Kevin Hogan On Two: Arm Strength

Like any good researcher, Mark Schofield despises a small sample size. Unfortunately, prospect evaluation is almost always too early, or without all the information necessary. Thus, we have our series: On Two, in which Inside The Pylon examines two plays from a quarterback that address traits that scouts are talking about.

Arm strength is one of the main traits to consider in the overall evaluation of a quarterback. It also is one of the components of arm talent. Pure throwing strength and velocity are important, but so are the elements of touch and throwing arc. Derrik Klassen put together a nice piece this summer on the notion of arm talent which is worth your time.

But there are moments when a quarterback needs to simply “grip it and rip it.” When the situation warrants, the QB needs to rely on velocity and arm strength to drive the football vertically to multiple levels and stick throws into tight throwing lanes. Sometimes pure arm strength can mean the difference between a completion or an interception against tight coverage.

If arm strength alone were the only trait to consider when evaluating a quarterback, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan might be a first round selection.

On One

One of the questions scouts and evaluators ask about a quarterback is: “Can he throw the deep out?” This is a pass pattern where arm strength often determines the outcome of the play. If the quarterback can deliver this throw with velocity, even tight coverage can fail to prevent the completion.

If, however, the pass hangs in the air, a defensive back can recover and break up the pass. The level of difficulty increases when the throw is made from one hashmark to the opposite sideline, especially in the college game where the hashmarks are wider than in the NFL.

In their season-opener against Northwestern, the Cardinal face a 1st and 10 on their own 25-yard line. Hogan is in the shotgun and Stanford has 11 personnel on the field, with a tight pro formation on the left and slot alignment to the right. The Wildcats have their base 4-3 defense on the field and show Cover 4, with both cornerbacks utilizing off man technique. Linebacker Drew Smith (#55) walks outside over the slot receiver, Devon Cajuste (#89):

HoganOT1Play1Still1

The Cardinal run the sail concept here, with the outside receiver running a straight go route to clear the sideline. Cajuste runs a deep out pattern while the backside receiver runs a shallow crossing route, giving the quarterback a three level read. Hogan takes a peek at the vertical route on the outside, but quickly brings his eyes down to the out / crosser combination:h

HoganOT1Play1Still2

After the snap, the QB executes a five-step drop, cutting the final two steps a bit short, before firing toward the sideline on the deep out route:

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This is a very impressive throw. Hogan releases the pass from the 16-yard line and Cajuste pulls in the throw at the 38-yard line. It goes down as a 22-yard completion in the box score, but remember, this pass comes from the left hashmark to the right sideline.

Returning to high school geometry for a moment, this throw covers nearly forty yards on the fly. Hogan executes this throw while employing good footwork and technique to gather himself and throw, leaving the linebacker no chance to break up the pass. It is also located perfectly, leading Cajuste toward the sideline and away from coverage.

On Two

When Hogan combines his pure arm strength with anticipation and timing, he can fit throws into narrow throwing lanes and still put his receivers in position to pick up yardage after the catch. Likely because of his arm strength, this QB is generally not afraid to challenge narrow throwing lanes, although at times he does pull the football down when there are opportunities available for a play in the passing game. But when he is on, good results come for the offense.

Here, the Cardinal face 2nd and 10 against USC and Hogan is alone in the backfield standing in the shotgun. Stanford has 21 offensive personnel on the field, in a 2×3 formation. They have trips to the right, with tight end Austin Hooper (#18) the inside receiver and RB Christian McCaffery (#5) on the outside. To the left stand freshman running back Bryce Love (#20) and wide receiver Michael Rector (#3) in an inverted slot with the WR to the inside. The Trojans have their base 3-4 personnel in the game, and they walk both outside linebackers over receivers. To the top of the screen OLB Porter Gustin (#45) stands across from Rector while on the bottom S’ua Cravens (#21) lines up over Cajuste, the middle receiver in the trips. Take note of Gustin’s stance, how his right foot is staggered back:

HoganOT1Play2Still1The Cardinal show bubble screens to both sides, with each running back simply turning and facing Hogan at the snap. The other three receivers all release vertically, with Rector running a seam route, Cajuste a corner route, and the TE utilizing an in-cut. USC drops into Cover 2, with Gustin angling inside and blitzing off the edge:

HoganOT1Play2Still2

Hogan stands tall in the face of the blitz – called out presnap by left tackle Kyle Murphy #78 – and throws to Hooper on the in-cut:

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Timing, anticipation, ball-placement, and arm strength lead to a touchdown for Stanford. Hogan starts to throw just as Hooper makes his cut to the inside, and the pass leads the TE away from the LB in underneath coverage. Because of the arm strength of the QB – as well as the location of the pass – the football gets to Hooper in a hurry, and in perfect position for him to secure the ball. He knifes upfield between the two safeties, running into the end zone for the score.

This replay angle illustrates exactly how these elements come together. Also, note how Hogan is prevented from fully stepping into this throw because of traffic at his feet; this is another indication of his pure arm strength, as he must manage the throw even without fully getting his legs into it:

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One more look that highlights the velocity on this pass:

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Now, these are just two plays, but they outline how Hogan’s pure arm strength, especially when coupled with precise timing, anticipation, and ball-placement, generate big play chances for Stanford in the passing game. As stated earlier, if arm strength were the one and only factor to consider in a quarterback’s evaluation, the Cardinal senior would be a first round selection. But there are other traits, such as overall accuracy, decision-making, mental processing, and general athletic ability, as well as overall arm talent, that must be considered.

Also, we cannot leave without a few words about Hogan’s mechanics. His delivery is, well, elongated. While not the full trebuchet motion of, say, a Tim Tebow, Hogan does have a dip and loop to his release. The first replay of the touchdown to Hooper is a prime illustration of the elongated throwing mechanism.

For now, this works for Hogan. His pure arm strength makes up for the slower release, and he can still challenge narrow throwing lanes and tight coverage form Pac-12 defenses. What might determine his success in the NFL is if his arm strength is enough to challenge similar looks from professional secondaries, or if he needs to compact that delivery as he moves to the next level. If he does alter his motion, what impact will that have on his velocity? From his tape to date, it would seem that he has enough velocity to make that transition without altering his mechanics. But only time will give us the answer to that question.

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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