Sports » Football
At 6 feet 4 inches and 205 pounds, with a rocket arm and laser-like accuracy between the numbers, freshman quarterback Chad Kanoff looks the part of a prototypical pocket passer.
In fact, his scouting report is eerily similar to that of current Indianapolis Colts starter Andrew Luck, who was a highly anticipated quarterback prospect when he entered Stanford in 2008 and was drafted first overall during the 2012 NFL draft after a stellar college career.
Like Luck, Kanoff is an “excellent athlete for the position” and has “consistent mechanics and production” with “good size and the frame to really bulk up to become a real presence,” according to ESPN.com.
The similarities between the two quarterbacks coming out of high school are undeniable. Both Kanoff and Luck played in spread option systems in high school, posting impressive statistics both through the air and on the ground — Kanoff scored 85 total touchdowns in his high school career — on the way to garnering identical four-star and 82 (out of 100) ratings per ESPN.
However, neither the coaching staff nor Kanoff is prepared to draw comparisons between him and Luck — or other big-time quarterbacks — just yet.
“The college game is so different from high school,” Kanoff said. “Even though we run a similar offense, I’m still learning to be a college quarterback.”
Kanoff’s recruitment was one of the most surprising off-field developments for Princeton last year, especially because he wasn’t always set on playing for the Tigers. Kanoff was initially heavily recruited by Vanderbilt, a rising power in college football’s strongest conference, the SEC.
“It was really cool at first,” Kanoff said of the recruiting process. “It’s the kind of thing you always dream of … but it got really tiring after a while.”
The Commodores entered the picture months before Princeton began recruiting Kanoff because of Ivy League recruiting restrictions. He verbally committed to Vanderbilt in May of 2012, a few months after his junior season, and even signed a letter of intent with the team in February of 2013. The next month, at a late date by college recruiting standards, he changed his mind.
“My only comment is when it comes to any of my players and universities or colleges,” Kanoff’s high school coach at Harvard-Westlake, Scot Ruggles, said of Kanoff’s decision to attend Princeton instead of Vanderbilt, “[is that] at the end of the day, I do not care where my kids go, as long as they are happy.”
With siblings at Dartmouth and Amherst, Kanoff and his family were evidently attracted to Princeton because of its academics, but what’s harder to understand is the competitive advantage the Tiger football program had over the Commodores. Vanderbilt has had 14 players drafted in the last decade, including first-round picks Jay Cutler, who currently starts at quarterback for the Chicago Bears, and Chris Williams, who starts at guard for the St. Louis Rams. On the other hand, former Tiger defensive end Mike Catapano ’13 is the only Princeton player to be drafted since 2001.
“I thought all along that if he was going to go to the scholarship level it was going to be Vanderbilt, but I think he is such a mature man, he is such a smart kid that if he had this opportunity to go to the top school in the country and play football at a very high level and develop and compete … I felt he was giving it an unbelievably serious consideration in terms of the possibility and when he came up on the visit I felt we really had a good chance because he fit in so well with the type of guy that we’ve brought here to Princeton,” Princeton head coach Bob Surace ’90 said.
“I can’t really pick one reason why I chose Princeton [over Vanderbilt],” Kanoff said. “They’re both great schools, but for me, Princeton just feels right.”
“When [a kid] tells me, ‘No, I’m fully committed; I’m signing with them,’ then that’s when you take that as a no, but when they’re interested in talking to us, they’re interested in learning more about us, I take that as we have such a beautiful campus, it’s a great school … The more they learn about us, the more likely they’re going to be to make a very mature decision,” Surace added.
Kanoff joins the Tigers as fourth on the depth chart behind juniors Connor Michelsen and Quinn Epperly and sophomore Kedric Bostic. While he has seen few varsity snaps this season, he has lead an undefeated junior varsity squad and, with the way the Tigers have been using their quarterbacks this season, there is no telling when those reps will come.
“Chad’s getting better every day … and when we feel he’s better than the other guys, he’ll play,” Surace said. “If we don’t think he’s better than the other guys, we’ll keep working with him and he’ll keep developing. Just like those other guys, he’s very talented. I do think one of the fortunate things is we’re playing multiple quarterbacks … all it takes is one injury, and he’s gotta feel like [he’s] the number-two guy because when you’re the fourth quarterback in our offense you’re really the second-string guy.”
This isn’t the first time Kanoff has split time at quarterback. Until his junior year of high school, he shared snaps with a quarterback two years ahead of him.
“The coaching staff … plays the guy who gives us the best chance of winning,” Kanoff said.
In the meantime, Kanoff spends his time studying the playbook and focusing on his work in the classroom.
“I’ve only really ruled out engineering and pre-med … everything else is still an option,” he says, noting that he’s also still deciding which extracurriculars he’ll pursue.
No one knows when Tiger fans will see Kanoff taking snaps or where he could possibly take the team in the future, but it will be exciting for fans to see how his decision to become a Tiger plays out.