, not only to (media) but to myself. And that’s something I plan to do because I honestly don’t think I even got close to anything in college, so I’m excited to see what I’ll do in the NFL.”
(John McClain writes four columns a week for GallerySports.com. He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on SportsRadio610.com).