While there were several games cancelled/postponed this past week, we were still able to get plenty of quarterback watching in. The AAC was able to get the majority of their games in this week, while Conference USA and the Sun Belt had several teams unable to play. With that said, there was plenty of good quarterback play to go around.
The AAC was able to get every game in besides the Memphis at Navy game. Desmond Ridder continues to be playing the best football we have seen him play as Cincinnati handled ECU easily. Ridder has 17 total touchdowns to only two interceptions during his last four games. He is completing over 70% of his passes in that span. Clayton Tune had a good game for Houston as he showed off his ability to run the ball and we continued to see the development of Tulane’s quarterback Michael Pratt. South Florida still shows uncertainty at the quarterback position as week after a good performance from Noah Johnson, who did not play this past week.
C-USA had five teams that had their games cancelled/postponed, however, we still got to see eight quarterbacks. This was one of the best overall quarterback performances we have had in this conference in year that has had up and down quarterback play overall. Javion Posey for FAU burst onto the scene and showed he was the best player on the field against FIU. Frank Harris and Grant Wells each had 5 total touchdowns and made it very close to who we were going to spotlight this week from C-USA. This was potentially the best performance each quarterback has had in their career. The Sun Belt had two games cancelled, but we still got to see 6 teams’ quarterbacks’ performance. Texas State again showed flashes but couldn’t pull out the W and Georgia State came very close to upsetting App State. With the brief preview over with, let’s go ahead and spotlight this week’s quarterbacks.
Zach Smith (Tulsa)
The former Baylor quarterback is coming off of his first 300-yard plus throwing performance of the year in a game they beat SMU by a score of 28-24. Smith was 26/38 throwing the ball with 325 yards passing, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Very good numbers, but the most impressive part of Smith’s performance this game was his ability to bounce back. Tulsa was down 21-0 at one point in the game and down 24-7 at half time. Smith led Tulsa to 21 points in the second half as Tulsa’s defense locked down SMU’s offense to help Tulsa get the win. It was not a great start for Smith as his early interception and fumble led to SMU points.
The play below demonstrates Smith’s performance as a whole though, and here is why. With Smith’s team in a big hole and with him being off to a rough start, there could be a lot of negative things running through Smith’s mind. However, he was able to bounce back and play a great game even when things seemed chaotic. The play below is a great of example of him being calm and collective when chaos is surrounding him in the pocket. He does a great job moving with in the pocket, standing in there and taking a hit as he delivers a strike to the outside. Notice his eyes, he never looks at the defensive lineman or even the late rushing backer. He is focused on what he needs to be focused on, which is reading the defensive backfield. Even a brief look toward the chaos in front of him could have thrown off this play, but he does exactly what he needs to do.
Zach Smith— QB Spotlight (@QBspotlight) November 15, 2020
*Came back from a 21-0 deficit & after a rough start to the game w/ a few turnovers had a great rest of the game
*Great example of a QB not looking at the rush or chaos in front of him. Took a shot but delivered a strike⬇️@GoldenHurricane pic.twitter.com/Uwb3q6PpMG
Grant Wells (Marshall)
This was the toughest decision on who to spotlight this week as Frank Harris from UTSA had just as good of a performance as Grant Wells did. Ultimately, I went with Wells (even though showed him last week), because of the deep ball clips that I wanted to break down as it shows his overall development during this season.
The first clip shows what a good running game will do to a defense and how it will open up the deep ball. This was Wells’ first game throwing for over 300 yards since the opening game against an Eastern Kentucky. Wells’ went deep often against Middle Tennessee and did it with impressive accuracy. This is fantastic coverage by the right cornerback, but an even better throw and catch. Wells knows he has man to the field side as the corner is in press man coverage look pre-snap. The safety to the field side is already semi close to the line of scrimmage as he is right about 10 yards and his first steps are toward the line of scrimmage due to Marshall’s threat of the run. Those few steps toward the line of scrimmage make it impossible for him to get back over top of the go route on the outside as Wells delivers the ball exactly where it needs to be and from the opposite hash at that. The second was probably another pre-snap read as the wide receiver at the bottom of the screen beats the corner to the sideline side. Wells does a good job with his eyes in keeping the safety to the middle of the field. Even though the throw wasn’t as good as the previous clip (still a good throw), the fact he kept the safety from getting on top of the route helped allow the completion. Also, great ball skills by the receiver.
Another good deep ball & great set up & body position by the WR to allow for him to stay open & make the catch. pic.twitter.com/HD393EmHZa— QB Spotlight (@QBspotlight) November 15, 2020
Levi Lewis (Louisiana)
Lewis’ is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the Sun Belt as we have talked about him multiple times on the QB Spotlight Podcast. This clip shows several of his traits that make him such a good quarterback. He does all the small things right and is an extremely smart quarterback. He also has a very smooth delivery that leads to a pretty ball. The clip below shows great ball placement by Lewis that gives his receiver the opportunity to make a play on the out route. The defensive back is actually in good coverage, but the ball being high and to the sideline makes it hard for the defensive back to make a play. Great catch as well by the receiver.