With the second National Signing Day squarely behind us, it is finally time to sit down and analyze every single recruit of the 2019 class. Make no mistake, this is no small endeavor. With the massive size of this signing class, I will likely add an extra week onto this series this year. Plus, it never hurts to have the #content stretched out just a little further into the offseason.
When I started writing for Roll Bama Roll back in 2014 (can you believe it’s been 5 years??), it was for the sole purpose of covering recruiting. I’ve since gotten roped into doing nearly every other type of article under the sun, but player scouting and analysis has always been my first love. Who is this player? What can he do? What makes him unique? How does he fit on Alabama’s team? In the coming weeks, I’ll answer that for every player that will be joining the team in 2019.
When it comes to player analysis, there is a lot of subjectivity and missing info, especially for high school players. There are countless arguments over the “stats-vs-analytics-vs-eye-test” on internet message boards, and everyone has their own opinion on why someone else is doing it wrong.
So, I’ll lay out my method up front for you, and you can decide whether or not you like it. It won’t really matter because I’ll think you’re wrong, but feel free to argue the point in the comments.
I am an engineer by trade; I’m a numbers driven guy. However, numbers without context are always useless. So, my general method is this: I watch every highlight video I can find, including from summer camps, and look for specific traits, rather than results. It’s not how many sacks a defensive lineman gets, its how he accomplishes them. And if I watch an entire video of a receiver either taking a screen pass or going deep, then I’ll assume that his route-running is a bit under-developed.
As for measureables, I use SPARQ.
I’ll talk about SPARQ freely without explaining it, so please check out my previous article if you’re confused.
With introductions out of the way, we’ll kick off the series with everyone’s favorite position: the quarterback. The Tide did not sign a QB in 2018, then followed that up this year by signing two top-notch signal callers that will likely be at the heart of a very heated online debate at RBR in about a year from now.
The younger brother of current Tide QB, Tua Tagovailoa, Taulia has put up crazy numbers in the Alabama high school circuit over the past two years. Though listed at 6’0” during his measurements at The Opening last summer, he most recently checked in at a shade under 5’11” at the All-Star game. He’s not the best athlete out there, sitting in the 35th percentile for QBs. His forty isn’t great, and the rest of his test show very limited explosiveness despite a small frame.
The first thing any Alabama fan will notice when watching Taulia is that his dropback and throwing motion is almost exactly the same as his older brother, Tua. He uses his lower body more so than his arm when he throws, and does so with a powerful wrist snap, rather than a long wind up to try and power a ball with all arm muscles. This means the ball gets out of his hands quicker (less likely to get swatted or stripped) and gives him more speed/distance on balls that he has throw quickly under pressure.
He does most of his damage on posts, seams, crossing routes, and curls across the middle of the field, mostly on short and intermediate distance routes. In this area of the field, you almost never see receivers have to adjust their route or body to make a catch. He has deadly accuracy mixed in with a lot of arm strength.
The most significant characteristic of his game is his scrambling. Though not the fastest guy around, his short stature has led to him developing ways to move around the backfield with a natural ease for better lines of vision. He’s quick and slippery enough to avoid rushers in the backfield and will scramble in all 4 directions until he can find a man open. Blitzers beware, as he’ll easily dodge someone coming in recklessly and then throw a dart to an uncovered receiver. He has the arm talent to make throws running in any direction, and the confidence to let them go.
Also he can fake a pass and punt on 4th down. For what it’s worth.
Most of that last paragraph is also a con. With any scrambling, backyard QB comes both the amazing plays and the unnecessary, broken ones. It will ruin any semblance of timing in the offense, and turn it into a contest of receivers running the “just get open” and a QB making much larger people miss. There are few QBs to have ever mastered that balance. Russell Wilson is one of the best in the sport right now, and there is still a lot of angst in Seattle about how clunky and disjointed the offense can be at times.
In a more mechanical sense, Taulia has a very bad tendency of immediately backpedaling in the face of pressure. Not only will this lead to more sacks against much faster college defensive linemen, but he tends to continue retreating even as he throws the ball, lobbing it up as he’s fading backwards. He got away with it a lot in high school because the defensive backs were just not as good as his receivers, but it can become a very dangerous habit at the next level.
He also attempts very few deep balls. The few I did see seemed to be underthrown more often than those at a more mid-range. The vertical passing game has been a staple of the Alabama offense since 2012, and Tagovailoa will have to prove that he can master that dimension of throws as well.
With Tua the starting QB, barring injury, for Alabama in 2019, it’s unlikely either QB sees the field much this year. With the new redshirt rules, I expect him to get worked into the game in a blowout or two and then take a redshirt. He will then be at the heart of a 3-man QB competition for the 2020 season (assuming Tua goes pro). I’ll wait until I get to the end of the next guy before you get any opinions from me on that future battle.
Despite being known as a “pure pocket-passer”, Paul Tyson is a surprising good athlete with a really impressive 20-yard shuttle for someone of his size. His body type and athleticism is similar to what we saw in AJ McCarron in his final two years at Alabama (not AJ’s first few years, where he was way too skinny).
And if you haven’t heard already, he’s related to Paul Bear Bryant.
Paul Tyson is a highly precise QB with consistent footwork and drop back mechanics. He runs a very similar offense to what Alabama ran this year with Tua Tagovailoa at the helm— a combination of RPO slants and deep shots mixed in with plenty of play action.
When he takes a snap, you can expect a three step drop from the shotgun, planting on his back foot, and then launching the ball if his first read is a go. If not, or if the route is longer-developing, he drifts forward into the pocket before launching the ball.
When it comes to deep balls, Tyson’s accuracy is unparalleled. He never underthows his man, and almost always hits them in stride. He has exceptional touch on backshoulder fades and any sort of sideline route. You’ll see him drive a flat throw 20 yards down the field if the defender is over his receiver, or you’ll see him float one in over a linebacker in flats on the exact same route. He has total confidence in his arm talent and is absolutely fearless when fitting throws into small windows.
He can also make throws consistently while running a bootleg to either the left or right. He’s not the fastest, but is definitely mobile enough to get out of the pocket if needed.
I also saw him make the 2nd-and-26 throw a few times, looking to one side of the field before launching a bomb down the other side. I’m not sure if those were examples of going through progressions or just a predetermined fake, but it’s still an effective and dangerous technique nonetheless.
The biggest weakness to his game is a lack of escapability. He’s not a statue and can pick up some yards if no one covers his scramble, but is definitely less of a runner than every QB Alabama has had since 2013.
He also played with one of the most talented teams in the state over the last couple of years, and was given a clean pocket (from Alabama signee Pierce Quick, especially) to pass from on nearly every play. How well he responds to real pressure is a bit of an unknown.
He also has a fairly low release point and slower wind up that somewhat negates his height advantage, making him much more susceptible to getting the ball stripped away from him mid-throw.
Like Taulia, I don’t expect Tyson to be meaningful contributor in the offense this year with Tua Tagovailoa returning as the starter and Mac Jones an experienced back up, but he will likely get some reps here and there to get some in-game experience. He won’t play enough to lose redshirt eligibility though.
I did, however, promise you my thoughts on the looming QB battle after Tua leaves for the NFL. It will likely be a pretty heated one on the message boards this time next year, as the two QBs are both extremely talented but with a totally different style of play. The winner will dictate the offensive identity that Alabama takes on for the next few years after that (this, of course, is all assuming that Mac Jones doesn’t beat out both of them).
Based on where the two QBs are right now, I think I would take Paul Tyson to become the successor. He fits the Tide’s current offense better and is more of a threat on deep balls and sideline routes— the two places that have given the Alabama defense issues over the years. That said, there’s no telling how the two will each develop once they get on campus and practice with the team for over a year. Who knows, maybe by then Nick Saban will have figured out how to effectively run the two-QB package.