|Left Outside||Left Middle||Right Middle||Right Outside||Total|
|20+||0/1||1/1 (TD)||2/2 (TD)||3/4 (2 TD)|
|11-15||1/2 (TD)||1/2||1/2||3/6 (TD)|
|Total||4/5||6/7 (2 TD)||4/6||10/12 (TD)||24/30 (3 TD)|
Outside the Pocket: 5/7
Under Pressure: 1/4
Red Zone: 4/4 (1 TD)
3rd/4th Down: 8/11 (6 conversions, 2 TD)
Forced Adjustments: 1
Explosive Plays (25+ yards and/or touchdown): 3
The Miami Hurricanes’ quarterback situation has been turbulent since Brad Kaaya left. Maybe longer, depending on which kind of fan you ask. Former Houston quarterback D’Eriq King, after an unusual hiatus from playing last year, was brought in to change that. If his showing against Louisville was any indication, King is everything the Hurricanes could have wanted and more.
King’s 325 passing yards were the fifth-most of any game in his career and one of seven instances where he crossed the 300-yard mark. It’s not like the skies opened up because he was killing it in the run game, either. He didn’t put up anywhere close to his usual rushing numbers on the Cardinals. On eight attempts, King racked up a whopping nine rushing yards, the fewest of any of his other 300-plus yard pass performances. It was all pass all the time and King looked as comfortable as ever. Dual-threat quarterbacks are always bashed for what happens when they become "one dimensional," but King chugged right along in this one.
King put up those numbers with as many as six drops from his receivers, too. Per my charting, Miami pass-catchers dropped four passes in which the ball was accurate and the catch point was uncontested — just clear, undeniable mistakes by the receivers. One of such drops was even on a would-be touchdown. On two other occasions, King’s targets “dropped” passes while being contested a bit at the catch point. We can give the receivers a pass for those two “drops,” but they were the kind of plays that could have gone either way, they just didn’t happen to go Miami’s way those two times.
Despite all the drops, King still very much got to show off why he can be one of the top passers in the country. In fact, King’s performance on Saturday featured a number of improvements from his days at Houston. It’s hard to look better than 50-plus touchdowns, I know, but the redshirt senior flashed some strides that suggest he is a more legitimate NFL quarterback prospect now than when he was with the Cougars.
For one, arm strength seems to be less of a concern for King. While King always had impressive deep ball accuracy at Houston, some of his attempts into tighter windows and towards the sideline could be shaky. Additionally, King’s hasn’t always been able to find arm strength from awkward platforms. King is no Pat Mahomes now, don’t get me wrong, but it looks as though he’s put himself just over the threshold.
On the one hand, rollouts tend to make a quarterback’s life easier by simplifying the read and shortening the field. On the other hand, King is rolling away from his dominant hand, which is always tough on a quarterback, and does not have time to stop, reset his feet, and drive on this throw. King doesn’t even really have time to flip his hips and climb. The ball has to come out right when it does, in part because King made an effort to hold the low cornerback down on the hitch route.
Despite the sudden and awkward platform, King gets off a throw with plenty of juice on it. To find the proper arc and velocity to throw a cornerback from a stable platform can be tricky, let alone while rolling to one’s non-dominant hand. It’s so much harder to generate torque and follow through while rolling to a non-dominant hand, but King made it look pretty easy here. These kinds of high-difficulty throws are what makes or breaks an offense.
King also showed glimpses of growth in the nuances of the position. Specifically, King struggled at Houston to locate passes in a way that helped his targets. He could get the ball to a catchable position, but he was never doing anything to promote yards after the catch or protect receivers from getting hit. Some of that was being incomplete above the shoulders, some of it was purely accuracy related. Together, though, it led to King too often leaving easy yards on the field.
It’s hard to tell for certain with just the broadcast angle, but it seems like King catches the safety rotating over to a split-field assignment at the snap. The safety starts moving right before the camera pans away, then we can see his shadow trail further to the left sideline, then he’s at the sideline when the ball is out. Even if we can’t see the safety, we can probably infer what he is doing here.
The reason that’s so important is King immediately makes the connection that a split-field safety flying to get over the top of a vertical from #1 (outside WR) must mean some form of Cover 2. As such, there is going to be a cornerback falling back to the flat, waiting to poach any speed outs, swings, flat routes, etc. that come his way. If King tries to lead this speed out from the #2 into the sideline, as one would normally want to do to allow for yards after the catch, he is asking to get picked off.
King instead leaves the ball on the wide receiver’s back hip. With this ball location, King steers his receiver away from the sitting cornerback’s position while giving him an easy opportunity to turn and shield the ball. It actively kills the receiver’s forward momentum, which is counter intuitive, but it’s the only way for King to fit this throw in on time — it’s a wonderful adjustment. That kind of awareness with regards to ball location and helping out his receivers just wasn’t there at Houston.
If there is any minor gripe I had with King in this game, it is that he is short. Yes, I know short quarterbacks are becoming more common than ever. Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, etc. It’s not that successful quarterbacks don’t still battle the issues of being a short quarterback, though. They simply have avenues to overcome them consistently — both Wilson and Murray are wonderful athletes who move well in the pocket to find small throwing lanes, and Wilson has a very over-the-top release that makes him “taller” than he is.
One of the biggest issues I find with short quarterbacks is not just throwing over defensive linemen in general, but throwing over them when they are in the quarterback’s face. Taller quarterbacks have a much easier time getting to a high release point that is easier to keep away from a defensive lineman’s outstretched arms. Short quarterbacks, however, don’t get that luxury, which is why you often see leaning or fading away from incoming linemen rather than trying to just throw over the top of them.
But again, this is a fairly minor gripe to have with King’s performance. It’s not like being short hindered his entire game. King was as sharp and accurate as he’s ever been on Saturday. That one play was just a little bit tougher than it needed to be because he is 5-foot-11 instead of 6-foot-2 or taller.
We will see how much growth King can continue to show as the season rolls on. Heading into the year, King was very much a legitimate quarterback prospect, but more along the lines of an intriguing UDFA or late-round flier. If King continues to show improved arm strength, plus accuracy, and sharper decision making, he will firmly place himself in “should be drafted” status rather than being a borderline UDFA.