On Monday I highlighted eleven quarterback prospects worth monitoring during the 2011 college football season. Dave ‘rogue scout’ Razzano is touting as many as eight potential franchise QB’s from the class.
“2012 will be year of the QB. I see EIGHT potential franchise QBs for next years Draft. Will be best EVER! Great for NFL.”
“This Landry Jones of Okla is an absolute phenom. Don’t be surprised if he challenges Andrew Luck for #1 pick in 2012!”
I asked Razzano who he believed were the top 2012 prospects at the position and he confirmed some of the names I’d mentioned, but also added another into the mix – Houston’s Case Keenum. I was surprised to see Keenum’s name mentioned. He missed the majority of the 2010 college season through injury and has been granted a sixth year at Houston as compensation. His numbers are gaudy with over 10,000 passing yards and 88 touchdowns during 2008-09, evidence of the prolific Cougars offense.
Can he transition to the NFL? Let’s not forget that Kevin Kolb came from the same system. Keenum is 6-2 and 210lbs. His task in 2011 will be to prove that the numbers are not a faux pas and that he can be consistently accurate. You’re not talking about top-end physical qualities either in terms of arm strength or mobility. His decision making at times can be erratic and certainly a lot of the production at Houston is similar to that witnessed in Hawaii or at Texas Tech – not exactly hot beds of NFL quarterback talent.
Even so, I feel compelled to mention him in the discussion having warranted at least an acknowledgement from Razzano. I still think he’ll be lucky to be anything more than a late round pick.
In writing this piece I also thought about other possible quarterback options who are maybe flying under the radar, for very different reasons.
Let’s start at Florida, a team that has undertaken a major transformation during the off season. Urban Meyer’s resignation led to wholesale changes for the Gators coaching staff, with Will Muschamp leaving Texas to become the new head coach. One of his first acts was to enlist Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator.
The 2010 season was a difficult one for Florida, moving on from Tim Tebow and being stuck between two offensive schemes. Meyer ‘s spread offense didn’t suit quarterback John Brantley, so they flip-flopped between the system used for Tebow and a more orthodox passing game. Freshmen Jordan Reed and Trey Burton took over a number of snaps at quarterback and it was, at times, a bit disjointed. Brantley was caught up in the middle of a transition period for the Gators and the numbers showed – a mediocre 9-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio and only 2061 passing yards.
Employing Weis to run Muschamp’s offense could be of significant benefit to Bentley. Let’s not forget, this is a player touted by Mel Kiper at the start of the 2010 college season as a potential first round pick. Instead, it was left to the likes of Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton to surface and take their place in the top ten alongside Jake Locker.
At 6-3 and 220lbs, Brantley looks like a pro-prospect. The Weis offense at Notre Dame was basic if nothing else and afforded the likes of Jimmy Clausen the opportunity to wrack up big-time numbers and limit turnovers. Brantley may enjoy the same kind of boost throwing a lot of passes into the flats and working around the athletes Florida always churns out to support it’s offense. Even if Weis goes with a more complex outlook after a year with the Kansas City Chiefs, he’s likely to avoid flirting too much with the spread which should offer Brantley an opportunity to develop.
“It might seem a bit odd to be touting Brantley after a 4-for-14, 45-yard performance in the Orange and Blue game, but consider this: In a three-game sample review of Brantley’s 2010 season, he threw a stretch vertical pass (defined as thrown 20 or more yards downfield) only 5 percent of the time. This is a very low number and indicates the Gators were not very effective at even threatening the long pass.In the spring game, four of Brantley’s aerials fell under the “stretch vertical” designation and one would have been completed for 40 yards had it not been for a very good defensive play. Brantley also did not force any of these downfield passes into coverage, so the downside on these throws was limited. It bodes well for what the Florida vertical game will be able to do in 2011 — not just for Brantley and Charlie Weis’ new downfield passing game, but for the playmakers in the Gators’ running game as well.”
If Brantley becomes a downfield passer who can manage underneath routes and limit turnovers as you’d expect with Weis, then he has the opportunity to put his name firmly into contention as a high draft pick.
The third player I’m going to mention in this article is South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia. As things stand today, the Gamecocks may be the most talented overall team in the SEC. They have a big-time receiver in Alshon Jefferey, an excellent sophomore running back in Marcus Lattimore and a cluster of defensive talent that could turn into high draft picks next year.
Garcia himself has shown flashes of quality, throwing for 20 touchdowns in a productive 2010 season. His decision making at times is poor, but he has shown the ability and the physical qualities (6-2, 227lbs) to warrant consideration at the next level.
Unfortunately, Garcia’s decisions off the field are just as poor as they are on it. He was suspended indefinitely from the team in April and it’s a familiar story for a player who has made headlines for the wrong reasons too many times in his career. Matt Hinton at Yahoo reports:
“As salacious rumors go, coming in drunk and disorderly doesn’t quite match the tales of epic pregame partying that reportedly led to Garcia’s suspension for the start of spring practice last month (although that depends on just how “disorderly” we’re talking about), but it’s certainly enough to violate his probation. And with five boozy strikes on his record, it’s probably enough to put his college career in the past tense.”
Indeed we may be robbed of the opportunity to see if Garcia can repair his stock on a team ready to contend in the toughest division in college football. The off-field concerns grade out at UDFA, completely wasting the on-field potential. Can he recover from this? It remains to be seen and his time may well be done in South Carolina, but he’s a player who otherwise would’ve been on the NFL’s radar next season.
Case Keenum (QB, Houston)
John Brantley (QB, Florida)
Stephen Garcia (QB, South Carolina)