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QB Spotlight Week 10: Shane Buechele, Grant Wells, and Cornelious Brown

Here’s our look at Week 10’s standout QBs among the Group of Five ranks.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Marshall Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

While the Pac-12 and MAC were just getting their seasons under way this previous week, the conferences we cover were playing in Week 10 of the season. However, there were multiple cancellations/postponements of games due to Covid-19. Despite missing several games, we were still able to get plenty of quarterback play to break down this weekend.

The American had two top-20 ranked teams play this past weekend and both of those team’s quarterbacks continue to show up. Cincy, who was ranked No. 6 this past weekend beat the Houston by several touchdowns as Ridder has looked solid over the past several games. Memphis almost got upset by South Florida, while the Bulls may have found their quarterback in Noah Johnson.

Johnson, who is a transfer from Alcorn State and was the SWAC Offensive Player of The Year in 2018, was 20/29 for 217 yards and two passing touchdowns. Brady White however, led a furious comeback and played great down the stretch after struggling for a lot of the game to help Memphis keep USF from the win. Michael Pratt for Tulane also continues to develop as Tulane found the W over ECU.

Conference USA was the biggest disappointment this past weekend, not because of how they played, but because of the amount of cancellations/postponements due to Covid-19. C-USA missed out on four conference games, but we hope each program is okay and able to get back to the field quickly. With only four conference teams to choose from, there wasn’t much quarterback film to watch.

FAU beat WKU in a defensive battle and neither quarterback topped 200 yards passing. Southern Miss had to come from behind and beat North Alabama as West Virginia transfer Trey Lowe was at quarterback for Southern Miss. The Sun Belt was able to play every game that was scheduled this past week, so we got to see all 10 Sun Belt quarterbacks. Coastal Carolina continues to roll as McCall led them to a 23-6 win over South Alabama. The two quarterback system at Arkansas State continues to struggle over the past few weeks as Bonner and Hatcher were a combined 21/40, for 224 yards with one passing TD and two interceptions. Zac Thomas for App State continues to be on a roll with another game of at least three passing touchdowns.

Let’s take a look at the quarterbacks we are spotlighting this week.

AAC

Shane Buechele (SMU)

Week in and week out SMU can rely on Buechele to get the job done and the game against Temple was no different. Buechele was 24/35 passing, for 355 yards in the air with 4 passing touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Buechele has only thrown 3 interceptions all season and 2 of those interceptions were in the opening week against Texas State. This was also Buechele’s 6th game of the season with at least 300 yards passing. Consistency is the one word that comes to mind when watching film of Buechele. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and does a good job of playing with in himself and the offensive scheme.

SMU struggled a bit in this game offensively as the score was 20-16 going into the 4th quarter. However, Buechele had two 4th quarter touchdowns and SMU scored 27 points in the 4th to put the game way out of reach. Let’s look at Buechele’s 1st touchdown pass of the 4th quarter as it was a great designed play and a good example of Buechele running the offense and staying with in the game plan.

The play is set up by the WR motioning across the field and everything is built on that motion. Buechele knows he has man concept under as the defender goes with the WR in motion across the field instead of handing him out. There is an up top safety that will cover anything deep and Buechele knows that the right outside wide receiver is running a post so will not only take the CB on him with him, but will most likely take the S with him on the post since he is in a Cover 1 scheme as he shades to the strength of the field. At the snap of the play the defender that follows the WR in motion comes down on the fake screen as well as the OLB to the field since his man (the RB) stays in to block. Now, where this play is made is by the slot WR to the field side. He does a great stuttering acting like he is going to block his man, which is enough to get the slot corner to fall for the screen. This gets him out of position and allows the slot WR to come open, which Buechele is able to deliver a perfect ball for a touchdown. This whole concept below is a Post-Wheel concept with the outside receiver running a post and the slot running a wheel route, but SMU did a great job with the design to help the wheel route become open.

Conference USA

Grant Wells (Marshall)

Wells had the best performance by any quarterback in CUSA by far this weekend. We need to give credit where credit is due as he’s been very efficient against the majority of the defenses he has faced this year. While this was against a UMASS team who may be the worst team in all of FBS, it was good for Wells to have a bounce back game from his last outing against FAU where he threw 2 interceptions even though Marshall still won the game.

Marshall is 6-0 this year and Wells has completed at 70% of his passes in three of those games and another game his completion percentage was basically at 70% as it was 69.6%. The only games he struggled against were App State and FAU, who have the best defenses on Marshall’s schedule this year by far. So, while UMASS has nowhere near the quality of defense that App State and FAU have, it was still good to see Wells go 21/30 for 228 yards in the air with 3 passing touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Every game is valuable for Wells and his development not just for this year, but the years to come as Wells will be leading Marshall under center for several more years.

Below is a good example of Well’s development. UMass has two up top safeties pre-snap, but when they bring the OLB to the field side on a blitz, they roll into a cover 1 man under concept. The safety is responsible for anyone deep or that comes across his face while the defensive backs under him are in man. Wells does a good job recognizing this once the linebacker blitzes. He looks off the safety while looking at the left tight end running a seam route. That allows no safety help on the corner route, which the Marshall WR has beaten the defense back on him. Wells has plenty of space to put the ball and his receiver makes a great catch to help him out. Small break downs like this show Wells progression.

Sun Belt

Cornelious Brown (Georgia State)

There were several worthy Week 10 performances that we could have spotlighted from the Sun Belt. Grayson McCall had another solid performance for Coastal Carolina as well as Zac Thomas with another solid performance for App State. While we decided to look at Brown this week, all three have made the QB Spotlight series before and have been discussed heavily on the QB Spotlight Podcast.

Brown is having a great redshirt freshman season for the Panthers and while he passed for 241 yards, rushed for 30 yards, and had 4 total touchdowns with 0 interceptions against ULM this week, that is not why I wanted to spotlight him. Brown has had at least 2 total touchdowns in every game he has played this year besides one. Every game Brown has played this year he has played good to great except one. The only game he has truly struggled in was the previous game against Coastal Carolina, where Georgia State lost 51-0 and Brown was 6/10 passing, for 30 yards in the air, no touchdowns, and 1 interception. The ability to put that performance behind him and bounce back like he did against ULM to lead the Panthers to a 52-34 should be extremely encouraging for Panther fans. Having a bad performance like he did against Coastal can be mentally challenging for a quarterback, so coming back like he did against ULM says a lot about his mentality and overall maturity as a quarterback.

The play below is the opening drive for Georgia State against ULM. Instead of trying to get Brown comfortable and call a high percentage completion throw like a hitch, screen, or something of that nature, the Panthers decide to throw it deep and I love it. Brown’s offensive line creates a great pocket with plenty of space for Brown to step up and deliver a dime. A big play like this on the opening drive will boost not just the quarterback’s confidence, but the teams’ confidence as whole. Georgia State finished that drive off with a touchdown and was in control of the whole game.