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Trey Lance’s arm strength and accuracy ‘second to none’, says North Dakota State wide receiver Phoenix Sproles

North Dakota State Bison quarterback Trey Lance (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Trey Lance’s limited sample size makes him one of the NFL Draft’s most enthralling case studies, however his former North Dakota State wide receiver and roommate Phoenix Sproles insists he has zero doubts over the quarterback’s ability to translate the potential he displayed at college into success on the NFL stage.

The prospective top 10 pick made just 17 total starts for the FCS outfit, 16 of which came as a redshirt freshman in 2019 before Lance featured in a sole showcase game in 2020 after the conference’s season was pushed back to the spring due to COVID-19.

Lance closed out his only full campaign with 2,786 passing yards for 28 touchdowns and an NCAA record ratio of zero interceptions from 287 attempts, having also logged 1,100 yards rushing and 14 scores from 169 carries.

“Obviously teams think about who we play like FCS schools, we aren’t playing Alabama, Ohio State but it’s still football at the end of the day,” Sproles told Sky Sports. “Even though we aren’t playing against the five-stars and the guys that are going to be the first-round picks, football is still football.

“I think the teams we play in our conference, there’s a high level of football and I think some of those teams could compete in the FBS.

“I don’t think he’s going to have any problems at all because Cover 2 is Cover 2, Cover 3 is Cover 3 and none of that is going to change so it’s just going to be up to him and how quick he can catch onto it and when he does it’s going to be a movie.”

Trey Lance's arm strength and accuracy 'second to none', says North Dakota State wide receiver Phoenix Sproles

Trey Lance's arm strength and accuracy 'second to none', says North Dakota State wide receiver Phoenix Sproles 0:22
North Dakota State Bison quarterback Trey Lance’s massive launch draws cheers at his pro day workout.

North Dakota State Bison quarterback Trey Lance’s massive launch draws cheers at his pro day workout.

Sproles has the stinging fingertips to show for the velocity of Lance’s passes in traffic, while he is also an advocate for his deep-ball ability as the recipient of the 20-year-old’s first career touchdown pass, a 47-yard over-the-shoulder catch in the 2019 season opener against Butler.

It marked a particularly meaningful moment for both as the two Minnesota natives connected for the first time inside the Twins’ Target Field in Minneapolis.

“It was in front of my hometown, my family, my first touchdown of the season and it was a bomb, it was like close to 50 yards and it couldn’t have been more perfect,” said Sproles.

“I think he has a canon. Catching his passes, even my little six-yard passes, I don’t know if he’s doing it on purpose or he can’t tell how strong his arm is because it feels like they’re coming in at 70mph from six yards away. He has a crazy arm.

“I have a lot of over-the-middle routes and they’re just hitting me in the chest and then his deep balls he can put touch on them as well so I think he’s second to none when it comes to arm strength and accuracy.”

Besides showcasing excellent poise and intelligence in the pocket, Lance also left scouts and analysts smitten by his often-mesmeric athleticism and playmaking ability on the ground.

He would evade pressure with ease, shrug off flailing arms, side-step tackles, display a natural instinct to scramble at the precise moment and devastate with tremendous speed to turn nullified plays into chunk yardage.

“Any time you have a 6ft 4in, 225lb quarterback that can run a 4.5/4.4, something is going to happen,” added Sproles. “Knowing that, I’ve just gotta make sure I block somebody because you never know when he might be right next to me.

“I know if a play did break down Trey would be able to turn nothing into something so I was never in fear of a play getting messed up because I knew if he had to scramble and run or scramble and throw, something was going to happen.

“You can teach elusiveness and all that but just naturally feeling yourself in the pocket and leaving when you have to, that’s just something that comes on your own and in practice.”

Lance had originally been a running back in youth football before evolving into Minnesota’s top quarterback prospect during his time at Marshall High School. Despite flourishing under center he eventually found himself being pointed towards wide receiver or defensive back by Power Five schools, resulting in Lance committing to North Dakota State where they envision a future for him at quarterback.

Sproles recalls regularly seeing Lance during college visits while still at high school, taking note of a personable and conscientious pro in the making.

“Not even knowing him at the time you could tell he was really about his business,” continued Sproles.”Then once I did get to know him in college and how he prepares himself as a quarterback, he’s doing film at 7am throughout the game week by himself, he’s texting our offense when we have our Friday meetings before our game on Saturday, he’s making sure everyone knows what they’re doing, giving us wide receivers signals that we’re probably going to use that game-day. He was on top of everything, from when I first met him at a young age and then throughout his college career.”

The junior wide receiver jokes Lance clearly ‘didn’t care’ about his sleep during their time living together judging by the way he would crash about in the kitchen in the morning and storm into Sproles’ room thinking he needed to be awake when actually he wasn’t up for another hour. 7am wake-up calls were the norm.

If he wasn’t playing video games with Sproles or watching funny YouTube blooper videos, Lance was grinding the tape to stay ahead of the curve.

“He is always in the film room,” said Sproles. “A lot of the quarterbacks get online classes so they can spend most of their time in the film room and that’s what Trey did.

“We start game-planning as a team on Monday, he starts his game plan on Sunday after our game on Saturday so he’s already ahead of everybody else. Coaches are watching our previous game and the team we’re about to play and he’ll pick out plays he might like.

“At home he had his own whiteboard, he’ll draw up plays, go over the opponent’s defenses and just kind of know what teams are going to do before they do it. He was definitely ahead of his time in my opinion and it rubbed off on me and other guys on our team as well.”

Lance also made a lasting impression as a leader away from the field, whether it has been participating in a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest last year or starting up a virtual Bible study group predominantly for college students and young adults during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

His impact saw to him becoming the face of the North Dakota State programme early on, a responsibility he embraced immediately when it came to setting the tone in the locker room.

“He’s saying ‘what’s up?’ to everybody, shaking everybody’s hand, he had to lead our team at 19-years-old, leading a bunch of guys that are 21, 22, maybe some 23-year-olds and they had mad respect for him,” said Sproles. “He’s always out to practice early to set an example for us as his team-mates.”

Lance dazzled at his first pro day on March 12, before throwing for NFL scouts again on April 19 with the San Francisco 49ers (No 3 pick), the Atlanta Falcons (No 4 pick), the Denver Broncos (No 9 pick) and the New England Patriots (No 15 pick) all in attendance.

“We FaceTime almost every day and it’s just crazy how quick your life can switch like that and he was just so thankful that he gets to do what he loves to do,” said Sproles.

“Up until his (first) pro day and even now he’s always been locked in and I know after pro day he was a little more relieved, he finally got to breathe a little bit because it’s the biggest interview of your life.

“From what he told me it was a really big blessing to be in that position that he’s in.”

When considering the lack of experience in comparison to other quarterbacks in the class, top 10 projections speak volumes to the talent of a young play-caller with all the tools to succeed.

For updates on the Draft, be sure to follow along at skysports.com/nfl and on Twitter @SkySportsNFL.


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