Monday, April 28, 2008

Craft vs C-Force

It was an interesting night at the Rose Bowl last Saturday. You don't want to draw too many conclusions from a spring scrimmage simply because the offense and defense are so vanilla. But hey, that's not going to stop me from comparing the two quarterbacks who took the most snaps... Forcier and Craft. Both had some nice moments and some missteps. I don't know if either really made a strong case for being the starter this fall but I think both could be serviceable quarterbacks in the future.

Kevin Pearson had these statistics and comments from Craft after the practice,
UCLA QB Kevin Craft finished 11-of-24 for 95 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He said it was tough to jump in with the first unit on such short notice and that his timing was a little bit off, partly because he has not gotten a lot of reps lately, and was largely indifferent about his performance Saturday.

"I don't think I helped or hurt myself at all," Craft said. "I just had to come out today with what I had and I feel like I have a lot of room for improvement. There is a lot of work that I have to do in the off-season."
I think it is important to note that Craft was also going up against the second team defense and he was playing with the first string offense. His competition percentage looks a bit low at first glance. Less than 50%. Some of that isn't on Kevin, though. A number of times he had to throw a very quick pass to avoid a sack. There were also a hand full of incomplete passes where the receiver went one way and Craft threw the ball another way. Those might very well be from him not working with that unit much before the scrimmage.

What I will say about Craft is that he seems fairly mobile. He's not exactly quick and not a scrambler like C-Force, but he can avoid pressure fairly well. He reminds me of Pat Cowan with the way he runs. He looked good on his bootlegs and he looked very comfortable stepping up in the pocket. Kevin definitely looked more comfortable with the pressure than Olson has looked in the past. That probably comes from the playing time he's notched over the last few years. Another thing with Craft is that he helped keep drives alive. They kept moving the ball with him under center, even if it was just barely getting 10 yards and a first down.

Forcier

Person gave these statistics and comments about Forcier

UCLA's Chris Forcier finished 4-for-6 for 52 yards in the spring game and looked more like a passer. He has shown a tendency to tuck the ball and run too quickly but looked more like he wanted to be in the pocket instead of being a run-first quarterback.

"I had a couple of good series in there and the one series we drove down the field I had a couple good passes and it boosted my confidence," Forcier said. "That's the biggest thing for me is staying confident."

Just as I noted with Craft, it's important to know that Chris was running with the twos against the first team defense. So we're grading on a curve with his results. That being said, the statistics above are misleading. Very misleading. Forcier may have only attempted 6 passes but the coaches called in far more passing plays than that. What happened was that Chris would take off running when the pressure came. Sometimes that would result in short 2-3 yard gains and other times it would result in a sack. In fact, he was sacked somewhere around 3-4 times during the scrimmage.

Forcier also had an interception on a head scratching pass. He tossed the ball deep but nobody was within 20-yards; well nobody besides the safety who promptly picked the ball off as it came his way. That may have been nerves as it came pretty early in the scrimmage. There was also a fumble with him at the helm but I couldn't tell if it was his fault or the running back. There were some bumbled snaps as well and that could be a problem with the 2nd string center.

In contrast to those misteps, Forcier did have a very nice series in the middle of the game. Probably the best of the night. He moved the ball quickly down field with some very nice passes that were crisp and right on the money. The team picked up 3 first downs on 4 plays and then a Ramirez run capped the drive with a touchdown. It was impressive.

If I had to choose

If I had to pick one to be my starting quarterback right now, I would choose Craft. He just looked more comfortable with the offense and he made fewer mistakes. I think Forcier, as a red-shirt freshman, has some good potential. If he can settle down in the pocket more and not take off scrambling at the first sign of pressure then he'll be a very good QB. His best drive came when he had his best protection and if he can just stick it out in the pocket longer, he'll have fewer sacks and short-yardage runs.

They didn't really air the ball out much, so I can't tell who has the better arm. In the 7-on-7 drills before the scrimmage, Craft looked like he zipped the ball in quicker and was more precise. I also think he makes better reads. He doesn't try to force the ball as much as Chris and I think that comes from his experience.

Neither of them, at this point, look ready to play in a real game. That's understandable given the lack of reps they've received with Cowan and Olson ahead of them on the depth chart. But with both of those guys on the mend, maybe the extra practice will give Craft and C-Force a little more polish on their games. With injuries plaguing Ben his entire career, I think we'll need both of them to stay sharp this season.
(photo credit: BeatSC.com)

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