Prospect of the Week: Dave Ragone
Since stepping behind center two years ago Dave Ragone has been a productive passer, leading the Cardinals to consecutive Conference USA titles with a pair of Liberty Bowl victories. His style is perfect for coach John L. Smith, an offensive mind who likes to put the ball in the air and takes advantage of the skills offered by Ragone, using the pass to set up the run.
So it was with much anticipation and great expectation that the Louisville program looked toward the 2002 campaign, Ragone's last in college. A run for the Heisman and BCS bowl bid were both thought to be reasonable goals as the team moved through the summer but it was not to be as the early part of the campaign brought misfortune as well as a pair of losses to opponents UL beat in 2001 (Kentucky and Colorado State). Many already discounted have Ragone, insisting his performances thus far this season are not worthy of a Heisman candidacy nor consideration for an early pick in the draft. And while the initial thought is true, letting a few poor performances during the month of September jade ones view of Ragone's potential at the next level is nothing less than foolish.
Consider the fact that four-fifths of his offensive line graduated, as did his primary targets at receiver, and Ragone is shouldering too much if the blame for this season.
A terrific leader with great quarterbacking intangibles, Ragone displays a great feel for the position, possessing top physical and mental fundamentals for the game. His sense of timing is impeccable as is the wherewithal he shows for knowing what is happening on the field. Going through receiver progressions, Ragone scans the defense, patiently buying time in the pocket for receivers but is not impartial to throwing the ball to the safety outlet or underneath pass catcher if nothing else is available to him. His accuracy in the short and intermediate field is tremendous; Ragone has a knack of leading receivers on timing patterns and placing the throw where only his man can make the reception. Ditto for the release of the outs: they are precise, on time and again, perfectly placed for his receivers. Though he may not have a howitzer on his left shoulder the southpaw's arm strength is more than adequate for the next level and any team that selects Ragone should have faith when implementing the downfield passing game. Added into this equation one must consider Ragone's ability to make plays within the pocket or rolling outside of tackle on the move, accurately throwing his passes within both elements.
And what of his poor start to the 2003 campaign? What is a pro-scout to think if Ragone cannot right the ship for either the Cardinals or himself? As is usually the case every year, especially with quarterbacks, good performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine go a long way in determining one's ultimate draft position and both are a pair of events Ragone would be best advised to take part. Even if still dissatisfied it may be a case where one must throw away the tape from 2002 and look hindsight to Ragone's career, basing their final analysis on his early seasons in college.
Ragone could do himself a big favor by putting in a good performance tonight when the Seminoles come visiting to Louisville as he will be facing speed and talent on an opposing defense he's yet to see in college. The Nole defense has three potential first round choices atop the depth chart with several more first day picks sprinkled throughout the two-deep.
Anyway you cut it Dave Ragone has the physical and mental skills as well as the football savvy to be a productive starter early into his professional career and is worthy of a top 15 selection next April.