Following a stellar junior year, Tyler Wilson considered entering the 2012 NFL Draft, despite only starting for one season at Arkansas. He eventually settled on returning to school for his senior season and seem poised to challenge for the top QB spot in the 2013 Draft. Bobby Petrino's transgressions and subsequent firing from Arkansas left the program in disarray to begin the year. Forced to cover up a number of other flaws on the team, Wilson has seen his stock dip as of late, with some questioning his accuracy and decision making.
Wilson is the type of quarterback who is going to split a lot of draft analysts. While there are many different styles of quarterbacking, there are two very distinct flavors - passers and throwers. One isn't necessarily "better" than the other, as both types have won a lot of games (and Superbowls) historically, but again, there's an inherently noticeable difference between quarterbacks who rely more on timing, anticipation, and precision than those who rely on more on their physical abilities and instincts (for lack of a better word).
Any organization and coach that drafts Wilson will have to buy in and accept that he's likely going to make overly-aggressive decisions throughout his career; that's simply the type of quarterback he is, and his play style comes with inherent risks (and huge rewards). To help illustrate this, we're going to look at some of Wilson's plays from the 4th quarter of this year's loss to Rutgers (whose defense has been excellent the last two seasons).
Down 28-13 at the beginning of the 4th quarter, Wilson and Arkansas need to start picking up yardage in chances. The first play of the drive is a Double Smash concept out of an Empty 3x2 formation.
The pass catchers to the two-receiver side execute the traditional "Smash/Divide" combo - a quick Hitch by the outside receiver and a Corner route by the slot. The trips side has a slightly different change-up to traditional Smash, with the outside wide receiver running a quick In/Shallow Cross instead of a hitch. The #2 wide receiver runs the corner with the inside slot receiver running a Seam into the middle of the field, where the two safeties have vacated to protect the sidelines against the Corner routes.
Wilson opens up looking towards the regular Smash combo to the short side of the field. Rutgers is in Cover 2 Man. With both receivers blanketed and a safety over the top, the defense has a 3 on 2 numbers advantage in a very compressed area of the field. Understanding that the vacating safeties leave a void in the middle of the field, Wilson immediately goes to his inside slot receiver Cobi Hamilton, who is running the Seam route into the void. He places the ball perfectly over the trailing man defender and the two closing safeties.
A few plays later in the drive, and Arkansas has kept using the same personnel and formation, with Rutgers staying in Cover 2. Wilson goes to a Fade/Out combo to the short side of the field in an attempt to hit the "Honey Hole" along the sideline vs Cover 2.
While there is no break or cut in the wide receiver's route, this throw is still all about timing and anticipation. The Out route by the slot keeps the outside linebacker from getting a deeper drop into the seam (which would force a throw with more trajectory, allowing the safety time to get over the top). One Wilson sees the corner begin to react up to the flat, he rips the ball down the sideline the back-shoulder of his receiver running the fade.
The back-shoulder target keeps the receiver from getting "hospital balled" - led into a safety while making an unprotected catch. Moreover, it allows the receiver to gather himself after the catch and cut back against the grain against the safety who was taking an angle for a deeper throw, allowing for valuable yards after the catch.
In the Redzone, Arkansas uses a heavier package - 21 personnel (two backs and a tight end) in a split-back Shotgun formation with twin wide receivers. The play a popular packaged coverage beater concept - Curl/Flat (Cover 3 beater) to the closed/strong side of the formation and Double Slants (Cover 2/Man-to-Man beater) to the twins side. Rutgers is in Cover 1 Robber. However, the twin WR set causes a matchup issue. Rutgers keeps their RCB aligned to the closed/strong side of the formation. As a result, Cobi Hamilton is lined up against a safety in the slot, a huge mismatch.
At the snap, Wilson confirms the coverage and immediately fires it into Hamilton, once again placing the throw to protect Hamilton from getting sandwiched between two defenders. Neither defender is able to get a completely clean shot, and he scores on the play.
On the next drive, Arkansas opened with their empty package and called the "Smash/Divide" concept two more times - the first garnering a short completion on the underneath Hitch route and the second going for another touchdown to Hamilton down the Seam.
Down 26-28 after scoring on Smash/Divide, Arkansas lined up to attempt a 2 point conversion. Using 10 personnel and a Trips set, they called a variation of their Mesh/Shallow Drive concept. The isolated X receiver and inside slot receiver both run Shallow Crosses, hoping to rub defenders and free each other up while dragging across the field. Behind the Shallow coming from trips, the other two receivers run a Dig and Post, respectively, hoping to create hi/low stretches against any zone defenses. Rutgers is completely ready for the play, though, and they call a Cover 0 Blitz.
The problem is three-fold. First, Rutgers' blitz causes a mistake in the protection up front. It's unclear who is at fault. If the protection is full-slide/area protection, it's simply a flaw in the protection that Rutgers was able to exploit. If half-slide, the right tackle and running back are both likely at fault for guessing to block inside.
The second problem is that almost all the defenders are playing with inside-leverage on the wide receivers in an attempt to take away all inside breaking routes. Considering these are ALL inside breaking routes, it would appear that the Rutgers staff did their homework and made a great call in this situation.
Lastly, corner blitzes have been something of a problem for Wilson, as he tends to drift and try to scramble away from DB pressure off the edge (which no quarterback can realistically accomplish, sans the most athletic of prospects like Robert Griffin). He had plays against both Mississippi State and LSU last year where he made major mistakes against corner blitzes off the edge by Johnthan Banks and Tyrann Mathieu, respectively. Again, great playcall here by Rutgers. I'm not sure exactly what kind of freedom Wilson has at the line of scrimmage, but this is set to be a great defensive call from the start, simply based off the defensive backs' inside leverage against the routes.
The middle linebacker sits right in the middle of the Mesh and the corner blitz causes Wilson to start drifting backwards. Locked in on the inside slot, Wilson releases the ball off of his back foot vs pressure. The result is a floater over the middle that ends up incomplete.
Wilson's last throw of the game is a good example of where people will split on him as a prospect. His supporters will point to his aggressive nature and willingness to make difficult throws into tight windows, while his detractors will argue that he too often ventures from "aggressive" territory into the field of recklessness. Further, he has some mechanical issues that need to be ironed out to keep him from losing control of his throws (which happens from time to time).
Down 35-26, Arkansas runs a vertical routes with the two receivers to the short side of the field, leaving a 2 on 1 situation vs the safety in the "Honey Hole" along the sideline.
As soon as Wilson sees the corner start squatting in the flats, he releases the ball to his outside receiver, trying to hit him on the streak. Wilson gets his body turned towards his target, however, when shifting his weight, he swings his lead foot away from the receiver, causing him to drop his elbow and almost throw across his body.
Wilson's body positioning causes him to throw the ball too far inside and with too little velocity. The wide receiver tries to come back inside for it, but slips. The ball ricochets off the receivers' shoulder pads for a game losing interception.
Like previously stated, Wilson isn't the type of quarterback who is going to appeal to every scout and organization. The game against Rutgers (the only 2012 video available as of yet) doesn't really do much justice to what is, in my opinion, his top skill - the willingness to stick in the pocket and make tough throws while dealing with a completely overmatched offensive line. If he finds his Mike Holmgren to reign him in a bit, it's possible that his career could mimic that of the NFL's most famous gunslinger of all - one Brett Favre.