In committing to Stanford on July 3, 2008 Taysom Hill gave Stanford fans a 4-star quarterback to celebrate heading into the Fourth of July holiday, giving the Cardinal a prominent commitment at football's highest-profile position as the coaching staff continues to work to fill out a recruiting class that is starting to turn heads. The 6-2 210-pound signal caller from Pocatello (Idaho) Highland Senior HS picked Stanford over scholarship offers from BYU, Arizona, Washington State, Boise State, Utah, and Idaho State.
"During this whole thing I was just kind of weighing the options and trying to see what each college and university had to offer me as a football player and as a student," elaborates Hill on the process of picking among those options. "And that kind of came down to (the fact that) you can play in the Pac-10 at Stanford and get an Ivy League education that's second to none. Stanford just had too much to offer for me to turn down."
The Cardinal courtship of Taysom Hill picked up in earnest in late April when Stanford joined Arizona and Idaho State as schools to offer early. Although Hill joined an already crowded group of quarterback offer recipients for Stanford, he found himself on equal footing on the strength of film from his junior season that caught the attention of the Stanford coaching staff.
Moreover, the major date on the calendar for Stanford's quarterback recruiting still loomed ahead. On June 22-23, Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh would host a "Quarterbacks Academy" that would feature dozens of high school quarterbacks. The event would be a tailor-made opportunity for Hill to work with Harbaugh and for the two to gauge their respective level of comfort with one another. Hill and Harbaugh each circled the date on their calendars, a meeting that would pave the way for Hill's Stanford commitment less than two weeks later.
"I went to the camp and took an unofficial visit type of thing," the younger quarterback confirms. "It was great. It was the first time I've been down in Palo Alto and first time I've had the opportunity to meet Coach Harbaugh. And it gave me the opportunity to play for Coach Harbaugh and get the feel for how he coaches and get a feel for the other coaches there as well, Coach [Mike] Sanford as well. These coaches are unbelievable. I couldn't think of anybody else to play for. Their enthusiasm for the game really showed at the Quarterbacks Academy. That was definitely a big plus for me in wanting to go there. You've got to have a good relationship with the coaches and be able to play for them."
Clearly excited about the comfortable rapport he built with the coaches at the QB Academy, Hill was particularly effusive in his description of the chance to work closely with the Stanford head man, who doubles as the quarterbacks coach.
"I loved it," he elaborates on working with Harbaugh. "Coach Harbaugh played at Michigan, played in the NFL for 15 years. He definitely knows what he's doing. It was a great opportunity to have the chance to go down there and play and be coached by somebody the caliber of Coach Harbaugh. And obviously I talk to Coach Harbaugh on the phone and have grown a relationship from that. But down there being with him, it was great. We get along great and it was sweet to be able to have the opportunity to be able to play for and to be coached by somebody who's been around the NFL and knows the ins and outs of football. I can't wait to have the opportunity to play for him at Stanford."
As influential as Hill's visit to Stanford was in giving him a high level of comfort with his future coaches, it also served as an opportunity for the Stanford head coach to take a look at some other prospective quarterback recruits. In addition to Hill, the camp's top group also included fellow 4-star prospect Josh Nunes, Duke commit Sean Schroeder, Courtney Dalcourt, and other potential future college players. Hill's pledge to Stanford shortly after the camp coupled with the Tennessee commitment of Nunes to give some observers the impression that the camp served as an informal competition and that Hill prevailed. For his part, Hill downplays the camp being anything unusual in terms of competition.
"Yes and no," he begins in describing the competitive aspect. "We had drills and stuff and the different competitions on Sunday night. But you know what, anywhere you go you're going to have competition. You're going to be there with the other quarterbacks and that's what it was. It wasn't me and Josh out there battling it out, you know what I mean? It was me trying to prove myself to the coaching staff. So in a sense, yeah, anywhere you go you're gonna be competing. You want to be that top quarterback."
In any case, there is ample evidence that the combination of junior year highlight film and the in-person evaluation provided by the late June camp put Hill right at the top of viable quarterback options for Stanford once the dust settled following the Quarterback Academy. Notably, the brand new Stanford commit points out that the strong degree of interest he has felt from Harbaugh ever since being offered in April has meant a lot to him.
"The first time, when he first offered me a scholarship, he was telling me he likes me and my feel for the game and that sort of thing, the competitiveness," Hill recounts. "The thing that really struck me with him was that it's never wavered. He's always felt the same way as he did at first. He believes that we can do some big things together, me the quarterback playing for him as the coach. And I do too. And that's definitely one of the reasons I was down there. He definitely believes in me, from game film and then just being down there and playing for him a little bit, working out and stuff. But the big thing for me: he's never wavered how he felt about me as a player."
Though the future Stanford quarterback and the current Stanford coach worked together closely in the camp setting, Hill says they did not have a post-camp sit-down to discuss Hill's playing style and where it would fit in at Stanford. Hill does say, however, that they have had multiple phone conversations and are comfortable with one another. He also has some thoughts about how he perceives his own strengths.
"I think I've got a pretty good arm," Hill reflects. "When we were down there I won the longest throw competition. I won that. I think I'm a little bit faster than most quarterbacks. I ran a 4.5 40 and that was last year, I haven't run one this year. So I think I'm elusive. Strong points, I think those are the ones. Then I think I can get the ball where it needs to be, decision-wise."
Hill put those skills on display last fall as the quarterback of the Highland Rams. His junior campaign netted him numerous honors, including All-Region and All-Area Player of the Year awards as well as an All-Idaho second-team nod. Statistically, he believes he threw for around 2,000 yards and rushed for about 700 yards. Despite those successes, Hill expresses only partial satisfaction in his junior year.
"We did ok," he allows. "Like you said, we went 7-3, we lost in the first round of the playoffs in like double or triple overtime with a two-point conversion by the other team to win it. We were injured - I'm not sure on the exact number of injuries that we went through but we lost probably five defensive starters and then one of our top receivers went out. So we were injured. With what we went through, yeah it was a disappointing season. But we had some good battles and stuff."
As he prepares for his senior season and looks further down the line to becoming a college quarterback, Hill openly admits to having elements of his game he would like to improve and polish.
"Definitely any quarterback - you always want to get better," Hill points out. "You always have room for improvement. You can never be too good. Footwork and stuff and just the whole game, trying to know the terminology. You know, on this route we're reading this linebacker and that sort of thing. Trying to get my decisions a little quicker. Definitely I'm not going to target one area of my game. There's always room for improvement and I'll definitely be trying to improve and get myself better as well as my teammates."
Nonetheless, while Hill realistically recognizes the constant room for improvement inherent in being a quarterback, the package he offers is for now a story of the arm strength, elusiveness, and decision-making ability he cites as his primary strengths. As The Bootleg noted in a report following the Quarterbacks Academy, the rising senior clearly displayed those skills at that camp event. He consistently stood out among the top three or four quarterbacks in the top group along any dimension measured at the camp, but particularly impressed in winning the distance throwing competition and in moving fluidly in the athletic drills. According to Scout.com, Taysom Hill is the #22 quarterback and #204 overall prospect in the nation.
Part II to follow.......
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