As Tucker Israel was taking his reps at the Under Armour National All-American Combine last week at Tropicana Field, he floated a pass that fluttered like a wounded duck. The look of disgust on his face was predictable, but then shortly afterward, so was the smile.
Things don't bother Israel for very long. He's a perfectionist, sure. But he also knows that his next pass will be just that — perfect. He expects that. So he could kind of laugh at the wobbly ball, the only ball he didn't spin into a spiral all day.
Israel is a low-key competitor on the outside. He doesn't show much in the way of frustration or jubilation. Inside, however, a duck pass like that one at the Trop on Thursday will bother him for weeks.
Even a few weeks ago, when Israel received his first Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer from Cincinnati, he contained his enthusiasm. Not many people knew about it.
The surprise, really, is that it was his first offer and that it has taken this long for it to happen.
Despite putting up ridiculous passing numbers, despite helping Florida receiver commitment Ryan Sousa and 2015 USF receiver commitment Deondre Farrier grab the attention of FBS coaches, Israel still had no offers. He's heard it all. He's too little. He lacks arm strength. He's a product of coach Anthony Paradiso's system.
Cincinnati quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw, who played QB at UCF in the late 1990s, came to Orlando to see Israel's Lake Nona teammate Chris Ferguson, a senior lineman.
“I was just out throwing with some of the guys and Coach Hinshaw came out and saw me throw a little bit,” said Israel, who is the cousin of former UCF quarterback Kyle Israel. “Coach 'Diso said Coach Hinshaw liked my footwork and the way the ball comes out of my hand and my short release. He said he had watched my film before and that he also likes that I can make plays with my feet if I need to.
“So Coach 'Diso said he wanted to offer and get me up to camp to compete with some other guys they've offered. So I'll probably try to get up to a one-day camp this summer. I'm excited about it and it's nice to see results after all I've worked for. Hopefully we'll see more come in.”
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior is coming off one of the best seasons in state history and has put back-to-back seasons together of numbers that boggle the mind. This year he threw for 3,979 yards and 40 touchdowns while completing 66 percent of his passes (254-for-385) and he had just 10 interceptions. As a sophomore, Israel crushed the Orange County metro passing record with 3,685 yards — which he broke again, obviously — and 36 touchdowns, with just eight picks on 69-percent passing (249-of-360).
He even racked up numbers as a freshman, throwing for 2,924 and 30 more touchdowns, 10 of which came in one game ... yes, that's correct, on game. His career totals are 10,588 yards and 106 touchdowns.
Yet he's still not usually mentioned among the top quarterbacks for the class of 2015, not even in his own state. Although he's earned a three-star player rating by Rivals.com, he's unranked at his position individually by both Rivals and 247Sports, the nation's top recruiting websites. He is ranked No. 13 overall in the Sentinel's 2015 Central Florida Super60.
“The thing I've always been worried about is my height, but a lot of schools interested in me have said height is not an issue at all for them,” Israel said. “So that's a positive because I've always had that worry about how I'm not 6-2 or 6-3 … they say they like what I have in the quick release and my IQ for the game and I think it's better than almost anyone out there.”
He was once again out trying to prove he can throw with the big boys in St. Petersburg last week.
“I had a pretty good day … threw the ball well,” Israel said. “I definitely didn't hurt myself at all out there.”
As for arm strength, it's not something that gets shown off in the Lake Nona offense. The Lions go about things with a lot of slants and outs and precise routes that move the ball down the field and let their receivers do the work. They'll go deep when they need to, however, and Israel is equally comfortable throwing the deep passes.
“If anyone is ever concerned, I'm more than happy to show them that I can make any throw anyone else can make,” Israel said.
Paradiso is hard on his young prodigy and it has paid dividends. The two have a great relationship and he pushes Israel because he knows what he can accomplish.
“He's tough. He challenges me. He's preparing me for college and that's a blessing to have a coach who is working me mentally and physically and in the offseason," Israel said. "So hopefully that all turns out to be a good thing when I end up going to college.”
He'll put up more gaudy numbers in 2014. Farrier is back and so is Mehdi El Attrach, yet another gifted receiver in the Lake Nona arsenal. Israel will find them. He always does. Hopefully for Israel, college scouts will find him, too.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.