Plenty of Prospects to Complete QB Quartet

Speaking at the NFL Combine on Friday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said "we definitely need four" quarterbacks to battle during offseason, training camp. If McCarthy gets his wish, one of these players could be the Packers' choice.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Aaron Rodgers and Scott Tolzien will return for the Green Bay Packers, and the team would like to retain Matt Flynn.

That leaves three quarterbacks. Three may or may not be a crowd.

"It's such a fine line to straddle now because it's so hard to get four guys ready," coach Mike McCarthy said at the Scouting Combine on Friday. "The practices have been cut down, quarterback school has lost four weeks. To answer your question, I think we definitely need four so I'm hopeful that we can get a young guy in the draft. That's something that we're focused on. We'll see how that unfolds. It's tough because, in the old days, there'd be merit in taking five if you had that much time to train the players in the old two-a-day practice format. The quarterback position's tough. It's the most important position in football and, frankly, I don't think the new practice training structure gives you enough time to develop a whole group of quarterbacks. You can get your starter ready and you may get your backup ready but after that, I think the third and fourth quarterbacks are really taking a hit with this new structure."

Given the roster voids at tight end and on defense, it's hard to believe general manager Ted Thompson would spend a premium draft pick on a quarterback. Starting with quarterbacks at the Combine who are projected to go in the final three rounds, some of the possibilities would include Georgia's Aaron Murray, San Jose State's David Fales, Cornell's Jeff Mathews, Miami's Stephen Morris, South Carolina's Connor Shaw, Pittsburgh's Tom Savage, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas and Ball State's Keith Wenning.

"I think that would be amazing to sit behind Aaron Rodgers, Peyton (Manning), Tom Brady (to start his career)," said Morris, a high-character player with suspect accuracy. "You're talking about the best in the league right now, so you're going into the meeting room learning every single day, taking notes on how they're taking notes, trying to do everything that they're doing and mimic that. I think that's a great opportunity."

Fales would be a good fit, given his accuracy. He completed 64.1 percent of his passes as a senior but led the nation at 72.5 percent as a junior. He's beaten the likes of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd, Derek Carr and Boyd in accuracy contests.

"I think accuracy is one of my strengths, and I'm always trying to improve that along with my pocket presence and anticipation" Fales said. "It's about getting your feet right and your feet set, and having consistent footwork and tying it into everything that you're doing with your progressions. It starts with your feet."

Another possible fit -- if for no other reason than McCarthy's fondness for all things Pittsburgh -- would be Savage. The native of Springfield, Pa., started his career at Rutgers, migrated to Arizona and finished at Pitt. He completed 61.2 percent of his passes this past season while playing behind a shaky offensive line.

"Before this season, it was 1,000 days since I played an actual game," Savage said of sitting out the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to NCAA transfer rules. "You're ineligible for two years, sitting out. I barely played my sophomore year (at Rutgers). I had two full seasons -- one when I was a young puppy and one when I was the old guy. It's been a while, but it helped me develop into the person I am today."

Wenning set school records with 11,187 passing yards, 1,012 completions and 91 touchdown passes, and he ranks fourth in MAC history in touchdown passes, fourth in completions and sixth in passing yards. Moreover, he finished with a 3.34 GPA.

"I'm confident what I can do," Wenning said. "Just comparing with the best here, I feel like I'm able to make all the throws. I'm able to do what I need to do to be successful to show 32 decision-makers at the next level what I'm capable of doing."

While Wenning completed 64-plus percent of his passes the last three seasons, Thomas struggled for most of his career. Thomas, who started all 40 games the past three seasons, finished with a career completion percentage of 55.5. He's been working with renowned quarterbacks coach George Whitfield, who noticed Thomas playing too much of the game on his tippy-toes.

"It made a lot of sense," Thomas said. "You know, the whole playing lower, getting off the tippy-toes and putting my foot on the ground has made me a lot more comfortable and a lot more accurate."

In nine games as a senior, Mathews -- a three-time all-Ivy League selection -- completed about 64 percent of his passes the last three seasons.

"One of the things that gets brought up a lot is pocket presence," he said. "Ultimately, any quarterback at any level has to work that, and I'm no different. I think that's something that I've really harped upon this offseason, to make sure you're always in position. Those are things that you're going to have to develop throughout your whole career. I'm working on that constantly."

Shaw had a remarkable senior season, with 24 touchdowns and just one interception. He completed 63.4 percent of his passes. No player in South Carolina history had thrown for 4,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards. Shaw threw for 6,074 and rushed for 1,683.

The wild card could be Murray. A late-season ACL tear will prevent him from throwing at the Combine, though he's targeted Georgia's pro day on April 16 to test for scouts. With 52 career starts, he has no shortage of experience. The bigger issue is he's not, well, big. At 6-foot-0 1/2, he lacks the height scouts prefer -- though the success of Russell Wilson and Drew Brees is changing minds.

"I really haven't had any trouble at all," Murray said of his height. "I think it was two or three years ago, we had, on paper, the biggest offensive line in the world. We had the biggest offensive line in college and pro. We averaged like 6-4, 6-5, like 320 pounds, and I threw for like 35 or 36 touchdowns that year. So, no problems at all. As a quarterback you're not really looking over offensive linemen, you're looking through throwing lanes. You just have to be able to use your feet, maneuver around the pocket, be able to stay in the position and throw the ball accurately and deliver the strike."

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