2014 NFL Draft: Analyzing UCF vs South Carolina for Blake Bortles


Sep 28, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights quarterback Blake Bortles (5) rushes towards the end zone during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Bright House Networks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

What’s up guys. This was a fun game to watch. It was from earlier in the year, so the teams weren’t as marred by injuries as they are right now. The final score was 28-25 in the Gamecocks’ favor, but I think the Knights would have won, if not for a few turnovers. The link to the game is here, as always I encourage you to watch it yourself, and form your own opinions. Anyway, here are mine.

South Carolina Background: Coached by the legendary Steve Spurrier, the Gamecocks have routinely been in contention in the SEC, powered by star prospect after star prospect. This year, the Gamecocks’ defense is led by the highly-touted Jadeveon Clowney, a 6-6, 274 pound defensive end who purportedly runs a sub-4.6 40-yard-dash. The kid is a stud, and isn’t going to last past the top three (and that’s being generous) in May’s upcoming Draft. The rest of their defense is laden with NFL talent as well, with names such as Chaz Sutton on the defensive line. They’re a good team; good competition for the young Blake Bortles.

UCF Background: I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about the Knights before watching this game. They rely on their offense to win their games, as their defense doesn’t appear to be very stout in any particular aspect. UCF has a handful of capable players, chief among them Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson, a running back who transferred from Miami. They don’t have a whole lot of talent, and as a result rely on hard work and big performances from their talented players. They got a lot of effort, and strong performances from their stars, but in the end they couldn’t overcome the talent deficit and the turnovers they committed.

A quick word about UCF’s offense. They run a pro-style system, focusing mostly on power runs to the outside and short to intermediate passes. This is good for our purposes of scouting, since it’s easier for QBs to translate to the NFL from a pro-style system than all these new-fangled spread concepts. UCF ran 61 plays in this game, and Bortles adjusted protections and/or routes at the line of scrimmage 10 times. This means that Bortles adjusted roughly 16% of the time, or 1 in every 6 or so plays. They have more playmakers on their side than teams I’m used to scouting – Storm Johnson is a freight train with good speed, and they have some talented receivers on the outside. Their offensive line wasn’t particularly outstanding, although I suppose when you’re allocating anywhere from two to three guys to block Clowney, it’s tough to manage the other defenders.

To the chart!

Yardage RankLeftCenterRightTotal with Raw Percent (%Adjusted)
1 to 52 of 20 of 1, *10 of 1012 of 13, 92% (100%)
5 to 101 of 4, DT2 of 24 of 5, D7 of 11, 63% (88%)
10 to 201 of 2, *$0 of 1, @2 of 4, @T3 of 7, 42% (60%) @@$*T
20+0 of 01 of 1, $1 of 3, *D2 of 4, 50% (100%) $*D
Totals4 of 8, 50% (80%)3 of 5, 60% (75%)17 of 22, 85% (94%)

Overall on the day, Bortles was 24 of 35 for 358 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. That’s 9.9 yards-per-attempt, 68% raw percentage, and 88% adjusted accuracy rating. He ran four times (he fumbled once) and was sacked twice.

Not a bad stat line, especially in a Pro style system – but we don’t scout by stats, we scout by traits.

We’ll start with his measurable positives. When you look at him, it’s hard not to notice his build. He’s 6’4, 220 pounds, and plays with a strength in the pocket and on the run that allows him to shrug off would-be tacklers. It also bodes well for his long-term viability in the NFL when it comes to injuries. Another obvious thing, whether from the chart or the naked eye, is his accuracy. His short game is excellent, as any NFL QB’s should be, but his passes of over 10 yards are impressive – 71 percent accuracy. Good stuff. And the thing is, he’s doing this mostly off of anticipation – throwing the ball to open spaces and leading his receivers, especially in the short game, which is key. He has above-average arm strength, which helps him get the ball to where it needs to be. He doesn’t have Carr’s cannon for an arm, I would probably put him on Bridgewater’s level in this aspect. One thing he has in abundance is athleticism. Not only does he understand reading blocks and cutting (he has some sick cuts for a QB, too) , but he has the straight-line speed and acceleration to outrun defenders in the open field – there was one play where he outran Clowney to the sideline and was able to throw the ball away across his body. Not bad. He also was very impressive at throwing on the run. He knows how to throw with accuracy despite shifting his body weight around, which is something a QB pretty much understands or doesn’t. Lastly, throughout the entire game, he was eying up the defense and making sure his blockers knew their assignments and pointing out blitzing defenders. He did this just about every play, which suggests a good understanding of the offense he’s in.

Sep 28, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights quarterback Blake Bortles (5) fumbles the ball during the second half of the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Bright House Networks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Now for the measurable negatives. First thing – turnovers. He had two interceptions and a fumble in this game. While his level of play can be very good, he turned the ball over far too often for my liking. In other words, when he’s hot, he’s very hot, and when he’s not, bad things tend to happen. This is a big one for me. I think the Quarterback position comes down to consistency, because in order to make plays and inspire a huddle, a coach, and a city, we need to know what we’re getting from “the Guy” every play. Anyway, I digress. Probably his biggest flaw was his tendency to telegraph his throws. In other words, he would stare down a receiver for a time before throwing the ball. This can lead to a variety of things, among them interceptions, incompletions, and nasty hits on his receivers. He had all three in this game. It’s something that needs some pretty serious correcting, because defenders are only going to be faster, bigger, and smarter in the NFL.

Intangibly speaking, he seems to have a good deal to like. He has toughness to accompany his stature, as showcased by numerous QB sneaks and tough hits delivered by Clowney and the Gamecocks’ defense. He makes decisions in a hurry, which I suppose could be a positive or negative depending on your perspective. In this game, it served him well, as he was able to get the ball out before getting buried by the defensive line. While these traits are good, he has some that aren’t as beneficial. Throughout the game, I didn’t see him use touch on the ball during his throws. He has a tendency to rely too heavily on his arm strength, which is something that younger signal-callers do when they aren’t confident in their ability to float a ball in over the top of the defense. I think he will improve in this aspect, though, as he’s only a redshirt junior and has room to grow. He also had a few instances where I questioned his decision-making. He would throw the ball into double or triple coverage, and although he had the accuracy to pull it off most of the time, he ended up with two more interceptions than we would have liked to see, mostly as a result of forcing these passes.

Blake Bortles is a solid quarterback with room to grow. He has excellent accuracy and athleticism, and an arm of above-average strength. His size and toughness are encouraging in terms of his ability to avoid injury in the NFL. He needs to polish up the mental side of his game – he commits too many mistakes from the shoulders up – but has the potential to grow into an excellent West Coast – style QB, if placed in an effective system and given good weapons to work with. He’s too much of a game-manager for my liking, however. In my opinion, the Jaguars should invest no more than a 2nd- round pick on Blake Bortles, unless he could be had in a trade-down scenario in the first round. I’m not sure he fits our style of offense, as he throws a great deal of short passes, and I think the value at the top of Round 1 is too significant to reach for him at our first selection (of course, I’m not sure where our first pick will be). I think he could gain position and money from staying in school, but I don’t know if he will. It will be interesting to see his story play out in May.

By the way, my goal in writing these is to have at least three reports for every prospect of repute. I’m targeting these games to be one in the regular season, one in a championship, and one if a bowl game (if applicable, of course). I’m also going to wait to see if non-seniors, such as Bridgewater, Hundley, and now, Bortles declare before writing more than one report on them.

Thanks for reading, guys! If you have any critiques, comments, or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Once again: How bout my Jaguars?!