In the Film Room: Austin Hinder

In the previous few seasons there were a group of quarterbacks who in my opinion were head and shoulders above the rest of the class. Last year I felt that Matt Barkley, Aaron Murray, and Garrett Gilbert were the nation's top throwers with Russell Shepard as the clear top "dual-threat" quarterback.

In 2008 Dayne Crist was the cream of the drop back quarterback crop, with Andrew Luck and Blaine Gabbert following behind him. Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Mallet were the clear top two quarterbacks in 2007. This season's crop of quarterbacks lacks the clear, front-running, 5 star elite quarterback. Personally I haven't seen a quarterback who stands head and shoulders above the rest. What that means is that as we go through the summer camps, as the 2009 season rolls by, and we head into the winter all-star games there will be plenty of opportunities for a large number of quarterbacks to challenge for the top spot. One of the quarterbacks who I believe has a chance to work his way into that group, or at least as a player who could emerge as one of the elites in this class, is Colorado native Austin Hinder.

SIZE/FRAME/STRENGTH

Hinder has the body that coaches look for with a height that I've seen listed between 6'4 and 6'5. At this point Hinder is a bit skinny all over. It's tough to tell how much he'll be able to fill that body out as he matures and develops physically. Based on what I've seen at this point I'm confident that in time Hinder will certainly be able to build enough size and strength to hold up in college. He looks a bit like Sam Bradford coming out of high school in this regard, with perhaps a bit more height. Just how much additional size and strength Hinder will gain remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that despite being skinny Hinder is a tough, hard-nosed young man who won't back down from defenders.

ATHLETIC ABILITY

The Steamboat Springs signal caller is a good athlete who possesses good speed, balance, fluid hips, and very quick feet. Hinder has made a bunch of plays the last two seasons with his feet and has accumulated over 1300 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Hinder is a dangerous runner in high school, although I don't see him having quite the same level of success in college as the competition steps up quite a bit. Hinder has very good vision, doesn't go down easily, and uses his excellent quickness and solid agility to make a lot of defenders miss in the open field as he rips off big runs. There are times where he lets the ball get away from his body, but for the most part Hinder does a good job protecting the football as he scrambles and makes plays downfield. At the next level I'd like to see Hinder not be so aggressive when he runs. Unless he adds a lot of size and strength he'll need to protect himself better. Combined with his natural height his high running style and willingness to work hard for extra yards will make him vulnerable to a lot of shots from bigger, stronger, and faster players. I'd rather not see that happen with a passing quarterback.

ARM STRENGTH

As I first began to watch Hinder, before I began to break down his game, my first impression was that the ball doesn't really explode out of his hands. Hinder's arm strength is adequate, but it certainly isn't his best trait. His throws tend to float a bit on the deeper throws, they tend to die at the end of his shorter throws, and he doesn't have great zip. He really only shows the zip I look for when he's throwing on the run. As I began to actually break down his game and technique I realized that his lack of zip doesn't have as much to do with a lack of arm strength as it does with poor throwing technique. At this point Hinder throws with all arm. Physical maturity and work in the weight room will help improve his arm strength, but in order to really develop the kind of zip he's capable of, Hinder must learn how to properly throw the football.

To begin with Hinder doesn't use his core and lower body at all when he throws. He throws predominantly off his back foot and has no proper weight transfer. These issues prevent him from driving through the throwing zone and in turn prevent him from driving the football. When setting up to throw all I see Hinder do is coil his shoulders, failing to coil his middle, which is where a lot of the power comes from. This causes him to be all arm with his throws. What he needs to do is learn how to use his whole body when he throws the football. As he plants on his back leg he needs to coil up, drive off his back leg, and use his lead arm (left arm) to rip through the throwing zone as he transfers his weight from his back leg to his lead leg. This will allow Hinder to drive through the throwing zone which in turn will increase the velocity of his throws quite a bit. Hinder throws a nice deep ball, but at times it tends to hang up a bit. This improvement will also make his deep ball much better.

MECHANICS

The 6'5 Hinder throws very well on the run. He takes a nice arc out of the shotgun and from under center. This allows him to attack downhill on his rollouts. I also like the fact that he keeps his eyes downfield when on the run. Hinder does a nice job of keeping the ball in the ready position, which allows him to quickly fire off a throw when he sees an open receiver. Hinder also does a good job of anticipating openings as his receivers work to find room. When throwing left Hinder does what many quarterbacks struggle, at least at an early age, which is ripping his shoulders, squaring up to the line of scrimmage, and getting zip on the throw. When throwing to the right he does a nice job of attacking downhill, coiling up, and ripping off the throw with nice velocity. Another aspect of his talent on the run is how much patience he shows. Despite being able to make a lot of plays with his feet, Hinder is patient, keeps moving in the pocket with his eyes downfield which allows him to make even more plays with his arm. But as discussed earlier, he also isn't afraid to tuck the football and make a play with his legs.

Overall I really like Hinder's throwing motion. He has a nice 3/4 delivery, which combined with his height allows him to throw over top of the defense. The Steamboat Springs standout also has a relatively quick release which combined with his height and 3/4 delivery means he won't have many balls knocked down in college. Hinder's release could stand to be faster, which I believe will be another natural result of improvement with using his whole body. That extra drive and power will speed up his release as well as it will allow him to explode through the throwing zone. He will need to improve the consistency of his release point, especially on quicker and shorter throws. I'd also like to see him be more efficient with the football on his drops and with his throwing motion. As he moves in the pocket and sets up to throw I see a lot of wasted motion, including too much patting of the football, as well as a slight hitch in his delivery. It's not a severe problem but he does it enough to increase the chances of something bad happening, whether it be a fumble on his own or a defender getting his hands on the football as he sits or moves in the pocket.

As was previously discussed athletically Hinder has very good tools. His foot quickness allows him to work quickly in the pocket, avoid pressure, and get into and out of his drops quickly. There are several clips where a defender is bearing down on him, Hinder is in mid-drop, and he suddenly breaks away and away from the defender; having said that he does need a lot of help with his footwork. Hinder has very quick feet in the pocket but at this point he doesn't use them well. Hinder isn't fluid with his set up and as he steps into throws. He must learn to plant on his back foot, step properly (he is inconsistent with his lead step), drive off his back leg, onto his front leg, and then follow through. This needs to be one smooth, fluid motion, at least as much as the defensive pressure will allow.

ACCURACY

Improved footwork will go a long way to developing Hinder into an accurate and dangerous drop-back passer in college. As a high school quarterback Hinder has completed 67% of his passes over the last two seasons combined. We all know that high school statistics don't always parlay into success in college. Hinder needs work improving his consistency, but he has the talent to be an accurate passer, assuming he makes the proper footwork/technique adjustments. I see from Hinder a natural understanding of ball placement. It's apparent he has an idea of what he wants to do with the pass. As I've said many times before, accuracy doesn't always mean hitting a guy in the chest. Hinder shows the understanding that sometimes a pass needs to be thrown inside, outside, on a rope, with a bit of touch, low, high, and so on. It doesn't always go where he wants it, but with improved technique I believe he'll develop into a highly accurate passer.

POCKET PRESENCE

I've hinted around at this aspect of his game, but here I'll dive into a bit more. Hinder has good pocket presence and does an excellent job feeling and avoiding the rush. With his athletic ability, and the fact he stays light on his feet, Hinder is excellent at moving around in the pocket. He has a good awareness of pressure, does an excellent job avoiding it, and as he moves around in the pocket does an excellent job of keeping his eyes downfield while trying to find an open receiver. I've also mentioned before how well Hinder keeps the football in a ready position so he can make a quick throw if need be. But Hinder isn't afraid to tuck the ball away and take off, and once he does that he turns into a threat to make a play on the ground.

PRODUCTION

I enjoyed watching Hinder's film. He's a gutsy player, he's a gamer, he can hurt teams with his legs, he can beat teams with his arm, or a combination of both. To put simply, Austin Hinder is a playmaker. He's a versatile playmaker whose skill set fits into a variety of offenses. I can see Hinder succeeding in a pass-oriented spread offense that we see at places like Kansas or Purdue. I can see him running a West Coast style offense like we see at places like California or Nebraska. I can also see him being highly successful in a more pro-style, downfield offense like we see at Notre Dame. For Steamboat Springs Hinder isn't asked to throw the football like most highly regarded quarterback prospects. For example, over the last two seasons Hinder has thrown 318 passes and only 134 as a junior. Compare that to the 312 Jake Heaps threw just in 2008 (648 in the last two years), the 337 attempts for Blake Bell in his first year as a quarterback, the 277 passes as a junior for Peter Thomas, or the 264 junior attempts for Connor Wood. The point is that Hinder is raw but has the potential to be a highly effective pocket passer at the next level. He has the size, size potential, arm strength, release, accuracy potential, and athleticism to be a standout. At this point in his development Austin Hinder is just scratching the surface of how good he can be. With work in the weight room and proper coaching of quarterback fundamentals, the sky is the limit.


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