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NFL Draft: Ohio’s Nathan Rourke, Canada’s prodigal son

Ohio University is led by star quarterback Nathan Rourke. Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, Rourke could be set to take the MAC by storm.

The Ohio Bobcats have been to a bowl game every year for the past four seasons. However, with all that success, they haven’t won a MAC title since 1968. With their canuck signal-caller, Nathan Rourke, the Bobcats have their best chance in years.

The MAC lost two of the three best QBs in the conference last season. Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson is currently on the Buffalo Bills’ roster after not being selected in this past NFL Draft, and Bowling Green’s Jarret Doege transferred to West Virginia.

Ohio now has the best quarterback in the conference and it’s not particularly close. With Rourke at the helm, Ohio has a legit shot at the MAC title. He’s a dual-threat who can punish teams with his arm or his legs. He’s also the most slippery quarterback I’ve ever seen. If Rourke can improve as a pocket passer, he’ll have a legit chance to be an NFL Draft pick, whether he declares this year or next year.

Before Ohio

Rourke spent his first three years of high school in Ontario, where he led his high school, Holy Trinity, to its first OFSAA Bowl Championship. For his senior season, Rourke transferred to Edgewood Academy in Alabama. In that single season, he threw for 3,779 yards and 59 touchdowns, and he also added seven more rushing touchdowns. He led Edgewood to a 13-0 record as they won the AA Alabama State Championship.

Right after high school, Rourke went the JUCO route. He attended Fort Scott Community College, where he threw for 2,367 yards and 18 touchdowns, in addition to three rushing scores. For his productive season, Rourke was named first-team All-KJCCC

Ohio – Year One

In his first year at Ohio, Rourke led the Bobcats to a 9-4 record, a bowl win, and had himself a rather efficient passing season. Throwing for 2200 yards, 17 touchdowns, and a 55-percent competition percentage, Rourke did a good job steering the ship and preventing himself from hurting the team with only seven interceptions. Rourke also demonstrated an innate ability to create with his legs.

As a runner, Rourke produced over 900 rushing yards and 21 total rushing touchdowns. Rourke showed elite contact balance. Contact balance that isn’t rivaled by any quarterback I’ve ever scouted. It’s nearly impossible to sack Rourke. He contorts his body in ways he shouldn’t be able to. He keeps his legs churning constantly, and even when a play breaks down, and he has to escape the pocket, he still has the mental prowess to look for a play downfield before taking off.

Ohio – Year Two

After a season of successfully leading the Bobcats, Rourke was ready to take the stage as one of the MAC’s elite difference makers. He took the next step in his development as a passer in his second season in coach Frank Solich‘s system. In 2018, Rourke threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns, all while still limiting his interceptions to only eight on the year. Rourke saw statistical improvements in his completion percentage, yards, yards per game, yards per attempt, touchdowns, and quarterback rating.

With the increase in passing numbers, there was a dip in rushing statistics for Rourke. He had a similar yards per rush but dropped down six rushing touchdowns. That means that even though Rourke improved as a passer, he matched his total touchdowns from the previous season.

Ohio – Present

Nathan Rourke is headed into his third season leading the Bobcats and the pressure is on. Not only are the Bobcats my personal favorite to win the MAC, but I expect Rourke to dominate his competition. If Rourke can take his passing development to a whole new level, he can not only put together a truly dominant season, but he can also create a strong case to be selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Rourke will always be a threat to run the football. With the offense running through him, it will be interesting to see how the Bobcats decide to attack defenses. Will they ask Rourke to try and shred teams from the pocket? Will they continue to use his legs and force team to stay home? No matter the answer, expect Rourke to put together his best statistical season to date.

With strong offensive game planning, and Rourke taking the next step in his passing development, we could see one of the most productive players in the country. A 1,000/1,000 season is in reach, meaning Rourke could put together a year where he both passes and rushes for more than 1,000 yards in each category.

NFL Draft

Rourke isn’t ready to be drafted. He can struggle with accuracy and doesn’t throw with anticipation. He’s a little small, but as we’ve learned recently, teams are starting to overlook the height of quarterbacks. He’s a playmaker through and through, and I think he’s already a better prospect than guys like Clayton Thorson and Trace McSorley were last year. Both those guys managed to get drafted, meaning Rourke would likely be selected with another solid season.

If Rourke plans to be a solid passer at the next level, he must develop from the pocket. Learning to play from the pocket and pass with anticipation will determine whether or not Rourke can become a starter-level player in the NFL. Canada’s prodigal son has the potential. The question is: Can he reach it?

Matthew Valdovinos is a writer for PFN covering the NFL Draft. You can find him on twitter at @MVScouting.

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