Nobody is talking about Austin Davis. Search out a list of quarterbacks to keep an eye on in 2011 and you’ll do well to find any listing the Southern Miss quarterback. I guess I have a higher opinion of Davis than most – and it’s an opinion I will be looking to develop with more tape this year. However, right now he’s close to Kirk Cousins for #4 on my pre-season quarterback rankings with only Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Landry Jones in front.
The tape below (kindly provided by Mari0clp) doesn’t provide any great insight into why I like the guy. The game on the road against South Carolina was the Golden Eagles’ first of last season and they were defeated badly 41-13. Davis went 31/43 passing for 238 yards and an interception off a deflection. With an offensive line that was consistently dominated by a better SEC pass rush (indeed the Gamecocks defense looked bigger, faster and better throughout), Southern Miss adjusted their gameplan to involve an awful lot of easy swing passes and completions, while asking their quarterback to take extended drop backs behind the line of scrimmage. Not ideal.
However, I do think he’s capable of running a more sophisticated gameplan than this if circumstance allowed. Davis is only asked to make two reads, but he’s patient enough to not force anything and he knows when to throw it away. Technically his throwing motion could be a quicker and in particular he sometimes lingers a little too long in the pocket, but his action is sound and he does actually throw intermediate routes pretty well.
He doesn’t have the big arm, but on the few occasions he does throw deep I don’t have the same concerns I had with Christian Ponder. Davis does have great mobility and athleticism and he’s got the asset of being able to make plays with his legs and move around in the pocket when necessary. For a great example of this athleticism, see the touchdown catch I’ve also added in the second video below. When I watched the Beef-O-Brady Bowl against Louisville last season, I actually thought Davis’ accuracy was good and made up for a lack of a great deep ball. I would recommend trying to get hold of tape of that game and not basing a full opinion on the video below against a dominant South Carolina.
For the 2010 season Davis had 63% completions, 3103 yards and a 20/6 touchdown/interception ratio. He added 452 yards on the ground and a further ten scores. He broke Brett Favre’s record at Southern Miss for touchdown passes with 53 in three seasons.
There’s a large group of quarterbacks who will enter the new campaign jostling for position behind Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley. Landry Jones looks the safest bet to be the #3 quarterback, but it’s not a lock. Austin Davis is possibly the one quarterback who intrigues me the most in 2011 – partly because he’s the player least talked about. At 6-2, 208lbs you’d ideally like to see him add a bit more upper body strength which will improve his downfield passing, but I think he’s capable of running a short-to-medium passing game with that ability to move around and offer a dimension as a runner. I would implore you to check out Southern Miss next season if you get the opportunity.