Let’s not be rash. Spencer Rattler did not improve his NFL Draft stock from where it tanked early in 2022 with one outing against the Georgia Bulldogs. The South Carolina Gamecocks QB has been working toward this. Things haven’t always been pretty, but his strides could mean a lot for his draft stock come April.
Spencer Rattler Outing Is an Exercise in Separating Production From Situation
The Gamecocks had no business competing against the Georgia defense. While the Bulldogs’ unit isn’t as intimidating as they were over the previous two National Championship campaigns, they remain one of the best in college football.
The Gamecocks’ offensive line had been underwhelming against North Carolina in Week 1. Rattler battled through those elements, and it was fair to wonder whether he’d be able to legitimately improve his stock behind that offensive line.
The Tarheels sacked him nine times, and for anyone watching the game, it probably felt more like 19. There was no escaping pressure or creating in that opening-week matchup. But things were much improved against Georgia. The offensive line remained unimpressive, but Rattler was handed lemons, so he made the best lemonade he could.
It was never going to be pretty. He completed 22 of 42 passes for 256 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. That certainly isn’t a Heisman Trophy-winning performance like we thought he might have when he committed to playing for Lincoln Riley. But how he performed as everything collapsed around him and the toughness he showed at the moment means a lot.
Rattler’s Gutsy Performance
On this 3rd-and-10 at the beginning of the third quarter, the Gamecocks try to flood the Bulldogs zone on the right side. The trips formation to the right featured a post on the outside paired with an out-and-up from the No. 2 and an out run to the sticks from the No.3.
The long-developing play meant a chip from TE Trey Knox and a delayed release from the running back.
It is somewhat ironic that the chip meant to help against the Georgia pressure was what launched the defender into an unimpeded collision course with Rattler. Rattler does a nice job getting off the main read and coming backside when his internal clock starts beeping loudly in his head.
But it was his consistent willingness to step into throws against free rushers that showed off the toughness necessary to survive in these conditions.
When pressure is like a regular at the local watering hole, this is the only attitude that could keep Rattler’s Day 1 draft hopes alive.
This ball gets out of his hands before Knox is out of his break, and it hits him in stride over the middle. This was some big-time anticipation and nutty placement on the spot throw, particularly because he barely got to release the ball before contact.
The dig is always open on Dagger. Modern defenses like to have numbers in their favor. They like placing four defenders over three receivers. What running this from trips does is make those numbers as even as possible once Knox runs the underneath drag route across the field after chipping the edge defender.
That edge defender ends up getting back to the outside, pressuring Rattler, who does a nice job sliding left and upward into the pocket, despite having a defensive lineman bearing down on him.
Rattler must wait for the dig to uncover behind the underneath defender in the flat. He holds it for as long as possible before releasing it, and he throws a bullet off a compromised base. Without the lightning-fast release he possesses, this pass never sees the light of day.
The concept works because the safety ends up with open hips to the overloaded side, allowing for maximum YAC.
Displaying Necessary Creation Ability
The pocket passer is as good as extinct. Passers must be able to create when the pocket collapses, displaying creativity, intelligence, and toughness to navigate through trash with their eyes downfield.
Rattler will never be mistaken for Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, or Lamar Jackson. But his ability to manipulate his arm angles and throw on the move makes him dangerous when things break down, and the defense allows an escape hatch.
We won’t sugarcoat things for the sake of it. The decision to drop a gear and take off here was completely unnecessary. Rattler didn’t make a habit of ditching clean pockets on this day, but he did here. He could have simply hit the swing to the right and picked up yards. However, it gave us an opportunity to see him on the move.
The South Carolina QB wants to go left here at the snap, but Georgia’s defense was perfectly positioned to take that entire side away.
By the time he gets back to the right, he finds an escape hatch, but he doesn’t see the late-blitzing linebacker until late in the process. But he keeps his eyes downfield and finds his WR coming back to the ball.
Rattler’s snappy release consistently shows its value, particularly behind a bad offensive line with pressure coming for him. He doesn’t have the same kind of arm as Maye, but he generates a ton of velocity without having to elongate his motion and generate a massive amount of torque.
He may wear the No. 7 on the field, but even Stevie Wonder can see that Rattler isn’t necessarily Mike Vick. He does, however, have enough wiggle to play at the next level, and his sort of understated athleticism keeps him playing with a style that could be conducive to a longer playing career.
Rattler doesn’t necessarily want to run, and he takes enough hits in the pocket already that he’s not super accepting of them on the hoof. It’s actually an admirable trait to have, even if it’s a tad boring. The Gamecocks QB will find the sticks and then the grass in order to live to fight another day.
The above example is about the most athletic feat you’ll see from Rattler. That’s as “elusive” as it gets. But QBs don’t need to play like LaDanian Tomlinson. If there’s an alley, Rattler can take it. In fact, he was able to do that multiple times Saturday against the Bulldogs.
He’s still a tad late on throws that are dangerous to be late on. This can be problematic, especially at the NFL level. There are also younger prospects who may have more “upside” given where they’re at relative to him in their development.
But if Rattler continues to play with such gall against better competition, he’ll prove himself ready for the consistent rigors an NFL defense will show him.
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