Aaron Murray - The Breakdown
Here we sit, a quarter of the way through the season, and we're 2-2. Sophomore Aaron Murray came into the year with high expectations after a phenomenal freshman year. For the year, he sits at 70/110 (63.6%) for 940 yards, 11 TD's, and 3 INT's - compared to last year where he was 64/106 (%) for 879 yards, 5 TD's, and 2 INT's. While he has definitely had more success, he has come under criticism from some in the Bulldog nation for his play at times.
We are going to look at Aaron Murray's game vs. South Carolina (because we have some good film on it) and try to show some of the good things and bad things about Murray's mechanics and tendencies. First, if you want to take a look at the whole film, it is posted below; however, each time stamp will have its own link to specific plays we will be looking at.
The Good and Bad of Murray's Mechanics
1. Throws from the "Zero" Position
Being a coach, I've been able to listen to a lot of people, and there is no one else I like to study more than what Darren Slack is doing with the QBA (Quarterback Academy). His physical breakdown of the throwing motion is amazing and I have always been impressed. My QB changed over one summer after attending a number of his camps.
The "Zero" position is the optimal position of the shoulder and elbow of the throwing arm prior to release of the football. There are many, very successful QB's who throw from "zero." It means that prior to the extension of the tricep (which is where you get your power from in a throw via centrifugal force during the throwing motion) the elbow is located 5 inches in front of the shoulder. Here are some pictures that show very good QB's in the "zero" position:
As you can see, in each of these pictures, the elbow is located 5 inches in front of the shoulder. The ability to throw from the "zero" position allows to throw from anywhere - sidearm, over arm, you name it. It also allows for the breakdown of throws. If a throw is short, left, or right of the target, it means the elbow did not get to zero. If the throw is high, the wrist fires too early.
2. Balls Sail Often
Since we know what happens when you throw high, we know that the wrist is firing early. What that means is that as the ball goes through the throwing motion, prior to optimal release (when the hips, tricep and wrist fire in natural progression), the wrist fires and sends the ball upward - north of the target.
When Murray is rushed, he tends to sail the football. Here are some examples from the film: 00:33, 04:26, and 04:48. The disturbance of the defender causes a disruption of the natural throwing position. So, you can't do anything about a defender in your face, how do you correct it? Extension. Forcing your tricep to extend quickly allows for the wrist to fire in the correct time. Teaching extension under pressure will bring more accurate results in the passing game.
3. Tick vs. No-Tick
This is one of the things I have noticed about Murray since I watched him at the Elite 11 camp. He has a natural tick in his throwing motion. Prior to release of the ball, he separates his front hand from the ball in the load position, pats, and fires. While I am sure it is just a rhythm thing for him, it causes disruption in his throwing motion and makes him a worse QB when he ticks.
The throwing motion is natural. It is rhythmic. Any disruption in the natural order of things causes a timing delay, a longer release, and gives defenders a queue to break on the route. Here are some examples from the USC game in which his tick causes a disruption in the passing attack: 00:33, 01:07, 04:03, 04:25, and 05:35.
Now, when Murray goes from the load position (see picture below), to the "L" (see picture below), to zero, and fires (without the pat or tick), Murray is just deadly. Here are some instances when he loads, cocks, and fires: 00:47, 04:20, 06:28, 06:36, 06:46, 06:55, 07:03 - Murray really got into a rhythm late in the game, and I believe it was from just trusting his read and firing. This eliminated the pat, and allowed him to get the ball out quickly.
The Good: Murray is a really, really good quarterback. I think he is actually underrated because of what he does with the ball in his hands. He makes a lot of really good decisions, and knows how to run the system. Some believe that he "locks" onto his receiver, I agree, but for different reasons. I feel like Murray just knows where he wants to go with the ball. He just does not trust it 100% - when he does, he'll be even better. His release is short and compact. When he doesn't pat the ball, he is deadly.
The Bad: Under duress, Murray's mechanics go to... well, you know. He gets happy feet in the pocket, pats the pall, and sails the ball when he gets pressure. When he does try to make plays with his feet, he takes his eyes from downfield. In order to get better, he must shore up his mechanics and continue to try to make more plays with his arm in and out of the pocket.