Senior Bowl Coaching Pointers: Kevin Hogan Play Speed and Decision Making

Eight quarterbacks will suit up to participate in this year’s Senior Bowl, all hoping to improve their standing in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators. Mark Schofield will be in attendance, and has broken down their film and found where each player needs to improve, starting with Kevin Hogan play speed and decision-making.

Hogan is an experienced quarterback who shows some impressive traits, as well as some areas that need improvement. Possessing an NFL-caliber arm and resilience when facing the blitz, Hogan exhibits good anticipation and timing.

The senior signal-caller does have an elongated delivery which concerns evaluators. He has also demonstrated understanding of the play and situation. But on other occasions he has missed chances at a big play ‒ or even to convert a first down ‒ because of a questionable decision-making process and less-than-required play speed. Improving in this area, or simply being more consistent with the better reads and decisions he has shown at times, will go a long way toward improving his draft stock.

On One

This first play is from Stanford’s season-opener at Northwestern. Hogan is in the shotgun with 11 personnel and trips right, with a single receiver split left. The Wildcats are showing Cover 2 in the secondary with the cornerbacks in off man alignment:


Senior WR Rollins Stallworth (#13) runs a weak-side slant on this play, and Hogan looks his way first:


Stallworth is open right at the sticks, with the cornerback retreating into a flat zone and the underneath linebacker yet to rotate:


Hogan is about to release the pass, and Stanford should have themselves a first down:

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Hogan pulls the ball down.

Confounding things, the quarterback does not look for one of the two strong-side slant routes ‒ both of which are open on this play. Instead, he tries to scramble for the first down, but is stopped after a minimal gain, setting up 3rd and 5.

This is a bad “no-throw.” Hogan had his primary receiver open, in a soft spot in the coverage, for a likely first down. Perhaps the QB was worried about the linebacker underneath jumping the route, or perhaps he lost sight of the receiver due to movement up front ‒ although that is unlikely, given that both WR and QB are listed at 6’ 4”. Whatever the reason, something told Hogan to pull this football down.

On Two

On 3rd and 5 Hogan again sets up in the shotgun, with an 11 grouping in trips right, and a single receiver split left. Northwestern shows Cover 1 in the secondary:


Northwestern rotates into Cover 3 after this snap. This is a variant of the Hank passing concept, a leftover from the Jim Harbaugh days:


The single receiver on the left and the outside trips receiver both run deep curls breaking to the inside, while the inside trips receiver sits in the middle of the field. Meanwhile, the middle trips receiver and the running back each run routes to the flat.

Based on the playbook, Hogan should look first to the middle of the field, and then to the curl-flat combination on the outside. This is what the QB sees while deciding where to go with the football:


The route in the middle of the field is covered. The curl route has yet to break, but the cornerback is in good position to get under that route. But the flat route is open, at the first down marker. The flat zone defender is trailing and is more of a threat to the deep curl route than the flat route. However, there is an impending problem, as defensive tackle Trent Goens (#54) has beaten his man inside and has Hogan in his sights:

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As he passed up the easy completion on second down, Hogan again eschews another easy pitch-and-catch. He looks at the flat route, starts his load to throw, but then moves his eyes to the deeper curl. He hangs on that route, waits for it to come open, and finally makes a throw under duress that does not reach the target, forcing a fourth down for Stanford.

Hogan makes an aggressive decision here, but this as an example of what not to do. Passing on the open receiver at the sticks is a bad “no-throw.” Two straight plays, two chances for an easy throw to convert the first down, and twice he pulls the football down.

On Three

On this play against California Hogan narrowly misses a big play, but with quicker decision-making and improved play speed, this incompletion likely goes for a touchdown. The Cardinal face 1st and 10 on the Golden Bears’ 28-yard line. They send out 12 personnel and put Hogan in the shotgun. One tight end aligns to the right, along with running back Christian McCaffery (#5). The offense employs trips to the left with the other tight end, Austin Hooper (#18), as the middle receiver. California shows Cover 4 before the snap:


Stanford uses a divide concept here to the trips side of the formation. The outside WR, Trent Irwin (#2) runs a quick curl. To the inside, both Hooper and wide receiver Conner Crane (#81) release vertically, with the WR breaking late toward the outside while the TE runs on a seam route. Meanwhile, the backside tight end runs a corner pattern:


Hooper is the primary target on his vertical route, but Hogan needs to be wary of the free safety, lurking on the backside:


Stefan McClure (#21) will drop vertically and against this scheme, responsible for taking away a vertical route from an inside receiver. Fellow safety Griffin Piatt (#26) will stay on the deep out pattern from Crane. But if Hogan can sell McClure on the backside corner route, it will move the safety away from his primary target:

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McClure is shaded to the outside, hanging on the backside corner route. Hogan has frozen the safety to the backside, but McClure has identified the vertical threat from Hooper and is starting to break to his right. The QB delivers a strong, accurate throw that splits the safeties, but Piatt recovers to get a hand on the football and prevent the completion. From this angle, you can see Hogan take the snap, fake the run to McCaffery and hold McClure in the middle of the field:

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The throw comes a beat or two late. At this moment, Hogan has this route for a touchdown if he releases it now:


Hogan takes an extra gather and hitch step before delivering the football, which gives both McClure and Piatt time to react.

Here it is from another angle, showing how Piatt was breaking to the out route, but because of Hogan’s slow delivery, is able to pivot and recover in time to break up the play:

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A good play by Piatt for sure, but if Hogan delivers this throw just a tad quicker and this is likely a touchdown.

Hogan possesses a number of desirable traits in a quarterback, including his poise under pressure. Like his counterparts in this draft class, with some refinement to his game, including the ability to consistently speed up his decision-making, he can grow into a solid NFL quarterback. Without those improvements, Hogan’s ceiling is likely a capable backup.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

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