The quarterback position is the one spot on the field that is never immune to criticism. The position calls for snap second decisions made within a shorter window of time, requiring spectacular instinct and awareness. It takes vision, creativity, and athleticism. The quarterbacks with the highest upside usually draw the most attention, and a good quarterback can transform the image of a college program or professional franchise.
Every year, at least one NFL team searches for the next great quarterback product. As we're finding out, it's always an era of need, from a team in search of a franchise starter to the team in need of a quality backup or developmental project. This week, Boston College fans will get a great look at a potential find for an NFL franchise when Jacoby Brissett rolls into town with the NC State Wolfpack.
Brissett is something of a poor man's Cam Newton. At 6'4" and 240 pounds, he measures up against Newton's 6'5", 250 pound frame. In 2010, he ran a 4.5 second 40, right in line with Newton's 4.59 time at the NFL Combine. A combination of size and speed, Brissett, like Newton, started his career at Florida before transferring. Newton went to junior college before leading Auburn to a national championship; Brissett transferred to NC State after then-head coach Will Muschamp named Jeff Driskel the starting QB over him.
Brissett is the type of quarterback who unquestionably will hear his name called during the Draft's weekend. BC fans will be treated to a guy this weekend who has an incredibly strong arm and pocket presence. He is capable of running a pro-style offense, standing in the pocket, delivering strikes to tight ends and receivers when they get open. If needed, he can extend plays by using his legs, going side-to-side or even breaking off a run when blocking breaks down.
At NC State, the main reason the Wolfpack don't win games consistently has nothing to do with Brissett. After sitting out 2013 as a transfer, he's thrown 36 touchdown passes to just six interceptions. His completion rate this season is over 65%, and his only pick came this season came in a 28-13 loss at Virginia Tech. That's also the only game in which he failed to complete less than 50% of his passes.
One of my new favorite stats is the ESPN QBR. I've discussed with friends who work in the department about how the stat takes into considerations different conditions on the field. An incomplete pass on first down late in mop up time means less than a third down incompletion in a tie game late in the fourth. It adjusts and uses a factor of roughly 75 as a median average. Although not a perfect stat, I like it as a measuring stick for QB performance.
Brissett this season has only been twice well below average. He's been absolutely stellar the last couple of weeks, measuring a 76.8 against Wake Forest and an 86.8 against Clemson last week. He's incredibly talented, and he's going to make his plays.
BC isn't going to stop Brissett. Instead, they can beat him by simply going for contain. The key to stopping Brissett will fall on the middle linebacker position. Instead of using the Mike to go after the QB or stuff the run, he'll stay behind the line of scrimmage in a spy position. There's going to be a lot of side-to-side, horizontal motion to keep the running lanes clear, and if Brissett gets free, then we know someone missed the assignment.
Brissett isn't going to defeat BC by using downfield chucks. He's going to be very good, however, at making short, quick, pro-style passes. They're going to run pick plays and slant routes, and they're going to exploit space against BC. This is a strategy that should be able to threaten BC's ability to defend the vertical game since we haven't seen a ton of these styles of offenses all season.
If BC is going to win this game, it's because their defense contains Brissett. Against Louisville and Virginia Tech, 14-17 points was good enough to pick up the win. While Wake Forest and Clemson failed to stop the Wolfpack, there's much BC can learn from those two games. Against VT, Brissett threw that pick but also went 12-25 for only 113 yards. He had plenty of time to throw, but he couldn't complete with regularity. He ran for 39 yards on 11 carries, but 24 came on a single run. Against Louisville, he was held to -26 yards and didn't have many positive yardage carries. There's reason to believe BC should be able to play this containment strategy and do well. If the offense can muster those points - which they were able to do against Virginia Tech - then they should be in position to win the game.
Jacoby Brissett will definitely hear his name heard during the NFL Draft weekend by teams in need of a developmental signal caller. Before that happens, BC will get the chance to go head-to-head in a chess match against a big, fast, strong player. If nothing else, it'll be fun to watch.