Editor's Note: Please welcome our newest Recruiting Analyst, Jeff Yuan, to Maize n Brew!
Coming off Michigan’s worst loss to Notre Dame in history, my introduction to Maize n Brew feels fitting. Who’s excited for new recruiting content? This guy.
But if you’re looking for a path forward, recruiting can help. It is, by definition, about the future, regardless of whether you believe Hoke will or won’t, should or shouldn’t be their coach. As we lick our wounds, we remember recruiting is what makes Michigan, and every college football team, cyclical. It’s half the equation to success. Coaching, if you’re wondering, is the other.
A bit about myself and this column: Having posted on my old blog, Maize Pages, inconsistently over the last 5 years, I finally found my break. My convenient writing, half-ass analyses and occasionally rants went noticed. A big thanks to Joshua Henschke and the rest of the Maize n Brew for giving me an opportunity to post on a larger platform. This column will serve a weekly pop up of recruiting analysis, anything from breaking down a commit’s film to understanding depth at different position groups.
What makes me so uniquely qualified? Very little. In fact, I’m probably not that much different from you – just a die-hard Michigan fan who loves to talk about the team, the program, its coaches, its players and of course, its recruits. I probably watch a little extra film than most, but that’s about it. So work with me: agree/disagree, comment, and add to the conversation. Because there’s nothing better than having a beer (or 20 this weekend) and talking about Michigan Football.
Strengths – Accuracy, Velocity, Poise
When you watch a 10-minute highlight reel, you aren’t exactly going to get drops and air mail. Every throw is on target, but what stands out is Malzone’s ability to consistently lead receivers, particularly on several out and post routes. [0:32] is a lot in what you want to see in a throw: a strong step forward, feet set, low trajectory with speed but high enough over a leaping linebacker, dropping nicely in a tight window and the receiver having to do nothing else but to secure the catch and go.
Along with his accuracy, Malzone’s velocity comes across in almost every throw. The ball gets there deceptively fast; some receivers can barely get their hands up on short throws. [3:36] is simply a bullet: the defender can barely react before the football is already past him. Malzone doesn’t have a total cannon right now, but his arm strength allows him to make all the throws – many on the run.
And then there’s his poise. What the hell is poise anyway? Well, for one, it’s a requirement at the quarterback position, especially against sub-par competition. Malzone strikes me as a rhythmic passer with a quiet calmness yet strong command of the offense. [7:54] gives you the total package: looks right, goes through his progression, checks left, knows he needs to buy himself more time, gets out of the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield, and delivers a strike despite getting hit. That’s a playmaker.
Opportunities – Pocket Presence, Release, Mobility
So yes to poise and no to pocket presence? Malzone really prefers keeping everything in front of him, which is natural for young quarterbacks. But every quarterback becomes a Quarterback only after truly letting go -- trusting his offensive line to protect, even with defenders behind him, long enough to make the throw. Stepping up in the pocket is a leap of faith. Many of Malzone’s drop backs, like at [4:19], involve plenty of distance behind the pocket instead of standing squarely in it. He escapes the pressure around his right tackle (the equivalent of a Gardner over-the-shoulder turn), but his athleticism will only go so far.
Release is a tricky thing. To me, I don’t care how it looks coming out (every quarterback coach cringes), as long as it’s quick. Malzone often cocks back with a baseball-like wind up that inherently takes longer. His film suggests this is something he’s actively working on, but sometimes reverts to old habits. At [5:35], the football starts down near his waist and goes full circle before his release. The velocity bails him out, but the game only gets faster at each level. He won’t have that kind of time forever.
Finally, the pro-style i.e. lack of mobility stereotype. Playing in a pretty traditional system, Malzone’s not asked to do many duel-threat things, nor does he need to. But the few times he does scramble, his acceleration is notably slow. At [1:33], it takes him 4-5 steps to reach max speed. He doesn’t need to get faster, but quicker – which are two very different things. By no means is Malzone a statue, but better acceleration at the college level, regardless of system, opens up the playbook tremendously.
By the time Malzone hits campus, Gardner will have graduated, leaving Russell Bellomy, Shane Morris and Wilton Speight. Morris is slated to succeed Gardner in 2015, and with Speight as the likely backup, Malzone is almost all but headed for a redshirt. This is a good thing. Presuming Morris starts for 2 years, that leaves Malzone and Speight competing in 2017 – an interesting battle as both come from similar backgrounds. Morris, Speight, now Malzone – welcome to the wonderful world of pocket passing.
Just Tell Me What You Think
Michigan’s getting another fine quarterback in Malzone, but I do worry about the staff recruiting the same skillset over and over. It’s like we pluck these guys from some above-average pro-style QB factory and slap a 7 on their chest. Having a dual-threat guy that can still fit in our system – think Gardner minus the mental mistakes – can be a great change-of-pace/wildcat option, if anything to expand the playbook. But this is Hoke’s Michigan we’re talking about here.
Since Malzone’s competition will most likely be with Speight, his size – 6’2" as opposed to Speight’s 6’6" – may work against him. Again, Speight has all the same skills, so what will separate Malzone? It’s too early to talk ceiling, but Malzone will need to do a lot of the little things really well to beat him out. For now, Malzone is a great addition and exactly what Michigan is looking for in a quarterback. Whether we’re looking for the right thing is entirely different.