Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hutson Mason four games in

I was being a bit snarky earlier when I suggested we're about to hear the backup QB groupies chime in a little louder. But the truth is, and I've made this point before, ten months after he left the field we're still adjusting to life after Aaron Murray. Since Mason took over the huddle we've been told by coaches, players and media that this is a different quarterback than the one we spent the last four years watching. And now it's playing out before our eyes.

But really, isn't Mason doing everything we need him to do? I went back and re-observed his performances in the Tech game and the bowl game before the season started, and my general consensus was that he may not throw the deeper routes as well as what we've been used to, but he has all the tools this offense needs. These stats didn't show everything...

...but what we saw last season was a quarterback that can easily check down to take what's being given. If he can avoid costly mistakes then there's really no reason to worry.

Two games into 2014 and it's apparent that Mason is a smart guy that can make the reads an SEC quarterback needs to. That being said, he's quick to throw the ball away after he's gone through one progression; if the first two targets are covered he's very likely to look to end the play quickly. And I don't say that as a bad thing necessarily, even with the memory of the intentional grounding call still so fresh. To me it is another adjustment, from one quarterback that was used to extending the play with his feet to another that is not as likely to do that.

But it's also worth noting that Mason has not enjoyed the depth at wide receiver that Murray had most of his career. Compare his current stats to the end of last season...

...and what jumps out? First is the zeroes in the interceptions column. He knows when what he wants to take isn't there to simply not force it. That was a lesson Aaron Murray struggled with more than his fair share, even as late as his senior season. There was a throw or two a game where he was clearly forcing something into a tight spot. Mason is not carrying this offense like Murray was. Therefore he's determined not take the wheels off with one throw of the football.

The next observation I make is that Mason's completion percentage has gone up fairly significantly while the yards have gone down. Part of that is game planning and another large part is Bobo sticking with what was working, especially in the Clemson game. After all, Mason had 75 attempts total in the Tech and Nebraska games compared with just 48 so far this season.

To some degree I downplayed the idea of not having a deep threat in the two games thus far. Even with Malcolm Mitchell's game changing ability and Justin Scott-Wesley's speed on the outside, I felt that Mason had all the weapons around him that he needed to win ball games. And that may still be true.

But now I find myself much more eager to see what that kind of deep threat can do for Mason's own play making ability. Players with some big downfield burst, like Mitchell, Scott-Wesley and McKenzie, will make it easier for Mason to make the reads and find the open targets all over the field. 

Troy has the 79th rated passing defense in the nation, are allowing 7.6 yards per attempt as well as a QB rating of 147 (96th in the nation). Look for Bobo to give Mason plenty of time to tune up against this defense before the young guys come in as relief.