Staying away from the Texas A&M/Alabama game, this week’s Scouting Notebook focuses on one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Brett Hundley and his performance against the Nebraska defense. Also, see how Purdue almost upset Notre Dame by neutralizing their defensive line AND ten scouting notes on a variety of players from the weekend.
After Sluggish 1st Half, Hundley’s Play Hints of Kaepernick-Upside
Teddy Bridgewater may have a strangle hold on the top quarterback spot among draft eligible passers in the country right now, and for perfectly good reason. But after him, there’s some uncertainty as to who quarterback-needy teams who aren’t picking in the top two will look at for their own quarterback of the future.
Brett Hundley matched up against Nebraska this weekend, a defense lacking great NFL talent but a unit that has some experience to its front seven and plus coaching behind them. Hundley did not perform well to start the game, staring down his initial read on one of the early drives and allowing for an interception by Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Still a bit slow in his progressions, maybe Hundley’s biggest concern moving forward is his tendency to stare down his initial receiver on 3rd down or pressure plays at times, though that wasn’t as much of an issue in the second.
Below is a play where Hundley, who really had great protection for the most part throughout the game as Nebraska chose to defend against the option game and Hundley’s passing ability instead of pressuring him, dropped back and looking right for his initial throw. As you can see, his first read on the five yard hitch is open, but it’s well short of the 13 yards needed for the first down.
Instead, Hundley steps up in the pocket (again, very well protected), and uses the slight over-anticipation of the underneath throw by the safeties to open up his inside breaking receiver, who picks up enough yards for the first down and gives his team their first touchdown drive of the game.
A controlled, athletic moving runner, Hundley’s threat of running the ball along with his over the top, quick release forces defense to consistently defend and be concerned with the read-option passing game, similar to how teams are forced to deal with Colin Kaepernick. Hundley is able to adjust his feet to his throws, though his base can get a bit wide at times.
In the play below, you’ll see 6 defenders in the box, all concerned with the potential of the read option from the pistol despite four wide receivers in the formation. With six defenders within four yards of the line of scrimmage, Hundley realizes pre-snap that he has four defenders against his trips set-up on the right and his best receiver Shaquille Evans alone on an island at the bottom of the screen.
Hundley gets great protection from his right side off the snap, sets up and immediately focuses on his one-on-one matchup. While you won’t see it here, Hundley had at least one other receiver open on the trips side of the field thanks to a zone look with just four defenders thanks to the focus on protecting the box for the Hundley potential run.
And to cap off the play, Hundley throws a perfect pass along the sideline to Evans, who gathers the ball in stride and gets into the end zone for a touchdown. Hundley’s ability to place the ball along the sidelines and controlling his plus NFL arm is what team’s will get most excited about when projecting Hundley.
I’m fully expecting Hundley to declare after the season and be firmly in the mix to be the top quarterback in the draft, potentially competing with Teddy Bridgewater for the top quarterback spot. His running talent, ideal pocket and running size, arm strength across the field, and development over the past season is what should have team’s excited to get their hands on potentially the next Colin Kaepernick. But Hundley certainly won’t be there in the 2nd round where Kaepernick was selected from.
Purdue’s Control of the Notre Dame Defensive Line Key to Near Upset
Purdue nearly pulled off the upset over the ranked Notre Dame team for the second year in a row. But with coach Darrell Hazel at the helm, this Purdue team looked even more in charge of the game than last year, all the way up until the very end of the game. While the Notre Dame offensive inconsistencies are an issue that can (and should) be corrected, the gameplan Purdue had against the Notre Dame defensive line was a bit telling on both how to get past Louis Nix and Stephen Tuitt and score points against this defense.
Scouting-wise, Louis Nix or Stephen Tuitt did not play their best game. Part of that was due to Purdue’s game plan, but part was also their inability to make the NFL-level plays that I’ve come to expect from them. Louis Nix raised too high in more than a handful of run plays, getting to easily pushed against double teams on inside runs. He showed he’s a comfortable mover for his size, adjusting as a tackler and to quarterback rollouts well. He also consistently gets his hands up when the quarterback is set to throw, timing his jump well to disrupt the throwing lane on a consistent basis. But in the run game, Nix was neutralized too easily for an expected 2 gapper in the NFL.
As for Tuitt, he seemed too one dimensional as a rusher in this game. Relying on a shear bull rush to collapse the pocket (which certainly works initially thanks to his remarkable strength/size combination) and/or leverage to get to the outside and work around the bend, Tuitt doesn’t recover, readjust, or sink and attack inside on counter rushes well at all, a continuing concern I have on Tuitt in the games I’ve evaluated for him. Also, his rush moves (both in getting off blocks in run support or as a pass rusher) seem to be too laterally working, not gaining ground on the quarterback as well as he should.
Purdue’s game plan against them was simply to run opposite them, utilizing that they lack the range to make plays on the backside and forcing the Notre Dame linebackers to beat them (which they did not). With zone runs opposite Nix/Tuitt, screen passes over top of them, and designed rollouts away from those two, the Purdue offense neutralized them extremely well, despite the fact that they played with just half the field on most of their non-screen pass plays. Notre Dame only had success when they had designed blitzes on delayed rushes to take advantage of the Purdue focus on Nix, something that I’d expect the Irish to do against Michigan State next week as well.
Ten Prospect Scouting Notes
1. Shaquille Evans of UCLA was very impressive all day against Nebraska. Hundley’s top receiver, Evans gains speed very quickly, staying tight to his body as a runner. His ability to get big chunks of yards on hitch routes as well as his second gear as a vertical route runner was very impressive all game.
2. I spoke with our own Jared Counterman before the season about Nebraska’s CB Stanley Jean-Bapitse. He stressed his lack of polish as defensive back, but loved his ball skills and athleticism. With the NFL’s focus on skill sets over technique early in their career at cornerback in a more Cover 1/Cover 3 schemes, Jean-Baptiste could quickly find himself in the Top 64 discussion, if he’s not there yet. He had an up and down day vs. UCLA, but their willingness to leave him on an island and his play finishing on jump balls in his area was impressive enough against UCLA.
3. Purdue tried their best to stay away from Notre Dame’s senior cornerback Bennett Jackson, but he was still able to get an interception late in the game. While limited targets in his area lead to a tough scouting game for Jackson, his ability to make plays when given a chance in this game speaks to his consistency.
4. Johnny Manziel scored 42 points against an Alabama defense with 10+ future NFLers on that side of the football. He wasn’t perfect in his decision making on when to run (especially early), but he had more than his fair share of NFL throws, including multiple sideline throws to Mike Evans. Excluding off the field, Manziel showed that he can score points with his feet and his arm against the best defense in college football.
5/6. Mike Evans was tremendous in his game against Alabama, consistently dominating Alabama’s John Fulton early and then continued to impress regardless of who the Crimson Tide matched him up with. Evans ball skills and strong hands may give some NFL team hope that he’s a future Anquan Boldin-type reliable receiver. As for Fulton, he struggled much more than he did last year in press and his transitions deep. Last year was a performance that warranted NFL consideration alone. This year did not.
7/8. CJ Mosley did his part in containing Manziel, especially early. Used as a blitzer, delayed rusher, or mid-field spy, Mosley did as well as he could have in defending against Manziel’s foot speed. Our top true linebacker (excluding 3-4 OLB), Mosley showed that his versatility as a linebacker and range as a tackler is what make him unique. As for Adrian Hubbard, the underclassmen contained the edge well enough and was Mosley’s prime running mate in Manziel control, but wasn’t as impactful as 2013 in attacking Manziel.
9. Penn State’s junior receiver Allen Robinson deserves to be considered among the country’s best receivers, especially after doing his part in the Penn State close loss to UCF this weekend. Long and very body controlled, Robinson looks the part of a top NFL Z receiver with big play ability. He has 23 catches for 405 yards in just 10 quarters of football so far this year. Also, it’s been fun watching Penn State’s freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg play this year so far. He has future NFL starter written all over him, especially if Bill O’Brien is there throughout his development.
10. Blake Bortles had himself another fantastic game this weekend, continuing to prove that he’s one of the best NFL draft-eligible passers in the country. Efficient in his progressions and possessing the strong arm to make throws outside the hashes, Bortles will have his toughest test of the season when South Carolina travels to UCF next weekend.