In my practice report, I briefly touched on the current state of the quarterback position; unfortunately it isn’t much new news, “they did some good things, and they did some bad things.” What makes today different is that I got to see all of the good things.
Breaking the position down into six different skill sets, it’s easier to see where each quarterback stands. I have left out some things that are important to the position, but cannot be calculated due to the circumstances: you can’t pinpoint who’s the most accurate without a pass chart, and without live contact it’s impossible to know how well they run in traffic or avoid pass rushers.
Hopefully this will help you understand just how tough the decision will be for Neal Brown and Mark Stoops.
Deep Ball: Towles and Barker
There’s no doubt that Towles has the strongest arm on the team, throwing a ball 75-yards without much difficulty. Today we saw that he can be accurate when dropping bombs, hitting Dorian Baker in stride for a 55-yard touchdown. On every deep ball, his receiver has the chance to make a play. Barker deserves to be mentioned because he loves chucking it deep. He would have had multiple 30+ yard throws if his receivers would have won the fight against their defender.
Touch Passes: Phillips
15-25 yard floating touch passes are a thing of beauty when executed properly, but they’re also the most difficult throw to make. It requires excellent timing and accuracy, creating the narrowest window of opportunity. Reese made these throws look easy on multiple occasions. He found 5’9″ T.V. Williams on a fade for a 30+ yard gain, a route usually reserved for giants that can catch the ball above the defense. The completion could not have happened without a perfect pass. If Patrick Towles needs to improve on part of his game, it’s this one. He let his arm get the best of him a couple of times, causing the ball to sail out of bounds.
Short, Timing Plays: Towles
Yesterday at Media Day, Neal Brown stressed the need to improve on first down. In order to play an uptempo pace, the Cats have to get a first down ASAP. A good start often comes from a well-executed timing play. The short routes are a staple of the Air Raid, giving receivers room to make plays in the open field. Pat Towles was tearing it up on timing routes, making routine plays very efficiently. There was a sequence of back-to-back play-action passes where the ball left Towles hand immediately after the fake handoff, narrowly avoiding pass rushers while hitting his receiver before the defender could reach him. Barker’s timing will develop as he gets more work in with his receivers, but Towles’ arm strength makes this type of play run much more smoothly.
When watching from the stands, you have no idea what kind of routes are being ran or where the ball is “supposed” to go. But what you can do is watch the quarterbacks eyes. No one displayed better patience in the pocket than Reese Phillips. It can be easy to get carried away on a deep pass play – you’re in front of a crowd and want to make a big play – but Phillips never forced it, going through multiple checks before finding his safety valve at running back.
Drew Barker’s form and release are smoother than blue suede shoes. It’s an extremely compact motion. He puts the ball behind his ear and doesn’t waste time to release the ball. This isn’t a knock on the other guys, Drew just looks too good throwing a football.
The most vocal player in the group, Pat has turnt up the intensity in practice. You could hear Towles from 20 yards away delegating the offense. When an entire football team huddles up, there’s always that one guy that has to make sure there isn’t any shenanigans before Coach grabs the mic. In one practice, Pat showed that he is THAT guy,
As you can see, there’s a lot of positives and negatives with each player. There isn’t much separating the three, but with two more open practices next week (Monday 9:30 am, Tuesday 3:30 pm) the opportunity is there for a starter to emerge.
Before you take this analysis to the bank, remember: it’s just one practice.