Fourth QB Possibilities: Tom Savage

Tom Savage dropped off the radar for two years but his big arm and strong senior season at Pittsburgh have captured the scouts' attention. Read Savage's story in the latest piece in our series on potential quarterback draft picks.

A big-armed gunslinger with a quick fluid throwing motion. Pittsburgh's Tom Savage is an easy quarterback prospect to fall in love with on the surface.

Savage's career began at Rutgers, and he opened his freshman season as the starting quarterback. He threw 14 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions to be named to the freshman All-American team.

During his sophomore season, he sustained a hand injury that would sideline him, and eventually he would find himself benched due to the performance of his backup.

"Coach went with the hot hand," Savage said at the Scouting Combine. "I was an 18-year-old kid, bitter and ticked off. I thought I had all the answers and decided to leave. Obviously, looking back now, I could have handled it a different way, But I definitely matured from the whole process. I grew from it and I'm happy to be where I am now."

He would transfer to Arizona for the 2011 season, and had to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules. His stay at Arizona did not last long. He announced he was leaving at the end of the 2011 season due to the school's hiring of Rich Rodriguez and Savage's poor fit in Rodriguez's offense. Savage initially wanted to go back to Rutgers and play, but was denied a hardship waiver by the NCAA.

He ended up at Pittsburgh, and worked under the tutelage of former Wisconsin Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.

Chryst named Savage the starting quarterback in August for the season opener against Florida State. Savage, with a two-year layoff and a third offense in as many years, struggled for his first two games, but finally broke out against Duke in the third game of the season. He threw for 424 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions in leading the Panthers to a win in a wild game over the Blue Devils.

Savage would finish the season with 21 touchdowns, nine interceptions and just less than 3,000 passing yards.

Savage is 6-foot-4 and weighs 228 pounds. He is a big man with a big arm. His biggest strength is his ability to put zip on the ball to all areas of the field. With the modern NFL being a passing league and the emphasis on being able to throw the ball down the field, arm strength has become even more important to NFL executives.

His skill-set fits the Packers' offense because of his ability to throw the slant, crossing routes and out routes. Those three routes are a staple of the offense under coach Mike McCarthy. Savage does well at sensing pressure and has nice mobility within the pocket.

With the new age quarterbacks such as Cam Newton and Russell Wilson being able to run, that has become the new definition of mobility. That has made mobility within the pocket an underappreciated attribute.

In addition to his movement within the pocket, Savage is big enough to shrug off some defenders, similar to the way Ben Roethlisberger has done in Pittsburgh since 2004.

"I definitely want to bring toughness," he said. "You have to be that guy who can take a couple of hits and keep your eyes down the field and still make the big-time throws you need to make. Everyone here has big arms. You have to be accurate. You have to be a poised quarterback and be able to handle the pressure."

Weaknesses include a tendency to overpower some shorter throws that require more touch. One major concern would be his struggles to read and move defensive backs to make his throws. With a sophisticated passing system like the Packers' offense, moving the safety is a key attribute that Savage would have to learn.

At times. Savage tends to stare down his targets, which can get him into trouble, and like any quarterback with a big arm. he tends to trust it a little too much. which can lead to costly mistakes.

After a half-season of Matt Flynn getting by with his brain and moxie and lacking elite physical skills as a backup, the Packers could become enamored with Savage's big arm and select him later in the draft in hopes of developing his knowledge of their system.

Arm talent aside, his meandering path to the NFL has led to nagging questions. Savage said he's endured questions about his well-traveled college days as a possible showing of a lack of commitment.

Teams seem to like what they're hearing and seeing. A source told Packer Report that Savage and LSU's Zach Mettenberger are the two fast-risers among this year's crop of quarterbacks.

"You see someone transfer twice, your immediate thought is probably a red flag, there is something wrong," Savage said. "Obviously, my journey has been a little different. It's helped me mature as a person and I wouldn't want to do it any other way."

If he can convince teams that he's in it for the long haul, he has big upside and could rise to a pick that is too early for the Packers to take a fourth quarterback. If he stays on Day 3, however, he would be an intriguing option for the Packers to develop.

Jacob Westendorf is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and an intern for Packer Report. E-mail him at Find Jacob on Twitter at

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