WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University quarterback Hayden Bauserman emerged as one of the best Division III quarterbacks in the country as a junior last season, leading the nation in passing yards per game and posting one of the highest passing touchdown totals in 2017. That stellar campaign has drawn the attention of a few NFL teams.
Most recently, Washington Redskins scout Harrison Ritcher visited SU’s campus Aug. 23 to meet with Bauserman and observe the senior quarterback during practice. Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said “a bunch of scouts” showed interest in the team’s star QB in the spring but that the Redskins were the first to visit the school during the Hornets’ preseason camp.
“It’s a cool experience to be able to throw and compete in front of an NFL scout,” Bauserman, a Central High School graduate and Woodstock native, said on Sunday morning. “It’s something that’ll kind of last a lifetime, kind of a memory sort of thing. I didn’t really take it as a huge deal, just kind of another practice, just with another set of eyes there. …
“It kind of started off, he asked me a few questions kind of like an interview, just about football and what are some of my favorite things, how do I learn the best in terms of playbooks and things like that. I filled out some paperwork just so my name goes in the NFL database. The NFL does a background check on everybody, so it was just sort of like that. Then he came out to practice and watched a little bit and ended up leaving. It was a cool experience, something I can say for the rest of my life that I got to throw in front of an NFL scout. But just taking it with a grain of salt and just focusing on winning football games.”
Bauserman said on Sunday he hadn’t yet heard any feedback from Washington, though he added that he expects the franchise to check in on him periodically throughout the upcoming season.
Bauserman wasn’t asked to do any specific drills during Ritcher’s visit, he noted, and he focused on approaching the practice as normally as possible.
“I thought things went well,” Bauserman said. “I thought I threw the ball pretty well and hopefully made a good impression. But there’s a lot of competition out there to go to the NFL. It’s the best of the best, so we’ll just see where it goes from here.”
The biggest news to come out of Ritcher’s visit, Bauserman said, was that the Redskins’ interest gains the quarterback access to pro days at Division I schools within a certain proximity to Shenandoah. Bauserman said, for example, he could attend Virginia Tech’s pro day in the spring and that Ritcher “told me he’d save me the suspense and he said that he’d vouch for me to go to any pro day that I want.”
Yoder said SU’s coaching staff started receiving film requests and general interest from NFL teams regarding Bauserman since the spring, and Bauserman mentioned the Patriots and the Steelers as franchises that have been sent his video highlights.
“I think from (Washington’s) standpoint it’s probably doing their due diligence in the area, but I thought it was very positive,” Yoder said. “I thought it was a good thing obviously for Hayden, how hard he’s worked, but also for the program. The young kids get excited and look around, and they know the Callahan kid (Joe Callahan, a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles) from Wesley (College) is in the NFL and with today’s world that if you’re good enough they’re gonna find you. I think it’s a great thing for our program, certainly for Hayden. I know he’s excited, and that’s a good thing. It’s a very positive thing.”
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Bauserman, who owns every significant single-game, single-season and career passing record at Shenandoah, completed 321 of 514 passes (62.5 percent) for 3,818 yards, 41 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 10 games last season. His 381.8 passing yards per game average led Division III.
In his SU career, Bauserman, who is entering his fourth year as a starter, has thrown for 8,643 yards, 89 touchdowns and 34 interceptions.
A SIMPLE SOLUTION: The Hornets’ answer to becoming a more effective defense could rest on a simplified approach that SU’s defensive coaching staff, led by coordinator Brock McCullough, has taken in preparation for the 2018 season.
Yoder said Wednesday that while Shenandoah took an aggressive stance last season that centered around overloading opposing offenses by placing more defenders than could be blocked in the box, the Hornets have since “put that on pause” and focused on being as sharp as they can be in one or two defensive fronts and one or two coverage schemes.
“In spring football there’s no pads or anything, but in the spring you started to see some guys really click,” Yoder said. “And the advantage of that versus the aggressive thing, the advantage of playing just a couple things and maybe not blitzing as much is you have a ton more eyes on the football because you’re not playing man coverage, so you’re just in better positions to make some plays. That spilled over into preseason and into our scrimmages. We played very well in our scrimmages. Now I’m sure Brock would tell you we played five coverages but we really only played two. They might have some variations and some tweaks, some different personnel, but I think we’ve only had two coverage calls for about three weeks. I think simplifying it has helped those guys kind of progress a little bit faster.”
The plan, Yoder added, is for SU to build around those base concepts as the season progresses.
“I think from us now to us in ODAC play in the next month is to refine those things that we can hang our hat on and now let’s add some of the stuff we know we’re gonna need,” he said, “because we can’t do those two things for 10 weeks and think we’re just gonna be fine.”
GOALS TO GO: Yoder said the coaching staff makes a point each season to discuss with its players what the program’s realistic goals should be in an effort to prevent SU’s young athletes from falling into the “trap” of aiming specifically for ODAC titles. The goals this season include earning a third consecutive winning season for the first time in program history and being in the thick of the ODAC race at the end of October, something the Hornets have done each of the past two seasons.
“I think that’s a very realistic goal and that doesn’t mean you have to run the table, but the ODAC season usually comes down to the last two weeks, and there’s usually three or four teams that have a hand in it. We wanna be one of those three or four teams for the third time in a row,” Yoder said. “I think those are very tangible goals with young athletes who can get distracted with, you know, it’s not even Sept. 1 yet. You’re not gonna win a championship now. You’re gonna have to build up to it.”