What if I told you the kid who plays quarterback in 2nd Ward is further along in his mechanical development than the one from Lake Travis?
That’s no slight to Hudson Card, who I’m confident will expel any questions of whether or not he’s an athlete or quarterback this year. He’s a quarterback who is an athlete, not the other way around, at least in the long run. It’s more of an appreciation for the way Malik Hornsby transfers the ball from his gifted arm to his target.
In 2018 Tom Herman landed Casey Thompson and Cameron Rising. Both are promising.
For 2019, Herman has his #1 target, Roschon Johnson locked up. Also promising.
The 2020 cycle looks like another two quarterback class. Card is in. Hornsby, from Houston Austin, is a prime candidate to join the 2020 class and assume dual leadership.
I’m a big fan of observing players from afar. Who is camping versus who is visiting? Hornsby didn’t have to camp at Texas last week but he chose to. That speaks well of him. After that camp he spoke to a pool of writers.
On the two quarterback class:
“They told me it’s a battle, you gotta battle. I really don’t have a problem battling nobody.”
Hornsby works with Houston-based quarterback coach JP Tillman:
“Coach JP is a great guy. He helped me with my footwork, pointing my shoulder to my target. Opening up and to keep more power in my back leg.”
Becoming more well-rounded as a quarterback:
“I see myself throwing the ball first this year. My freshman year I always looked to run. That’s what I worked on more this year; giving my receivers time to get open instead of taking off. I call myself a dual-threat quarterback because I can do both.”
The importance of QB mentality:
“I see myself as a great leader. My teammates tell me I’m a great leader. I expect my teammates to follow in my footsteps and to believe and trust in me.” (this was stated genuinely, not cocky)
He wouldn’t be the first Southside Houston Texas quarterback at Texas:
“Vince Young? I actually like Vince Young. He’s a great guy. I used to watch his highlights — I still watch his highlights — to learn more things that he did that I can do better.”
The takeaway is he’s not going to shy away from competition. That doesn’t just extend to who else is in his recruiting class, but also to whoever is already on campus.
It’s clear Hornsby is a physical talent. It’s telling he holds offers from such disparate offenses as Kevin Sumlin’s, Tom Herman’s, and Gus Malzahn’s. As with any player, though, there is a lot of work left to be done. Toward that end, Hornsby works with one of the better quarterback coaches I’ve come across in JP Tillman.
Tillman’s bonafides as a player are as a celebrated high school quarterback from Cy Falls. From there he signed with Missouri where he backed up Chase Daniel. He learned under Gary Pinkel, David Yost, and Dave Christensen. From there he transferred to Grambling State where he helped lead the storied program to an 11-2 record in 2008. That was as a player. As a coach he caught my attention as he mentored Kansas State signee John Holcombe. Holcombe blossomed from football athlete to quarterback under Tillman’s watch. Holcombe deserves credit for that, but so to does Tillman.
In an effort to get to know Hornsby better I caught up with Tillman.
Hornsby’s speed was recently on display:
It was the Adrian Peterson All Day camp. Hornsby won the fastest man. I’m not sure how many participants there were but there were five heats. Every time it was the same result, Malik crossing the finish line first.
How he threw on that day:
To QB drills. Slide adjustments based on reads. Pocket work. Did excellent. He’s a passer and not a thrower, can throw a heavy ball but can put touch in there.
He can run, he can throw, what else:
I was impressed with his demeanor, competitive but also having fun with the other quarterbacks. Was social. He wanted to be challenged so we challenged him with routes.
What he needs to work on:
He can put the ball anywhere, but anticipation is something we work on. Putting the ball on time. I want him to throw to windows, not wide open guys. That’s something we have to work on. Rhythm and timing. Three step, full field progression, those types of things. Reading a mismatch. Your guy is going to have a step on a defender, lay the ball out. Read that in advance. Timing. Malik was more of an arm thrower but I wouldn’t say raw. He was very in tune with his throwing motion, very fluid. We worked on efficiency with his movement. A lot of kids waste movement and energy. Don’t rely on arm talent. We work on that. Those aren’t high percentage throws. We can improve on those types of throws, but we want a solid base. We worked on synchronizing the upper and lower body into one strong power source. That’s really what we’ve worked on the most. He’s been a QB since the 3rd or 4th grade. I wasn’t teaching someone who never played the position before. He was well versed on his throwing form. I told his mom, ‘we’re working on the small things.’ How we do the small things is how we do all things. Let’s be detailed, everything is intentional. He can be a hell of a quarterback.
I snuck some strengths in there but naturally he can throw. He’s raw in anticipation, doesn’t necessarily know when to let it go. But he’s naturally accurate. He had that before I got him. He can have his feet the opposite way and make the throw. When chaos comes, I told him he can still make the play. He can throw all the routes accurately. You can tell he’s taken a lot of drops. You can tell he’s comfortable in his base. Here’s the thing, quarterbacks don’t have to be athletes. They can be nerds, as long as they understand bio-mechanics; how the body works. It doesn’t require athleticism but if you put athleticism into it, then you can take off. We need him in the right posture, to be in the right position. Get your body ready to throw. It’s the calm before the storm, and it all feeds back into his anticipation. He’s one of the most intuitive kids I’ve come across. It comes from a place where he wants better for himself. He loves his mom, his mom loves him. Football is a vessel for him to have unlimited possibilities for him and his mother.
When evaluating you want to answer as many questions about player as you can. Coach Tillman just answered a bunch and I suspect Hornsby will answer the rest in upcoming seasons.