Breaking down the biggest quarterback observations from week 1 of the college football season.
NEPD Staff Writer Jack Andrade
Jameis Winston’s brilliance overshadowed his struggles in Week 1.
The Winston Conundrum
Jameis Winston is going to be picked apart for every little thing he does on and off the field at Florida State, as he’s become a college celebrity much like Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. So when Winston’s flaws shine through, you can expect the naysayers to raise their voices higher, while the Winston supporters conveniently make their argument known after he flashes the talent that won him the Heisman Trophy last year as a freshman.
As someone who seems to fall in the middle of the Winston argument, I can objectively say that I was not impressed at all with his performance Saturday night against Oklahoma State. I think Winston made some poor decisions and didn’t have the same poise and consistency that we saw so often last season.
Of course, his touchdown scamper in the third quarter is what blew Twitter up, with national media tweeting their worship of Winston for his remarkable run.
This angers me as an evaluator because I felt that given that a) Winston had not been playing well and b) Florida State was not exactly comfortable nursing a slim second half lead all night. But, again like Manziel, Winston has the rare ability to make one incredible play that makes people lose their minds and forget about the other factors at play.
Like Manziel, Winston is brilliant. Like Manziel, Winston is going to have off the field debates raged by people who have never met the kid.
I still think Winston has the ability to be a first round pick, and I’m certainly not going to worry about one bad game on his resume. I just wish people could look at his entire body of work Saturday night instead of ogling over his moment of brilliance. It’s what I hope to do with The Quarterback Report: provide the type of objective analysis you can’t get from big national outlets.
2 of the more respected football analysts I follow were similarly perplexed with Winston’s sub-par performance.
A No-Win for Bryce Petty?
Baylor’s Bryce Petty had no trouble picking apart SMU’s defense in his one half of action Sunday, as the Bears blew out the Mustangs 45-0. However, the rumblings around this year’s senior QB class lead me to think Petty might be in a no-win situation.
Following his 32 TD, 3 interception campaign from last year, Petty was my top rated senior QB in this class by a decent margin based on 2013 tape. He’s got an NFL arm and is supposedly a 4.6 athlete in the 40 yard dash, and his production at Baylor has been outstanding.
It seems, however, that Petty has already made his friends and his enemies among scouts, and no amount of success this season will change many of the doubters minds. Art Briles’ spread offense does not require the QB to take snaps under center or make many complicated reads, so projecting Petty to the NFL is all based on whether his skill set will allow him to be successful in an NFL scheme that will ask a lot more of him “upstairs.”
For those evaluators who slight Petty for being a product of Briles’ system, there’s nothing Petty can do to convince everyone he’s a first round prospect. It only takes one team to fall in love, as they say, but I think without a doubt Petty will be polarizing among scouts and evaluators next spring.
Missed Opportunity for Keeton
Chuckie Keeton has a pretty sizable base of evaluators who think he could emerge as the top QB in the senior class, but the Utah State signal caller struggled to get much going in the opener against Tennessee.
Keeton is a dual-threat and his recovery from an ACL injury in 2013 is paramount to his success this season. While I hesitate to hold one bad game against a prospect, the reality is Utah state’s schedule likely won’t afford him a better opportunity to put good tape together against a defense as talented as Tennessee’s.
Keeton finished 18-35 for 144 yards with 1 TD and 2 interceptions. His receivers did little to help him out and Utah State was clearly outmatched on both sides of the ball in the 38-7 defeat. Here’s to hoping Keeton can rebound and lead the Aggies to a strong Mountain West Conference campaign and earn himself a bowl game against a power conference defense.
It didn’t take long for Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill to make his mark on the SEC, as the heir to Johnny Manziel broke Johnny Football’s single game passing record with a phenomenal debut at South Carolina on Thursday night.
Hill threw for 511 yards and 3 touchdowns on 44-60 passing in the Aggies’ surprisingly easy 52-28 dismantling of the Gamecocks. It was an awesome debut considering the hostile environment and the pressure of following in Manziel’s footsteps.
A true sophomore, it’s a tad early to start projecting Hill to the NFL game. If he continues to make the loss of Manziel insignificant for A&M, however, there’s a chance the undersized Hill (6‘1” 215) could be the third Aggies QB selected in the first round this decade in 2016 or 2017.
Gardner, Golson Look Sharp
Both Michigan and Notre Dame received strong debuts from their quarterbacks Saturday, and that alone makes next Saturday’s rivalry game all the more intriguing.
Gardner disappointed last season in his first full year as the starter. Garner tossed 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and scored another 11 TDs on the ground last year, but poor performances in the second half of the season against Michigan State, Nebraska, and Iowa doomed the Wolverines’ hopes for a quality season following a 6-1 start.
Golson was ineligible to play last Fall because of his academic probation from Notre Dame. He helped the Fighting Irish reach the National Championship Game as a sophomore in 2012.
Both Gardner and Golson had fantastic individual performances Saturday, albeit against cupcake defenses (especially Gardener against FCS Appalachian State). For all the promise both showed as prep stars and underclassmen, the two seniors are now playing for a shot at NFL relevancy and if both can deliver again this coming week, Michigan/Notre Dame will be must-see.
Highlighting the best box score lines among top QB prospects this week.
- Cody Kessler, USC: 25-37 passing, 394 yards, 4 TDs in 52-13 win over Fresno State
- Marcus Mariota, Oregon: 14-20 passing, 267 yards, 3 TDs; 6 rushes, 41 yards, 1 TD in 62-13 win over South Dakota
- Connor Cook, Michigan State: 12-13 passing, 285 yards, 3 TDs in 45-7 win over Jacksonville State
- Shane Carden, East Carolina: 26-37 passing, 283 yards, 3 TDs in 52-7 win over NC Central.
- Devin Gardner, Michigan: 13-14 passing, 173 yards, 3 TDs in 52-14 win over Appalachian State.