Winner of The Main Event: Florida State Back 7
There were a lot of winner’s Saturday night. Florida ST starting LT Roderick Johnson did enough to not only stop his draft stock from sliding further, but with a strong performance he may enter the first round conversation again. FSU Freshmen QB Deondre Francois established himself as an ascending ACC star. Dalvin Cook was…well Dalvin Cook. Miami’s young defense looks hungry and nasty. The same could be said for FSU. Best of all, for college football fans, the U is competitive and the rivalry between their cross state foe FSU is back.
The one player that NFL scouts of QB needy teams wanted to see win the night was highly touted Miami QB Brad Kaaya against a maligned FSU back 7. Kaaya had some nice moments and he had a couple of plays that he might wish he would have back. It was overall an underwhelming performance for Kaaya. His stat line for the game would support that impression. Brad was 19/32 for 214 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.
A lot of scouts and writers have Kaaya as a top 15 overall prospect and project him going in the top 10 in their mock drafts. It is easy to understand why as Kaaya has the tools to potentially play early in his NFL career. From all accounts he seems to have a high football IQ. He plays in what is considered a pro style offense. While he rarely took any snaps from fellow draft prospect Nick Linder under center, he isn’t in a gimmick-one read offense like most college programs feature across the country. Kaaya appears to have the arm talent to make all the throws needed in the Hurricane offense and for an NFL offense.
The two things Kaaya show-cased Saturday night that will be his best argument for winning the night both happen to be intangibles. Let’s first take in account and appreciate Brad’s toughness. He took a beating against Jimbo Fisher’s defense and kept getting up and playing through the hits. He lost a tooth on one play and seemed to suffer a shoulder injury on another. Toughness is something teams need from their QBs and Kaaya looks like he is able to deliver in that area. While his toughness was exemplary it was his ability to come up in the clutch that impressed me the most. With his team down by 7, Kaaya made the throw of the night connecting with WR Stacy Coley in the left corner of the endzone. Unfortunately, for Miami and Kaaya, the blocked PAT will be the most remembered play of the game and not the touchdown.
Like all of the QBs who are competing to be the first at their position taken off the board this spring, Kaaya seems to have some defining flaws. There seems to be this perception that since Kaaya plays in a pro-style offense that he is the most NFL-ready QB. I respectfully disagree with that opinion.
Kaaya seems to have excellent timing and accuracy in the short-intermediate passing game but didn’t connect with receivers down the field effectively. His limitation on his accuracy on longer throws Saturday night was a problem for Miami’s offense and would have been even more dire against an NFL defense. Another concern for Kaaya’s performance Saturday night was his interception. His 2 touchdown throws were very impressive but the timing and decision making involved with his red zone interception left a sour taste in my mouth.
The last thing that jumped off the screen to me in terms of areas that Brad has to improve was a lack of footwork in the pocket. There are two kinds of athletes that a successful NFL QB can be. They can be a Russell Wilson or Tyrod Taylor that can gash defenses for long gains using their feet. Kaaya is never going to be this type. Tom Brady and Drew Brees are also elite athletes at their position. They constantly make their offensive line look better by using their feet to step up in the pocket, keep their eyes downfield, and deliver the football and avoiding pressure. Brad almost seems to occasionally step into pressure instead of stepping aside from it.
It wouldn’t be fair to credit FSU’s back 7 exclusively in this matchup. It was a well schemed and effective performance by the entire defensive unit. That was a big victory for a reeling Florida State team as they extend a rather ridiculously long win steak against the Canes.
While you are enjoying college football this weekend join NFL scouts by putting your grade on these marquee individual match-ups with draft implications. We will revisit the “Main Event” early next week to see who came out on top of their battle.
#15 Brad Kaaya, Miami, QB
#Florida State back 7
#4 Chidobe Awuzie, Colorodo, CB
# 9 JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC, WR
#26 Sydney Jones, Washington, CB
#7 Darren Carrington, Oregon, WR