Lipscomb Academy head coach Trent Dilfer played in the NFL for 13 seasons, was a first-round pick and even won a Super Bowl. He knows a thing or two about NFL quarterbacks.
Dilfer, who is also a coach and instructor for the Elite 11 quarterback competition, recently assessed some of the quarterbacks who competed in the 2020 competition on the Elite 11's official Twitter page. That included a glowing review of Tennessee Volunteers four-star recruit Kaidon Salter, a 6-foot-1 incoming freshman from Texas whom Dilfer said Salter has a lot of similarities to one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
"I remember looking at Deshaun Watson at 17 years old and seeing a lot of similarities with Kaidon Salter — their joint structure, their broad shoulders, their natural length," Dilfer said.
"Kaidon Salter is everything you're looking for. He's clean. We talk about guys who just make it look easy. Kaidon Salter makes throwing a football look easy. He's sudden. What I mean by that is, you think it, he does it. He just does things incredibly fast and twitchy."
Watson led the NFL in passing yards (4,823) in 2020, ranked third in completion percentage (70.2) and was seventh in touchdown passes (33). He was also fifth among all quarterbacks in rushing yards (444).
That's a lofty comparison, sure, but one that doesn’t seem completely crazy. New Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel is known for getting the most out of his quarterbacks. He developed Sam Bradford, Landry Jones, Drew Lock and McKenzie Milton into some of the top QBs in the NCAA and has had offenses rank in the top four of the NCAA in total yards per game and top 10 in points per game each of the last three years.
In Heupel’s new system, Salter's athleticism can extend plays and he has the speed and agility to escape pressure and make throws on the run. He ran for more than 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns during his senior season at Cedar Hill in the Dallas area.
Not just a runner, Salter can throw from the pocket with the best of them. He passed for 2,700 yards and 31 touchdowns last season, leading Cedar Hill to the Class 6A Division II state title game — its first state championship appearance since 2014.
Ranked the No. 47 overall recruit in the 2021 class by 247Sports, Salter joins a Vols quarterback group that has junior Brian Maurer, sophomore Harrison Bailey, a four-star recruit in 2020 and graduate transfer Hendon Hooker, a former four-star recruit who started six games for Virginia Tech over the last two seasons.
While he may not challenge for the starting job immediately, developing for a year or two in Heupel’s system could allow Salter to evolve as the top-tier signal caller Dilfer believes him to be.
“You've got to remember, when you're projecting quarterbacks, it's not what they are now,” Dilfer continued. “It's what they're going to become, and Kaidon Salter is going to become a monster that's got a clean stroke and has tons of juice.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_