<
>
Insider

Top senior QBs finish regular season struggling

12/9/2009

Scouts, general managers and other NFL talent evaluators who watched QBs Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy during championship weekend no doubt came away wondering whether either can become a quality starter in the NFL. The top two senior quarterbacks on the board only heightened some already significant concerns about their games with lackluster performances.

Tebow competed hard and did make some good throws in the Gators' loss to Alabama, but when his team went down by a significant margin and he was forced to try to throw them out of trouble, the flaws in his game were exposed.

The Crimson Tide played a lot of zone coverage against Tebow, which meant that defenders in coverage were getting drops and facing the line of scrimmage rather than turning their backs and running with receivers. That not only limited Tebow's running room but also forced him to read coverages quickly and effectively and deliver the ball into tight spots, something he just does not do well. He did not get a lot of help from his supporting cast but also did not show enough on his own, either.

Tebow might get there mentally at some point in his career, but the bigger question is whether he can improve his questionable accuracy and speed up his elongated delivery to acceptable NFL standards. It was disappointing to see him struggle against an NFL-style scheme and upper-echelon college talent, and in the end I just do not see him as a quarterback who will be ready to play in the NFL in the next two or three years.

In my opinion, it will take one of the all-time developmental jobs by an organization to turn Tebow into a good backup at the next level, let alone an acceptable starter. I would not take him before the third round, but there are enough egos that some team might very well take him in the late first round in the belief that there is enough there to work with.

In a scenario like that, a team is banking on his eventually becoming a franchise starter, perhaps with the fallback plan that he could become an H-back and/or Wildcat asset if quarterback doesn't work out, but that is a very expensive gamble on a player facing so many questions.

• McCoy's performance was perhaps more alarming than Tebow's. Keep in mind that McCoy's offensive line was overwhelmed by Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh and his friends along the defensive line and that the Texas wide receivers were inconsistent, but two big negatives stuck out against the Cornhuskers.

First, when things started going poorly for the Longhorns on offense it appeared that McCoy became somewhat introverted and distant. He did not show the leadership and guidance that we are used to seeing from him and that his teammates are used to getting from their senior leader. McCoy seemed to shut down in that way as things got more difficult.

Secondly, Nebraska played a lot of two-deep matchup zone similar to the coverage Oklahoma used to limit McCoy earlier this season, but Texas did not attack down the field nearly enough. The Cornhuskers ran four or five players into short underneath zones and aggressively pursued receivers early in routes to take away the timing of the short passing game, and McCoy failed to adjust.

Nebraska was vulnerable deep with only two safeties over the top, and whether it was the play-calling or a lack of confidence on the part of McCoy, the Longhorns did not take enough shots downfield. He was unable to show NFL scouts that he can make all the necessary NFL throws, something he must do to maximize is draft potential.

McCoy's deep ball sails on him at times, and his accuracy down the field is spotty. While his delivery is not as flawed as Tebow's, he still throws off-balance much of the time and short-strides many of his throws. He's better off than Tebow, but McCoy will still need some mechanical work, more arm strength and more overall strength before he can legitimately compete for a starting job in the NFL.

He likely fits somewhere in the second round at this point based on the overall quarterback class, but in a stronger group, he might not come off the board before the third round.

The good news for NFL teams is that underclassmen Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford will be available, and many NFL people feel the chances are better than 50-50 that Jake Locker will also enter the draft. There are many differing views on the top 3 underclassmen, and none of them is an elite prospect in my opinion, but NFL types seem to feel that each has something to offer at least one of the teams in the market for a new quarterback.

• Finally, Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards has generated a lot of buzz by engineering a last-minute drive against Richmond that put his team into the FCS semifinals. Edwards has been an unbelievable playmaker at his level during his career, but after watching the tape, we see him as little more than a poor man's Pat White.

Edwards is not as quick or explosive as White was at West Virginia last year and is not even in the same hemisphere as a passer, which is saying something because White faced significant questions about his passing skills coming out of college.

Some are starting to talk about Edwards as a possible third-rounder who can be a versatile piece of an offense as a Wildcat quarterback, wide receiver and kick returner, but I just don't see it. He is a good athlete but is not at the elite level. He looks more like a late-round pick who can contribute some on special teams and be a fourth or fifth wide receiver.

Around the nation

• Stanford RB Toby Gerhardt (Scouts Inc.-rated No. 88) has barreled into the nation's football consciousness the same way he broke through defensive fronts this season. And if his Heisman candidacy was a surprise, well, that's fine by him.

"The one thing that's nice about it is that I've let my play speak for itself," Gerhardt told the San Jose Mercury News. "No preseason hype -- just recognized for what you do on the field. I wasn't a media baby."

• TCU finished the regular season without a loss, and DE/LB Jerry Hughes (No. 65) was a huge reason why. Hughes will be in Houston tonight as one of the finalists for the 40th Rotary Lombardi Award.

"It's a great honor to be recognized as one of the nation's greatest linemen from big programs like these," Hughes told the Houston Chronicle. "It's a great honor for the school, just the whole TCU program."

• Even the best football players are starstruck sometimes. Take Alabama LB Rolando McClain (No. 7), who was named the Butkus Award winner as the nation's best linebacker. McClain couldn't believe his eyes when the award's namesake presented him with the trophy in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday.

"I had no idea what to do," McClain told the Montgomery Advertiser. "I saw Coach get up and shake his hand. Naturally, I got up and I just kind of froze. I mean, he's Dick Butkus. It's kind of humbling. You feel like you're a pretty good linebacker, then Dick Butkus is in the room. It kind of humbles you."

• When he was a freshman, Oklahoma State CB Perrish Cox (No. 47) said he did everything wrong: partied, didn't go to class and wasn't serious about film study. Four years later the Daily O'Collegian reports that things have changed for the Cowboys senior.

"If you look at all those negative things and flip it, that's what happened," Cox said. "I stopped partying a lot. I learned to come watch film and look at the playbook a lot."

He also started concentrating more on school.

"Going to class, getting my work done. Nobody has to call me and warn me. I'm never late. All of those things have made me a better person in life and a better football player."