Cooper Bateman was out-manned, out-matched and out-dueled by Max Browne and Skyline (Wash.) High on Friday night before a national television audience, but the No. 2 quarterback on FOX Sports NEXT showed some top-notch traits in the process of Cottonwood (Utah) losing 52-27.
Before we delve into the tape, there are some things everyone should know about the Colts. For one, the receiving corps goes as far as BYU-commit Inoke Lotulelei takes it. The offensive line is patchwork at best and the coaching staff is the fourth Bateman has been guided by during his four years at Cottonwood. Even still, the Alabama commit showed off a dynamic skill-set given the chance.
Bateman, who stands 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, stands tall in the pocket with an air of poise and confidence. It was evidenced even during a slow start to the game, as he was excellent in his timing and delivery on early throws. While every throw wasn't on target, he showed good velocity on half-rolls, a quick release and a solid ability to run around and make plays with his feet to set up the throw and/or to simply run and move the chains.
After a tough first quarter, Bateman really displayed his entire arsenal as an elite signal-caller. He got into his progression on drop-backs before feeling pressure from the outside. He then looked to move around to make deep throws, one of which was as on-point as can be. The referees ruled that he crossed the line of scrimmage and the play was negated, although replay pointed out that the throw was legal. He remained accurate in the face of pressure, though his wideouts didn't help him much as they continuously dropped passes. Still, Bateman remained positive and never showed bad body language, despite more pressure on the way. He began utilizing his hot read, often Lotulelei, when his offensive line couldn't hold up. When he did have time, Bateman was accurate on intermediate throws in the period as well, showing excellent drive and velocity on a pair of skinny-posts and in-cuts. Before the half, he also showed some savvy as a runner, correctly selecting to keep the ball on a read-option where the defensive end took one too many steps inside before Bateman out-ran him into the end zone to get Cottonwood on the board.
The game was beginning to get out of hand once the ‘Bama-bound pledge saw action in the third quarter, but he continued to work anyway. Taking big hits seemingly every play, the senior remained poised and didn't allow any throws to get away from him. More importantly, he wasn't appearing to be rushed on any attempts despite multiple defensive linemen around him. The most impressive play on the night was on a 52-yard strike down the field in which he evaded three rushers and launched a ball that hit the receiver in both hand and in-stride. The defense played softer as time progressed, so Bateman had a much easier time getting the Colts down the field against a cover-2 umbrella, finding the soft spot up the seam on his only touchdown throw of the game.
Bateman finished the night 15-of-25 passing for approximately 300 yards and a score. He rushed for a pair of short TDs and through two early interceptions in the loss.
Still Needs Work
Any time a signal-caller throws interceptions, it's usually clear what went wrong. On Bateman's first mis-fire, the ball didn't appear to come out of his hands correctly despite a quick release. It sailed on him and the pass shot over the targets head right into the hands of a defender, who returned it for a score. On the second turnover, this one right on the doorstep of the end zone, Bateman was late on the read. The ball was well behind intended WR, who was open in end zone at the tail-end of his quick-out route. The defender under-cut the ball and Bateman chased him down to save another score.
Other than those two clear flaws, Bateman was pretty good on this night. He was consistently accurate, though he showed some early impatience with his targets. That could have been due to the nature of the game, considering Cottonwood was down virtually the entire time.
Bateman, who is currently the second-highest rated quarterback in America, is the most highly-touted QB to commit to Nick Saban since fellow five-star and 2010's No. 2 in America Phillip Sims. Sims has since transferred to Virginia, where he currently serves as the Cavaliers' backup signal-caller.
Bateman's feet are good, as are his running skills in the open field. He buys his wideouts more time to get open to go along with his superb throwing on the run talent. He will wow evaluators with top-notch arm strength and velocity though a few passes tend to get away from him. The "streaky" label that has been placed on him by some is a bit over-blown, and he will be just fine at the next level. He seems more prepared for college life also because of his toughness, something repeatedly tested on Friday night both mentally and physically.
With A.J. McCarron having an excellent season thus far, expect Bateman to contest for playing time as a backup when he arrives on campus in 2013 although he will unquestionably be the most talented thrower on the entire roster. The key for Bateman will be to learn Doug Nussmeir's offense as soon as possible; though enrolling in the spring will help him catch up to veterans as well try and fend off classmate Parker McLeod.