Roger Theder, the former Cal head coach, insists he once watched Steve Bartkowski throw a football 100 yards. "People don't believe me when I say that, but it's true," Theder says. "He did it."
Theder spent 17 seasons coaching college football and another five coaching professional football. Most recently he's worked as a mentor for high school quarterbacks in Northern California. To this day, Bartkowski's arm is the strongest Theder's ever seen.
The only quarterback who's come close, he says, is his current pupil, Colin Kaepernick. Theder believes that if Kaepernick aired it out, the ball would travel 85 to 90 yards. Theder has been working with Kaepernick since the latter was gangly teenager at Turlock's Pitman High School. And he is currently in Atlanta with Kaepernick as the Nevada quarterback prepares for the scouting combine later this month.
Theder notes that Kaepernick played in a Wing-T offense in high school and then learned Chris Ault's "Pistol" offense at Nevada. He said Kaepernick -- who had 4.4 GPA in high school and who last year scored 38 on the Wonderlic exam -- can pick up and play in any system, including the power-running West Coast offense Jim Harbaugh is putting together in San Francisco.
"He's always been very competitive," Theder says of Kaepernick. "He outworks everybody. He works very hard and he has a tremendously strong arm. There are some kids that sort of don't want to catch the ball from him."
And if Harbaugh and the 49ers pass on Kaepernick, Theder has another former pupil who'd fit in nicely - Josh Johnson. Theder mentored Johnson when he was at Oakland Technical High School. In fact, Theder says that he was the one who first mentioned Johnson to Harbaugh when the two bumped into each other at Miramonte High School shortly after Harbaugh became the head coach at the University of San Diego.
Give Theder an A+ in matchmaking. Harbaugh ended up recruiting Johnson to play for the Toreros. In 2006, Harbaugh's last year at San Diego, Johnson led the nation in passing efficiency and he did it again the following season. Johnson left the school with 11,563 yards of total offense and was a fifth-round pick by the Buccaneers in the 2008 draft.
General manager Trent Baalke has said that the 49ers will pursue trade possibilities as they work to restock the quarterback position. Johnson, who is behind former first-round draft pick Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay, is one of those possibilities. Theder thinks he'd be an ideal fit in a system in which accuracy is paramount.
"He's not only an accurate passer, he's sharp." Theder says. "He throws the out route as well as anyone I've ever seen."
The Bills today announced they will be changing their uniforms. Obviously, team officials came across my 2008 uniform rankings in which Buffalo finished in the bottom four.
-- Matt Barrows