LOGAN — Earlier this summer, 35 college football quarterbacks descended upon the small city of Thibodaux, Louisiana, a little over an hour’s drive west-southwest of New Orleans.
Among them were Alabama standout Tua Tagovailoa, Clemson’s national championship winning signal caller Trevor Lawrence, Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Missouri’s Kelly Bryant and Notre Dame’s Ian Book.
Also in attendance: Utah State quarterback Jordan Love.
What brought so many of college football’s elite to southern Louisiana, specifically to the campus of Nicholls State University, was the 24th edition of the Manning Passing Academy.
Owned and operated by the so-called “first family of football,” including Archie Manning and sons Peyton, Eli and Cooper, the Manning Passing Academy was created to address a perceived lack of “even the most basic fundamentals of throwing (and catching) a football” among high school football players.
- Utah State Aggies quarterback Jordan Love (10) runs against UNLV in Logan on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. Jeff Allred/Deseret News
- Utah State quarterback Jordan Love (10) throws the ball against New Mexico during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Logan, Utah. Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP
- Utah State quarterback Jordan Love rolls out against Michigan State during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in East Lansing, Mich. AP Photo/Al Goldis
And so every year the Mannings invite some of the nation’s finest from the professional and college ranks to teach the rising generation.
Love served as a counselor in the latest edition of the camp — which took place this June — as does every college football quarterback in attendance, and the experience was one he won’t soon forget.
“Going to the Manning Passing Academy was great,” Love said. “I learned some stuff from them, from Peyton and Eli, just how they train in the offseason with receivers and how they watch film. I am definitely going to add some of that stuff to my game.”
How the Mannings watch game film proved of particular interest to Love, whose focus this upcoming season is to improve his knowledge of the game of football.
“The main part I always need to improve on is knowledge of the game,” he said. “Knowledge of defenses, and what teams are doing. That comes from watching film, watching tape from last year to see what defenses did. To see how I can improve on every play. I’ve tried to focus on taking away negative plays, like interceptions, bad passes and bad reads, but that just comes from watching film.”
And so, when Peyton — who is known for his dedicated film study — detailed his process, Love was all ears.
“When we were out there we asked questions about how he watches film, and one thing I found interesting was, he watched every game of the team he was about to play,” said Love. “(Peyton) said he doesn’t ever want to be surprised by a blitz he hadn’t seen. I thought that was pretty interesting. Usually, we just watch two or three games to get the basis of what (the other team) is doing, watch cut ups and stuff like that. To watch every play of every game?
“It is hard to watch every play of every game, so we’ll see, but I’ve tried to do that with my game.”
For all the knowledge gleaned from the Manning Passing Academy, Love doesn’t expect too much to change this season, as far as play on the field goes.
That, in large part, stems from offensive coordinator Mike Sanford’s attempts to keep this year’s offense as similar as possible to last year’s, when Love earned second-team All-Mountain West honors and set five school records — including 32 touchdown passes, 3,567 passing yards, seven 300-yard passing games, 234 points responsible for and being named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week five times.
“Offensively we are running the same things,” Love said. “Same offense. Some plays will change, just the way we read them, but for the most part it has stayed the same and that has helped a lot. Usually when new coaches come in you have to learn a new offense, new scheme, but knowing we are running the same plays has made it easy.”
Still, there will be some major differences in the Aggies’ attack, as Love will be without his top five pass catchers — production wise — from 2018, including Ron’quavion Tarver (709 yards receiving and eight touchdowns), Jalen Greene (689 yards, six TDs), Aaren Vaughns (581 yards, five TDs), Dax Raymond (345 yards, two TDs) and Darwin Thompson (351 yards, two TDs).
“It is a different group, that is for sure,” Love said. “Last year’s group didn’t have as much speed, they were more big bodies and I just tried to put the ball on them. This year, what will be different is that we have more speed out there. I am excited to get to work with them.”
Don’t expect Love to carry the ball any more this season either, despite an inexperienced offensive line taking over for what was a senior-heavy group last year.
“My game will be the same as last year, run it when I need to,” Love said. “That is just how our offense is, we like to get the ball out quick so I am not sitting back there in the pocket waiting to get hit. I don’t think there will be any running around. I think they will protect me just fine.”
The hope for Love, obviously, is to improve upon his 2018 campaign, and that has quickly become an expectation as the junior from Bakersfield, California has garnered his share of preseason accolades, including some Heisman Trophy buzz.
“It is crazy, just all the hype,” Love said. “I enjoy it. At the end of the day, it is all fun stuff and it is all on the side, though. The team’s goals come first, all that other stuff is on the side. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter, what matters is what you do with the team.”
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