By Nate Yates
Standing 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds Jacob Free has the height needed to be a successful NCAA quarterback and a year in a collegiate strength and training should pack on the muscle to get him the size and power necessary also. Watching Free play, one of the first major characteristics to stand out is his above average arm strength. Free drops multiple bombs launched from the 45 plus yards that reach the end zone with room to spare. His ability to assess the field is impressive, sometimes a Wide Receiver is only open for a split second before being sealed back up by the secondary, Free seems adept at identifying these slight openings and delivering the ball accurately and quickly. In addition to his passing prowess, the pro-style quarterback can run when needed. He utilizes his long strides well and has the ability to break away from pursuit. While his running abilities may not produce 85-yard runs when paired against the superior speed of NCAA defenses, he should be able to get short gains when needed.
One area of concern is his consistency. As a sophomore, Free threw for 25 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions but then as a junior his touchdown pass count jumped to 35 but his interceptions increased to 12. Taking care of the ball is the primary concern of a quarterback and Free will need to develop more consistency to be effective at the next level. Thankfully the Commodores shouldn't be desperate for a quarterback anytime soon and Free should get a year as a redshirt to focus and develop in this area.
Free is a big, strong-armed pocket presence who can make plays in many different ways. As a drop-back thrower, he can get the ball down the field or underneath in a hurry. His release is a bit inconsistent, but he can make effective throws from many different angles at the same time. Free is plenty…
McLane Mannix is 5-foot-10 and 178 pounds but he is FAST. He has a verified 40 time of 4.35 seconds. He's played both running back, cornerback and wide receiver in addition to kick returns. While we likely won't see him in as a running back, the versatility is always a plus. The most impressive thing about Mannix isn't his straight ahead speed, it's his ability to make insanely quick cuts. He moves left and right fast enough to shake up the defenses and make a short gain into a large one. Mannix will probably start out returning kicks for the Commodores but may turn out to be what's needed to stretch out the secondary and open up the long ball threat.
Bryce Bailey is 6-foot-5 and 295 pounds. He's a got good size for the offensive line and has a clean smooth technique. His strength is a plus and after a year working in the Commodore weight room he should be at a level where he can compete. Bailey is the No. 1 offensive tackle out of Indiana and has been lauded for his footwork, size, and technique. He has the ability to make an early impact if he's needed, but would benefit greatly from a redshirt year.
Grant Miller is the son of Fred Miller, the offensive tackle that played for the Rams, Titans, and Bears. He's clearly been coached up by his father, and as a result has exemplary technique. He's currently listed as 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds but still has room to grow. It's hard to find faults with Miller's play and he seems to have been held back by his size, as a sophomore Miller was just 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds. After playing at IMG Academy and now St. Thomas Aquinas, he is no stranger to high-level competition and has had top tier coaching. Miller isn't going to make an immediate impact, but he is a long-term investment whose potential is through the roof. This guy is going to make a big impact in a few years.