While there is no doubt that Joe Burrow is a special player, not every quarterback in college football is as lucky as he. There are plenty of other quarterbacks across college football who have been stifled by the offense of their program and not gotten a system change.
Yes, I just went there. LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow has emerged this season as the nations most gifted passer, and has seen the most historic rise college football has really ever seen. Burrow went from being a day three selection in the 2020 NFL Draft to being discussed as the first overall selection in just a matter of two months.
What changed? Well, for starters, the entire offensive system at LSU. The Tigers hired the former passing game coordinator from the New Orleans Saints, Joe Brady, as their new offensive coordinator in January. Head coach Ed Orgeron had seen enough of the lackluster power run scheme that LSU had run for decades and knew that the entire offense needed a face lift.
Brady implemented the spread into his scheme and re-evaluated the way that the players were used in the program. LSU has never had any issues with recruiting, as the name brand has a deep history and prestige about it. The talent pool was about endless.
As a result, Joe Burrow emerged into a high quality professional prospect.
Not every player is as fortunate as Joe Burrow. Not every quarterback has been given the opportunity to change to a system that allows his skill set to shine. In fact, it’s actually very rare.
Think about some quarterbacks who became great NFL quarterbacks but were held back in college by their scheme. I would start by pointing to Russell Wilson at Wisconsin. Wisconsin ran a power run scheme, and has for decades. They incorporated west coast offensive influences to the offense that got running back James White into the passing game, but people didn’t think Russell was it when he came out of Wisconsin.
It’s true. As rare as this is, these quarterbacks are hidden out there, and I can think of a few that need to be highlighted.
Anthony Russo, Temple
Back in May, at Full Press Coverage, I wrote a piece on Temple quarterback Anthony Russo, who is a red-shirt junior this season, being a rising NFL Draft prospect. He was on fire last season, playing in a great offensive scheme under Geoff Collins, Russo showed incredible ability to throw the ball with touch, excellent placement and better than average arm strength.
Geoff Collins moved onto Georgia Tech back in December, looking to flip a historic program and attempt to make it relevant for the first time in a decade. Temple moved quickly to hire Rod Carey as the next head coach, from Northern Illinois.
Carey has brought with him a power run football scheme that incorporates much of the pistol and really screams for a running quarterback. The system uses a good bit of zone read and RPO schemes, and this has severely set back Russo, who is not a great runner. To add to these woes, Temple has a quarterback who is more of a runner, Todd Centeio, who makes the offense look like a completely different team when he is in the game.
Russo is very much a mechanically refined passer, and has many skills that would make him a very good professional quarterback. However, he won’t be considered more than a camp arm if he doesn’t get out of this system. Rod Carey won’t be going anywhere this season, so I would hope that Russo can graduate transfer to another school that will better use his skill set, such as Kansas.
Shea Patterson, Michigan
It’s difficult for some people to take Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson. He’s had one of the most roller coaster careers, having incredible highs and horrific lows. As a result, some people have completely written him off as a professional prospect.
Patterson started his career at the University of Mississippi, sporting the number 20. Although he was to red-shirt his freshman season, he was put into the game against Texas A&M, the Rebels 10th game of the season, and led the team on a 21 point second half comeback to win. At the time, the four game red-shirt rule was not yet in effect, so after discussing it with Patterson and his family, he elected to forgo his red-shirt season and start the final two games.
Patterson played well through Ole Miss’ first 7 games, before taking a season ending injury. His sophomore season came and went.
Head coach Hugh Freeze was fired after being convicted of multiple recruiting violations, and the program was placed on a postseason ban, and lost several scholarships. Players in the program were given a free pass to transfer out if they so desired. Patterson elected to transfer to Michigan.
Ever since arriving at Michigan, it’s been a horrible roller coaster ride. He has seen his highs and his lows, playing either very well or not well at all. Patterson has a good arm and an effective scrambling ability that makes him an impressive improviser. However, the Michigan offense generally confines him to power formations where his improvisational skills don’t fit what the program expects from him.
While Patterson has mechanical issues that can be worked out, Patterson was a good quarterback at Ole Miss. Ever since transferring to Michigan, he has horribly regressed. Patterson could be one of those guys who can really blossom if put into the right system in the NFL. He is a senior, and won’t have another eligible season. After all, there’s another certain Michigan quarterback who flourished after entering the NFL with a system change.
Jake Fromm, Georgia
Jake Fromm has been the Georgia starting quarterback since his very first game in a red uniform, when Jacob Eason went down in the second quarter against Appalachian State. Fromm got the nod the next week on the road in Notre Dame, collected the win, and has never looked back.
Fromm has shown flashes of brilliance, and actually seems to be more comfortable throwing the ball outside the numbers on the field. That’s a rare trait, and one that NFL teams will surely be interested to look at.
However, Fromm has had stretches where he hasn’t been good at all. Last week against Texas A&M, Fromm started the game 4 of 11 on his passing attempts before finishing 11 of 23. People have also doubted his arm strength, mostly because Fromm very rarely ever pushes the ball down the field.
Fromm has shown flashes of brilliance, therefore he is an intriguing prospect. One of my friends on twitter, and up and coming analyst that you should follow, pointed out the following on Fromm as a theory to why he is such a roller coaster.
The big and really only question mark about #UGA quarterback Jake Fromm is his arm strength.— Alex Barnett (@CheckTDown) November 2, 2019
Take a look at this break down of this 45- yard dime in stride Fromm hits last season. Is arm strength limited because he's cold? He throws a lot on the sidelines.
Something to follow… pic.twitter.com/rhPUpott6Y
This could apply to all three quarterbacks on this list. All three guys go through large stretches where they don’t throw the football on the field. Does that effect their readiness? How prepared would these guys be if they were in a pass happy system? One that utilizes their skill sets?
Who really knows. This is something to follow.