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Wisconsin QB commit Austin Kafentzis shattering records in Utah, but staying grounded

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Eleven state records haven't stopped the Badgers commit from improving many facets of his game.

Kim Babka

There's plenty of hype surrounding Sandy (Jordan), Utah, senior quarterback and Wisconsin commit Austin Kafentzis. After delving into his accomplishments in four years as the Beetdiggers' starting quarterback, it's hard to argue that's undeserved.

As of Sept. 22, Kafentzis held 10 Utah state high school records, with three more within striking distance. He holds the career rushing touchdown mark with 94. According to Maxpreps, he's responsible for 189 total touchdowns, including 95 touchdown passes. He's amassed 17,591 total yards -- and he still has a full half-year of his senior season to go.

The 6'1, 195-pound quarterback, however, doesn't know which records he's broken. Rather than staring at the marks he's shattered, he's focused on improving himself as a signal caller while also hoping to lead Jordan -- which takes on defending 5A state champion Bingham this Friday -- to its second title in three years in the same class ranking. All this, before enrolling early at Wisconsin in January.

Kafentzis has led Jordan to a 6-1 record this season, due in part to the continued polish applied to his game as a quarterback. His father, Kyle, ingrained in him early on to be a pocket passer -- only 88 of Austin's rushing yards in his first three seasons were from scrambling situations. This season, however, the elder Kafentzis -- who also serves as the Beetdiggers' defensive coordinator -- suggested his son utilize his speed and scramble when opposing defenses give him lanes to gain large chunks of yardage.

"I talked to him ... about improvising once or twice a game because he is a real fast kid, a strong, powerful kid. -Kyle Kafentzis, on Austin

"This year," said Kyle, who played at the University of Hawaii and was with the Chicago Bears for the 1987 season, "I talked to him, and so did coach [Eric Kjar], about improvising once or twice a game because he is a real fast kid, a strong, powerful kid."

Austin admitted he's worked to improve his throwing motion. Along with getting his elbow up, he's hoping to avoid future shoulder injuries down the road and also get a better spiral out to increase velocity and power on his passes.

A major focus has come in the film room. Kafentzis has studied more this season and has worked to refine his game and the offense he leads, learning offensive line calls and noticing the smaller details of the other position groups. He's also worked to study what opposing defenses will try to contain him.

This has helped in a major area of his game -- reducing turnovers.

According to Maxpreps.com, Kafentzis threw 49 interceptions in his first three seasons as starting quarterback, which included 18 in 2013. Through seven games, he's thrown only six while fumbling once. It's a key aspect of his game he still wants to improve upon mentally.

"It's a lot better than it has been the past three years," Kafentzis said, "and I give all the credit to studying and knowing what the defense is gonna be in and just being aware of what they're gonna run and stuff just so I have better feel for the game and stuff."

He's also listened to those who've succeed at the next levels of competition. Along with heeding advice from his coach and his father, Kafentzis has also worked out with Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson, a friend of his father's dating back to high school, once a summer.

"I just try to pick up as much as I can from other people that have been there or they know what they're doing, and just kind of listen," Kafentzis said.

"That's the biggest thing. You can't get a big head. There's always something you can get better at, and that's what you got to focus on. You don't focus on all your glory. Try to focus on what you didn't do right."

Kafentzis' maturity and athleticism have helped Jordan's spread offense become the second-best in the nation in total yards from scrimmage this season. He currently leads the state in rushing (1,233 yards) and is second in passing (2,041).

Though he's continuing to add onto his personal legacy -- he just became the Utah career passing leader with 11,258 yards, his 11th record -- he gave credit to his linemen for their blocking and also to his wide receivers. Kafentzis noted the passing game has begun to click even more as the season has continued.

"They have multiple reads," Kyle said of the Beetdiggers' offense. "He doesn't drop back and just have a design and play where he hits this receiver or that receiver. He's got to go back and read where he's going, and he may off his initial read to the next one and the next one, and then to his check down."

Austin, rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three-star by Scout, Rivals and 247 Sports, will enroll at Wisconsin in January after he finishes up his Utah prep career. He'll join fellow Badgers verbal commits Kyle Penniston and Nick Thomas as an early enrollee and hopes to establish some chemistry with his new collegiate teammates.

Along with forging new bonds, Kafentzis wants to begin the mental preparation for the college game. He'll begin to dig into offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig's offensive playbook in the extra semester he'll gain just weeks after graduating from high school.

"Why wait the extra four months when you can go up there and start your dream early and start working hard as soon as you step on campus?"