NFL Scouting Combine Thoughts: Quarterbacks

The quarterbacks performed throwing drills at the NFL scouting combine on Sunday and below are some quick-hit thoughts on how each of them fared. (Thank you NFL Network for broadcasting the scouting combine for those of us who are unable to go to Indianapolis, or have a restraining order that mandates we stay 500 yards away from Rich Eisen, whom all I wanted to do was party with.)

– For those that were concerned with the way the ball comes out of Cam Newton’s hand, there’s no need. Unlike Tim Tebow last year, Newton doesn’t have a flaw that needs to be fixed when it comes to his delivery, which is important seeing as how he played in the spread option under Gus Malzahn at Auburn.

– That said, Newton was awfully inconsistent on Sunday. His passes on the out route sailed on him and he also overthrew his receiver on one of his post-corner throws. His footwork is still a work in progress but hey, he’s learning. He has to transition from being a spread quarterback to a conventional drop back passer in the NFL, so it’s going to take time. At least at this point he has better mechanics than Tebow and Vince Young when they were preparing for the draft.

Ryan Mallett was really impressive. He has a cannon attached to his right shoulder and the ball comes out of his hand rather effortlessly. He has the best physical tools of any quarterback in the draft and at 6’6” and 238 pounds, he has the size that scouts drool over. Of course, his physical tools have never been in question. His attitude and character are what some are concerned about. Personally, I think he has Oakland Raiders written all over him. He could thrive in a vertical offense and Al Davis can’t even spell character.

Christian Ponder had himself a great day as well. He outshined Newton and all other quarterbacks in the second group, displaying very good accuracy and decent arm strength. I can’t see him going any higher than the third round, but he looked healthy and confident on Sunday. Depending on what team he winds up with, he could be a player to watch in a couple of years.

– For those who followed him at Washington, it’s not surprising that Jake Locker ran one of the fastest 40 times (4.52 seconds) of any quarterback in combine history. The guy was blessed with a ton of athleticism and he looked good throwing the ball, which had been a concern heading into the combine. He was a little inconsistent with his accuracy when throwing the dig route, but it’s hard to complain about his performance. Of course, most quarterbacks perform well when there are no defenders in their face. When teams watch film of him from last year, there will be plenty to pick apart.

Ricky Stanzi, Jerrod Johnson and Andy Dalton all struggled with their accuracy. I don’t think anyone is surprised with Johnson, but I thought Dalton would put on a better performance. Of course, where he wins teams over is with his leadership, his football IQ and his instincts. You can’t measure those things in throwing drills. I will say this about Stanzi though: the kid throws a nice deep ball (at least when he’s not facing any DBs).

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Northwestern upsets Iowa for the second straight year

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats encourages his team as they take on the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The last time Iowa faced Northwestern was last year when the Hawkeyes were 9-0 and streaking towards a date with Ohio State for the chance to play in the Rose Bowl.

But the Wildcats ruined Iowa’s dreams then and then did it again this year.

For the fifth time in the last six meetings between these two teams, Northwestern was able to get the best of Iowa in a dramatic 24-17 win at Ryan Field in Evanston. The Wildcats were trailing 17-7 after Hawkeyes’ quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw two touchdown passes early in the third quarter. But Brian Peters picked off Stanzi near the goal line in the fourth quarter and the Northwestern comeback was on.

Dan Persa found Jeremy Ebert on a 6-yard touchdown pass with 6:21 remaining in the game to cut Iowa’s lead to 17-14, then Persa threw up a jump ball that Demetrius Fields snagged for another score with just 1:22 on the clock. Stanzi drove the Hawkeyes into Northwestern territory, but a 4th-and-16 Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete with six seconds left and the Wildcats hung on for the win.

Outside of Ohio State, Northwestern is the only other team that Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz has a losing record against. Without a chance to win the Big Ten, Iowa will try to ruin Ohio State’s chances next week at home at 3:30PM ET.

2010 Big Ten College Football Preview: Ohio State back on top

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes hands off to running back Brandon Saine #3 of the Buckeyes during a game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Ohio Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Here’s a quick and dirty look at how I see things playing out in the Big Eleven this season:

#1 Ohio State
Some believe the Buckeyes’ offense might be close to catching up to their defense in terms of dominance, which is saying something with the way OSU’s D played a year ago. The Buckeyes return all three leading rushers from 2009 in Brandon Saine, Dan Herron and quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who some believe has become a more committed teammate over the offseason. The key to OSU becoming a national title threat is Pryor, or more specifically, whether or not he’ll make opponents respect his passing game. The good thing for him and the Buckeyes on a whole is that they return four starters to a veteran offensive line that will open up plenty of holes for a deep and talented group of running backs. Defensively, OSU was a top five unit last season and could be once again this year assuming they can generate a pass-rush and the safeties can hold up in coverage. Cameron Heyward is one of the nation’s best defensive ends and Ross Homan is a playmaker at the outside linebacker spot. The secondary isn’t flashy, but cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence are solid. From a schedule standpoint, if they can beat Miami in Columbus in the second week of the season, they should be 6-0 heading into Madison on October 16. From there, they’ll be tested by Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa, but this is your clear favorite to win the Big Ten.

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2010 BCS Bowl Preview: 5 Things to Watch for in the Orange Bowl

No. 1 in the ACC will take on No. 2 in the Big Ten when No. 9 Georgia Tech battles No. 10 Iowa in the Orange Bowl on January 5. As part of our 2010 BCS Bowl Preview, here are five things to watch for in the 2010 Orange Bowl.

1. GA Tech’s spread option attack vs. Iowa’s stiff run defense
Thanks to a three-headed monster in Jonathan Dwyer, Josh Nesbitt and Anthony Allen, the Yellow Jackets had the second best rushing attack in the nation this season. They averaged 307.15 yards per game, 35.31 points per game and 442.69 total yards of offense per game. There was only one time this season where Tech didn’t rush for over 200 yards on the ground, which came in a 33-17 loss to Miami in mid September. There’s no doubt Iowa has watched countless film on how the Hurricanes attacked the Jackets’ triple-option, remarkably holding them to just 97 yards on the ground. The Hawkeyes rank 11th in the nation in total defense and eighth in pass defense, but it’ll be their run defense (ranked 33rd in the country) that will be tested in the Orange Bowl. Miami succeed because it had the athletes in the front seven to penetrate the gaps and consistently wreck havoc in Tech’s backfield. Led by linebackers Pat Angerer and Jeremiha Hunter, the Hawkeyes have the tools to slow down Tech’s rushing attack. But will they execute come January 5?

2. Does Iowa have any late season magic?
Even though they would have rather won in less dramatic fashion, the Hawkeyes were kings of the comeback early in the season. They needed two blocked field goals to beat Northern Iowa in Week 1, a 16-point forth quarter to beat Penn State on the road, an interception in the final minutes to defeat Michigan at home, a come-from-behind second half win over Wisconsin and a last-second, fourth-down miracle to beat Michigan State in East Lansing. While some may point out that Iowa had a little luck running through its veins this season, there’s no doubt the Hawkeyes had some magic sprinkled in there too. It wasn’t until quarterback Ricky Stanzi got knocked out of a game against Northwestern in early November that things started to go wrong. Back to back losses against Northwestern and Ohio State knocked Iowa out of national title contention, but a 12-0 win over Minnesota in their final game of the season helped the Hawkeyes reach a BCS bowl. Did they save any magic for Georgia Tech?

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The Official Orange Bowl Smack Talk Thread: Iowa vs. Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech and their high-powered option attack will invade Land Shark Stadium to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes at the 2010 Orange Bowl in Miami.

2010 Orange Bowl Game Information:
Matchup: Georgia Tech vs. Iowa
Venue: Land Shark Stadium
Kickoff: 8:00PM ET
TV: FOX
Odds: Georgia Tech –3.5

Key Stats:
The Yellow Jackets enter this game with the second best rushing attack in the nation thanks to a backfield trio of running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen, as well as quarterback Josh Nesbitt. Tech has averaged over 307 rushing yards per game this season and has the 11th best scoring offense in the country (35.31 PPG). Defensively, the Jackets rank 54th overall, 67th against the run and 47th against the pass.

Iowa’s strength relies on its defense, which ranks 11th in the country and eighth against the pass and 33rd against the run. Senior linebacker Pat Angerer ranks fifth in average tackles per game at 11.25, while junior defensive lineman has racked up nine sacks this season. The Hawkeyes expect running back Adam Robinson and quarterback Ricky Stanzi to be at full speed come January. Both players missed time due to injuries, but have had time to recover and are now practicing again. Iowa is ranked 54th in passing offense, 86th in scoring and 93rd in total offense.

The Bottom Line:
Tech’s spread option offense has virtually been unstoppable this season, but Iowa’s front seven is one of its strengths. The Hawkeyes’ interior defense is solid and the key to stopping the Jackets’ triple option. If this game turns out to be a back and forth shootout (uh, a rushing shootout, that is), then Iowa might have a tough time keeping up. But if the game is ugly, then no team has won uglier this season than the Hawkeyes.

Let the smack talk begin:

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