Imagine a quarterback that hints at Russell Wilson’s field vision and mobility and teases Drew Brees’ accuracy and arm strength. He is cerebral like future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, albeit seven inches shorter.
That 5-foot-10 athlete drew interest from Aggieland after Saturday’s Junior Day at Kyle Field, too. The 17-year-old Hippo may be one of the Lone Star State’s most analytical signal callers since Brees trampled records at Austin Westlake High School.
NFL and collegiate scouts rave about the prototypical quarterback, one with 6-foot-4-plus size tall enough to tower over defensive linemen, enough weight to withstand teeth-rattling hits, and an arm cannon powerful enough to find receivers striding down the sideline. Like Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, Hutto High School’s star has some of those enticing miserables and qualities.
Lake Travis’ possible top 10 pick in this year’s NFL Draft was measured at 6 feet and 3/8 inches at the Reece’s Senior Bowl. He likely grey a few inches during his four years at Oklahoma and Texas Tech, though.
And like Mayfield, the Hippos’ Class of 2019 pro-style dynamo is far from typical. He is Chase Griffin, arguably one of the most dangerous animals in the prep football jungle.
“He threw four interceptions all season. Two came against Fort Bend Marshall in the last game,” head football coach Steve Van Meter said about Griffin’s burgeoning ability. “I sat him for five halves. In five games he only played half a game. You keep him in during that time and he’s easily over 5,000 yards and probably over 50 touchdowns.”
Griffin had more than 4,500 yards and 47 touchdowns and only four interceptions in 13 games. Eight hundred and forty-five of his 4,102 yards in 2017 came in three playoff games against Brenham, A&M Consolidated, and Fort Bend Marshall High Schools. He outdueled the likes of Georgetown senior Cooper Bell and Cedar Park junior Ryan Fiala.
He nearly bested Buffalo senior Jabari James, too. More importantly, he completed 66 percent of his passes with nearly 500 completions at one of the toughest positions to master.
“Chase is top of the class for me in 35 or 36 years of coaching quarterbacks — especially regarding IQ and understanding the offensive and defensive sides of the game. It’s uncanny for a kid his age,” Van Meter continued. “He understands blocking schemes, can change protection, and does those things on a regular basis. He has complete authority to change any play, check to a play, or tag a play on a certain route.”
Football isn’t the only place you’d see his intelligence, though. The soon-to-be senior currently holds offers from Ivy League Yale, NCAA Division II Seton Hill, and San Antonio’s Trinity Universities.
TOP OF THE CLASS
To Griffin, despite his past success, he’s a baccalaureate degree holder of the game at best.
“The QB position is tough to master and the ones I admire the most are still student’s of the game. The best ones in high school and college are just scratching the surface. Drew Brees and Tom Brady are at a graduate level. I was able to get a firm understanding of our offense when we went 10-0 as freshmen. I had a strong sophomore year on varsity but needed that experience of what I know to translate into performance.
Last year — my junior season — I feel like I had more demonstrated command of the offense. This fall, I’m expecting another leap in performance.”
Van Meter should know what championship-caliber quarterbacks look like. He twice guided Friendswood High School to the state semifinals and 15 times to the playoffs between 1992 and 2012. On both occasions, the Mustangs lost to five-time defending state champion Austin Lake Travis.
On three other occasions, his teams reached the state quarterfinals. Hutto has reached the playoffs 4 of 5 years under Van Meter, including four consecutive trips between 2014 and 2017.
It’s not Griffin’s educated feet that stand out now or when he was a virually unknown eighth grader. It’s not his sneaky dual threat ability or lofty 18-6 record as a starter that makes his head coach open his eyes, either.
AN INTELLECTUAL DEMONSTRATION
— Chase Griffin (@ChaseQB11) February 18, 2018
It’s his ability to dissect defenses and take the path of least resistance.
“He used to watch Drew Brees all the time,” Van Meter said. “They throw from the same kind of platform, are both built about the same. They have similar throwing mechanics, too. He has a high release point but its more than that. It’s his ability to throw through lanes and make these little slight moves with his feet in the pocket that gives him an extra tenth of time to make a correct read or throw. Those are the things that are difficult to teach and coach from a quarterback perspective.”
Less than a mile away from Van Meter’s office, Griffin breaks from Monday morning training with Chux Nwabuko II, the Core Speed Elite training facilities owner and operator.
He jogs over to a man dressed in loose fitting jeans and a grey and white long sleeved pullover with the words “Cotton Bowl” embroidered on the chest. He is armed with a notebook, recorder, and questions.
Griffin playfully tosses a football in the air, places a single finger over his lips, picks up a stick, and kneels down near a grassless patch of dirt near the high school’s football field. He draws each position — backyard football style — in the dirt.
He throws a casual look over his shoulder at the man curiously watching the lesson he’s teaching and flashes a wry smile.
“First you get the play from the sideline making sure you check the defense — safeties, cornerbacks, linebackers and the defensive line — from back to front,” he mused. “Check for any signs of blitz. If it’s all good then we run the play. If the D is doing something that threatens the success of the called play, I have the freedom to change the protection, certain routes or audible to an entirely new play.”
With a few flicks of his wrist, he changes a run play — based on Griffin’s perception of a blitz — to a quick slant to a slot receiver. It’s a play that could go for 20 yards and a first down or a touchdown given the speed of the Hippo receiving core and Chux Nwabuko III, his shifty, primary back and a University of Texas 2019 target.
GRIFFIN MAY BE PERFECT FIT FOR AGGIES
Former Seminole and New Aggie head coach Jimbo Fisher could be a lynchpin between what Griffin is and what he could be. Newly minted offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey — outside of a duplicate 2018 season by Griffin — could play a vital role, too.
That, and a familiar offense Fisher-coached offenses employ.
“The new OC Coach Dickey liked my film and they invited me,” Griffin said about how he got a ticket to College Station. “I took the visit because they run a pro style system that relies heavily on the quarterback’s football IQ and arm talent. These are two of my strengths, so it was worth exploring. Plus, I threw for Coach Fisher at the Florida State camp last summer.”
The passing game under Fisher holds a basic tenet — similar plays are run from a large formation pool — according to information gathered about FSU’s offense. There were, however, only three different variations of each play.
Griffin’s Varsity Statistics (2016 and 2017)
YR GP C Att Yds C% Avg Y/G C/G TD TD/G Int
2017 13 270 405 4102 .667 15.2 315.5 20.8 40 3.1 4
2016 2 41 65 411 .631 10.0 205.5 20.5 7 3.5 2
It allowed Fisher’s staff to tailor game plans and leverage advantages against specific defensive alignments from week to week. It also allowed more than 60 different formations and personnel package variations.
The beauty of that scheme, in Griffin’s eyes, is an extension past formations and principles. He said it speaks to the nature of the position.
“The similarities between Coach Van Meter and Coach Fisher are more philosophical than scheme. They both want ‘dudes’ as their QB. They want the hardest worker, the guy that watches the most film, and ones that hold themselves and teammates to the highest standards.
Once you demonstrate command of the offense, Coach [Fisher] gives you full freedom at the line of scrimmage. Then you can truly be an extension of the head coach.”
NEXT FOR POSSIBLE HIPPO-TURNED-AGGIE?
After finishing 7-1 in District 19-5A Division II, though, Hutto moved to District 11-5A Division I. The ISD joins playoff contenders Cedar Park, Georgetown, Leander Rouse, and Pflugerville Connally in the new pairing.
The new District 11-5A also welcomes rebuilding programs in Manor and Pflugerville.
Griffin may be the best quarterback in the new district after the graduation of Georgetown’s Bell. Cedar Park’s Fiala will enter his senior season. He lost three top receivers: Payden Sawicki (629 yards), Carlos Woolery (401 yards), and Brant McDonald (343 yards).
”Chase Griffin is the exactly what NCAA football programs are looking for if they want a true leader,” Nwabuko II said. “His knowledge of the game is years ahead of his counterparts. It’s as if he can see into the future on the field and with arm strength and precision make every throw.”
Those three receivers accounted for 18 of the Timberwolves’ 44 touchdowns. Only Brandon Breed (415 yards, 5 TDs), the fourth of his quartet of receiving weapons, will return.
Nwabuko III, the Hippos’ 985-yard and five touchdown leading running back, will return to the herd for his senior season. So will leading junior leading receivers Caleb Forrest (1,212 yards, 14 TDs) and DJ Baptist (1,173 yards, 16 TDs).
If Griffin can not only recreate but evolve what fans saw on the field in 2017, Texas A&M, Seton Hill and Yale won’t be the only collegiate football programs trying to kick in the Central Texas town’s front door looking for a next-level playmaker.
“He threw for 3,000-plus yards as a sophomore and 4,000 plus as a junior,” Core Speed Elite’s owner continued. “I expect to see more than 5,000 as a senior.”
The “undersized” signal-caller may propel the Hippos to their first Class 5A — Jeremy Kerley led Hutto to the 3A state finals in 2005 — championship berth and first-ever state title. If he can, his legend may look like another smallish, 5-foot-10-ish former Aggie quarterback with history on his ring finger.
Allen’s Kyler Murray.
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