The Miami quarterback room went from an area of strength heading into 2022, to an area of weakness only 12 months later. Former Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee headed to SMU to serve as the Mustangs head coach and Mario Cristobal brought in Josh Gattis as OC, and Frank Ponce as Quarterback coach.
In my piece called, “Tyler Van Dime or Van Done,” we saw where Tyler Van Dyke’s mechanics had changed and essentially, broken down, since Ponce took over the QB room. Van Dyke’s wrist flexion, posture, and balance were completely off in 2022 compared to 2021.
This created a massive hole in the stats of the QB room. In ‘22 over nine games, Van Dyke threw 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. He averaged 7.3 yards per attempt. In ‘21, he threw 25 TD’s with six INT’s in 10 games- and averaged nine yards per attempt.
Four-star prospect Jake Garcia looked lost and scared, almost like the second coming of former Miami QB Tate Martell. Garcia threw five TD’s with four INT’s on seven yards per attempt.
Freshman Jacurri Brown was used as more of a change-of-pace QB; he threw three TD’s with three INT’s on 5.1 yards per attempt. But Brown did add 223 rushing yards (sack yards included) on 4.1 yards per carry.
Let’s take a look at Van Dyke, Garcia and Brown and compare them against what Bruce Arians, Rhett Lashlee, Phil Longo, and other assistant coaches look for in a top flight QB.
The makeup of a great quarterback
There are quarterbacks, passers, throwers, and “athletes.” A quarterback leads the team, while making all of the throws and making everyone on the field look better than they are. A passer has the arm strength and accuracy, plus the athleticism- but lacks the intangible leadership qualities. A thrower has a big arm with limited accuracy, and an athlete is a run-first type of QB in an option system (they often switch positions in the NFL).
From my piece for SOTU on Bruce Arians book, The Quarterback Whisperer, Arians broke down the top five traits he looked for in an NFL quarterback; and he has coached some great ones in Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.
Arians five characteristics are below:
Heart: The QB plays through pain and has the respect of the entire roster.
Grit: The QB has the ability to handle success and failure equally.
Intelligence: The QB has the ability to process information from film and practice- and place it into a game situation and make the right decision in a split second or two.
Accuracy: The QB has the ability to throw the ball with accuracy to all parts of the field.
Athleticism: The QB has to be able to move in the pocket and extend plays.
In my piece title, “What college coaches look for in a quarterback prospect,” I spoke with and attended clinics of a few of the more well known QB coaches in the country. One college assistant told me he looks for three main things on a QB’s highlight tape:
1. Arm Strength and accuracy.
2. Make throws under pressure, not always with time.
3. Athletic enough to create time by creating more space.
New Wisconsin Badgers OC Phil Longo (UNC, Ole Miss) says a QB needs: a baseline level of arm strength but accuracy takes precedent; plus the ability to learn the position (looking for AP classes, high test scores).
SMU head coach and former Miami OC Rhett Lashlee says you need “enough” arm strength, but accuracy and athleticism are more important for him at the QB position.
The late great Mike Leach always looked for accuracy and leadership to run his Air Raid offense. Arm strength and athleticism be damned. The same for West Coast Offense guru Bill Walsh. Walsh took pop gun arm QB’s like Virgil Carter and Joe Montana, used their athleticism (Joe could move!) and accuracy, and created the WCO.
One P5 assistant said on film he looks for: Body type, mental processing (going through reads), lower body (footwork and balance), upper body (quick release, arm angles), and ball placement (accuracy).
The Ultimate QB
When taking into consideration all of the above sources, you’re going to create the Ultimate QB. This player will be a quarterback. They will:
1- Leadership: Heart and grit, ability to elevate the roster around him.
2- Intelligence: Their Football IQ and processing need to be top level.
3- Athleticism: The ability to extend plays by creating space, and to throw on the run.
4- Arm talent: A baseline level of arm strength to make the throws necessary to run the offense.
5- Accuracy- The ability to hit every throw- but also in stride, and placed away from defenders. Many QB coaches feel that accuracy is unteachable by the college level.
Miami’s QB Room
Miami’s quarterback room ended the 2022 season in disarray. Tyler Van Dyke was unable to finish games due to a shoulder injury. Even when he was playing, it was hit or miss whether you saw Van Dimes or Van Done on the field.
Brown looked like a true freshman that was thrown on the field in far too big of a role against Clemson, while Garcia was a scared deer staring into the headlights of Power 5 defenders. No QB’s were brought in from the transfer portal, or they haven’t come in as of December 2022. There’s still time to sort things out before and after spring football in ‘23.
Tyler Van Dyke
For all of Tyler Van Dyke’s struggles in the new offense, he was elevating players around him. Much like Charleston Rambo came alive against Michigan State in ‘21, Colbie Young looked like the next big (and I do mean BIG) receiver from The U. Young caught fire against UNC and kept that going against Virginia Tech and Duke. In three games Young hauled in four of his five TD’s on 271 yards receiving. When Van Dyke went down with an injury- that was the end of The Colbie Young Show.
For all the rumors about Van Dyke not “having everyone’s phone number,” his teammates have to respect the leadership qualities he showed by playing injured multiple times in ‘22, and by returning for the ‘23 season.
Van Dyke could use some more film time to increase his Football IQ, but multiple OC’s with completely different terminology and progressions can hinder that process. Also- neither of the last two OC’s are the guy that Van Dyke originally committed to (Dan Enos) so relationship building has to take place from the staff down to the player. The better the relationship, the more trust will be gained.
In ‘21, Van Dyke looked to have enough athleticism to create space which creates time in the pocket. However, in ‘22 he looked slower, less agile, and stiffer when he moved- like most of the roster did this past season.
Van Dyke has the ability to make the throws when it comes to arm strength, we’ve seen him even launch those 50+ yarders off of Lashlee’s big double reverse passes and flea flickers that put the QB 10+ yards behind the line of scrimmage.
What Van Dyke needs to improve on his his ball placement on the shorter and intermediate throws. For as beautiful of a fade and corner route he can throw- he misses the right shoulder and doesn’t always lead players on those shorter throws like mesh, sail, and slide routes. This allows for PBU’s and interceptions because throwing to the inside versus outside shoulder on mesh, or stick, puts the ball too close to the defender.
In my opinion, Brown has to be the second string QB in ‘23. He looked a lot more comfortable and less scared to be on the field than Garcia- and they share attributes but Brown is a ‘plus’ rating over Garcia in those categories.
It’s hard to tell things like ‘leadership’ from a part-time starter that was thrust into that role far too early. But I have a lot of respect for Brown for going out against Clemson’s defense and busting his butt. He also loves to run the ball, designed or not, and will lower his shoulder. He’s hard to tackle, like for UNC, now NFL QB, Sam Howell.
Much like leadership, his Football IQ was hard to see with his rushed timeline. Brown clearly has the athleticism to extend plays, and be a running threat which helps to open up the run for the running backs, but also the play-action game and some trick plays.
Brown has the arm talent to make the throws, his accuracy was just completely terrible. He couldn’t hit deep balls, he couldn’t hit intermediate throws or even short throws at times.
His only QB coach in college has been Ponce and we saw what his time with Van Dyke has done versus with Lashlee. A new QB coach could help Brown, and Van Dyke, clean up their mechanical flaws. I know one college QB coach that really wanted Brown on their Power 5 roster, and was stunned by his poor performance, especially with accuracy.
When it comes to leadership, the team seemed to rally around Garcia a couple of times over the season. Against MTSU, the offense hit a quick TD strike and everyone seemed excited to be in the huddle with Garcia. When it comes to Football IQ, I’m not that sure he has “it.” Garcia wasn’t successfully going through progressions and he’s been in a college uniform for multiple seasons now.
Garcia is athletic, although not as athletic as Brown. That’s where he “doesn’t add up” to Brown. They’re almost the same player but Brown has more upside. Garcia is more accurate on his ball placement, but neither seemed to be able to hit on all of their throws. Garcia was also a turnover machine, both with INT’s and fumbles.
Above- The overtime winning play against UVA was all I needed to know about Garcia’s confidence in ‘22. Garcia had no faith he could hit that easy throw, and took the higher risk play by running it in as space and time were closing down. In the end, his athleticism won out and he did score, but not without having to dive in.
Coming out of the 2022 season- the QB room is a complete mess. I think a change at the top could help in removing Frank Ponce as QB coach. If a new OC comes in, they’re likely to work with quarterbacks. Ponce could move to wide receivers, or a new tandem of OC/QB and WR coach could come on board. The jury is still out on OC Josh Gattis, and Ponce, and whether or not they’ll return for ‘23.
I can’t see Van Dyke, Garcia, and Brown all returning for ‘23 as well as the entire staff staying in-tact. Grayson McCall, Hudson Card, Brennan Armstrong, and Luke Altmyer are all currently in the transfer portal, and are four-star rated transfers per 247 Sports. 2023 signee Emory Williams is a three-star prospect out of Milton High School in Florida, but likely won’t compete with Van Dyke or Brown for the one-two reps in spring.
Miami needs something new in order to get their offense going, and I hope that it isn’t former UNLV head coach and former Oregon OC Marcus Arroyo. This staff needs some outside ideas and thinking, not more groupthink.