Stanford's redshirt freshman QB Andrew Luck is making a good argument for the title "best quarterback in the country." After navigating the Cardinal to a 55-21 road win over USC, in which Luck threw for two TDs and ran for one with no interceptions, Luck is starting to hit the national spotlight—and he deserves it.
Luck has completed 58 percent of his passes (138-238), amassing 2,220 yards and 13 TDs with only three interceptions through 10 games. He has also displayed good athleticism, both in the pocket (six sacks) and the open field (288 yards, two TDs).
Stanford's leader is senior running back Toby Gerhart, a Doak Walker finalist and Heisman dark horse, but without the strong play of Luck the Cardinal wouldn't be 7-3, including a perfect 5-0 at home, as they host Cal this Saturday in a NorCal rivalry.
No other member of the 2013 NFL Draft class is close to touching Luck's 151.8 QB rating (Matt Barkley's is 132.2), and the member of Luck's 2008 high school class playing closest to his level is Missouri sophomore QB Blaine Gabbert with a 139.76 QB rating.
The present is bright but the future is blinding for Luck, who is looking like the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning—maybe even if he comes out before the 2013 draft (Luck will be eligible in 2011).
Before dissecting Luck's feet and arm, first you need to get inside his head. Andrew Luck is smart, Stanford smart—he was valedictorian of Houston's Stratford High School in 2008 where he amassed 7,139 passing yards and 53 TDs on the field.
Luck has had a different pedigree than most smart kids with excellent physical attributes. His father Oliver Luck is the president and general manager of the Houston Dynamo—a non-traditional career path for a former Houston Oilers QB.
Much like his son, Oliver was a standout on the field and in the classroom; the two-time Academic All-American and Rhodes Scholar finalist graduated magna cum laude from West Virginia before backing up Warren Moon for a majority of his NFL career.
While Oliver Luck didn't have the football career of Archie Manning, he was still a professional quarterback, and, as a father, could offer his son rare gems of knowledge that the average aspiring QB is not privvy to.
Now that Andrew Luck is out from under his father's wing, he couldn't have a better coach and mentor than Jim Harbaugh, who quarterbacked in the NFL from 1987 to 2001.
I think it's safe to say that when Luck enters the NFL Draft he will wow in interviews, ace whiteboard sessions, and dominate the Wonderlic.
At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Luck—who reportedly put 20 pounds on his frame since arriving to Palo Alto in 2008—has the prototypical height and bulk you look for in a QB prospect.
Unlike prospects in shotgun spread systems such as Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy, who never step foot under center, Luck is running a pro-style offense that gives scouts a great look at his three, five, and seven step drops and play action fakes.
When dropping, Luck could do a better job of scanning the field and not staring down his target, but his footwork is clean, he keeps a good strong base, and he has a good pop off his back foot. Stepping into his throws, Luck displays above average arm strength—he doesn't have a rare arm like former Cardinal John Elway but it is better than that of another former Cardinal, Trent Edwards.
Even when pressured, Luck will stand in the pocket, delivering throws when contacted. Luck's willingness to face pressure has led to some hits Harbaugh would prefer he'd not take, and they can result in fumbles.
If he sees space in front of him he makes a quick decision to tuck and run and overall he has very good pocket presence, especially for a freshman.
When Luck throws he seems to have a condensed arm action, and it is something scouts will nitpick as he enters the NFL. The throwing motion still comes over the top, and when Luck is throwing on the run, as he commonly does off play actions in Stanford's scheme, he seems to emphasize the over-the-top throwing motion.
With Gerhart being the undisputed leader of Stanford's O, Luck can still grow leaps and bounds in terms of on-field leadership, but he already displays confidence in front of his teammates and commands the huddle.
Some feel a comparison to Manning is premature for Luck, but if he takes the Manning path and develops through his senior year, he projects to be a No. 1 overall pick and instant NFL starter.
Top Five QB Prospects Based On Potential
1. Andrew Luck, Stanford, 2013—Much of the QB position is played before the snap. Luck has the brain for that and the tools to finish those reads.
2. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas, 2012—Outstanding size, very good at avoiding turnovers, and a live arm, but Bobby Petrino's system hasn't been NFL friendly.
3. Jake Locker, Washington, 2011—One more year of school will be best. Aside from the occasional wild pitch he has it all.
4. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, 2011—Will be best-off not playing until the 2011 season or later. If he plays for a team with a line he can be great.
5. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame, 2011—Very accurate and has shown good arm strength. His two receivers are better than anyone on the four teams above.
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