Houston Nutt played quarterback at Arkansas and Oklahoma State in the late-1970s and early-1980s, so if there’s anyone who can assess this year’s crop of NFL quarterback prospects, it’s him.
And there are a lot of guys he likes.
“Well, I think Jameis Winston is probably going to go first,” the CBS Sports Network college football analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “He’s probably the most NFL-ready. We’ve all talked about the questions and the off-the-field (issues) and those things. We’ve hammered that to death. But the bottom line is, they got to make a decision – and probably the most NFL-ready guy is Jameis Winston right now.”
Nutt is also a huge fan of Marcus Mariota, despite his perceived limitations.
“I love Marcus Mariota,” Nutt said. “I love the way that he plays. I love his attitude. Sometimes I think (people) mistake his kindness for weakness. I think he is going to be an excellent quarterback one day in the NFL as well.”
Bryce Petty, like Mariota, is another quarterback with good size and athletic ability who is going to have to fight the perception battle. Petty threw for 61 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions over the last two seasons, but detractors say that had less to do with Petty’s talent and more to do with Baylor’s offense.
“So many people (say), ‘He’s a system guy. He’s a system guy,’” Nutt said. “Maybe, but when I see this ball come off his hands – especially in the TCU game – there were about 10 or 12 deep balls, and about eight of them were perfect and he had three drops. I got to sit in on an interview (between Petty and Buffalo Bills) quarterbacks coach David Lee. Just listening to (Petty) kind of go over some of the things protection-wise, I thought he was very sharp, and I think he’s very accurate.”
Brian Jones, for one, believes that NFL offensive coordinators need to adapt a bit to the quarterbacks they draft, especially given how many elite players come from spread attacks – and not pro-style offenses. Are NFL coaches at least becoming more open to that?
“Absolutely,” Nutt said, “and I’m glad you brought it up. One of the things we talked about on our show is a guy like Marcus Mariota, who’s been in a system for so long. To me, it doesn’t make sense to change and revamp what he’s done all these years. To try to go put him up under center the whole game – he really hasn’t done that.”
Mariota completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,454 yards, 42 touchdowns and four interceptions last season, operating exclusively out of shotgun and winning the Heisman Trophy in the process.
So yeah, if you draft Mariota, maybe work in a few bubble screens as part of the game plan.
“I’m with you on (adapting the play-calling),” Nutt said. “I really think these offensive coordinators are smart enough to have these quarterbacks that have done so many things year after year after year and they’ve been very successful. (So coordinators need to) adjust, adjust, adjust. I think the good coaches or the great coaches do that. I think they take the players and put them in a position to be successful.”