Spring Preview: The QBs (Part 1)

GoBlueWolverine Magazine Correspondent Josh Turel breaks down Chad Henne's development as he heads into the spring. <br>

Anyway you cut it, what Chad Henne was able to accomplish as a true freshman quarterback was simply extraordinary. Playing in front of over 100 thousand+, the last drive against Minnesota, the miracle comeback against Michigan State…those feats would have been impressive even for a senior. His ability, as a true freshman quarterback, to come in, take over a pro style offense, read defense's, stay poised and execute as well as he did was remarkable.

Heading into this spring there is no debate about whom the #1 quarterback is. The bigger question mark surrounds the back-up position. With Matt Gutierrez not cleared to throw to receivers, Clayton Richard opting to play baseball, and incoming freshman Jason Forcier not arriving until the summer…that issue probably won't be answered until the fall. That leaves walk-on Jeff Kastl to take the majority of whatever snaps Henne does not take.

With Chad now going through his first full offseason, expect him to show tangible growth. In this piece, I will explain the defensive coverages Chad sees, their strengths and weaknesses and how he reads them. I will also breakdown Chad's 2004 season, what he does well, what he needs to improve on and what the future holds.

Overview

To be successful on offense you need to know defense. The quarterback must be able to read defenses and key on what looks they show him before he can start learning how to attack them. The complex world of defensive football can be overwhelming for any quarterback, let alone a freshman. While some signal callers run offenses that resemble that of some pro systems at the high school level, the defense's they face aren't nearly as complex. At the college level things are much different with cover 2's, 3's, combo coverage’s, rolling coverage’s, brackets, zone blitzes etc. You name it and he will probably see it at one time or another.

I've always believed a sign of a great quarterback is comfort level and command. On Sunday's you see Peyton Manning and Tom Brady get under center, read the defense, change the call if need be, and then execute the pattern to beat that coverage. That's total control. The comfort to makes those decisions and move around in the pocket, however, comes with time. That is why it was so amazing to see the warrior like calmness already in Chad Henne.

The first and basic key for a quarterback is to get his reads under center so he can adjust to any defensive shifts (which most often happens after the quarterback is under center). Another basic is developing a scanning routine…meaning how he scans back and forth to read the defense. The key is not to give the area of attack away while reading the area at the same time. Defenses are constantly looking for a tip off on the play…reading the quarterback's eyes both before and after the snap. Generally the left, right, left scan pattern is used. After learning the simple fundamentals of scanning, he moves on to what to look for.

Before we start, it's important to know the terminology of breaking down coverages. When a coverage is apparent to a quarterback and he is sure of himself on what a defender will be doing, that is called a key. Often though defenses will give the quarterback mixed looks and late movement to throw off his initial scan of the defense. When he is unsure of what a particular coverage or responsibility is, he will narrow down the possibilities and read the defensive coverage both pre and post snap. Generally the safeties are the beginning read for a quarterback and corners will sometimes be a possible key, but their positioning is much more fluid than safeties. Safeties, unlike corners and underneath coverage men, are limited in ways to disguise their responsibilities. That is why they are a more reliable read...and the strong safety is the most telling read of all.

Tomorrow we will break down our first coverage…the Cover 2 Zone.


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