The University of San Diego is an FCS, mid-major, non-scholarship football program. But head coach Dale Lindsey has helped build it into a football factory.
“Think about the number of NFL players who have come out of there ,” says Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco of a list that includes Jamal Agnew, Josh Johnson and Ross Dwelley. “They do a tremendous job with that program.”
This year the Toreros have a few more guys in the NFL Draft pool. Quarterback Reid Sinnett and wide receiver Michael Bandy are among them. But, even as good as USD has become, the Pioneer Football League is not where a lot of scouts spend a ton of time.
Guys like Sinnett and Bandy get on NFL radars then use pro days and in-person workouts to sell themselves. With the coronavirus pandemic that’s been impossible, making the Toreros hopes of hearing their names called at the upcoming Draft even more difficult.
“Scouts got taken off the road and made it really difficult for guys like me and others to show the scouts what we can do and kind of check off the boxes,” says Bandy.
Among those boxes is the question of whether or not the monster numbers Bandy and Sinnett put up are a product of FCS competition or their true ability to play at the highest level. So, they’re getting creative.
“Luckily enough I was able to get into a pro day in Texas and kind of sneak my way over there and get in front of a scout,” says Bandy.
At that workout … where social distancing was enforced … Bandy got to run a 40-yard time, a piece of vital information for NFL teams trying to evaluate smaller school players.
“I’ve seen a lot of Division 2, Division 3 running backs that ran for 2,000 yards but they run a 4.8, 4.9 40 (yard dash) and that just doesn’t really translate very well to the NFL. So it is good to get a 40 time (on smaller school players),” says Telesco.
How did Bandy run?
“I did alright. I ran a 4.62 which is pretty solid. I’m happy with it,” he says. “I ran some good short shuttle times and 3-cone, which I think is really good for my size and shows off my agility for sure.”
He’s only 5’10” so quickness from the slot it paramount and a big reason he’s seemingly always open (although that 40 time is faster than Wes Welker and even Jerry Rice so Michael ain’t exactly slow). Bandy is a fantastic route runner, something he’s been fine-tuning on a high school field behind his parents’ house.
“My agent has gathered things from different teams where I’m going to be in the future. Obviously, I’m a little bit shorter so I’m going to be in the slot so a lot of slot work. Those are the routes I’m working on,” says Bandy.
Video of said routes are sent to the interested teams. His dad might get a call too. Since he can’t hook up with Sinnett, Bandy’s father has been the one acting as emergency QB.
“He’s good enough,” says Michael. “He gets the job done.”
Meanwhile, Sinnett graduated in December with a Finance degree so he was hoping to focus 100% on NFL Draft preps. He’s been throwing with Dwelley but even having a guy who went to the Super Bowl last year around hasn’t been totally ideal.
“The hard part is getting on a field and we haven’t been able to do that since parks are closed,” says Sinnett. “I’ve heard of people getting tickets for trying to do that kind of thing so throwing in an indoor facility is a little different. It’s not quite as efficient as we’d want it to be.”
In-person meetings are more important for quarterbacks than any other position. They’re expected to take a play and break it all down on a dry erase board in front of the coaching staff. For that part of it Sinnett has utilized the same thing most of America seems to have employed.
“Zoom has been really efficient for that kind of stuff and I obviously don’t know any different at this point. It’s not like I had 30 visits and now I’m doing it over Zoom but you can mark stuff up. You’re still able to talk through things and draw things up so it’s still interactive to an extent but it’s not to the extent I would have hoped for but it’s making it work with what we’ve got,” says Sinnett.
Among the dozen or so Zoom meetings he’s had are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Those two clubs, of course, have Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. But they also have Bruce Arians and Andy Reid at head coach, two of the best QB coaches the game has ever seen.
One of the issues with using remote technology, however, is Sinnett isn’t sure if he had a meeting with them or not.
“You generally talk with the quarterbacks coach and then there are some people who are singed in who don’t have names and who aren’t popping up on the video so they could have been. I’m not sure,” says Sinnett. “It’s always kind of funny. You see 10 names at the bottom and you’re not quite sure who’s who.”
Bandy has also had meetings with several NFL clubs that have pretty good guys to catch the football from.
“The Seahawks, Giants, Colts and 49ers. Those are the ones right now,” says Bandy.
That’s Russell Wilson, Daniel Jones, Philip Rivers and Jimmy Garoppolo. Not a bad list … but can they live up to Michael’s dad?
“It might be a little bit of a jump,” says Bandy. “But just a little one.”
For both of these guys, the numbers speak for themselves. Put on the tape and you can see these are extremely good football players. So, odds are both will end up with an NFL team, either as a draftee or a college free agent. When that happens all this uncertainty will be worth it.
“I’m going to be pretty speechless,” says Bandy. “It’s going to hit me, probably, pretty quickly. It’s going to be an awesome feeling and something I’ve been chasing my whole life.”
Meanwhile, Sinnett has his college degree already. But he really hopes he never has to use it.
“I can’t tell you how much I don’t want to use it now,” says Sinnett. “After having gone through this and talking to some guys who are in the position they’re in with the NFL, 10 years and however many dollars later … I think that would be a lot better than a training camp then having to go find a finance job.”