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Quarterback or bust for Quinton Flowers in the NFL?

The USF record-setter has proved doubters wrong in the past, but will the league give him a shot under center?
USF quarterback Quinton Flowers throws a pass over the middle of the line in East-West Shrine Game practice. (Scott Keeler, Times)
Published Jan. 19, 2018
Updated Jan. 20, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Reps have been priceless for Quinton Flowers this week, each to be maximized and handled with care.
Yet he couldn't avoid handling some clumsily.
On the opening day of practice at Shorecrest Prep for today's East-West Shrine Game, Flowers — exclusively a shotgun quarterback during his three stellar seasons as USF's starter — lined up directly under center and mishandled the snap.
Then he mishandled another and was replaced.
"I have to (work on) that," he said. "At the next level it's not always a shotgun play, not always you're just going to sit back there and just make a throw. You have to get under center and do whatever it takes for whichever team it is, and for myself."
Will Flowers, the greatest player in USF football history, sparkle or struggle — or even get a chance to play quarterback in an NFL camp — as he tries to get to the next level?
No insights will come today.
Flowers won't play in the game, Shrine Game spokeswoman Nikki Devereux said Friday night.
Flowers withdrew Friday because of a death in the family, according to the Bleacher Report website.
Flowers could not be reached for comment.
Before leaving St. Petersburg, Flowers had four practices with the East team and was invited to the NFL scouting combine in late February. USF's on-campus pro day also is expected to be held around that time.
The owner of no fewer than 34 USF records still has ample opportunity to defy conventional thinking about his NFL chances:
Too short. Faulty passing mechanics. Accuracy issues.
"I don't see enough consistent passing skills for him to be a quarterback," said Chris Landry, a widely respected NFL and college coaching and scouting consultant who appears regularly on Tampa Bay area sports-talk radio. "But I would definitely give him a shot."
The website, which compiles mock drafts, ranks Flowers 18th among quarterbacks in the 2018 class and says in its assessment: "Flowers is shorter than typical starting quarterbacks in the NFL, which will hurt him. He will need to show pocket-passing ability to climb and avoid talk of changing positions."
It was such talk that stoked Flowers four years ago, when he was being recruited by Division I-A programs — albeit mostly at positions other than quarterback — out of Miami Jackson. Bent on proving he could excel behind center at the next level, he signed with one of the few schools (USF) that promised him a shot at quarterback.
This time around? "I would say I'm flexible," said Flowers, who measured at 5 feet 101/4 inches and 210 pounds during Shrine workouts.
"I'll do whatever it takes for the team to win," he said Monday. "If the coach tells me to play this position, I'm a team player. I just want to win."
Landry and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper suggest Flowers' best shot at landing on an NFL roster rests outside the pocket. Fortunately for Flowers, there's a solid precedent for that.
Indiana dual-threat quarterback Antwaan Randle El (5-10, 192), who totaled 11,364 yards in his career and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2001, spent nine years in the NFL as a receiver and kick returner.
Matt Jones, a 6-foot-6 quarterback at Arkansas, was drafted as a receiver by the Jaguars in the first round in 2005 and had 166 catches in four seasons.
"I love Flowers and believe his NFL position will be determined by how he performs in his positional workouts," Landry said. "He has excellent run skills, and we will have to see how he adjusts to catching the ball, etc."
Kiper noted that Randle El had a "great Senior Bowl week," prompting the Steelers to use a second-round pick on him in 2002.
"Matt Jones, the same thing," Kiper said. "(The Jaguars) gave him a first-round pick, and he was a bust, but he still showed that (he could change spots). So yes, if you can show it in an all-star game, it really benefits you because (NFL teams) want to see it if you make that position change.
"So we'll see what happens. But right now that's an unknown that we don't have an idea of what position (Flowers) would project to and how he would do at that spot."
Though Flowers practiced almost exclusively at quarterback this week — taking reps behind Ohio State's J.T. Barrett and Memphis' Riley Ferguson — he was seen fielding punts Tuesday. If he can effectively brandish a versatile skill set at the combine and his pro day, he could follow in the cleats of Randle El.
Or he could maximize the interview process — and his quarterback reps — to dart, dodge, sling and scramble his way into a GM's heart.
Sound familiar?

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

East-West Shrine Game

3 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

TV/radio: NFL Network; 1040-AM

Tickets: $15 general admission