The Love is gone from Utah State.
All but gone.
And it’s a good thing. It’s the right thing.
Jordan Love announced this week he’s making himself available for the NFL Draft — and he’s making the proper call. It’s time for the junior quarterback to chase his dream in the pros. And nobody among the Aggies should have any problem with that decision.
Some in Logan might have chafed at the prospect of Love leaving Utah State as a grad transfer, going to someplace such as Texas Tech, where former Aggies coaches Matt Wells and David Yost, Love’s quarterback whisperer, now work, or Oklahoma, or some other big-name school in need.
That would have been a slap to the face mask of the Aggies program, although it also would have been an understandable move. You have to fully grasp the connection Love had with Yost, in particular, under whose tutorship and leadership Love did more than just learn, he thrived, throttling defenses.
It helped also that he had better players around him in 2018, when Love threw for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns with a mere six interceptions. He had talent in front of him, protecting him, he had better skill guys to choose from, and he had better coaching, better coaching for him. That’s not as much a shot at current head coach Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford as it is acknowledgement of a real mental and emotional connection between Love and his former coaches.
Andersen thought Love was a fine quarterback, but perhaps not an ideal fit for the offense he wants to run at USU. And stuck in the uncomfortable circumstances that surrounded him, Love fell in arrears from where he was and what he did as a sophomore, this time around throwing for 3,085 yards, 17 TDs and 16 picks, heading into the Frisco Bowl.
In a lopsided loss at LSU, against a collection and caliber of athletes more like what he will face in the NFL, Love completed just 15 of 30 passes for 130 yards and three interceptions. That, though, was hardly an even match, man for man, all around. He had neither the coaching, nor the player support that would give him space to operate, air to breathe.
JORDAN LOVE’S LAST TWO SEASONS
2018 • 3,567 yards, 32 TDs, 6 interceptions, 64% completion rate, 158.3 QB rating
2019 • 3,085 yards, 17 TDs, 16 interceptions, 60.6% completion rate, 125.9 QB rating*
*Does not include the Dec. 20 Frisco Bowl
One thing that is certain, Love has caught the gaze of numerous pro scouts. His live arm is unusual and offers promise for an NFL career. It’s notable that the perceived weaknesses in his game — decision-making, accuracy and savvy — rarely emerged under the guidance of Yost.
In fact, when I went for a visit with Love in Logan, speaking also with the former head coach and coordinator last season, they concurred that those so-called shortcomings were actually strengths.
Said Yost: “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 hat’s going to be special. Jordan’s an NFL-type quarterback.”
Said Wells: “Jordan’s collected, calm and smart in our offense. And he’s got some swag, some mojo, and the other 10 guys sense that and they raise their game because of it. He’s leading with his production.”
If he could do it back then, with an able cast around him, he likely can do it again, at a higher level. His arm talent is apparent to almost everyone.
A mock draft at cbssports.com on Wednesday had Love as the 14th overall selection in the 2020 draft, going to the Raiders. Others project him as a second- or third-round selection.
Point is, it’s time for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Love to go — go immerse himself in full-time football with coaches who will capitalize on his natural abilities and the ones he’s already honed while playing for the Aggies, and build from there, and get amply paid while doing it.
Maybe the days of fans, coaches and teammates complaining about underclassmen leaving early to start their pro careers are over, at least in large measure. Hopefully, so. Especially in cases like Love’s where he would gain relatively little by sticking around. No matter how swimmingly his senior season might have gone, it would not have exceeded what he showed as a sophomore. That’s a reasonable guess.
And the pro scouts are aware of those achievements.
UTAH STATE VS. KENT STATE
At Frisco, Texas
When • Dec. 20, 5:30 p.m. MST
TV • ESPN2
When I wrote an in-depth column about Love a year ago, chronicling his journey through personal tragedy, through a quiet prep career, through college recruitment that was no real recruitment at all, through physical and mental development once arriving at Utah State, which included a redshirt year, through the success that he found, I got calls from football people around the country who were intrigued by and asking questions about his progress and his promise.
Most assuredly, the guys who evaluate talent for a living are aware of Jordan Love.
Now, it’s up to him to take advantage of whatever opportunity he gets after more intimate scouting processes, including the NFL Combine. Don’t be surprised if Love goes on to a bright professional quarterbacking career, blowing past whatever it was that his subpar junior season suggested.
It’s easy to bet on Love’s future success, especially when you’re not on the hook for any shortcoming. And even if he doesn’t get the chance or results for which he hopes or he doesn’t blossom the way some believe he might, his decision to leave Utah State, with a degree in hand, at this juncture is bang on. The time is right for him to chase after that dream, even if it ultimately eludes him.
And if it doesn’t, if he grabs ahold of it, remember with fondness that he played for the Aggies, who helped stir the imaginations of Love himself and those who taught and encouraged him to strive and reach for the game’s highest level.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.