Ah the glory and failure of the sports blog message board during Spring football time. A time when people constantly overreact to a few bad plays in the Spring football scrimmage and other people put too much stock in lots of good ones. I have been reading a lot of the Cougar blogging boards lately and of course, one of the hottest topics among them is how much, if any Connor Halliday has improved since the football season ended and into the Spring.
Sept. 29, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Connor Holliday (12) drops back for a pass against the Oregon Ducks during the first half at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
First things first, I think a lot of us need to take a step back and realize just how little time it’s been and just how little has happened for the players since the end of the football season. Four going on five months, all of 15 practices and a midnight manuevers’ campaign of conditioning. Then of course there’s the throwing around of the football in between, but that doesn’t count towards our argument right now. Let’s just remember that even though we want it to start tomorrow, we’re less than halfway to next season, which really isn’t all that much time to have made the ridiculous strides that we all somehow expect our players to make.
You know who had a simply horrific Spring game last season? Stanford’s quarterbacks, all of them. I think we all know how that turned out. You know who had a simply terrific Spring game? Jeff Tuel went 19 of 21 for 285 and 2 touchdowns. While he played really well at times over the season, he didn’t really match that production until the Apple Cup.
I saw the Spring game (the first 3 quarters before the Dawgs took over the Pac-12 Networks) and based on what I saw there and based on stats from a handful of other practices, C.H. is currently making the necessary strides and progressions to run away from Apodaca in the Fall. If you go back to game film in 2012, Halliday never looks at his running backs first. It happened a good 5 or 6 times last Saturday. Another good handful of times he comes underneath after his first or second read and checks it down quickly, something else he struggled with in 2012.
This is something I saw by a poster while perusing the multiple QB-battle-discussion-threads:
"Halliday completed more than 65% (38 of 58) of his attempts on Saturday. That was with a brutal case of the yips from his WRs and the wind foiling more touchdowns and a higher completion percentage.That’s 13% higher than his completion percentage and about 1.5 more YPA (a significant stat) than last season. Only 5% off from where Leach likes his Quarterbacks (70% completions).Playing behind half the projected starting OL and sans Marks/Bartolone."
He’s absolutely right. Gabe Marks had 11 grabs on the other side for over 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. Even without him, Halliday accounted for over 400 yards in the air and 3 touchdowns, which is significant. Let’s also factor in that there were seven and eight defenders in coverage all day, due to the no-blitzing rule. Also, C.H. missed by inches on two occasions that would have been touchdowns had they not floated off of the receivers’ fingertips.
But the key is that he found the correct and open receiver after looking off the safety and let the ball go long where only his guy could get it, not short where a defender could get in the play. That point was accentuated when he led Rickey Galvin out and away from a perfectly positioned defender later in the game, missing long by just inches again (off Galvin’s fingertips) on a sideline wheel route. After each, he remained patient and went back to dumping the ball off when it was open. If he completes those three balls we’re talking 41 of 58 for close to 500 yards and 5 touchdowns.
About the interceptions; After the Stanford game ended the way it did last season, you knew that on 4th down or any last play, you simply must get rid of the ball and give you receiver a chance. Halliday’s second interception was 4th down and about 20 and in a situation that the coach would never put him in during the season. Up two scores like they were, that’s always going to be a punt, but since he had to play it you can’t take a sack in that situation so you throw it up. The first interception was the problem and it was all Halliday’s fault, but it was another learning moment about guessing over the middle. On an encouraging note, that didn’t happen for the rest of the scrimmage and it was the only really bad throw of the first half as well.
Connor’s progressing at a better than average and much better than expected clip, if you ask me. I’m sure Mike Leach would say the same thing as he was constant in his praise for the kid throughout Spring (and especially over the past four or five practices. Again, it’s only been nearly 5 months, so give the kid a chance to have the full off-season to develop himself and look at more film. We jump to conclusions way too soon in the Spring, but regardless it’s pretty clear to me that Halliday’s improved significantly from the end of the season and will continue to get better over the Summer.