UNDER THE RADAR: LA QB Showdown, Big Ten QBs in the NFL, Coaching Upheaval & Who Really Benefits
1. QB Showdown in LA: Having been on hand to witness the showdown of the top two NFL QB prospects, UCLA's Josh Rosen and USC's Sam Darnold, it was a battle to remember. Both have the ability to match their billing. Josh Rosen's individual performance was the more impressive of the 2 junior quarterbacks. He has a quicker release and made some really difficult throws while getting hit. Darnold gives the added element of mobility with a little more deliberate release and no injury history. Neither player has declared for the NFL draft so this may all be too early, but every scout believes they are both top-level NFL guys. As you look at the Big 10 that is something that seems to be missing.....maybe.
2. Big Ten QB Desert? The one position that appears to be a Big 10 deficiency now and over time is the lack of first round quarterback prospects. Penn State's Kerry Collins was the last Big 10 QB taken in the first round of the NFL Draft (1995). However, when you look at the careers of Big 10 QBs in the NFL being drafted in the first round doesn't matter. Based on the last QBs to start for each NFL team (or the season-opening starter if he was an established guy i.e. Aaron Rodgers for Green Bay) the Big Ten has 5 NFL starters none of whom was a 1st round pick. They are Kirk Cousins, CJ Beathard, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and some guy named Tom Brady. Those last three guys mentioned are perennial Pro Bowl QBs and have all won Super Bowls.
3. Back to LA: Before the sun had risen over the mountains to the east of LA, UCLA had decided to fire head coach Jim Mora after 6 seasons. It seemed a startling thing after Saturday Night's game. Despite being prohibitive underdogs the Bruins accounted themselves well. Only some special teams mistakes which led to a TD and set up USC for 2 more kept them from winning. UCLA also had a TD and another big gain called back. The real motivation to fire Jim Mora may have been some pressure to grab a big-name guy that's out there.
4. The Coaching Carousel: The coaching profession has always been hostage to the whims of a school's wealthiest boosters. The other element in 2017 is the role played by super-agents and search firms. College football coaching has become more like Major League Baseball where a couple of super agents have gained a stranglehold on a good segment of the market. They control a big group on "name" coaches and profit the most when they move around or leverage success for new contracts. The more turnover there is the more money there is to be made on contract after contract. The same goes for coaching search firms.
5. Signing Day Closing In: As the early signing day nears (just over a month away) it will be interesting to see what percentages of each class for each school choose to sign early. One of the beneficiaries of the early signing may be teams in the non-Power 5 conferences. If your son held offers from non-power-5 schools and was being told to wait by a Power-5 school would you take the scholarship in hand or wait to see? Would you risk his education and his future? This is a potential trend that may allow schools outside the Power-5 to sign players that develop into stars and raise their talent levels. It will take several years to see if this happens but it merits watching over time.