It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when nobody wanted Jordan Love, when he got love in name only. Not a single Division I team in the land recruited him — except for the one in Logan. No other talent evaluator from any other school thought he could play, at least not enough to actually offer him a scholarship.
“I got overlooked,” Love says, “by all of the others.”
The others were mistaken.
Utah State was not.
The others are sorry now.
Utah State is not.
The Aggies’ properly accurate read and recognition, having targeted Love after he participated in their football camp the summer before the quarterback’s senior year at Liberty High School in Bakersfield, Calif., already has given them one of the best QBs the program has ever known, one of the best in the country, and the best in the state of Utah, which is loaded up at that position at Utah, with Tyler Huntley and Jason Shelley, and at BYU, with Zach Wilson. And he’s got, in his mind, a whole lot more to give.
That’s the thing about Love, the more you give the more you get.
And the Ags even now, as Love starts into his junior season, have gotten their share. In his two previous years, after an initial one spent as a redshirt, Love has thrown spirals for 5,198 yards, completed 396 passes, and accumulated 40 touchdowns. His sophomore season, when he put up most of those numbers, was nothing short of prolific, with Love leading USU to a 11-2 record, a bowl win, and former head coach Matt Wells to a hefty new contract at Texas Tech.
He has two years of eligibility left, but there’s more than a little doubt as to whether Love will play through all of that time at Utah State. He might, but the NFL is calling out to what some league scouts believe is a prototypical pro quarterback with prototypical pro skills — he has a strong arm and sound mind — and prototypical pro size — he’s 6-foot-4, 225 pounds.
The NFL guys don’t want to make the same error the college recruiters did.
It took Love, who is still only 20, a short while to get to this juncture. When he arrived in Logan, his body — at 180 pounds — was not yet bedecked with the proper armor and his understanding had not wrapped itself around total offensive awareness.
That last part was his greatest challenge.
“I’ve gotten better every day,” he says. “I take a lot of time to watch film, learn everything a defense can throw at you. … There is no secret. I’ve just been working hard ever since I got here, in the weight room, in the film room, learning the offense, and then just coming out here and getting it done with the team. You learn something new every day.”
His redshirt year, spent watching film, getting bigger and stronger and listening to coaches, turbo-jacked further by the growth and education that come by way of two seasons on the field, have combined to place Love in position to accelerate toward pro ball. After his freshman season, a year in which Love’s potential emerged some weeks and sank in others, he spent the offseason watching and re-watching every snap he took, every success he had, every goof he made.
All of that info was downloaded into his brain, utilized to his advantage last season, transforming him from an athlete who played the quarterback position to an actual quarterback. That was demonstrated in the Aggies’ game against BYU, when, on a fourth-and-goal play, Love calmly moved through his progressions — you could see his head scanning the field — finally hitting running back Gerold Bright, his fourth option, for a touchdown.
Thereafter, then-offensive coordinator David Yost, who had coached in previous stops future NFL quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chance Daniel, said of Love: “He’s accumulated his data base of information. He’s absorbed it and that helps him now spit out the right answer quicker, more accurately, in a highly efficient way. He’s to the point now where when we call a play, he’s already mastered it. When he first got here, his head was in a blender. Now, he’s processed it. We’ve got something here that’s going to be special.”
It already is.
“Jordan’s an NFL-type quarterback,” Yost said.
JORDAN LOVE UPDATE
Age • 20
Height/weight • 6-4, 225.
Hometown • Bakersfield, Calif.
Class • Junior
By the numbers • Redshirt freshman season (2017): Set the Utah State record for passing yards for a freshman quarterback (1,631). ... Sophomore season (2018): Threw for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions while completing 64 percent of his passes. That translated into a 158.3 quarterback rating.
That may be, but, in the meantime, Love is fully aware that he’s still got dirt to plow, seeds to plant, crops to reap.
As one of only two returning starters on the Utah State offense, a group that includes a wholly rebuilt line upfront and a new corps of receivers, Love recognizes and acknowledges the hurdles he faces in 2019. In addition, the Aggies have replaced Wells and Yost with Gary Andersen and Mike Sanford Jr. While much is new, Love is beyond optimistic.
He says he relishes learning from Andersen and Sanford — yeah, what else would he say? — and that capable replacements for the departed starters are emerging: “We’re just finding the dudes who are making plays out there. It’s a competition every day.”
There is, though, no competition at quarterback.
Love has been killing it during camp, looking comfortable and confident through nearly every practice session, as the snaps come and go, gaining the kind of familiarity with the newcomers he needs and covets. Meanwhile, the national attention he’s getting continues to stack up, as he’s been added to every prominent watch list for postseason awards. The Johnny Unitas this, the Davey O’Brien that, the Manning whatever.
“I appreciate all the love,” he says. “It’s a testament to everybody around me, all the work we do. We’re just excited to keep getting better every day.”
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.