Monday, May 21, 2007

BC by the Positions - QB

Summer is kind of a dead time for college football fans. Sure, the guys are working out, but most programs (particularly those run by guys with NFL backgrounds) are secretive enough that it's tough to know what's going on aside from a media snippet here and there. So with an eye towards next season, I will break down the team BC will be bringing into the year, position by position. I will look at guys who figure to start this year, guys who figure to provide depth this year, young players on our roster who we will look to in the future, and our recruiting situation at that position. While much of this will not be new info to BC fans, I hope to analyze the situations (with a particular eye towards position battles) and give my take on things. It will also help educate opposing fans who may not know much about our team.

So without further ado, I will begin this series with a few words on the quarterback position.

The Starter: This man needs no introduction. Glenn Foley is a great radio host (I encourage anyone in the Philadelphia area to check him out on 950 am in the mornings), but he no longer holds the title of "BC's best quarterback since Flutie". We have in Matt Ryan the best QB by far in the ACC, and one of the best in the country. Ryan finished last season with 2942 passing yards, a 126.38 passer rating, 15 TD passes, and a 61.6% completion rating; good for first, fourth, tied for third, and third in the ACC respectively. His TD/INT ratio (15/10), while not overly impressive at first glance on a national scale, was best in the defensive-heavy ACC. His numbers in 2006 were good, if not great. However, as any BC fan knows, numbers do not tell the story with Ryan. For one thing, he accomplished these feats despite having merely an average WR corps by ACC standards (I could throw 20 TD passes, as Georgia Tech QB Reggie Ball did last season, with Calvin Johnson on my team), and despite being shackled by Tom O'Brien's ultra-conservative approach and by playing for Dana Bible, who is the worst offensive coordinator in the country. In addition to Bible's general incompetence, Ryan's TD numbers were hurt specifically by Bible's preference to keep the ball on the ground in the red zone. For another, he accomplished all of this despite playing on a sprained ankle for virtually the entire year and on a broken foot for about half of the year. Despite these injuries, he missed just one game during the year (and my hunch is that he would've played had that game not been against Buffalo in a driving monsoon).

More importantly, however, Ryan's most important asset is his leadership. Ever since he took a brutal hit against Clemson early in the 2005 season and returned to the game after missing just one play, he has been this team's emotional sparkplug. He knows how to win, and he rarely makes mistakes in critical situations (yes, he threw game-ending interceptions against Wake Forest and Miami last season; but he should not have been put in those desperation situations by the coaching staff in the first place).

With new offensive coordinator Steve Logan coming into town, the sky is the limit for Ryan this year. It is true that Ryan, a classical drop-back passer, does not fit the mold of mobile, athletic QBs generally favored by Logan. But unlike his predecessor, Logan is smart enough not to try to force a square peg into a round hole. Logan is one of the best QB gurus in the game today, having sent two passers to the NFL during his tenure at East Carolina (Jeff Blake and David Garrard), and his partnership with Ryan could prove lethal for opposing defenses. While Ryan is not likely to break off a 30-yard run, he is mobile in the sense that guys like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Carson Palmer are mobile; that is to say, he can move around in the pocket, effectively avoid pressure, and buy his receivers more time to get open. BC's athletic department needs to start up the hype machine now, because Ryan is a legitimate Heisman contender; but when you don't play for a Texas or Notre Dame, you need your school to go to bat for you in the PR arena. So far there is little indication that BC has done this, which is extremely distressing to me. Aside from owing it to one of BC's best players ever, having a Heisman winner or even contender can pay off many times over down the line in recruiting (as well as the national profile of the school in general). In my opinion, Ryan and Louisville's Brian Brohm are the two best quarterbacks in the country this year. If BC has a strong start to the year and is in the hunt for a BCS bowl and the ACC title, he will be firmly in the running both for the Heisman and an early first-round NFL draft selection.

The Depth: It's not easy playing behind one of the country's best, but the QB position will be in good hands for at least one year after Ryan graduates. Junior Chris Crane has looked solid every time he's been called upon at BC, and led the Eagles to an overwhelming victory (so overwhelming, 41-0, that walk-on David D'Ambrosio was behind center for a good chunk of the 4th quarter) over Buffalo in his one career start last season. Granted, it was Buffalo; but even against the sternest opponents he has faced, BC's own defense in the last two spring games, Crane has impressed--even this year, despite playing behind a patchwork second-team offensive line that included true freshman Anthony Castonzo at right tackle. Playing primarily in the Buffalo game but also in mop-up duty against Maine and Duke (admittedly not the toughest opposition), Crane went 22 for 32 last year, throwing for 193 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception (if I remember correctly, a good pass that bounced off a receiver's hands and straight to a Buffalo defender). He's not Matt Ryan, but few are. What he is is mobile in a way that Ryan is not, despite being a pass-first QB, and an prototypical Steve Logan QB. Crane reminds me somewhat in his style of play of Donovan McNabb (during McNabb's 230 lb pro tenure, not his 190 lb play at Syracuse). He looks to pass first, but is not afraid to take off downfield if nothing is there, and has the speed to punish defenses by doing so. At ECU, Logan made a habit of inserting the backup QB for one series during each half of every game; I don't think this will take place here, as it seems like it will be Jags' call rather than Logans, and I don't think that an NFL guy will want to do that, especially with a starting QB as good as Ryan. But Crane is more than capable of winning games for BC if he does play. Hopefully he will get the opportunity, but only in garbage time. Either way, I see him being a very effective starter for BC next season.

The Future: On this fall's roster will be redshirt freshman Billy Flutie, and true freshmen Chris Johnson and Dominique Davis. None will see time at QB this season unless BC is forced to go to a third QB due to injuries (or a combination of injury and a blowout lead; even then, as in the Buffalo game last year, you may see a walk-on instead). Despite his last name, Flutie's future at the Heights is not neccesarily behind center. While he reportedly looked good running the scout offense last year, Flutie did not take a single snap at QB in this year's spring game; he did, however, look fairly impressive at wideout. My feeling is that that either this or defensive back is his ultimate position at BC. That said, BC has frequently in the recent past used three QBs in a single season, and the coaching staff will have a decision to make. Do they keep Flutie at QB for emergency purposes; or do they move him to WR or DB, letting him learn the position full-time but forcing them to burn one of the true freshmen's redshirts (or hastily move Flutie back to QB) if Ryan and Crane both go down??

It remains to be seen, but my guess is that Flutie moves to WR or DB this year. So with that said, who of Johnson and Davis has the inside track?? It is tough to say without having seen them play other than in highlight films. Both are extremely raw, but athletic, signal-callers with good upside. Both fit well as mobile QBs in Logan's preferred offense. That said, if one of them is forced to play this year, I think Johnson is the slightly more polished QB. He looks to have a little bit better arm and quicker release than Davis does, and I like his mechanics a little bit more. Johnson is also a little bit faster than Davis (a reported 4.6 40 time to Davis' 4.7), which will help him escape bad situations better than Davis can. That said, Davis played at a higher level of high school ball, which would mean less of an adjustment to the ACC than Johnson will face. Ultimately, I think BC is in trouble if either guy is forced to play this year (but what school can't say that if both of their top QBs go down??), but both hold promise for the future.

Of course, with all three QBs (still counting Flutie until he's officially changed positions) set to be on the roster after 2008 being projects, we need to pull in a top signal-caller this year. The leading candidate seems to be Tommy Reamon Jr., a 6'2, 195 lb signal-caller from Virginia's Gloucester High School, alma mater of the Vick brothers and NFL veteran Aaron Brooks. While Reamon has not disclosed that he has an offer from BC, he has said that he holds offers from several schools but does not want to publicly disclose which ones. All the evidence indicates that BC is one of these schools. Reamon's father and high school coach, Tommy Sr., has been friends with both Logan and Jags for over two decades. The system he runs at Gloucester is very similar to the one Logan intends to install at BC. And he has stated that BC is one of the leaders for his services (interest and possible offers also coming from Georgia Tech, Virginia, Alabama, and UNC, among others). At the end of the day, I think Reamon is an Eagle in 2008.

Also on BC's radar are a pair of Florida QBs, DC Jefferson and Jacory Harris. Jefferson, one of the country's most highly sought-after QBs, is a Daunte Culpepper/JaMarcus Russell clone out of Winter Haven, FL. He stands 6'6, weighs 243, and has been clocked at 4.76 on the 40. His throwing mechanics need work, as do any high school QB's, but are not exceptionally raw. Aside from BC, he holds offers from LSU, Auburn, Tennessee, Rutgers, and Washington, and has named the three SEC schools as his leaders. He has also expressed public interest in Florida State and Miami, although neither has offered yet. Harris, out of Northwestern HS in Miami, currently holds offers from BC, LSU, Minnesota, Central Florida, Florida International, and Duke. A number of other SEC schools, however, along with Butch Davis' Tar Heels, are expected to offer soon. At 6'4 and 169 lbs, Harris' stature might be a concern, but he can certainly put on weight when he gets to college, and his 4.8 40 time is impressive for a QB. While I think BC has a shot at both of these guys (probably more so with Harris), I expect Reamon to ultimately be our primary target at the position as well as our most likely get of the three.


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At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Eagle94 said...

"BC's best quarterback since Flutie"-
As you can tell by my sceen name, I may be a little bias towards Glen Foley. I love Matt but he's got to win a bigger games before I'm ready to hand over that title. The Clemson wins are nice. The WF comeback- unbelievable. Winning at FSU-impressive but he needs to lead this team to victories in big games. The team has a tough schedule this year with road games at VT, GT, MD, Clem and ND and home aginst FSU and UM- all of which are winable. Not that Matty has to win all these games, but anything less than 5-2 will put him in the "Hasslebeck" catagory in my book.



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