Boston College Becoming Breeding Ground for NFL Quarterbacks


August 16, 2009

With a pro-style system and an NFL-like approach on offense, Boston College has become quite adept at producing NFL-ready quarterbacks. Whether you realize it or not, BC has become a breeding ground for NFL signal callers.

Recently, not many schools have been more successful than Boston College at supplying quarterbacks to the NFL. Since Doug Flutie graduated, seven different Eagles? quarterbacks have played in the league. That is, seven BC quarterbacks have dressed for NFL games, receiving various amounts of playing time.

It?s easy to point out BC?s pro-style offense as the reason why so many of their quarterbacks have been able to latch on with NFL teams. However, BC is hardly the only college team to run such a system. Until the recent proliferation of the ?spread option? offense, almost every team from the Big East, SEC and Big Ten ran a pro-style offense.

Yet, while recruiting better high school players, SEC powerhouses like LSU and Auburn have not produced many NFL quarterbacks, even though they used similar offensive systems.

But BC hasn't produced many NFL quarterback stars, you say. Besides Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Ryan, how many BC quarterbacks were full-time starters? That is a good point. However, did you know that the 32 quarterbacks currently projected to start this season come from only 28 different colleges? There are only three schools that have more than one player who is expected to start this season: USC, Purdue and Boston College.

Think about that.  With all of their resources, you would expect to see Florida, Penn State or Michigan.  Or perhaps Auburn, Oklahoma or Texas.

It?s no surprise that USC leads the way with three NFL starters (counting the Jets' Mark Sanchez, who will be starting in their second preseason game). But after that, BC and Purdue are next with two each. Part of the reason so few colleges have more than one NFL starter is that, contrary to what some may have you believe, all NFL players do not come from big time football schools. In fact, this season eight quarterbacks from non-BCS schools are projected to start. Louisiana-Lafayette (Jake Delhomme) has more NFL starters than Texas, Florida, Miami and Oklahoma.

The difference is in the overall number of QBs. Since 1998, Boston College has produced five different quarterbacks who have played in the NFL. No, they were not all stars. But think about it, how many quarterbacks are? How many heralded college quarterbacks have been given every opportunity in the world and still failed in the NFL? Players like Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller, Tim Couch and Alex Smith were handed the keys to their respective teams' castles. Sure, most highly drafted QBs go to bad teams, but it?s their job to make their teams better. Were the Colts any good when they drafted Peyton Manning? How about the Patriots before Drew Bledsoe arrived?

The point is, that highly drafted NFL quarterbacks are always given an opportunity to play. On the other hand, late-round draft picks need to fight just to make teams. Imagine if Kyle Boller was drafted in the sixth round. What are the chances that he even gets considered to start for the Ravens two years later?

When it comes to producing NFL quarterbacks, Boston College has been as successful as any, not named USC. Once could be luck, but turning out five NFL quarterbacks in 10 years is a pattern.

So how do they do it? What is their secret? The answer: great offensive linemen.

Confused? Let me explain.

In the NFL, quarterbacks are required to sit in the pocket, read defenses and react quickly. This is something many college quarterbacks never have to do. Often times they are just running for their lives. Watch any SEC game and you are sure to find a quarterback under extreme pressure.  Meanwhile, if college quarterbacks are good athletes, they are not required to read defenders. Vince Young hardly needed to read a defense in college. He looked at one or two receivers and if they were covered, took off running.

If you watch schools like Purdue and Boston College, you will notice that the quarterback stays in the pocket as long as possible. This is what they are trained to do. Often times college QBs will wander out of the pocket for no reason at all, or be forced out by the pass rush. Leaving the pocket in the NFL does not work. The defensive players are too fast. Once a QB leaves the pocket, the play is in trouble. Consistency does not occur outside the tackles.

Tim Couch is a great example of this. Couch was a terrific athlete at Kentucky and he used his ability to compensate for his team?s poor overall talent. However, Couch?s overall athleticism was of no consequence to his NFL career. Instead of running around making sandlot-type plays, he was asked to sit in the pocket and read defenses. Unfortunately, he did not have enough experience with this type of approach and ultimately failed in the NFL.

Back to Boston College. BC has been known for churning out terrific offensive linemen, particularly guards and centers. Players like Dan Koppen, Damien Woody, Chris Snee and Pete Kendall come to mind. Because of their great offensive line play, Eagles? quarterbacks are allowed to sit in the pocket and learn to read defenses. You can teach pocket presence all day, but if the offensive line cannot block anybody, then the QB is going to have to scramble no matter what. The same goes for reading defenses.  Looking off the safety is a lot different if you're wearing a red jersey in practice. If you are under center in an NFL game and you have no idea how to go through your progressions based on defensive adjustments, you might as well just spike the ball.

It seems like the Boston College offensive line has been solid forever. With a pro-style offensive system and an O-line capable of creating a consistent pocket, the experience of being a BC quarterback is close to that of an NFL QB. Granted, the speed of the game is different, but the general premiss is still there. Whether it?s a different offensive approach, a weaker offensive line or a more athletic class of quarterback, most college QBs do not have the same experience that BC quarterbacks do.

That's why these former Eagles have been able to find their names on NFL rosters:

Boston College quarterbacks to suit up for NFL games, and the years they started for the Eagles:
1. Matt Ryan (2005-07) is currently starting for the Atlanta Falcons.
2. Quinton Porter (2003, 2005) was the Houston Texans third string quarterback for the final five games of the 2006 season.
3. Brian St. Peirre (2001-02) was a backup for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is currently a backup for the Arizona Cardinals.
4. Tim Hasselbeck (1999-2000) was a backup from 2002-07, starting five games for the Redskins in 2003.
5. Matt Hasselbeck (1996-97) is starting for the Seattle Seahawks.
6. Glen Foley (1990-93) played for several seasons with the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks.
7. Shawn Halloran (1985-86) was a replacement player for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987. After the holdouts ended, Halloran stayed on the roster for the remainder of the season.
8? BC?s quarterback from last season, Chris Crane, is currently battling to become the Colts? third string QB.

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