Ask The Scout
How much does quarterback rating mean in evaluating a quarterback?
Not at all. You have to be able to interpret the statistics in order to be able to use them. Quarterback ratings are made up of things like completion percentages. What does a completion percentage tell you? Only whether it's complete or not. It does not tell you how well a quarterback threw the ball. Did he make the right read? Did he throw it on time? Did he place it where it needed to be? None of these things factor into how a quarterback is performing. If a QB makes a bad throw that is caught, he gets credit for it yet he gets penalized for a drop by the receiver. Despite what you hear, it does not even out. When evaluating a QB, I chart every throw on a passing tree and grade it accordingly. In order to evaluate a player, you must evaluate the individual performance within a team concept understanding how and what that team is doing and how it affects that individual's performance accordingly.
For instance, if a QB throws a perfect strike into the receiver's numbers on the quick slant for a 12 yard gain on third and ten, great play right? No. On most slant routes you want the ball placed on the front side shoulder so the receiver can catch in stride. I had this situation last evening when breaking down a game. The defense was playing a cover 2 shell look. The QB had ample time on a three step drop and delivered the ball nicely into the receiver's chest causing the receiver to adjust and slow down a bit allowing just enough time for the free safety to recover and make a play. A ball placed on the front side shoulder of the receiver would have allowed the receiver to remain in stride for a 65 yard touchdown pass as the safety would not have had the angle to get him. A positive statistically but a negative in the film room. A little thing that goes unnoticed by the fans and media but is the difference between a 12 yard completion and a 65 yard touchdown. By the way, the team fumbled the next play and lost by three so this could have been the difference between winning and losing. Sometimes a quarterback throws what appears to be an off target throw but he is actually placing it in the safest possible position where the receiver must adjust but is the only one capable of catching it. A negative statistically but a positive in the film room.
It's natural for fans and media to notice an interception, a fumble, a missed tackle, a sack etc. but it's the little things that don't happen that are supposed to that make the real difference in the game and are what you need to understand when evaluating a player.
How important are statistics in football?
Football statistics are very misleading and often do not accurately paint an accurate picture of the player or team so keep that in mind when people use stats to support their argument for or against a player or team. It's important to interpret the stats correctly and understand what they truly means. For instance, average rushing yards per carry is important but does not entirely tell you what you need to know about the running back's performance, but rather an overall team's offensive performance. Average yard per carry is affected by offensive line play, quarterback play and passing game ability. Running against 7 man fronts is entirely different that running versus 8 man fronts. This is why so many teams run out of the spread formation. Team as well as individual statistics in college are not as valid and useful due to level of competition. Still, even in the NFL they can be deceiving. Often times, you see a poor defensive unit for example rank fairly well statically in pass defense. This is the result of teams running the ball up and down on them and not needing to pass as much. Yards are overrated. Points are key obviously. Turnovers, third down efficiency and red zone efficiency are most important.
What do you think of the BCS system? What would you do to change it?
I believe in major college reform which would eliminate several Div I-A schools but I'll save that for another time. I believe strength of schedule should still be in effect even though it still exists in the eyes of the voters. I would like to see three of the four major bowls incorporated into the BCS and have a committee of football people who utilize the polls and computer formula to add some human and common sense element to the process. I would take the top four teams and seed #1 versus #4 and #2 versus #3 in tow of the three major bowls with the winners facing off a week later in the championship game. Another thing is if we are going to utilize polls, there should be no official pre-season polls. The first poll should not come out to October. Currently, voters forecast what they think will happen in pre-season and fail to adjust their poll unless a team loses. A team that was not forecasted in the pre-season has little chance over a pre-season favorite.
How do your rankings of the top three look at this point and who would you leave out of they remain undefeated?
All three teams deserve a chance to play in the championship game if they win out but the current system does not allow for three teams. There is still lots of football left but the teams that have accomplished the most against the most are Auburn, Oklahoma and USC in that order. USC would match up better versus Auburn, Auburn better versus Oklahoma with OU no decisive advantage or disadvantage either way.
Now that Washington is going to get a new coach, can you tell us who you feel would be the most qualified and why? The names we hear are Jeff Tedford, Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, and Dan Hawkins.
Jeff Tedford is a great teacher and developer of quarterbacks and offense. He has also recruited and would do well given UW's resources. However, he may move to the NFL from his post at California. It's up to Cal to ante up on the facility upgrades promised him in order to keep him for the short term. Urban Meyer is another great offensive mind with great balance and very organized and ready to lead a big time program. He is a Midwest guy with his ideal jobs being Michigan, Ohio St. and Notre Dame but would definitely be interested in leading a big time program in another part of the country where he could compete for a conference championship. Washington would interest him but Florida interest him more and his former President at Utah is now at the same post at Florida. Dan Hawkins would fall below Tedford and Meyer but possesses an exciting wide open offense and is familiar with that part of the country. Spurrier would not be interested in Washington.
Washington is likely going to go 1-10 this year. How long will it take for them to rebound? Their defense is young (five true freshman have seen time) but the QB situation is terrible. How long will it take a new coach to turn the program around in the USC-dominated Pac-10?
It will take a couple of good recruiting classes to be real competitive but a bright offensive mind will help greatly the quarterback situation from a development standpoint. The other positive is the relative weakness of the Pac-10. Other than USC, there is no consistent dominating program and you can easily make up ground. This runs in cycles but currently there is a path to rise quickly.
If OU and USC end of playing in the NC, who do you see winning that one and why?
I think it would be the most competitive match up of all the possibilities. Both have veteran, good decision making quarterbacks with good receivers and outstanding running games. Defensively, OU would have a slight edge personnel wise as well as in the special teams area. Really too close to call but I would favor OU slightly. Certainly, they have struggled at times but USC has had their struggles four times this year against average competition. They are playing their best ball right now, however.
What is the most difficult position for you to project from college to the pro's?
Quarterbacks are difficult because so many intangibles go in to the evaluation process. Systems, surrounding personnel and competition greatly affect how a quarterback is perceived. Scouting is about projecting how a player will do at the NFL level and production at the NFL requires more heightened and sophisticated skills and physical abilities. It not the result but rather what creates the result that you have to evaluate. Defensive backs (corners and safeties) are difficult because they do not show up on film as much as you need them to. Top players at that position are often thrown away from limiting their exposure which is why the all star games and workouts are especially important at these positions because we can then put them in the situation from which we need to evaluate.
With all your years of scouting experience, how many of the major college rivalries have you been to and which one do you think is the best?
I have been fortunate to go to all of them, major and small college several times over. My feeling on college rivalries is that they all have their unique flavor and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In my way of viewing it, to be considered the best rivalry each team has to consider the other their biggest rival. For example, many consider Auburn and Alabama the best and it's great and takes place 365 days a year but some Alabama faithful (many older fans) consider their biggest rival to be Tennessee. With this in mind and considering all factors, my vote goes to Michigan versus Ohio State. 100% of the staff, players, administration and fan base of both programs consider the other their biggest rival.
If you get a chance, also try attending some of these other games: Army/Navy, Auburn/Alabama, Texas/Oklahoma, Florida/Florida State, Notre Dame/USC, Cal/Stanford, Miami/Florida State, USC/UCLA, Georgia/Florida, Texas/Texas A&M, Oklahoma/Nebraska (except recently), Washington/Washington St., Oregon/Oregon St, Ole Miss/Mississippi State. South Carolina/Clemson, Georgia/Georgia Tech, Alabama/Tennessee, Arizona/Arizona State, BYU/Utah, and West Virginia/Pitt. If you are looking for something unique, try Harvard/Yale and Lafayette/Lehigh.
Could you list your coach of the year candidates for the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC?
Frank Beamer-Va. Tech, Tom O'Brien-Boston College, Kirk Ferentz-Iowa with honorable mention to Barry Alvarez-Wisconsin, Bob Stoops-Oklahoma, Jeff Tedford-Cal with honorable mention to Pete Carroll-USC and Dirk Koetter-Arizona St., and Tommy Tuberville-Auburn.
Who would you vote for best coaching job this season nationally?
You have to give credit to Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and his staff, particularly his offensive coordinator Al Borges. Also, the job Kirk Ferentz has done with that injury riddled and limited personnel has been nothing short of remarkable.
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