Look out, Sam! Someone else reminds Gil Brandt of Troy Aikman...
Tom Savage: The best QB prospect you've never heard of
By Gil Brandt
NFL Media senior analyst
Published: Oct. 11, 2013 at 11:36 a.m.
Updated: Oct. 11, 2013 at 01:22 p.m
By now, most college football observers know this is a special season when it comes to quarterbacks that have the talent to play in the NFL. In the season's opening week, I watched one of those quarterbacks, Jameis Winston, make his much-anticipated college debut and lead his Florida State team to an easy victory over Pittsburgh. The Seminoles were clearly the better team, and Winston was the game's star. But I wanted to see Pitt again because I was intrigued by its quarterback, a player I'd never really heard about before.
A few weeks later, I watched this quarterback throw for six touchdowns while completing 23 of 33 passes for 424 yards against Duke. He showed that he could make every throw, connecting on deep passes, crossing routes, throwing out to the sideline, and checking it down to a running back. Perhaps most impressive, he was able to perfectly lead his receivers so they didn't have to slow down to make a reception.
Watching this game, the quarterback, Tom Savage, reminded me a lot of a player I had the privilege to scout and eventually draft back in the 1980s -- Troy Aikman.
Now, Aikman is a Hall of Fame quarterback who won three Super Bowls for the Dallas Cowboys; Savage entered his senior season with barely more than a dozen starts under his belt at the collegiate level. The similarities I see between the two aren't so much in their results as they are in the way the QBs carry themselves on the field. Physically, when I see Savage, he reminds me of Aikman. He is well built at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds. He has a very strong arm and above-average accuracy on his throws. He is more of a pocket passer than someone who will beat you with his legs. Not a lot of prospects have the combination of size, arm strength, and passing ability that I see in Savage.
When I update my Hot 100 senior prospects next week, Savage will be on the list. And from the little I've seen of him, he has the chance to ascend into my top 50.
So why isn't anyone talking about Savage? Much of the reason might be that, entering the 2013 season, he hadn't taken a snap since 2010 and simply fell off the map. After starting as a true freshman at Rutgers in 2009, winning eight games and garnering team offensive MVP honors, he was injured early in 2010 and decided to transfer to Arizona. He sat out the 2011 season because of the NCAA's transfer rules, then transferred to Pittsburgh and sat out the 2012 season.
Because of the missed time, Savage enters Saturday's game against Virginia Tech with just 20 starts. Typically, you'd like for a college quarterback to have about 30 starts, giving him time to improve his ability to read defenses on the field rather than on a chalkboard or on tape.
Time will tell if Savage continues to progress, but through six weeks, he has come out of nowhere to emerge as a prospect to watch and is the player who's excited me the most this season.
Could he be another Ryan Tannehill, the Texas A&M quarterback who went from a prospect no one talked about to the eighth overall draft pick in 2012? I was higher on Tannehill than I am on Savage, but it's a similar situation in that Savage is an unheralded QB who has a chance to take off. And I do think that Savage has the ability and the upside to become a top-50 pick.