It hasn’t been pretty. It rarely is. Braxton Burmeister is a true freshman quarterback thrust into a starting role before he’s ready for the speed and complexity of the college game, and he has looked the part.
This whole situation really started to take shape in the spring. Oregon had good depth at quarterback going into the 2017 season, and Burmeister was on his way to a red shirt. Then Travis Jonsen transferred out, followed closely by Terry Wilson. These two transfers left the Ducks once again perilously thin at QB. Fast forward to midseason. Justin Herbert goes down injured, and Burmeister is having to grow up before he is ready. No, it’s not fair to him or the Ducks, but welcome to college football.
Today we take a look at where Burmeister is struggling as the rookie mistakes creep in. A lot of his missteps have to do with the game being a little fast for him. He’s going to have to become a quicker decisionmaker and calm his happy feet in the pocket. Good news is that he can definitely make these strides. Bad news is that it won’t be instant.
In the video above, Burmeister gets happy feet and misses an open receiver. Oregon runs a concept here that calls for Royce Freeman to look to pass block and then release to the flat if there is no threat. When Freeman releases to the flat, it grabs the attention of the outside linebacker who drops down to cover. This creates a void that leaves Jacob Breeland open after beating his man on a crossing route.
Had Burmeister not rushed to scramble and recognized Breeland, it would have been an easy first down. He had a clean pocket to stand in and make the throw, even though the right end was coming free late.
In the video above, Braxton attempts to throw the wheel route to Tony Brooks-James against what looks to be a cover 3 or some kind of split coverage like cover 6. The retreating safety sees the ball thrown and has time to come off the receiver in his area to get the interception. Here Burmeister rushes the throw again and misses the wide-open slot receiver across the middle. This hints toward the idea that Braxton is deciding where the ball is going pre-snap.
This is a play that could have gone for big yardage, had Burmeister just settled down and not rushed his decision. There is no pressure on him from the pass rush – he just doesn’t give himself a chance.
However, there is one spot where Braxton has excelled so far: the option game. Despite what the commentators had to say about him on these plays, Burmeister was making the right decisions.
Above you can see the end man on the line of scrimmage crashing hard on the running back. This was labeled a wrong read by one of the sportscasters, but it’s not. Braxton even notices the scraping LB and looks to the bubble that is covered. He nonetheless quickly turns it upfield and gets the touchdown.
The option game seems to be one area where the game is not too fast for this young man.
Yes, Burmeister was in need of a redshirt season, during which the game could slow down for him. But for a variety of reasons (injuries and transfers), that is not going to happen. In the long run, I believe that this season will be good for him. There is no experience like game experience, as coach Willie Taggart puts it. That experience is going to be a catalyst for Braxton’s development as a passer going forward. We just have to hope that the improvement begins to show sooner rather than later.
Coach Eric Boles
Top photo credit: Kevin Cline