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Woody Paige: Wyoming assistant says QB Josh Allen compares well to Carson Wentz

January 20, 2018 Updated: January 20, 2018 at 4:40 pm
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Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen (17) runs with the ball against Central Michigan during the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, in Boise, Idaho. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP)

When Brent Vigen first viewed the tape of Josh Allen, the Wyoming associate head coach and offensive coordinator instantly was reminded of another quarterback.

Carson Wentz.

When John Elway watched Allen throw three ICBM touchdown passes in the first quarter of the FIPB, the Broncos' Boss obviously was reminded of another quarterback.

His Own Self.

Vigen, a proven college quarterback whisperer, recruited and coached Wentz at North Dakota State, then later recruited and coached Allen at Wyoming.

In most NFL scouting reports, Allen is evaluated as possessing a "John Elway-like arm.''

Elway had to see for his own self, so he flew to Boise on Dec. 22 for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and he saw. Oddly enough, Elway then flew to Washington to see for himself Kirk Cousins.

Will one or the other end up in Denver?

ESPN draft specialist Mel Kiper Jr. has announced that Josh Allen is his choice for the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Eight national "experts'' have Allen being drafted by the Broncos at No. 5.

Elway was selected first 34 drafts ago.

Peyton Manning was No. 1 in 1998.

Allen is represented by Tom Condon, the agent for Peyton and Eli Manning (also No. 1 in '04).

And the Broncos' coaching staff will coach Allen and Baker Mayfield at the Senior Bowl this week.

Vigen has more than a passing interest in the Senior Bowl, the draft and where Allen will wind up.

"It certainly would be fun to have him with the Broncos, but I'd have to divide my NFL allegiance three ways,'' Vigen told me Saturday before he drove his three sons to Denver for a high school basketball camp.

Having just concluded his 20th year in coaching, Vigen was born in Buxton, N.D., earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at North Dakota State, played tight end for the Bison and began his career with the college as a graduate assistant. The eastern half of the state pulls for the Vikings; the western section is pro-Broncos. "I'm from the eastern side,'' he says.

Vigen's loyalty will be strained Sunday. Vigen also roots for the Vikings' opponent in the NFC Championship Game Sunday because of Wentz, the injured Eagles' quarterback he helped discover and develop with then North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl - before the two coaches were hired by the Cowboys in 2014.

The important subject to discuss with Vigen is a comparison of Wentz, chosen second in the 2016 draft, and Allen, one of the four premier quarterbacks in the 2018 draft.

"The framework of the philosophy that coach Bohl and I always have shared is that we look at what a young quarterback will be beyond now - in three or four years. We start with size, athleticism and desire. We consider kids who have fallen through the cracks, maybe been late-bloomers because they played all sports in a smaller school and town that doesn't get exposure. Usually they are raw and not totally filled out physically, and they're missing that one piece. They hadn't been scouted much and didn't attend elite passing academies. They're competitive, have a chip on their shoulders, and they're intelligent, and somebody we can mold.

"Carson and Josh had those attributes and similar backgrounds. (Carson is from North Dakota, Josh Northern California near Fresno.)

Wentz had no major-college scholarship offers, Josh none. So, in 2011, Wentz followed his brother to North Dakota State and redshirted; Josh, four years later, attended junior college.

Yet, both grew into big-time, big-sized (6-foot-5) quarterbacks who, by their junior seasons, had the NFL drooling.

"Josh has the stronger arm,'' says Vigen, who is on track to be a college head coach soon. "Carson has more of an ability to get away and make the play. Physically, Josh may have the edge, and he's more unscripted on the field. Carson may have the advantage in his passing accuracy and his methodical understanding (he was valedictorian in high school) of offenses. I thought both had chances to be very successful for our team and, in the right situations, at the next level. But did I believe that Carson would be an MVP candidate in his second year in the NFL? No. And did I think either would be drafted so high? Not really. But they are remarkable quarterbacks and very similar in a lot of different ways. They're leaders, and they love their teammates, and they are very intelligent and mature. They're great young men.''

The principle complaints against Allen were his passing percentage (56) and his performances against Power Five conference teams.

"I'll take some of the blame for the passing percentage,'' Vigen said. "We ordered him to throw the ball away rather than throw into coverage or try to run too often. Honestly, we had a lot of drops this year, and we had lost a lot of his playmakers from the previous year. When Josh had interceptions at Iowa and Nebraska the past two years, he tried to get 21 points back all at once and forced the ball. Is he perfect? No. But it rained in Boise State the whole game, and we had a snowstorm for Colorado State, and the wind in Laramie can be tough. Those are excuses, but they are legitimate. It took us several games this season to evolve, and then he got the injury (shoulder sprain). But he came back at 90 percent in the bowl and showed everybody what he can do.

"I didn't see much of the other top quarterbacks, but I know Josh is as good a passer as anybody, and he's competitive, and our multiple-offensive system is good preparation for the NFL. It will be exciting to see Josh with the other quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl. He can handle it.''

Some Super Bowl Sunday, perhaps Vigen's two quarterbacks will be matched. And possibly someday both will match some of His Own Self's football feats.

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