Playing quarterback is hard. I think we often underestimate the position. What I’ve tried to do within the confines of these continuing series of articles was illuminate the depth of reads and techniques that it takes to play the position at an efficient level. Think about how many different concepts we’ve talked about here. Pre-snap man/zone reads. Post snap coverage rotations. Post snap key reads. Footwork, hitches and progression. The list goes on. Other positions don’t have to deal with this. It’s the one position on the field where athletic ability often means nothing. Brandon Harris bubbles with athletic talent. He’s a natural thrower of the ball (read: has bad technique but can sling it anywhere on the field) and a great runner with it. Have either of those things mattered? Have either of those things made LSU a better team? I guarantee you Brandon Harris tried his best to make LSU better. He couldn’t.
When Gozer the Gozerian asked the Ghostbusters to choose the form of the destructor, Ray thought of the most friendly character he could: the Stay Puft Marshmallow man. Ray’s good intention became a 30 story nightmare for the city of New York. I feel like Danny Etling might be our Stay Puft Marshmallow man. Unassuming, friendly, not a lot of pure athletic ability, no cannon for an arm -- but hopefully, the destructor of the SEC.
Here are the QB’s vs. Jacksonville State. And click here for the breakdown against Wisconsin.
Harris- 3rd Progression
This reminds me of a play that the Tigers ran last year against Mississippi State in their (delayed) opener last year. There’s no replay but I’m guessing you have Dupre running a post or fade route, Smith running the deep cross and Williams hitching underneath said crossing route. I don’t want to assume to know what’s going on down the field but I think this is a good read and good pocket awareness by Harris to step up and hit Williams, who looked to be the right read. His progression is fade to cross to hitch.
Harris- Flat Overthrow
Again, this is a good read by Harris. He’s basically reading #5 on defense after the corner is run off by the outside wide receiver. #5 sinks back so Harris knows he can now throw the flat route for a completion and a first down and touchdown. Oh...
Harris- Overthrow to Dupre
I said this last week and it happened again: 6 yard hitch routes are not man beaters. Neither pre-snap or post-snap should Harris be looking to Dupre at all. The only other route that the camera picks up is Smith’s double move route, which he may not win cleanly but double moves are GREAT against man, especially if you pick up the pressure which LSU kinda does/kinda doesn’t. Also knowing Cameron’s playbook, there’s a quick in route coming from the bottom of the screen towards Harris, which is an OK man beater.
Harris- The Last Throw?
I think what bothers me the most about this throw is that LSU runs this concept all the time and they must practice it all the time and Harris just can’t complete it. I don’t even know who he’s throwing the ball here to. Does he underthrow Dural or does he underthrow Jeter? Jeter is open. It’s an easy read.
And then it happened.
Etling- Wheel to Jeter
A Post/Wheel combination where Etling will read the post to the wheel. The post is covered by the man-free safety so the wheel is where he should be going with the ball and he does. His feet kind of betray him, right when he gets to the end of his drop, he should probably eliminate the post and then hitch to the wheel (or finish his drop, hitch to the post and then hitch to the wheel). If he throws it a little earlier, the linebacker is going to have a harder time locating what’s going on. Still, it’s a pretty accurate ball.
Etling- Smash, Check to Williams
I think that LSU is running a smash concept between the tight end, Smith, running a corner and Dural running a quick hitch route. The Gamecocks are in a Cover 2 type of coverage which the smash concept can generally beat. The problem Etling faces here is that the weakside safety is outside leverage of the tight end so he doesn’t feel that he can get the ball to the sideline safely. Next, the corner being down takes away the hitch route to Dural. Etling finishes his drop looking for the corner, its not there, he hitches to the hitch route, it’s not there, so he hitches again to Williams checking out of the backfield for a completion.
Etling- Smash Again
Here’s the same exact smash concept but with a slot running the corner. Jacksonville State is in Cover 2- Man defense. Smash is one of the few great Cover 2- Man beaters so it’s a good call. LSU gets the matchup they want with a linebacker trying to cover Dupre down the field. He can’t. This is a big time throw. Check how clean his feet are. Three step from the gun, hitch to throw the corner. I’ll let the other writers here talk about Dupre’s struggles so far this year. I’m hoping he can turn it around.
Etling- Screen to Williams
Just an ez pz slip screen to Williams off the push motion by Guice.
Etling- Wheel Touchdown to Smith
Post/Wheel again against Cover 1. The safety, #43, rotates strong which basically eliminates the post route (Dural gets caught up anyways). When the linebacker covering Smith runs underneath Dural’s rub it’s over. 1, 2, 3, hitch to the post, hitch to the wheel, throw touchdown.
Etling- Hitch to Dural
This pre-snap picture is becoming awfully familiar. LSU is running two 6 yard hitch routes against 1 press corner and 1 off corner. I still don’t understand why Harris insisted on throwing against the press corner time and time again. Here’s Etling taking candy from a baby. He probably doesn’t need to reset his feet after finishing his drop but he still has enough time to complete the route easily and accurately.
Elting- Rollout Screen/Flat to Chark
This is honestly just a screen pass to Chark and Etling throws an accurate ball. Chark’s man gets rubbed and I think Jacksonville State probably could have made an appeal for pass interference here.
Etling- Post to Dupre
Etling is working this post/out combo on the strong side of the field. The deep strong safety presents a problem for the post route in the Gamecocks pre-snap look but he comes down on out route giving Etling the post route. Pass interference or not, the ball needs to be in front of Dupre and this should have been a touchdown.
Etling- Screen to Guice
This is designed to go to Guice the whole way so it gets marked down as another “ez pz screen pass”
This is a tough play. Jeter gets beat so clean on that rip move by the rusher that Etling has to step up. When he does his eyes go down and by the time, they come back up, it’s too late to throw the crossing route which I think was open due to the play action. At this point, he’s really just got to tuck it and live to see another down. He does have 1 on 1 coverage down the field so I don’t blame him for trying to make a play but he has to put it where it’s either going out of the endzone or Dupre comes down with it.
Etling- Wheel Drop by Guice
LSU catches Jacksonville State with another wheel route with Guice coming out of the backfield. It’s post/post/wheel this time. The weak safety takes the slot post, the corner takes the outside post and Guice runs by the linebacker. It’s very possible that the ‘cocks were in a pattern match zone type of coverage where when the 2 outside routes go vertical, the first linebacker to that side has to match #3 (who becomes Guice when he releases to that side) and that’s just not fair. The accuracy of the throw even though Etling is pressed up against another player is beautiful.
Etling- Scramble Throw to Jeter
Etling is going to work the spot/wheel route to the bottom of the screen. You can see Jeter setting a rub on the linebacker but the problem is that Jacksonville State left a corner on to the tight end side of the formation. Etling probably should have worked the strongside double out concept but he’s probably really feeling these wheel routes right now. The corner is deep which takes away the wheel and because Jeter was feeling up the linebacker who was trying to cover Guice, it takes him out of the play when Etling wants to throw the spot route to him. He has to scramble now and he does while still looking down field and this is just great improvisation to pick up the first down. A couple weeks ago I decided that when I run my QB drills with my ‘yutes, we’re always going to finish with an escape/scramble weird/off balance throw. I figured that we get enough “set your feet” type throws when we throw with the receivers in all the other periods at practice that we can afford to practice these weird throws when it’s just individual time. This play is the exact reason we do that.
Etling- Long Throw to Dupre
Not a lot you can do on 3rd & 17. I’m not sure why Etling is running around in the pocket but he ends up putting a catchable ball on Dupre.
Etling- Overthrow to Moore
Danny Etling does his best Brandon Harris impression.
Etling- Overthrow to Dural
I’m a little upset Etling doesn’t take that whip-out route to Chark. He’s looking at it the whole way and it’s open, but then he decides to try to hit Dural over the top and it’s a poorly thrown ball.