Breaking the System: Graham Harrell's Struggle To Prove He Belongs In the Pros

Eric DinoCorrespondent IFebruary 2, 2009

As a general rule for the NFL draft, no quarterback is bigger than his system. Recent memory recalls gunslingers like Timmy Chang, Kliff Kingsbury, BJ Symons, Sonny Cumbie, and Colt Brennan firing away in the college game and completely missing (though the jury is still out on Brennan, who showed sparks with the redskins in preseason action) in the pros.

Many also remember the names Harrington, Ware and Klingler. The list continues to grow as each year, college football produces a stat chugging giant from an obscene offensive system just to falter when the pros come knocking.

But for Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, this looked to be the year that the proverbial system was going to be broken. Following a stunning upset over top ranked Texas and an absolute drubbing of fast rising Oklahoma State, Harrell was all but handed the Heisman trophy and an entry to the first round of the draft.

More importantly, Harrell had shattered the dreaded system quarterback label. The label had been crushing college quarterbacks more and more in the last few years. None more than quarterbacks out of Texas Tech's pass happy outfit, directed by Mike Leach.

Then something happened. A complete no show in Tech's showdown against Oklahoma returned the label (though Harrell took the main brunt of the defeat, Tech was simply outclassed at all facets of the game and looked extremely over matched on the defensive end) and it has all gone downhill from there.

Today, Harrell is working out and doing everything to prove that he is the quarterback that beat Texas (who beat Oklahoma) and destroyed OK State.  He has worked on taking snaps from under center and increasing his arm strength.

There are all the reasons in the world to say that he is just one of many gunslingers that will fall under the pro game. (WHICH IS LAZY SCOUTING...TODD MCSHAY AND MEL KIPER) But some things throughout the year, albeit flashes here and there, have shown me that Harrell can make some pro noise.

To begin with, Harrell was the first big time recruit to ever come to the Red Raider's. Coming out of high school, Harrell had shattered many Texas high school football records. He was a highly coveted quarterback, but chose the comforts of a quiter Lubbock as opposed to a bigger program and the comforts of a pass happy offense. Harrell was often heard saying he wanted to make his own history at Tech.

Though his stats will always be enhanced because of the system he played in, there is no doubt that he is the only spread quarterback to take it to a new level. He has been the most prolific thrower in Leach's offense.

Unlike many spread quarterbacks, Harrell does not shy away from a big-time game. Throughout his career at Tech, he has enjoyed upsets against Oklahoma, Texas, and big bowl games like the largest comeback in FBS history in the Insight Bowl and the close win against Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

Unlike many of the quarterback's coming out of this year's class, Harrell acts as a coach on the field and held much more responsibility. He has been keen on reading opposing defenses and getting his team to the right plays.

While he lacks the cannon arm that scouts drool over, Harrell shows skills that are necessities to the pro game. He is arguably and statistically one of the most accurate passers in college football history.

But his most overlooked asset is his patience. He has shown throughout his career that a rush does not bother him. He is more likely to hang in the pocket that any other quarterback, and though he is not a world-class athlete, he has been prone to navigating inside the pocket effortlessly.

Despite a stellar college career, Harrell will likely fall under the spread bus. There is something there that needs to be looked at, because a player of his talent needs to be given every chance possible.