New College Schemes Make NFL Scouting Difficult

Last night’s BCS Championship game between #2 Auburn and #1 Florida State was one the more exciting title games in a long time.  It definitely trumped the prior two title games when Bama took home the crystal football.  Alabama’s Nick Saban employs a more “pro-style” offense that focuses on the run game and play-action, some would call it a traditional offensive scheme.  Florida State has a spread out scheme, while Auburn utilizes a “spread-option” system that seems to have play-action on every snap.  It leaves receivers streaking down the middle of the field with no one within five yards.  This brings me to wonder how pro personnel can scout the quarterbacks that run these systems.

When I watched Nick Marshall execute Auburn’s offense on those first few drives, I saw receivers running wide open deep into the Seminole secondary.  The reason for this is that Auburn’s running game is so potent that the safeties felt the need to vacate their zone responsibilities to sell out to stop Trey Mason from running through the FSU defense.  Wide open receivers make for simple, some what easy throws.  No defenders to throw away from, or tight windows to squeeze the ball into.

NFL quarterbacks are asked to go through their progressions and make decisions dependent on what coverage they are reading.  Some of these college offenses make the reads so simplistic that any one can make those throws.  The issue that came up to me is, “How do you scout some of these players?”

Quarterbacks like A.J. Mccarron seem to be easier to evaluate off of their game tap because of the offensive scheme they execute.  But QBs like a Braxton Miller, and Marcus Mariotta are extremely talented and athletic players that can hit wide open players.  Tahj Boyd threw I don’t know how many passes to Sammy Watkins (who is a straight playmaker BTW) and he turned it into 10+ yard gains.  At the end of the day Boyd’s stats showed countless 1st downs and double digit gains that seem to inflate the statistics.

I guess that is what these Senior Bowl practices are for.  All you can do from looking at these player’s tape is get the physical skills out of the way.  You can tell if a QB has a strong arm, is moderately accurate, or is able to use his legs to make plays.  Ultimately, I think the biggest winner in these newer offensive sets are the guys who are elite at making plays with the ball in their hands.  Think of Tavon Austin, or D’Anthony Thomas at Oregon.  Even Coradelle Patterson with the Vikings vs the Ravens taking a quick screen 70 yards to retake the lead.

All in all, NFL scouting departments are going to have to do their due diligence and coaches will need to be able to develop players at a higher level to maximize these guys abilities.  College offenses have found a way to get a step on defenses and, schematically, defenses haven’t figured out what to do as of yet.  Because of that, many players are putting up big numbers, while teams like Baylor, continue to bust the scoreboards.

Good thing its electronic, and not handled like a PGA Leaderboard.

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