Friday, April 23, 2010

How much does a system affect a center?

By now we've all heard more than we ever wanted to hear about Timothy Richard Tebow being a product of a college system who'll never make it in the pros. While I am entirely opposed to weighing in on the subject, so as to not join the ranks of boneheads who couldn't possibly know the future which they claim to be prognosticating with such certainty, I will say this: I'm surprised more hullabaloo hasn't been made of Maurkice Pouncey playing center in the same Florida system.

The knock (one of them, at least) against Tebow is that he thrived in a spread-option offense, one which isn't run in the NFL. Basically what this means is that in college he was ALWAYS in the shotgun, ALWAYS had the option to run the ball himself, ALWAYS had the option to flip the ball off to a running back, and ALWAYS had a hot route receiver crossing through his line of sight. Pouncey was his center, and drew rave reviews for keeping the pocket clean and Tebow on his feet. But that's where I begin to wonder: how true was Pouncey's success and how much was it an illusion of the system?

Perhaps we're looking at the opposite situation with Pouncey as we are with Tebow, in that all the shotgun snaps and pull blocking actually prepared the center for the NFL far better than a "pro style" offense would have. It's generally accepted that offensive linemen have an easier time run blocking than dropping into pass protection. Perhaps the Steelers new center has an edge, then.

Or, perhaps we're in for a sticky period of adjustment, as spread-option blocking isn't a pure pass or run technique. Perhaps, because the offense transforms itself mid-play based on what the defense allows, the blockers had an added advantage of deception, and thus didn't have to win their battles at the line the conventional way. We hear a lot about Pouncey's ability to call blocking assignments for his unit at the line: how much of what he did in college in this regard is relevant to the pros? Also: we hear a lot about a shotgun QB having trouble adjusting his timing and footwork when asked to play under center; does that same adjustment period apply to shotgun centers?

I don't know the answers, I'm merely pointing out that these questions have been conspicuously not asked by the draftniks. My own opinion is that Maurkice Pouncey looks like the realest deal since Faneca, and that it'll do him good to play some guard in his first year with us. That should bridge much of the gap between the college and pro systems.

Your thoughts?

1 comment:

Brennan said...

Seems likes a pretty safe pick. I hope he is more Faneca and less Kendall Simmons. Playing G probably eases any transition.