Weekend review – Locker hits back, Luck vs Oregon

Jake Locker (QB, Washington) vs USC
I haven’t had the opportunity to watch any of Washington vs USC but give credit to Jake Locker for leading the Huskies to a 32-31 victory. He needed to bounce back after a highly criticized performance against Nebraska two weeks ago. Locker finished with 310 passing yards and a touchdown, adding 110 rushing yards from just 12 carries. It’s a key note road victory for Locker.

Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford vs Oregon)
Stanford got off to a quick start (at one point leading 21-3) but couldn’t maintain it in a 52-31 defeat. The numbers looked quite good for Luck – 341 passing yards with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. He added 39 yards and a further score on the ground. However, to me he just looks so unspectacular. I came into the game wondering if he was just a good game-manager and in all honesty, not much has changed.

Here’s my view on Luck in a nutshell. Positives: Mobile quarterback, intelligent, has a good feel for pressure and doesn’t lock on to his receivers. Manages his offense well. Negatives: Nothing stands out (neither physically great or incredibly accurate), floats the deep ball too much, looks like a game manager, gets erratic at times and forces throws.

Mechanically he’s better than Jimmy Clausen was last year. Aside from the occasional low pass, he gets the ball out at a nice high point with a quick release. Clearly they are also very different characters. However, there are some great similarities between Luck and Clausen. Both rely a lot on short/medium range passes with a lot of slants and dump offs. Both will try to throw downfield but don’t put enough velocity on the ball. Luck’s first interception was a classic Clausen attempt – big high throw essentially put up for grabs except he didn’t have Michael Floyd jumping up to pluck it out of the air. Neither drives a deep pass, they put too much air on it and that won’t scare NFL defensive backs.

When Stanford went behind against Oregon Luck started to force things a bit and he became slightly erratic – something that has had a tendency to surface in the past. He isn’t that accurate. He hasn’t got a Matt Stafford type arm, but he hasn’t got Sam Bradford’s accuracy either. What stands out? Luck has a much better ground game and an offensive line than Clausen ever had at Notre Dame and that helps him to ‘manage’ things better. In terms of what they’ll be able to achieve early in the NFL I don’t think there’s a great deal of difference. I’m not that optimistic for Clausen in Carolina.

If Luck did declare for 2011 and he was considered a candidate to go very early, I’d be concerned if it was my team drafting him. If he’s drafted by a bad team that doesn’t have a great offensive line and running game, I’m not convinced he’ll get it done. This was a chance for Luck to prove he can lead an offense with his talents against another prolific scorer. I’m still dubious. I didn’t see enough in this game to pursuade me that we aren’t potentially witnessing another Joey Harrington.

Miami at Clemson
Allen Bailey (DE, Miami) had a better game than he did against Pittsburgh. He tipped a pass and generally got a lot more consistent pressure off the edge. It still concerns me how much he’s subbed in and out, but for the first time this year I felt like we were watching a late first round pick. Brandon Harris (CB, Miami) had another fine display and continues to impress with his tackling. He’s not a huge corner, but he tackles remarkably well in run support. He wasn’t tested all that much in coverage, but I’m confident he deserves a mid/late first round grade.

Texas vs Oklahoma
Jeremy Beal (DE, Oklahoma) might be better than I first thought. He had two more sacks against Texas taking his total to seven for the year already. He has an above average double move and flashed a better repertoire than expected yesterday. He’s an all out effort rusher too, which makes up for a lack of elite burst off the edge. Getting 18 sacks in 1.3 seasons cannot be ignored and he could get up close to 15 for the year at this rate. Beal fits Seattle’s LEO rusher position and is a definite one-to-watch going forward.

Florida at Alabama
It wasn’t a good day for the Gators, but it was a good day for Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins. He completely shut down Julio Jones who managed just 19 yards from four catches (screens). It was a master-class of coverage against a receiver who could easily be amongst the top-15 picks next year. I’ve previously had Jenkins amongst my top ten picks on the mock draft – that’s not changing any time soon. Very, very impressive.

A.J. Green (WR, Georgia) vs Colorado
This was Green’s return from suspension. He managed seven catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He added an extra forty yards on a single rush. Green is a dynamic playmaker who could even be the first overall pick next April. If you’re not convinced, watch the video below showing one of his scores yesterday. I was worried that Georgia’s struggles in general could hold him back, but not on yesterday’s evidence. A great start for a prospect who’s best years will come in the NFL.


  1. Matt

    Great reviews Rob. Couldn’t have said it any better about Andrew Luck. I have yet to see a throw that he’s made, where I say wow, that’s a top 5 pick. He’s definitely a smart kid, but I’m just seeing way too many throws to wide open guys or check downs/safe throws. He still is very young and obviously his role and confidence should grow, but as of right now, I’m not seeing anything to me that screams he can be the “Guy” on a bad team.

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Locker. He is what he is. He’s an insane athlete with a great arm. He has ridiculously awesome accuracy in the intermediate game, but continues to run hot and cold in the short game. Because of this notion, I still would feel confident drafting him high, because I do believe short range accuracy can improve, especially considering his accuracy to the intermediate level. I counted 6 drops yesterday on very catchable balls which hits his accuracy #s very hard.

    Of course, I’m a huge Locker fan, but this kid took a public beating last week, which I didn’t think was terribly justifiable because his team is truly not very good and he gets little to no help from receivers and o-line. That said, this game (to me) speaks volumes about his mental toughness and leadership. Of course he should be given a year or two at the NFL level to get comfortable and learn a new system, but after this performance (considering the drops, resolve, toughness, leadership) the only way I see this kid failing is by someone trying to make him what he is not. I see a perfect fit into Jeremy Bates’ system but I’m thinking we will be picking too low to get him.

    I’m curious what you thought of Marcel Dareus and Daquan Bowers? 2 guys I think would fit very well in Seattle due to their size/speed/versatility which seems to be paramount to JS and PC.

    AJ Green could be the next Randy Moss. They even have the same exact build out of college. Scary. Just hoping the Rams win enough games where they don’t get a shot at him. Definitely don’t want to think about defending a Bradford/Green combo for the next 8 years. Keep up the great work Rob.

    • Rob

      Thanks for the kind words Matt and also for a comprehensive review of Locker. Much appreciated.

      I’m still formulating my opinion on Locker. I’ve seen him three times now, but only once (Nebraska) this season. I would like to see him once or twice more this year because whilst the Nebraska game is an important part of the judgement of Locker, it was such an extreme it’s not fair to use it too much in formulating an opinion. From what I’ve seen already, he has an incredibly high ceiling and the most potential of the 2011 group. I think he needs time. Bradford/Stafford/Sanchez all started immediately and ideally I think you’d want to redshirt Locker.

      Dareus had a much better game for Alabama. He regularly abused Pouncey (who isn’t as good as his brother) and got into the backfield. I think he’s a solid first round pick, just perhaps not the top 10 pick we thought at first. I’ll get plenty of opportunity to watch Alabama this year if they stay unbeaten so one to monitor. Back on form this weekend though. I’m going to re-watch Alabama Florida later in the week to break down Dareus more.

  2. jianfu

    Very nice review. I’m a Vikings fan, so I too am watching some of these QB prospects with interest. I think you’ll find Locker’s game a little strange to review. Washington clearly came out with a conservative game plan: lots of rollouts, lots of WR screens (which netted some outstanding early gains thanks to some lousy USC defense). On the other hand, as the game went on, Locker’s comfort level and confidence noticably improved, and he/Washington started attacking the intermediate level with some nice throws. Unfortunately the UW receivers had some severe dropsies, by my eyes through no fault of Locker. So who’s to say? I didn’t watch beginning to end, but the rare downfield attempts I saw weren’t close to connecting.

    It’s easy to see why Locker’s so highly regarded. He’ll clearly offer the best physical profile of any QB this class. He can make things happen when the play breaks down like no other. And when he’s going well, he shows glimpses of that rare “it” factor. I’m not a body language expert or anything, but he never appeared rattled or overly frustrated when his receivers started letting him down. At one point on a crucial drive late in the game, he threw a perfect pass on third-and-long that hit his receiver in the hands and would’ve been a first down had it not been dropped. Locker gathered himself and came back on the next play to throw another excellent pass on fourth-and-long to get the first.

    All that said, it’s just as clear all the questions about how his game will translate are legit. In the NFL, designed rollouts are typically reserved for guys like Seneca Wallace or Tarvaris Jackson. Will Locker develop more comfort working out of the pocket? How will he handle the all the creative defensive schemes he’ll face at the next level? He doesn’t run like a quarterback in the open field; will he hold up to the punishing consequences of that style? Will he fall into a good situation for his development, or will he be expected to singlehandedly save the Buffalo Bills?

    He is fun to watch to watch. I’m rooting for him.

  3. Matt

    Well, a change needs to be made at QB. Hasselbeck is a complete liability. His arm strength is horrible and nobody should get that many passes batted down. We NEED a QB ASAP and we can’t sit around and wait for the perfect QB prospect to come along.

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