Football

The Quarterback Whisperer

The Quarterback Whisperer

This year’s NFL Draft isn’t even a week old and some are already projecting next year’s draft class. There’s an interesting name that’s circling that will be a high draft pick according to most; Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. Why should NDSU fans care about Allen? Because the man who coaches Allen also helped shape three tremendous quarterbacks at NDSU. Brent Vigen.

Vigen has been coaching quarterbacks full-time since 2004, when little known Steve Walker was inserted into the lineup for NDSU. Bison fans know how Walker’s career turned out, second in passing yards, completions and touchdown passes, outside of Walker’s playmaking ability and his knack for late game comebacks.

There was a definite struggle for Vigen with Nick Mertens and Jose Mohler, two highly touted recruits that never panned out in their time in Fargo. It turns out the afterthought recruit became the winningest quarterback in FCS history. Brock Jensen’s ascension can be tied right with Vigen’s confidence as a playcaller. The reigns were tight on Jensen in his redshirt freshman year, not straying far from the playbook. Jensen blossomed during his sophomore and junior seasons, he had a streak of 19 straight completions in 2011. His ability to run the offense was unquestioned and by the time Jensen’s senior season came around he had the full trust from Vigen, whether it was audible at the line of scrimmage to Vigen having Ryan Smith have the ball snapped directly to him.

At that same time, Vigen was grooming the next quarterback of the Bison. Vigen told Jeff Kolpack and me both at times during practice that Carson Wentz was doing things that made him very special. Whether it was Wentz’s ability to check plays at the line of scrimmage, or to scramble out of the pocket and make a throw downfield, you could see the talent was there. Vigen left before Wentz’s starting days, but even when Wentz got in for mop-up duty in 2012 and 2013, Vigen was there visiting with him on the sidelines in the rare event he got to pass. I remember a conversation between the two on the sidelines in Sioux Falls in 2012 when Wentz hit Taylor Nelson rolling out of the pocket for a touchdown, each going back and forth like it was a tight game, instead of 54-0. Wentz also made sure to give praise to Vigen during his entire leadup to the Draft for grooming him for the starting job at NDSU.

That leads us to Allen. ESPN’s Todd McShay just put out his way-too-early mock draft, which has Allen as the number two overall pick. 

Allen threw for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns in leading the Cowboys to the Mountain West division title and a bowl game in 2016. There were rumors about Allen leaving early after last season and heading into the draft. He decided to come back and now gets another year with Vigen, who was promoted to assistant head coach in the offseason. Allen has the size that you want for a prototypical QB; 6’5, 233 pounds with a big arm. He’ll have plenty of eyes on him all season now with these kind of projections thrown at him. It will be interesting to see how Vigen works with him, Wyoming has a couple of high profile games early in the year, at Iowa and hosting Oregon.

Vigen had his detractors when he was in Fargo, but his track record with quarterbacks is unquestioned. He developed two of the all-time best quarterbacks in Bison history, the number two overall draft pick in 2016 and now another first round hopeful. Impressive for a guy who had his own online forum calling for his head.

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