Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Recruit Breakdown: Zack Darlington

Ceiling: 7.5               Ranking: 6.25               Floor: 3.5

School: Apopka (Apopka, FL)

Size: 6'2" - 205 lbs.

Composite: 3 Star, 0.8737, #11 Dual, #429 Overall

247: 3 Star, 89, #8 Dual

Rivals: 3 Star, 5.7, #10 Dual

Scout: 3 Star, #32 Dual

Favorites: Nebraska (Commit)
Other Notable Offers: Arizona, Boston College, Minnesota, Miss St, NC State, Ohio St, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, West Virginia

  • Really zips the ball through the air to put it on receivers quickly in short passing game
  • Gets ball out quickly in pass game to his play makers
  • Effective running QB, makes good reads and sets up blocks well

Really snaps the ball with his wrist to let it cut through the air. Ball doesn't spend much time in the air, and he can hit the receivers in windows in the short zones. Gets the ball out quickly, little wasted movement on slants and hitches and releases from the wing/TE/backfield. Good grasp of his playbook, knows when,where, and which receivers will be open quickly, gets ball out early. Puts the ball in the hands of his play makers in the pass game. Moves very well in the pocket, is comfortable with initial footwork dropping from gun or from under center, also has good footwork off of play action. Very good at this stage at play action fakes, really holds defenders well which allows him to break contain on his boot and get open throwing lanes to make his passes easier for himself. Can operate from both the shotgun and from under center.

Good enough speed to call designed runs and designed options for. While not overly elusive in the open field, can beat people with deceptive speed and is hard for DL to track down. Makes good reads on designed option plays, pulls the ball late and gets up field fast. Little wasted movement when running. Reads and sets up his first and second level blocks well. Puts head down and gets extra yards when DBs try to bring him down.


  • Inconsistent footwork through his passing motion
  • Not good enough pure arm strength to really hit receivers toward the sideline
  • Needs to improve touch on passes and decision making with ball.
Footwork while going through the passing motion is inconsistent. Gets lackadaisical with footwork on short passes, leading to passes that aren't as accurate as they should be. Doesn't get his shoulders and feet pointed to receiver, opens up his body and flings, sometimes making his passes drift or rise. Often throws off his back foot. While he occasionally squares up when rolling, and has some decent passes while on the move, more often than not his stepping hip and off shoulder don't get up field as well as they should. When rolling left his off shoulder and stepping foot pretty much face the sideline and he flings it. When rolling right he'll end up at about a 45 degree angle and almost jump through. Leans backward pretty far and exposes ball behind his body for too long before getting into what is a fairly quick forward motion. Doesn't have pure arm strength - even with the zip he puts on the ball - to really push the intermediate routes such as seams, posts, and out routes or other routes toward the sideline, especially when he doesn't step into it. Doesn't consistently step into throws even when not pressured.  Has a low release point, kind of a half sling/half pushing motion that doesn't give him a lot of arm strength or movement, most of his throwing power comes from shoulder and wrist action. Doesn't have great touch on the ball, often under throws receivers and puts the ball in positions where defenses will intercept or knock down at the next level. Struggles to hit receivers on the sideline due to lack of pure arm strength and touch. Doesn't always take care of the ball, especially when pressured.


Darlington does a lot of things very well, but isn't great at a single major attribute. His short passing game is quick, getting the ball out fast and cutting the ball through the air, but because of his throwing motion, both through his arm and footwork, he isn't always accurate. He makes some exciting plays through the air, but the decision process isn't always best and will more often than not lead to bad things at the next level. He moves well in the pocket and is comfortable escaping pressure, but his throwing mechanics really break down on the run. As a runner, he will be able to beat most DL with his initial acceleration and speed, and will even be able to beat some LBs, but he won't out run DBs at the next level and will be able to get funneled for tackles. He's not overly elusive, but can make defenders that fail to breakdown miss, and will run over DBs in the middle of the field. He's inconsistent at best passing deep because of a lack of pure arm strength, his throwing mechanics, and a lack of touch on the ball, but he can effectively orchestrate a short passing game combined with a good run game. Size is probably a touch below average, speed is a touch above. Essentially, well, he's a lot like Taylor Martinez.


  • QB, though if passing really doesn't work out could be effective WR
  • Fits best in an offense that mixes up shotgun, pistol, under center, gives QB options in the run game and provides a short passing game off play action
So essentially what I described was Nebraska's offense. I believe Darlington is a great fit in that offense, which lends me to believe that he will come closer to his ceiling than he normally would. Frankly, look at Taylor Martinez and project him in a different offense. But in Nebraska's offense, despite all T-Mart's faults and inconsistencies, he's always produced. That's how I see Darlington. Darlington is probably a better passer than Martinez, but I don't think he's quite the pure athlete Martinez is. But both struggle to push the ball down field or to the sideline, both can hit the short passes, although sometimes with varying accuracy. Then in the run game, they make pretty good reads, set up their blockers, and get up field in a hurry. I predict Darlington will stay at QB, though he could make a decent WR if needed, but he fits what Nebraska currently runs so well that I find it difficult to believe his career will be a ton different than Martinez's.

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