Game Breakdown: Johnny Stanton

Nebraska fans have already seen Johnny Stanton on television. The Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic quarterback was just part of the Elite 11 finals finishing No. 8 out of that group. Last night though Stanton led his No. 2 ranked team against Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy Prep.

I know that I was excited to get a chance to watch Johnny Stanton in an entire game. His highlights from last season with Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic were fun to watch, but they were highlights. You aren't going to get a chance to see an interception or a bad decision in there.

I also wanted to see what kind of decision maker Stanton was in 11 on 11 scenarios, dealing with a very good team in Brophy Prep and more importantly the exposure and the coverage that some high school players get to have with national television and cameras everywhere.

First Thoughts:
What a circus. Johnny had a camera under his nose on the sideline it seemed the entire time he was on the sideline. You couldn't tell it if Stanton minded, which is good, the Elite 11 exposure had to help in some regard to this.

The offensive line for Santa Margarita is enormous. Three DI recruits, one going to Washington, one to UCLA and one getting DI attention, I think that they said that the average weight per man across was 305-pounds. That would put them right there with the same size as most college starting offensive lines.

First Half:
I know that everyone is going to say that the touchdown pass that Stanton has was impressive, but I didn't stop the film there and rewind it to rewatch it. I stopped it at about 4:50 left in the second quarter when Stanton had to deal with a defender in his face on a play action pass.

Calm, cool and collected; Stanton fakes the handoff and needs to make something happen. Stanton moved in the pocket and kept his eyes downfield moving to the right. Stanton picks up the same running back who he faked the hand off to that play, sets his feet and throws a strike.

Going back to the earlier series of the first half for a minute. I loved the quick slant which was a one-step drop turn and throw. If you recorded the game go back and watch the play again because there is a lot going on there.

What I love about it is that from under center Stanton gets the snap, brings it up and delivers a strike. There is also a linebacker sliding over trying to take away that slant from the inside from Brophy. The ball as to be on the money, it is and the execution of the play is 100% up until the receiver is stripped of the football.

The interception is an interesting play. Looks like Stanton came off of his first read which was the out to the right side of the field to catch the receiver on the drag pattern coming across. The pass was high for a few different reasons.

One, there was a linebacker back in the curl that Stanton had to get it over waiting for his receiver to split the safeties. Second, it did look like Stanton let go of that ball a little early and high on his release. Lastly, this was really a throw that it felt to me was due to being a little amped, forcing it a little and needed a little more touch.

There is one quality that great quarterbacks all need to have and that's a short term memory. Make a great play or a bad play? That play is over and onto the next one. You can't live in the past even when that means you are headed back over to the sideline to watch the other team score after you threw an interception.

The touchdown drive was set up for Stanton to be successful and really was a walk before you run type of scenario. Stanton gets a little screen pass that turns into a huge gain. Stanton does a good job of selling the play as it sets up by hitting his drop and keeping his eyes downfield.

The quarterback draw with Stanton is very fun to watch. He doesn't take a lot of time to sell the play fake which does a couple of things. It looks rushed, but what it actually does is while the linebackers are dropping back Stanton is actually running right at them. Stanton appears to be at least quick enough to do some read option at the next level.

The slip screen to the left wasn't a great thrown ball, but these passes only help when they are more on the money than not. It's also a pass that is going to come off as being an "easy one" to do, but the quarterback in this case has to come from under center, take the short drop and really open all the way up with the hips.

The quarterback sneak with Stanton and this offensive line is just silly. 4th and 2 and Santa Margarita goes for a sneak. That's more than just getting the snap and falling forward at that point. That's stop steps right off the behinds of your lineman and then falling forward. Two, 300-pound lineman following by a 220-pound quarterback should be good for two to three yards each and every time.

The touchdown throw was a thing of beauty for me. First off, the interception after that long drive that attacked each part of the Brophy defense is way behind Stanton now. He's engineered a drive along with keeping the drive alive with the third down conversion.

It's a seven step drop with Stanton and Santa Margarita coming right back to the middle of the field where he was intercepted just a short time before. It's really the only part of the field that on this drive up to this point hadn't been challenged with the plays being called.

Stanton hits his drop, eyes downfield and comes right to the middle of the field and the middle of the end zone. The ball had to be right on and needed some touch. Stanton has to go a little high to get it up over the safety that really went up for it. The ball hit the receiver right in the helmet for perfect placement.

The second to last drive of the first half, another scoring drive, has a couple of real nice runs by Stanton. One, a designed run and an improvised run when the throw wasn't there, were both very nice and very quick. In Lincoln, you hope that Johnny gets more into a habit though of getting down after five yards and not taking the hit from anyone in the second or the third level of the defense.

The play call for the TD pass was brilliant on 4th and short Stanton could have easily run another sneak and gotten the first down putting Santa Margarita around the five yard line. Instead, Stanton takes a three step drop and anticipates the short out or curl and where his receiver is going to be when he gets into the end zone. The play call and the throw was a shot at the jugular going into half.

Second Half:
Santa Margarita gets a possible chance to move up 14 against a good Brophy team that is likely the top team in the state of Arizona. Stanton has a couple of nice runs including another run for a third down conversion.

On 3rd and 8 though Stanton hits his drop and has some pressure to contend with. If you watch Johnny's feet he pushes his weight to his back foot when he makes the little bounce back in the pocket, takes a hit and throws the ball high. The receiver had a chance to come down with the ball, but the ball is 12 to 16 inches high as a result of the pressure and throwing off the back foot.

Drive after the interception, the little screen passes to Connor O'Brien should be illegal. O'Brien is a taller receiver and can catch the ball well, although he's probably a linebacker or safety at the next level, but he's also so good in that little space and making a move and running with the football.

Stanton gets another shot to run the option, which he hasn't looked too natural at doing the first couple of times running it up to this point, but this time Stanton gets to reverse field and keep it. Stanton does have good quickness as he goes from a dead stop to coming back across the grain to get a first down. At the end of the play, Stanton lowers his helmet and shoulders to flatten a would-be tackler. Again, it's something he can do now, but you want him to get down at the next level.

Stanton gets a chance to throw the ball downfield, one of his longest attempts of the night to go along with the long throw attempt to end the first half, but over thrown. Stanton's accuracy hasn't been very good down the field, but in the short to intermediate routes he's been right on.

Frist play of the fourth quarter and I know that Stanton gets the "Johnny Tebow" comparisons, but it's like I have been saying about Stanton it's not a great comparison. Watch Stanton's touchdown run to start the fourth quarter and that's Scott Frost. Stanton just sees the field so incredibly well not only as a thrower but as a runner. He sees the lanes and gets up field quickly.

Thoughts overall:
Nebraska fans should be excited about Stanton. He's cool in the pocket, goes through his progressions well while also being able to move around in the pocket facing pressure. Stanton also shows that he has the quickness to do some things running the football while he's also more physically tough and put together about as well as any high school quarterback you will find.

You will see though that Stanton is still a project when it comes to playing the quarterback position particularly when it comes to his mechanics and being consistent throwing the football. He also needs to work on his downfield accuracy. But these are things that will come. Stanton understands what he's looking at and knows where to go with the football. It's the delivery that has some flaws.

Stanton is a cerebral quarterback that does his thinking when he should, pre-snap, and just reacts with all of the data that he collects as the play is developing and knows where to go with the football. He has some limitations throwing the football that he will need to work on, but overall Stanton runs a very similar type of offense now that he will see at Nebraska and he shows he can be very effective in doing so.

Bryan Munson has worked with Big Red Report for 10 years covering recruiting and football and has covered Nebraska recruiting for 12 years.
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