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Cactus Junky Report: Can a freshman quarterback make the Arizona Wildcat QB room better?

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

Photo by Gettys Images

Grossly underrated as a 3-Star QB, Noah Fifita will not only will make the position better, he will change the program. But how? Media recruiting pundits misgraded and labeled him early, now he might be #2 on the DT as a true freshman.

The best way to answer this Arizona football question is to simply watch the high school film of quarterback Noah Fifita. Then watch the last few weeks of his spring workouts in Tucson.

The answer is not just in fundamentals and technique, it is the fact he was misgraded, underrated, and identified late from the recruiting world. He was missed on early- Except by the Wildcats. Not since Nick Foles and Khalil Tate has Arizona had an opportunity to have a QB that will make Arizona a Pac-12 contender sooner than later. Watching Noah being aggressively recruited by Arizona, the first words out of my mouth were former Keith Smart, but better.

This is the kid who was the offensive player of the year in the best high school football league in the United States. The rest of the college football world will see it in a year or so. I saw it early at Servite H.S. in Orange County, California.

I am not saying Fifita is going to take Arizona to its first Rose Bowl this year, or even next. But I am saying with the current depth situation, the room will be pushed by his presence. And those tangibles are many, both physical and mental.

To make this assessment, we must look at what got Noah to Arizona, why was he only a 3-Star, and why he will be one of the most unique football players to ever come out of Arizona Stadium.

The prep recruiting business from the likes of ESPN, Rivals, 247Sports, and so on, are generally not the most accurate and there are two reasons why: Unskilled assessment and templated evaluations. Templated evals are having set and graded physical dynamics without even seeing the player on film and in action. I.e., grading a 5-10 QB versus the 6-4 QB without seeing them, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

There are skilled folks out there, but they are very rare. The ones usually privately contracted by the schools are the most trusted. Tom Luginbill is one of the rare, good ones for a less than credible media organization in ESPN. But still, even Luginbill can be off in Noah’s case. It was the east coast bias that made him miss the southern California player early.

Regional biased exposure and recruiting are real and it happens daily.

This example was never clearer for Fifita because of his 5’9 stature. Inexperienced evaluators looked at his height and they immediately drop his rating, because ‘tradition’ says so. That is templated.

For the theory of Fifita making the QB position better at Arizona, let us evaluate Noah from high school first and see why he will be the player Jedd Fisch and Brennan Carroll think he will be.

Fisch will be discovered as one of the elite recruiters in the Pac-12 and ultimately in the country. His approach to rebuild the program and recruiting is not revolutionary, its just believable. His applied public relations/marketing skills to the rebuilding scene has already paid off. Him and Fifita are a perfect relationship.

When evaluating a player, there are two variables that I put into questions that I need answers to evaluate Noah. The player as a person is first, and then the player with his tools and ability.

Noah questions as a person: Everything I have heard of Fifita is "outstanding young man with natural football skills." But what physical and mental tools does Noah have that he created himself? What type of person is he and how did he grow into a recruitable player? Was he privately coached? Parental support in the sport? Is his physical strength and ability something he did on his own at a local gym, is it natural, or did a coach train him and what was the process? And finally, I want to know what kind of kid he is in the classroom and community. Is he a leader?

Secondly, I want to see Noah the player. I am aware of his grades, height, and weight, but now I want to see his raw athletic ability as a quarterback. What does his throwing motion look like when warming up thru game time? His feet from the snap, either in gun or behind the center? I want to see him in action as well and see what he does once he breaks the huddle and walks to the line of scrimmage (LOS). How does his warmup translate to game production? Can I easily see what he is seeing on the field and is seeing the correct things and reacting to those defenses?

Noah Fifita will be the quarterback that makes the difference in changing this program around.

His throwing motion is tight and better than any other QB in college football. His compact elbow rolls into his throwing motion quickly, which eliminates him dropping the ball down in his delivery which speeds his delivery. He has better than average feet. He delivers the ball with the power which means his base is solid, his front hip energy moves forward like boxer’s punch, and his follow-through and timing are great.

All this from a 17 yr. old throwing an NFL-style 18-yard out-route for a first down to the best high school receiver in the country, Tetairoa McMillan who is also at Arizona after flipping from Oregon.

Fifita has a skilled recognition set, disguised situations, and command of his offense at Servite.

Mentally and cerebrally, he is one of the best high school quarterbacks to come out of the league and that is saying something. More NFL QBs have come from that conference more than any high school league in the history of high school football.

Watching his spring work, he is not ready and of course, he will struggle with typical first-year issues at Arizona. The new offense, the speed, and his height could be challenging but I would not be surprised to see him improve faster than most think.

Yes, I do have to address the height issue. 5’9 can pose a problem for him in Fisch’s pro-style offense under center. The gun formation will not be as much of a problem. The film on Noah and Drew Brees in high school is very similar, almost staggering. However, in my opinion, Noah has a better delivery stance, fit and balance than Drew did in high school.

Noah Fifita should be the next very good quarterback at Arizona and it would not be a surprise to see him #2 on the DT this year.

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