The high school coach of one of UGA’s marquee recruits defended his star player’s struggles in a pair of all-star games.
Jacob Park is a 4-star quarterback from Goose Creek, S.C., who signed early with UGA and enrolled in college this week with the Bulldogs.
“I think Jacob will improve in time,” Stratford coach Ray Stackley told the AJC on Thursday night. “He’s got a big upside. He’s got a big arm. All the people all the Army Bowl felt like he had the best arm out of all the quarterbacks there.
“There’s a lot of other intangibles he’s got to work on, but he’ll work hard. He’ll get better.”
By all accounts, Park lived up to the advanced hype as South Carolina’s No. 1-rated overall prospect with a monster senior season. He passed for 3,665 yards and 33 touchdowns while leading Stratford to an appearance in the state championship game. He was named South Carolina’s Mr. Football by the State Newspaper.
However, Park could drop in the rankings after a pair of all-star appearances. At the Shrine Bowl, Park completed 3 of 11 passes for 63 yards and took three sacks. In last week’s Army Bowl, Park completed 1 of 8 passes for six yards and one interception.
Naturally, with Park being such a high-profile recruit, both performances were scrutinized by recruiting websites and analysts, along with football fans on Twitter and Facebook.
Rivals.com called Parks one of “five players on the way down” in the rankings.
“As he did at the Shrine Bowl, Park again looked sharp all week in practices only to struggle when the bright lights came on,” according to the website. “He completed just 1-of-8 passes on the day and threw a really bad interception straight to a defensive back. The physical tools are there, but Park is going to have to get over the mental roadblock that arises in game-play.”
It’s common for skill players, especially quarterbacks, to struggle in all-star games when they have to try to develop chemistry and timing with new teammates in a short amount of time. UGA freshmen QB Brice Ramsey threw three interceptions in last year’s Under Armour All-America game.
“Jacob didn’t have the best Army All-America game, but they take three quarterbacks in there,” Stackley said. “It’s difficult to play three quarterbacks in the game, and to get them into a rhythm. You don’t have time to develop chemistry with your receivers because you’re throwing to different guys every day at every practice. They bring all these elite athletes to these all-star games, and they all want to play, so you’ve got to play them.
“He made some good throws in both games, and he made a bad throw in the Army game on the interception. That could’ve happened to anybody because when his rotation came around, they were in a situation where they had to throw it. A lot of times, people don’t see what’s going everywhere on the play. They focus on the quarterback, and not the receiver … but Jacob understands. The quarterback is going to always get a lot of criticism. It will just make him work harder.”
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