Arizona football: Emergence of dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL bodes well for Arizona's Matt Scott
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson wasn’t supposed to be this good.
At 5-foot-11, he’s shorter than the 6-foot-4 prototype scouts used to look for.
But in leading the Seattle Seahawks to an 11-5 record and playoff win, as a third-round draft pick in last year’s NFL Draft, Wilson proved that size might not matter.
It is because of the rise to prominence of Wilson, the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III and, to a lesser extent, the Miami Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill that the UA’s Matt Scott should hear his name called in this year’s NFL Draft.
The trio of aforementioned rookies introduced themselves as a new breed of dual-threat quarterback, different from years past when athletic freaks like Michael Vick and Vince Young entered the league.
Wilson, Griffin III and Tannehill can definitely make plays with their legs, but what makes them dangerous is their respective passing ability.
The NFL is a copycat league, and you can be sure NFL decision-makers will be looking for the next Wilson, a steal for the Seahawks. Of all the quarterbacks entering this years’ draft, there might not be one that fits the mold better than Scott.
He might not necessarily be a prospect on the level of RGIII, Wilson or Tannehill, but like that rookie trio, Scott uses his mobility to compliment his abilities as a passer.
“If it was all about running there would be a lot of receivers playing quarterback and a lot of running backs playing quarterback,” said Frank Scelfo, Arizona’s former quarterbacks coach, in a phone interview with the Arizona Daily Wildcat. “But that’s not the case. You still have to be a good decision maker, and you still have to be able to throw the football.”
Scelfo, who took 2012 off after two years on ex-UA head coach Mike Stoops’ staff, returned to Tucson from his home in Louisiana for the last two weeks to help Scott train for Saturday’s East-West Shrine game in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he will be able to showcase his talent against talented prospects from schools around the country.
“I think it will enhance what he’s able to do,” Scelfo said of Scott’s running ability. “Matt runs pretty good, but he’s not a running quarterback. He’s a quarterback that just happens to be able to run pretty good. He’s not going to make a living running the football; he’s going to make a living throwing the football.”
Scott surprised a lot of people in his senior year, being named to the All-Pac-12 second-team ahead of USC’s Matt Barkley, considered a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy in the pre-season.
In head coach Rich Rodriguez’s zone read, spread option offense, Scott thrived. He threw for 3,620 yards, 27 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and ran for 506 yards and six scores.
As a fifth-year senior, though, Scott was the full-time starter for the first time in his collegiate career.
Prior to 2012, he had only started six games, three of which came before he lost the starting job to Nick Foles in 2009 and in spot duty for an injured Foles in 2010.
“What people don’t understand about Matt is prior to this year he’d barely played,” said Scelfo, who has coached five NFL quarterbacks in his career, including Foles. “So you’re looking at a guy with hardly any experience and for him to go out and show the maturity that he did – it’s a tribute not only to Matt but the staff.”
And while many might look at that inexperience as a “weakness” on the Matt Scott scouting report, Scelfo feels like the best is yet to come.
“The NFL is going to see him as a guy that has huge upside,” he said. “With the lack of playing time that he’s had, everything’s going to be in front of him.”
Inexperience aside, there still are a few question marks.
He is a bit undersized at his listed 6-foot-3, 197 pounds. Wilson is four inches shorter than Scott, but weighs 10 pounds more. With a lack of size comes an increased risk for injury, and scouts will certainly point to Scott’s concussion problems this season as a red flag.
“Scott is leaner than scouts would prefer,” wrote CBS’ Sports senior draft analyst Rob Rang after Arizona played Stanford on Oct. 6.
“But he demonstrated the toughness, mobility and most importantly, the arm talent to reward an NFL team willing to gamble on his upside.”
In the 51-48 overtime loss to the Cardinal, Scott threw a UA-record 69 pass attempts, completing 45 for 491 yards and three touchdowns.
After Scott led Arizona to a comeback New Mexico Bowl win on Dec. 15 against Nevada, at least one anonymous NFL scout came away impressed, according to Rang.
“Look at the rookie quarterbacks playing so well this year – they all have the ability to extend plays due to their mobility,” the scout told Rang. “That’s where the NFL is going now at the quarterback position. Scott has that ability, too. He’s the guy lying in the weeds that I could see jumping up and surprising some people with how high he goes.”
The East-West Shrine game will take place at 2 p.m. MST on Saturday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be broadcast on the NFL Network.