Thursday, August 15, 2013

Recruit Breakdown: Michael O'Connor

Ceiling: 8               Ranking: 6               Floor: 3.5


School: IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)

Size: 6'5" - 215 lbs.

Composite: 4 Star, 0.9020#13 Pro, #251 Overall

247: 4 Star, 90, #16 Pro

Rivals: 4 Star, 5.8, #8 Pro, #188 Overall

Scout: 3 Star, #28 QB

Favorites: Penn State (Commit)
Other Notable Offers: Michigan State, Miss St, Mizzou, Rutgers, South Florida, Vandy

Strengths
  • Very quick, compact release leaves little time for defenders to anticipate throws
  • Capable of switching up trajectories with good touch
  • Size allows him to see field and go through progressions well at this stage
Has a nice, quick, compact release, finishes with his arm releasing to throwing hand side. Capable of switching up ball flight trajectory and applying touch for different types of throws. Has great height and size for a QB. Is able to see the field very well and scan through progress; should be able to stand up to hits at the next level. Capable of putting some air under the ball and dropping it in. Can hit outs to the sideline from the middle of the field and has nice timing on hitch routes. With his quick release, ample height, and good vision, it should be difficult for defenders to jump his routes or collapse on anticipated throwing windows. When he's comfortable in the pocket and allowing a more natural throw (ie not trying to fire the ball in a small window) he shows better wrist snap, gets better ball rotation, and the ball drops in quicker and cleaner, getting on the receiver faster. While I don't think he will be, nor should he be, used for designs runs (outside of an occasional draw, particularly in the red zone) or options, he is athletic enough to eat up yards on scrambles when LBs drop and make a few tacklers miss if they don't break down properly. Has surprising agility, will be able to make pass rushers miss.

Weaknesses
  • Struggles with drop and set in pocket
  • Doesn't have great pure arm strength to make all throws consistently
  • Has inconsistent accuracy, likely because footwork needs a lot of work, especially when it comes to resetting 
Doesn't step into throws when pressured and too often throws off back foot when on the move. When sitting in the pocket he has a noticeable hop, feet aren't moving quick and like choppy like climbing a ladder, and therefore can't reset quickly and isn't prepared to get the ball out quick. After several hops, or if initial read isn't there on quick passing patterns, his feet become static and he struggles to reset for next receiver in progression. His drop leads to poor accuracy, as he doesn't get his feet properly set many times, leaves his body open to his target, and slings the ball with his arm and waist rotation rather than stepping into throw. This makes it so he is much less consistent with accuracy as well as not being as capable at putting a lot of heat on his short passes. Guessing he needs to improve the actual release off of his hand, or at least the consistency of this release, as the ball tends to have a flutter to it, especially when he tries to put more muscle or some air on it. This is likely because he's squeezing the ball too tightly when trying to put more muscle on it. For his deep passes, this tends to hold the ball up in the air and force it to under throw the receiver; on short passes it makes it so it takes slightly longer to reach the receiver. Doesn't get his hips up field when rolling, and doesn't get good shoulder turn, allows his moving momentum to carry his passes and adjusts his aiming point accordingly; is capable of hitting his target, but accuracy is inconsistent and doesn't get the velocity you'd like to see.

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Comments
Frankly, my baseline projection for O'Connor is higher simply because I think the types of flaws he has can mostly be corrected by the coaching of O'Brien. In most other systems he'd likely be a quarter to a half lower than where I have him. I think his total upside is somewhat limited because a lack of great pure arm strength. His footwork is also likely to revert when pressured, and it's his footwork that is the cause for a lot of his problems. O'Connor does show potential though. When he throws at his more natural velocity, the ball spins better and gets on receivers faster, but on throws where he tries to apply some speed or distance it appears he over-squeezes the ball and then it tends to flutter. Part of the reason he over squeezes is probably because of a lack of great arm strength to get the ball there naturally, so he's really trying to push the ball deep, part of it may he just needs to be coached not to do it. Regardless, it'll be a difficult habit to break. At the end of the day though, the footwork can be fixed, and with O'Connors height and vision, along with an adequate arm, he can be capable of hitting open receivers, which will happen at the college level. If he can improve some of the other things, his ceiling is much higher than many, but if he can't his ceiling can be a bit lower.

Projection

  • QB all the way
  • Will take some years to clean up footwork and throwing mechanics
  • Best fit in an offense that allows short and intermediate passes that don't require throwing in tight windows, so lots of crossing routes, mesh concepts, and somewhat advanced route combinations to get receivers open
There seems to be a trend with some of these QBs, in that they are picking offenses that fit their style of play. In my mind, that's good to see, as it means the level of play is likely to be higher. O'Connor fits into this mold. When O'Connor gets to PSU he will need some years to improve his footwork and accuracy; the rest of the mechanics will hopefully come along, but are less likely to because they have been so ingrained in him from thousands of throwing reps. Still, with footwork, he should improve accuracy and he has an adequate arm to hit a lot of passes between the number and potentially even to the sideline from the center of the field. O'Brien won't ask him to do much more than that. O'Brien loves the mesh concept, he likes a lot of rubbing routes that get receivers open easily in man coverage and leave receivers open in wide windows where the QB isn't forced to rocket the ball into a small window. But to have a QB capable in this system, he needs to be able to be smart and to read defenses well. O'Connor's size should help in this regard. PSU is a very good fit for O'Connor, and because of that and the fact that I trust O'Brien to fix his footwork, I project his baseline to be higher than it would nominally.

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