Study Hall Links, 12-14-11

Blaine Gabbert photo via Rock M Nation's Bill Carter.

Alright, now that the regular season is over and I have some time to breathe again, I am once again going to try to get started with a semi-regular Study Hall links post.

First things first: Study Hall now has a Facebook page! Probably should have set that up ten months ago, but c'est la vie. Anyway, feel free to "Like" the page, interact, etc. Between kleph and I, we should be able to keep that page at least relatively interesting.

Topic For The Day: What Negative Traits Does The Spread Offense Create In College Quarterbacks?

I got pissy yesterday over at Rock M Nation because of a pretty lazy conclusion drawn in the middle of an ESPN Blaine Gabbert article:

Pocket presence is Gabbert’s biggest issue, which isn’t a big surprise considering the system he was in at Missouri.

"One of the toughest things for any quarterback is to stand in the heat of an NFL rush and know you are going to get hit, and stand in there and deliver," Koetter said. "I think that’s a very difficult thing. And I think that’s one of the biggest transitions that quarterbacks coming from the spread type system in college to a pocket system in the NFL, I think that is going to be one of a guy’s biggest adjustments.

Here's my initial response:

While Dirk Koetter is not wrong about Blaine Gabbert's biggest weakness ... really? And how was Chase Daniel's pocket presence again? Or, hell, Drew Brees'? It's a spread thing? Blaine Gabbert's biggest issue is pocket presence because Blaine Gabbert's biggest issue is pocket presence. Mizzou wasn't able to fix that, but Mizzou didn't cause that either.

And here's some further elaboration:

It is a direct shot at the spread and an indirect shot at Mizzou. It is also an incredibly lazy conclusion. Instead of "His poor pocket presence wasn’t aided by the offensive system he worked with in college," it’s "Of course he has poor pocket presence — he played in the spread offense!" There are no doubt some things that need honing if you come from a spread system; you probably haven’t taken many snaps under center, and you’ll need some time to become familiar again with three, five- and seven-step drops. But to blame the spread because he has happy feet (when plenty of other former spread quarterbacks, including a certain former Mizzou quarterback and Heisman finalist, didn’t have the same problem) is ridiculously lazy. The spread may have issues, but this particular problem is a Gabbert problem, not a spread problem.

Anyway, I thought I would bring this up over here, too, with people who are less of the black-and-gold persuasion. Blaine Gabbert came to Missouri with happy feet and poor pocket instincts; he left Missouri with the same negative traits. It was by far my largest concern about him when he declared for the NFL Draft.

Most of his attributes are pretty obvious. He's built like an NFL quarterback, he has the arm of an NFL quarterback, and he has a high football IQ. He puts in the work, doesn't come with any of the prima donna tendencies you sometimes expect from a five-star recruit (look past the long hair -- it's as prim donna as he gets), and he is a tough competitor. He was more than happy to throw less and hand the ball off more in November when it became clear that Missouri's defense could win games on its own. After the regular season was over, he declared that he had 10 perfect games and two terrible ones ... because Mizzou went 10-2. No matter his injuries, you have to tie him down to keep him off the field. He has all the tangible qualities you would want from a big-time quarterback -- and quite a few of the intangibles as well.

Almost all of his cons come in one department: instincts. Missouri fans used to Chase Daniel and his incredible feel for the pocket were a little thrown when Gabbert lacked that same feel. He leaves the pocket too early sometimes and, when doing so, he often flees right into the path of a defensive end who was being blocked perfectly by a tackle. He doesn't suffer from the "I can make that throw" stubbornness that has afflicted many cannon-armed quarterbacks, but there is no question that he suffers the occasional lapse in judgment. Case in point: the pick-six he threw in the fourth quarter against Iowa. After three-and-a-half quarters of near perfect accuracy and decision-making, he rolled to his left and decided to lob a pass to a receiver who was blocking and expecting him to run. The pass was picked and eventually returned for the touchdown that decided the game. Gabbert was injured in high school and served as Daniel's understudy as a freshman, so he just hasn't quite had the reps that some of the other top quarterbacks have amassed by this point. In the right situation, with a good quarterbacks coach and some patience, he could put together a very strong pro career after a year or two of a learning curve.

Other spread quarterbacks have not had this problem, however. But in general, what negative traits does the spread create when quarterbacks attempt to take the step up to the pros? Does it go beyond "learning how to take a snap from center" and "re-learning a seven-step drop"?

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