After taking a month to review the 2013 NFL Draft, it is already time to look ahead to the 2014 class. In fairness, I will do my best to focus on senior prospects for the next few months and move to juniors/redshirt sophomores when the time is right. I am only taking pre-season evaluation notes for now, focusing on where prospects win and where improvements can be made. Therefore, treat these posts like rough drafts and not final opinions.
Notes for Clemson QB Tajh Boyd
Notes for San Jose State QB David Fales
Notes for LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
Notes for Miami (FL) QB Stephen Morris
Georgia’s offense, called by Mike Bobo, is fairly basic. Aaron Murray spends a lot of time in shotgun and from center and was lucky enough to work with a strong running game. The Bulldogs deploy plenty of two receiver and/or two tight end sets, with play action and screens incorporated. I’ll get into the details for why I would use this word, but ultimately Murray and Georgia’s offense can be simple and predictable, but the combination ultimately results in a good amount of success.
Murray is at his best as a rhythm passer, taking a snap and dropping three or five steps, then delivering for his first read. This kind of rock and release approach happened quite a number of times, perhaps even the majority of snaps, in the 2012 games I watched. This draws a specific question: Does this mean Murray is making the appropriate pre-snap reads or is Bobo putting his passer in the best position for success? Or, is it the combination of the two?
In terms of footwork, Murray can easily get back in his three or five step drop, showing consistent steps, and fire off the final plant forward. When forced off his spot, Murray looked his best when drifting or rolling to the right, but his placement and velocity did take a step back in these situations. He displayed the vital poise to climb the pocket against straight-line edge rushers and fired from a collapsing pocket, but Murray’s comfort was obviously affected.
Interior pressure gave the Bulldog signal caller trouble in 2012, and that will only continue in the future. For one, Murray isn’t very creative with his footwork or throwing angles. He lacks that innate quickness, height and anticipation to consistently evade an outstretched hand or bull-rushing defensive tackle. This combination leads to deflections at the line of scrimmage. Other “short” quarterbacks can avoid them by changing their angles, planes, and launch points, but Murray struggles in this department. Even more so, he can rarely stay up beyond first contact. Murray goes down very easily, which can minimize the offense’s amount of second chance opportunities.
In the short game, Murray is very effective. Hitting quick outs or slants with the correct amount of velocity and placement is common for him. It was very impressive to see a string of multiple passes be completed in a row. However, if the defense disrupts these precise timings, the dink and dunk offense can be frustrating. Murray did surpass the 10 yard marker on a good amount of targets, usually testing single coverage in man to man situations as a first read if the matchup pushed the play that way. Obviously there were flashes of escaping the pocket and finding a breaking receiver, but it wasn’t the norm.
I will elaborate a little more on those downfield flashes, since Murray’s arm will be critiqued throughout the process. His release is compact and Murray’s vertical throws were somewhat flat, which surprised me. I saw a handful of very impressive throws, including a floated touchdown pass to the right side of the end zone while rolling to the right. These completions would have been impressive for any passer. Murray’s velocity and placement do suffer when forced off balance despite the aforementioned flash throws.
That is my biggest issue with Murray, can he elevate the skill level of the players around him. Right now, the answer is no. He is effective and can help you win with the right protection, timing, and play calling. But where is the consistent creativity to convert a play that should be successful? This isn’t an insult, but his success is a result of basics. That can be predictable, but also productive when it works.
Where He Wins
Murray gets on a roll when first reads are open. That doesn't necessarily limit him to underneath throws since Murray has enough velocity to take advantage of matchups on breaking routes or downfield throws. An offensive coordinator knows what he is getting from Murray in a clean pocket.
Areas Of Improvement
I want to see successful second and third reads made from difficult circumstances. There are things working against Murray in these situations, mainly his height and lack of transcendent pocket movement, but the quarterback will have to show he can make things happen in less than ideal positions.