Recruit report: What stood out when watching film on 3-star Missouri prep QB Conrad Hawley
Another first-year quarterback is expected to be in the mix this spring for the Kansas football team.
Conrad Hawley, a QB from Raymore-Peculiar High School (Missouri), announced his verbal commitment via his personal Twitter account on Jan. 12. Hawley plans to enroll early, similar to Indiana prep QB Ben Easters, who signed with KU in December.
Also like Easters, Hawley is a three-star prospect on Rivals. Both are considered pro-style quarterbacks as well. Per Rivals, Hawley is listed as the 18th-best prospect in the state of Missouri in the Class of 2021.
The purpose of this report isn’t to determine who is the better option at quarterback. That will inevitably be decided at some point in their careers. Let’s focus on understanding who Hawley is as a player instead, and what he could ultimately bring to KU.
Based on his Hudl film, here is my report on KU’s newest quarterback:
Key stats: According to MaxPreps, Hawley completed 164-of-275 passes for 2,722 passing yards during his senior season at Raymore-Peculiar High School. He threw 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Hawley secured a state title and won the Simone Award in 2020.
Body type/athletic ability: Hawley is listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds on Rivals. He comes in way closer to being college ready from a physical standpoint thanks to his own commitment in the weight room. Compared to his frame as a junior, Hawley put on close to 50 pounds and it really helped him take a huge leap as a signal caller.
Strengths: Strong arm, can make variety of throws, and ability to make plays out of structure
Hawley feels like the type of prospect that would have been a much bigger deal like a decade ago, when everyone was drooling over the strong-armed quarterback at all levels. Now, there seems to be an emphasis on landing more mobile quarterbacks and not necessarily the tall signal caller with a strong arm.
That said, Hawley’s arm strength was the first thing that popped when watching his tape. He has a segment labeled “deep balls” on his Hudl film at about the 2:20 mark. The first one really caught my eye, because Hawley put the 45-yard pass where only his receiver could make a play on the ball.
Hawley launched the ball as soon as he hit the final step of his drop back, and saw his receiver had a step on the defensive back. Hawley aimed the throw toward the sideline because there was a safety coming to provide help over the top. The receiver was able to get his hand on the ball at the goal line. It was just the perfect ball location.
Hawley had more throws like that, but that play really helps paint a picture of one of his best attributes. He really can drive the ball downfield, and he demonstrated great footwork on such throws. He had a quick release as well.
But Hawley showed the ability to make a variety of throws, as his Hudl film also had quick passes and mid-level tosses. He wasn’t afraid to throw in a tight window, which probably played a part in him tossing 12 interceptions.
My favorite play was when Hawley changed arm angles because he had two defenders in his face. Sometimes this can be a bad habit for young quarterbacks, but it didn’t seem like Hawley altered his throwing motion much outside of that specific play.
On this particular play, Hawley had to go side arm because he had a defender coming straight at him. The ball was slightly behind the receiver, who was about 10 yards upfield. Yet the pass was still on target enough to let the receiver make something happen after the catch.
The best part about the play was that Hawley threw to where the receiver had to be. At the time of the release, the receiver was directly behind a defender. Hawley threw him open, despite having to change his arm angle and having two defenders basically on top of him.
That play was a glimpse of what really made Hawley’s tape pop though. Many of Hawley’s best moments came when he had to make something happen out of structure.
Mobility will rightfully be a concern for Hawley, but he showed enough movement to extend plays during his senior season. He demonstrated solid pocket presence, and had a knack for getting in an athletic stance when he felt pressure.
Most of all, Hawley did a good job of keeping his eyes upfield whenever he ultimately had to improvise. Whether he was going left or right, Hawley was constantly looking for an open receiver when he was on the move. Sometimes young quarterbacks will just take off to gain yardage via a scramble.
I liked that Hawley's first priority was to find an open man when he had to leave the pocket.
One reason for concern: Won’t be used in the QB run game
Hawley was used as a runner at times in high school. At one point in his Hudl film, Hawley ran a QB draw to effectively ice the game. You can tell by his movement in the pocket that he has efficient footwork, and that should bode well for his future as a signal caller.
But I’d be surprised if Hawley is involved in the quarterback run game at the collegiate level. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Players are just faster and can tackle better in the Big 12, and it doesn’t seem like Hawley would have much success on designed runs.
As long as Hawley's ability to extend plays translates, though, I think that will be more than enough mobility for him to find some level of success as a collegiate quarterback.
Overall thoughts and projection: It is easy to be optimistic about Hawley’s fit after watching his highlights. He has a lot of traits that should translate. Hawley's growth as a player and a person ahead of his senior season should speak volumes to his work ethic and his commitment to getting better.
At the very least, Hawley provides depth in a quarterback room that now features three promising young signal callers. But I think there is reason to believe Hawley could push Jalon Daniels and Ben Easters for immediate playing time.
The Jayhawks should have an interesting quarterback room now with some serious potential, even if there are some growing pains at first.