One of the college quarterbacks they like in this draft, according to a source, broke some of the records held by Brett Favre at Southern Mississippi.
Austin Davis is a bit undersized (6-foot-1 5/8) but extremely athletic. He threw for almost 11,000 yards and accounted for 108 total touchdowns in 44 career games for the Golden Eagles.
When professional scouts discuss the 2012 draft crop, the first two names mentioned in regards to possessing outstanding athleticism at the quarterback position are Baylor's Robert Griffin, followed by Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill. But, when Davis' comes up in conversation, scouts immediately revise their list to include the Golden Eagle with the other duo.
Not since the days when Favre suited up for USM from 1987 through 1990 have talent evaluators flocked to the Hattiesburg campus to watch game films and review practices on a quarterback until Davis began terrorizing defenses upon his arrival as a freshman in 2008. The only speed bump that the passer experienced while starting every game for his career was in 2009, when he suffered a Lisfranc fracture to his left foot in the fourth quarter vs. Alabama-Birmingham and missed the last eight games.
Davis began his assault on the school's coveted records compiled by Favre as soon as he stepped into the lineup. His 3,128 aerial yards in 2008 was the school until Davis broke his own mark with 3,496 yards during his final campaign. He also set the Southern Miss annual marks with 261 pass completions, 454 pass attempts and 3,636 yards in total offense during his first campaign.
Those records would last for just a short while, however. In 2010, he broke the season record for completions (278), and in his own version of the old television show, "Can You Top This?" Davis again surpassed that mark with 286 successful tosses in 2011. His 475 attempts in 2011 also established a new annual mark, along with the 30 touchdown passes, 3,496 aerial yards and 3,848 yards in total offense that he accounted for in a banner senior campaign.
What Davis might lack in size, he could be a perfect fit for a West Coast scheme, as he has the speed and mobility to easily avoid pocket pressure, along with excellent running skills and strength to break tackles or slip past second-level defenders. He accounted for 25 touchdown runs during his career.
Davis won't bring back memories of Favre with a rocket for an arm and a penchant for throwing the deep ball, but he is a savvy field leader who knows how to move the chains and performs with an outstanding work ethic. He has a snappy and fluid over-the-top release and is constantly looking for all of his targets, rather than zoning in on his primary receiver or force feed the ball into a crowd.
Evidence of those qualities is his body of work under center, as he is one of just nine players in the history of Conference USA to throw for more than 10,000 yards in a career and one of only five league performers to attempt more than 1,500 passes and be responsible for more than 100 total touchdowns. With patient coaching, his transition from operating in the shotgun in college to driving back from center in a pro-style offense will require just minor footwork refinement, most pro scouts feel.
While at West Lauderdale High School in Collinsville, Miss., Davis was only known to southern-area recruiters. Playing for a team with a "run-first, run-second, run-third" philosophy, the quarterback managed to impress those colleges with his ability carrying and throwing the pigskin. As a junior, he led coach Stan McCain's Knights to a 12-1 record en route to capturing the Mississippi 4A Region IV title in 2005. That year, he completed 70-of-125 pass attempts for 834 yards with 15 touchdown passes. He threw just three interceptions on the year, and two of those were Hail Mary attempts at the end of halves.
As a senior, the four-year letterwinner guided the Knights to an 8-2 record, as they ranked third in the 4A Region IV ranks in 2006. He passed for 1,011 yards with 15 touchdowns while hitting on 67 percent of his pass attempts and collected 606 yards with six scores rushing.
Davis also lettered in baseball for the Knights, where he twice garnered All-State honors. Baseball seems to be part of the "family business," as his younger brother, Bo, was member of the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagle baseball team which went to the 2011 College World Series. Their cousin, Jason Smith, was a professional outfielder who played in the Chicago Cubs (2006), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2002–2003), Detroit Tigers (2004–2005), Colorado Rockies (2006), Toronto Blue Jays (2007), Arizona Diamondbacks (2007), Kansas City Royals (2007–2008) and Houston Astros (2009) minor league organizations.
Davis enrolled at Southern Mississippi after graduating with a 3.85 grade point average from West Lauderdale High. He spent the 2007 season with the scout team, retaining four years of college eligibility. In 2008, he stepped into the starting lineup, where he remained for 44 games until graduating in 2011. He earned Freshman All-American honors after hitting on 261-of-454 attempts for 3,128 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2008, ranking fifth in Conference USA with 3,636 yards in total offense, as he was responsible for 32 touchdowns, including nine on the ground.
Davis was steamrolling through the competition in 2009, reeling off four quick victories for the Golden Eagles, but in the Alabama-Birmingham clash, he fractured a bone in his left foot that would sideline him for USM's final eight contests. He finished with 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns while completing 69.2 percent of his passes (108-of-156). He also found the end zone twice on a pair of carries.
In just three years at the university, Davis graduated with a degree in business administration and was primed for a banner 2010 campaign. The All-Conference USA second-team pick made up for lost time from his 2009 foot injury by averaging 273.46 yards per game in total offense.
His 278 pass completions were good for second on the school season-record list, taking third place in that book with 3,555 yards in total offense and 3,103 yards passing. His 20 touchdown tosses are good for sixth in USM annals, and he scored 10 times on 145 rushing attempts.
With Houston's Case Keenum racking up yardage, Davis was relegated to All-Conference USA second-team honors in 2011, but scouts gave the USM passer the most attention of the two throughout the year. Davis rewrote his own season records with 286-of-475 passes (60.2 percent) for 3,496 yards and 30 touchdowns, as he also recorded 3,848 yards in total offense and was responsible for 34 touchdowns.
PATH TO THE DRAFT SERIES
Baylor C Philip Blake
Wisconsin C Peter Konz
Michigan C David Malk
Georgia C Ben Jones
Ohio State C Michael Brewster
Mississippi State C Quentin Saulsberry
San Diego St. QB Ryan Lindley
South Dakota St. WR Dale Moss
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
The Packers got another look at Davis during Southern Miss' pro day on Friday.
"I think just (taking snaps) under center has helped," Davis told the Clarion-Ledger afterward. "Obviously, we didn't do that much at Southern. I think my feet have improved. I've improved my arm strength just for the amount of throwing I've been doing. Hopefully, that'll translate to the next level."
Davis started all 44 games that he appeared in at Southern Mississippi, establishing school career records by completing 933-of-1,527 passes for a pass completion percentage of .611, as he totaled 10,892 aerial yards and 83 touchdown strikes, while setting USM records with 1,987 plays for 12,267 yards in total offense and 108 total touchdowns…Along the way, Davis topped Brett Favre's school records of 7,695 passing yards, 52 touchdown tosses and 7,606 yards in total offense…Davis also finished fifth in Conference USA history for pass attempts, fourth for yards gained in total offense, touchdowns responsible for and pass completions, third for total plays and sixth for yards gained passing and touchdown passes…Also established school career records with a 135.42 pass efficiency rating and a 1.77 interception rate…His 3,496 yards passing, 30 touchdown tosses, 475 pass attempts, 286 pass completions, 3,848 yards in total offense and 34 touchdowns responsible for in 2011 established Golden Eagles season records…Also ranks second on the passing yardage list with 3,128 in 2008 and third with 3,103 in 2010, in addition to placing second with 278 pass completions in 2010 and third with 261 in 2008, while again finishing second and third, respectively, with 3,636 yards in total offense in 2008 and 3,555 yards in 2010.
Davis earned All-American Super Sleeper Team honors from The NFL Draft Report, as that scouting information service regards the senior as the most underrated quarterback in the South…Received All-Conference USA second-team and Academic All-Conference USA first-team accolades…Started all 14 games, setting school season records while completing 286-of-442 passes (60.21%) for 3,496 yards and 30 touchdowns, adding 352 yards and four scores on 110 carries (3.20 ypc)…Caught one pass for 8 yards (vs. Alabama-Birmingham) and recorded a solo tackle in each of the UAB and Houston clashes…Also established USM season-records with 3,848 yards in total offense and 34 touchdowns responsible for…Ranked third in the league and 27th nationally with an average of 273.46 yards per game in total offense…His pass efficiency rating of 138.25 is the third-best in Golden Eagles annals…Had at least one touchdown pass in all but the season opener vs. Louisiana Tech and gained over 300 yards in total offense in six contests while throwing for over 300 yards three times…Completed 28 passes for over 20 yards, including 15 for 40 yards or longer.
2011 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS
Opened the season with 51 yards on nine carries and 21-of-37 tosses for 226 yards vs. Louisiana Tech…Added 309 yards on 25-of-49 tosses with two touchdowns, including a 90-yarder to receiver Francisco Llanos vs. Marshall…Collected 313 yards on 27-of-41 tosses to go with three touchdowns, including a 32-yarder to Ryan Balentine in the Virginia clash…Followed with 21-of-33 attempts for 284 yards and three more scores, finding Balentine with a 46-yard strike and Kelvin Bolden with a 45-yarder on two of those TD tosses, as Davis also ran for 39 yards and a score on seven carries vs. Rice…Had a sensational performance vs. Navy, completing 21-of-23 throws for 283 yards and three touchdowns, with a long of 77 yards to Balentine, as the quarterback also scored on a 35-yard carry while gaining 75 yards on 12 carries…One of his three touchdown passes in the Texas-El Paso game was caught by Quentin Pierce for 47 yards…Hit on 26-of-48 tosses for 364 yards and two touchdowns vs. Central Florida…Completed 14-of-24 attempts for 277 yards, finding Tracy Lampley with a 49-yard touchdown toss and Ryan Balentine with a 41-yard scoring strike vs. Memphis, as Davis also scored while gaining 26 yards on eight runs…Matching up vs. fellow gunslinger Case Keenum, Davis produced 279 yards on 17-of-33 throws with four touchdowns that featured strikes of 61 yards to Tracy Lampley and 69 yards to Dominique Sullivan, as Davis also carried nine times for 47 yards in a 49-28 triumph over Houston in the Conference USA Championship Game.
Davis earned second team All-Conference USA honors and was a C-USA All-Academic team member...The junior graduated in earlier December with a degree in business administration...Started in all 13 games, completing 278-of-442 tosses (62.9 percent) for 3,103 yards, 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions…Carried 145 times for 452 yards (3.12 ypc) and 10 scores, as he amassed 3,555 total yards and was responsible for 30 touchdowns…Caught the first pass for his career, good for a 17-yard touchdown vs. Louisville…Ranked fourth in the league with an average of 273.46 yards per game in total offense…Posted five multiple touchdown throwing games, including each of the last three contests...Threw 41 passes of 20 or more yards during the season, including a season-long 67-yard strike to Quentin Pierce vs. Tulsa for a touchdown…Named to Athletic Director's Honor Roll during the 2011 spring semester.
Davis was a Conference USA Commissioner's Academic Medal winner as well as earning C-USA Honor Roll and Athletic Director's Honor Roll accolades during the spring and fall semesters…Started the team's first five games, but suffered a fractured bone in his left foot vs. Alabama-Birmingham and missed the final eight contests…Finished with 1,165 yards and ten touchdowns on 108-of-156 pass attempts (69.2 percent), as he carried the ball 50 times for 63 yards (1.26 ypc) and two scores…Finished with 1,228 yards in total offense, an average of 245.6 yards per game…Had just two passes intercepted…Threw for over 200 yards in four games and had three touchdown tosses in each of the Alcorn State and Kansas contests.
Davis was named Freshman All-American by College Football News, as he was also one of eleven players to make the Conference USA All-Academic team…Became the first freshman to start the season at quarterback for the Golden Eagles since Tommy Waters in 1991, as he went on to establish 15 school records, most which he later broke as a junior and senior…He finished the season as USM's then record-holder with 261 pass completions of 454 attempts (57.5 percent) for 3,128 yards, 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions…Totaled 3,636 yards and was responsible for 32 touchdowns, as he also scored nine times on 155 carries for 508 yards (3.28 ypc)…Reached the 200-yard passing level nine times, including a season-best 461-yard performance that included four touchdowns on 32-of-61 tosses vs. Rice.
Davis redshirted as a freshman, as he gained valuable practice in an effort to battle for the starting job in 2008…Was a Conference USA Academic Medal winner and Dean's List member.
2009 Season…In the fifth game vs. Alabama-Birmingham Davis tore a ligament in his left foot and was lost for the rest of the season. It was originally thought Davis hurt his foot or ankle when he went down early in the fourth quarter, but after he experienced pain in the mid-foot area the next day, an MRI exam showed the quarterback tore a ligament. He was not cleared to resume training until June, 2010 after undergoing surgery to repair a Lisfranc fracture.
4.74 in the 40-yard dash…1.63 10-yard dash…2.74 20-yard dash…4.11 20-yard shuttle… 6.73 three-cone drill…31-inch vertical jump…9'1" broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times…31 ¾-inch arm length…10 3/8-inch hands…75 ¼-inch wingspan…24 Wonderlic score.
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Dave-Te Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. At NFL Scouting, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.