Sep 24, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) passes the ball during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
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Week 11 of the college football season was full of high-profile upsets. Three of the top four teams lost as Pittsburgh beat Clemson, Iowa knocked off Michigan and USC defeated Washington. While who won and lost won’t impact the 2017 NFL Draft, an entire conference has scouts on edge after what went down in week 11.
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The ACC features potentially the top three quarterbacks eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft in Deshaun Watson, Brad Kaaya and Mitch Trubisky. With the QB position at the top of the wish list for several NFL teams, all three junior signal callers could be selected in the first round. In order for that to happen, the trio must rebound from poor outings.
The 2017 NFL Draft is about five months away and there will be plenty of time to dissect the pros and cons of each quarterback based on their entire body of work. However for now, it’s time to put their week 11 performances, as well as a couple other ACC quarterbacks, under the microscope.
Nov 10, 2016; Durham, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) is sacked for a loss by Duke Blue Devils linebacker Ben Humphreys (34) in the first half of their game at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Stock Down: Mitch Trubisky
The ACC schedule began with an intrastate showdown between North Carolina and Duke. The Tar Heels entered the contest tied atop the ACC Coastal behind the play of Mitch Trubisky, one of the most efficient passers in college football. Duke on the other hand, was winless in conference play and would have been eliminated from bowl contention with a loss. Despite what was seemingly an easy win for North Carolina, the Blue Devils came out on top.
The Tar Heels didn’t play a terrible game, but Mitch Trubisky made a couple of uncharacteristically poor decisions which cost his team the victory. Entering the game, Trubisky hadn’t thrown an interception this season in a game not played in a hurricane. Against Duke, he threw two costly picks. The first came on a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage, the second late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.
The final interception came on a pass with just over one minute remaining in the game and North Carolina down by one. The Tar Heels were backed up in their own territory, but had two timeouts left. On first down Trubisky had plenty of time to throw the ball, but stayed in the pocket too long and was forced to heave the ball downfield where only a Duke defender was within 10 yards of the pass. As you can see in the play below, Trubisky easily could have thrown the ball away or run for positive yardage to keep the drive alive.
For someone with only one year of starting experience, Trubisky can’t afford these types of performances against middle-of-the-road pass defenses. He should have no problem getting his 2017 NFL Draft stock back on track against The Citadel before finishing the regular season against North Carolina State.
Oct 24, 2015; Syracuse, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Nathan Peterman (4) runs with the ball during the third quarter of a game against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome. Pittsburgh won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Stock Up: Nathan Peterman
One quarterback who has been slowly rising throughout the season is Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman. The senior QB accelerated his rise on 2017 NFL Draft boards this past weekend with an upset win over the Clemson Tigers.
Clemson’s Deshaun Watson may be the first player taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he was outshined by his counterpart in this contest. Peterman, a Tennessee transfer, was named the Walter Camp National Player of the Week after passing for 308 yards and five touchdowns against the second-ranked team in the nation.
One of Peterman’s best throws came in the second quarter when he uncorked a 55-yard touchdown pass to tight end Scott Orndoff. On the play, the Panthers run play action and have Peterman roll to the left. With his initial read covered, Peterman has little time to react before getting crushed by the Clemson pass rush. He displays very good awareness as he knows the Tigers have a linebacker matched up against his TE. Peterman moves his eyes to the opposite side of the field and delivers a strike downfield for a touchdown.
The play this season by senior quarterbacks has been very underwhelming. With prospects like C.J. Beathard and Joshua Dobbs underperforming and injuries to Chad Kelly and Seth Russell, Peterman is one of only a few seniors who actually have a chance to be selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Nov 12, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) passes the ball during the first half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
While Peterman’s stock is on the rise, Deshaun Watson saw his stock slip in the same game. He did throw for an ACC-record 580 passing yards, but in this instance, the stats don’t tell the whole truth. Watson’s performance was below average at best for a potential first-overall pick.
Watson has struggled all season in the redzone and those issues cost Clemson the football game. He threw three interceptions in the contest, two in the redzone and all three in Pittsburgh territory. Both interceptions inside the 20 were passes into double coverage that should never have been thrown. One occurred as he tried to squeeze the ball between two defenders, the other was the result of staring down his intended receiver.
That play can be seen below. Watson locks onto his intended receiver immediately and never looks off the defender who was sitting back waiting for the ball the entire time. The result is an easy interception which allowed the Panthers to control the early stages of the game.
Despite the loss, Clemson is still in the ACC title and playoff hunt. Watson and the Tigers should have no trouble disposing of Wake Forest and South Carolina before a potential conference championship and playoff appearance. If Watson plays well and leads his team to the playoffs again, he’ll be one of the favorites to be the first-overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Nov 12, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) leaves the field after Notre Dame defeated the Army Black Knights 44-6 at the Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame isn’t an official member of the ACC in football, however the Fighting Irish are a member of the conference in 24 other sports. The football team even plays five games against ACC schools. Although not against an ACC opponent, DeShone Kizer saw his stock rise in week 11.
Notre Dame is in a situation in which they must win-out to earn a bowl invitation. With that added pressure, Kizer delivered in a big way against Army. He completed over 60 percent of his passes and threw for three scores. He also demonstrated his ability to scramble and utilize his legs to pick up large chunks of yardage as well.
In the play below, Kizer uses both his arm and his legs to put six points on the board. On third down with Notre Dame on the edge of field goal range late in the first half, Kizer does a very good job of eluding the pass rush and stepping up in the pocket. He displays impressive footwork while keeping his eyes downfield the entire time before finding his tight end wide open in the end zone.
Whether that throw happened against Army or Alabama, it’s a first-round play by Kizer. With two games remaining against Virginia Tech and USC, Kizer must play an elite level down the stretch to lead Notre Dame into the postseason.
Nov 12, 2016; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) throws the ball as Virginia Cavaliers linebacker Chris Peace (13) and Cavaliers defensive end Eli Hanback (58) chase in the second quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Stock Down: Brad Kaaya
Brad Kaaya didn’t play as poorly as Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson in week 11, however it was another performance from the junior that will have NFL scouts contemplating whether or not the Miami quarterback is a future first-round pick.
Against Virginia, the 109th ranked defense in terms of opponent’s QB rating, Kaaya was only able to manage 228 yards through the air. His 48 percent completion rate was the worst since he faced Florida State as a freshman back in 2014.
Overall, Kaaya’s day wasn’t terrible. He did have a few highlights in the game, including this touchdown pass over the middle.
The problem for Kaaya is he’s been surpassed by Trubisky and DeShone Kizer on the 2017 NFL Draft board and has fallen even further behind Watson. With inconsistent game tape this season, Kaaya needs to perform well at the Scouting Combine and pro day to assure himself a spot in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.