Jimmy’s blog: Dilfer thinks UT got a `dude’ in Salter

By Jimmy Hyams

Trent Dilfer was an NFL quarterback for 14 years. He won a Super Bowl with the Ravens. He started five years in a row for the Bucs. He had over 20,000 career passing yards.

So, the native of California knows a thing or two about playing quarterback.

And he is highly impressed with a quarterback from Cedar Hill, Texas, who has committed to Tennessee: Kaiden Salter.

“Salter’s a dude, man,’’ Dilfer said Tuesday on SportsTalk radio, WNML. “His tape was electric. You could see the athleticism.’’

Dilfer, who runs the Elite 11 camp in Murfreesboro, saw more of Salter up close and personal during the quarterback workouts.

“I wasn’t sure what time of passer he was until I spent time with him,’’ said Dilfer, now head coach at Lipscomb Academy in Nashville. “He’s a really a gifted passer.

“What I love the most about him was how coachable he was. He really embraced some of the new stuff we challenged him with. He embraced growing as a passer. He’s a really smart kid. I think the sky is the limit for him.’’

Dilfer said he’d been impressed with Tennessee’s recruiting for the Class of 2021. And he thinks the Vols got a salty quarterback in Salter.

“This kid can do it all,’’ Dilfer said. “He’s a passer first who can beat you with his legs. That’s what he wants to be.

“The other thing, his frame. I didn’t notice it on film. He’s got a frame, he could be 25 pounds heavier without losing his athleticism, without losing his twitch.

“He’s going to be a physical presence, a guy that can beat you in the pocket, he can beat you outside the pocket, the quarterback driven run game. But more importantly, as a competitor, he’s the right kind of competitor.’’

As a junior, Salter passed for 2,550 yards with 28 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and a 61 percent completion rate. He ran for 616 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In addition to being a star quarterback, Salter (6-1, 185) excels in track. He runs the 300-meter hurdles, is on the 4×400 relay team and competes in the high jump, long jump and triple jump. He has run the 40 in 4.85 seconds, although he appears faster than that.

Salter’s mobility makes him extremely difficult to defend.

“There are so many advantages when you can call quarterback driven runs or run the read or get the quarterback on the perimeter to buy time,’’ Dilfer said. “If his legs are a threat and the defense is always aware of that, you just get more defined looks on defense as a passer.

“Your ability to attack the line of scrimmage as a runner, whether a designed run or scramble, gives you easier looks.’’

Dilfer said that Alabama coach Nick Saban has noted for years that “it’s hard to play complex defenses’’ against a mobile quarterback because “you have to dedicate a person or a set of eyeballs to that quarterback whose a runner, which takes those eyeballs away from the pass defense.’’

Dilfer said running the Elite 11 quarterback camps this year “wasn’t the same,’’ but he tried to give the players an “elite experience. The culture of the Elite 11, the legacy of the Elite 11 is pretty special. These kids grow up and dream about that as much as they dream about signing their letter of intent to play at a major college. So we didn’t want to rob them of that.

“I think we were able to hold serve at the Elite 11 without kids feeling a dramatic impact.’’

Making an impact on teen-agers is what Dilfer is all about now.

Dilfer played for five teams in a 14-year NFL career. He was mentored by John Brodie. He mentored Alex Smith.

Upon retirement from the NFL, he worked for ESPN and Fox. He moved to Texas and played 208 rounds of golf in 2017. But it wasn’t fulfilling.

“I didn’t feel like I had a purpose,’’ Dilfer said.

He had turned down opportunities to coach in the NFL and at Power Five schools, but he declined due to the ages of his girls.

Then, he got the “itch’’ to coach and give back to a community, so he took the head coaching job at Lipscomb Academy on Jan. 18, 2019.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been fun,’’ Dilfer said of the challenge of building the football program. “I wouldn’t say it’s been easy. But it’s been as rewarding as anything I’ve ever done.’’

When he arrived, Lipscomb had 38 football players, five of whom were bench pressing a pipe. He now has 108 players.

“We’ve grown something pretty special, pretty competitive,’’ Dilfer said.

Does Dilfer see himself staying in the high school ranks or eventually coaching in the NFL or in college?

“I don’t see myself in the NFL game,’’ Dilfer said. “It’s become too political, it’s too much of a business. It’s lost its substance in terms of football.

“I do like the college game.

“I wouldn’t leave a calling for an ambition by any stretch of the imagination. I see myself here for years upon years upon years. But then, I never saw myself coming here.

“I try not to close any doors. I try not to say never. But I do think I’ve found my niche.’’

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