Everything about Jax Leatherwood screams “big!” He is a 6’6” 215-pound junior signal-caller for local Scripps Ranch High School. In five games this season, he has amassed 1,487 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions all while completing 71.5% of his passes. Most importantly, his team is undefeated and has climbed to #7 in the CA San Diego Section Football Rankings.
One of the top quarterbacks in San Diego regardless of class, the 2023 prospect made an unofficial visit to watch SDSU defeat Towson on September 25. Leatherwood provided the East Village Times an update on his experience, recruitment, and his development under center. His recruiting process is a terrific case study of how programs and players court each other looking for the perfect match.
Hudl tapes have taken the world of college recruiting over. Like artists peddling their albums in mall parking lots, football players use every opportunity to get their highlights seen by college coaches. Since the videos are highlights, they should be watched skeptically because every player can look good for a handful of plays spliced together. Watch enough of these, however, and certain players’ best performances pop out in ways others do not. Donnel Pumphrey’s high school videos, for instance, were legendary.. Leatherwood’s highlights are not quite up to Pumphrey’s yet, but they border on spectacular.
— Jax Leatherwood (@JaxLeatherwood) September 25, 2021
“I would say my strengths are having a big arm, quick release, high football IQ/good at reading defenses, and leadership,” Leatherwood said.
All of these are on display in his clips. He throws the ball all over the field with ease and accuracy – even when his feet are not completely set. While questioning the level of competition is legitimate, throwing a 40-yard bullet or lofting a 60-yard bomb translates to any field he may play on in the future.
Given his impressive measurables and success on the field, it might come as a surprise that he has yet to receive a scholarship offer until one considers that his five starts this season are the first varsity starts of his career. As a sophomore, Leatherwood was an understudy to Luke Durkin. Durkin, who is now a QB for Davidson College, was a starter the past two seasons at Scripps Ranch.
“Luke taught me a lot about leadership and how to take control of a huddle,” Leatherwood said. “He also taught me the power of preparation and how much time you have to invest into your craft to be able to be a great quarterback.”
Even without playing time, he had some interest from colleges before the year, but his recruitment has picked up considerably once he stepped onto the field. Offers are likely just around the corner because interest in his services has been high.
“I have been receiving interest from Stanford, Cal Berkeley, University of Colorado, SDSU, Nevada, and most of the Ivy League schools,” Leatherwood said. “No offers yet, but hopefully soon!”
Fit with SDSU
San Diego State thrives at developing the whole person and not just the athlete on the field. They want their players to succeed in the community, in their family life, and in the classroom. Judging by the schools that are developing relationships with Leatherwood, academics are important to him. In previous decades, the Aztecs could not compete with the other institutions Leatherwood mentioned, but today, SDSU’s academic standing is on par with the best in the world.
“I’m still unsure of what I’ll be studying in college,” Leatherwood explained. “I’ve heard a lot about SDSU’s academics, and the school seems to fit my academic needs perfectly.”
On the field, Leatherwood is different from the quarterbacks currently on the roster or Oakie Salave’a, a class of 2022 commitment. He is a true pocket passer who is not a threat to run. SDSU coaches have gone on record that their system is not exclusively designed for mobile quarterbacks. Leatherwood sees SDSU’s offense as a perfect fit for his skill set.
“I think that my big arm would fit in well with their offenses because I noticed that when they do pass, a lot of the time, it’s the deep ball,” he said. “I also think that my leadership qualities would excel as a quarterback for SDSU because I noticed how much control Lucas Johnson had over his team and the offense.”
For old-time Aztec fans, Leatherwood profiles a little like Dan McGwire. He is tall and uses that height well to see what other QBs usually miss. A contemporary player who Leatherwood’s game resembles would be Nevada’s Carson Strong, which is probably why the Wolfpack are recruiting him. Leatherwood, in fact, will be in Reno on an unofficial visit on Saturday. Comparing a high school player with only five starts to either of the above is unfair to all involved. The comparison is only meant stylistically and not in overall skill.
The Aztecs made a great impression on Leatherwood. It was important for him to make the trip up to Carson on the 25th so he could take in the game day environment and meet the coaches. They succeeded in peaking his interest because of how well all the players got along and the style the coaches used to teach their craft. One advantage SDSU has is, as a local kid, he feels the excitement for the new stadium. It is a recruiting tool not only for himself but for keeping the best players in San Diego home.
“I think the stadium that they’re building will cause a lot of local kids to stay home because of how much SDSU is hyping the stadium up and the great atmosphere that is expected to occur inside of it,” he said.
If Leatherwood can continue playing at a high level and continues to show growth the remainder of the season, his recruitment will heat up. Coaches are presently doing their due diligence and establishing a relationship with the young signal-caller. If and when the offers arrive, they will come in bunches. For the school that earns his commitment, it will be big!