Buechele's Pocket Presence A Difference for SMU

We’ve got a quick film study on SMU’s new quarterback, Shane Buechele. Buechele helped the Ponies to a big road win over Arkansas State Saturday night.

I think Buechele’s play makes SMU dangerous in the AAC Western Division, as the SMU offense will keep the team in games. A couple plays from Saturday night illustrate the point. On the evening Buechele completed 30 of 49 passes for 360 yards with an interception. By my count the Ponies dropped five passes and three others were incomplete due to, shall we say, uncalled aggressive defensive techniques.

I’ve watched the interception ten to fifteen times, and I may be giving Buechele too much credit, but it seems the pick was due to a miscommunication with tight end Kylen Granson on a zone coverage scheme. I didn’t have time to cut it up, but Granson turned in, Buechele threw it out and hit a linebacker between the numbers. Buechele was so accurate that unless the throw was an outlier, I think someone misread where to sit against the A-State zone.

Two third-down throws illustrate my contention that Buechele is a difference-maker. The first probably won SMU the ballgame. Here’s the play.

It’s a third and eleven, SMU is up by seven and backed up at their own ten yard-line. A stop here and Arkansas State flips the field in their favor and are working into SMU territory with a chance to tie. Instead, Buechele hits Reggie Roberson for a backbreaker on their way to another touchdown.

The middle of the field is “open” meaning the Red Wolves have two safeties. That alignment is the first key a quarterback looks to. You’ll often see a signal-caller point with either one or both hands to indicate whether the middle of the field is open or closed. That key narrows the coverage options he’s dealing with. He’s got two high safeties, and the corners are playing sticks coverage or lined up at the line to make. It’s a passive coverage.

SMU’s going to run a cover two beater that I’ve heard called “Smash, Z-Kill.” The route combinations don’t mirror, and on the field side, the slot runs a corner route, getting enough depth to carry the safety with him and clear the middle of the field. Roberson as the “Z” is not running a smash, typically a dig or stop to complement the corner. He’s running a post, climbing inside of the corner and taking the real estate vacated by the safety.

Here’s the key and why Buechele nails this, he looks off the kill route and to the boundary side to clear the other safety, then comes back and hits the kill route. Buechele can’t throw this ball any better. Roberson catches it in stride, and he’s off to the races, flipping the field and draining the clock.

The second throw is another third down that illustrates a couple of essential traits.

Arkansas State “closes” the center of the field with a safety, again, limiting the coverage possibilities. The other key is the defender’s alignment; Arkansas State is showing man, and showing blitz. Buechele is going to key Myron Galliard on the boundary or short side of the field and throw an out route beyond the line to gain.

The throw seems simple enough, but Buechele is doing some things that make this play work. First, he’s going to work a “progression” and comes back to Galliard. He’s going to throw the ball before Galliard makes his break and locates the pass toward the sideline, right on the money. Galliard helps by running a great “out” by breaking his route back to the quarterback instead of straight out to the sideline. The route makes the pass if thrown correctly, nearly impossible to intercept.

Sometimes on this site, we talk about quarterbacks making “pro-throws.” These aren’t throws exclusive to the NFL, but they are throws that you have to make to survive in the league. Buechele makes a pro-throw, on time, with velocity, and accurate. If you float that ball, it’s late, if you throw after the break, it’s a pick, and if you miss you’d better miss high and outside. Buechele drills this ball on the money.

Buechele and SMU play North Texas on Saturday in a massive game for both programs.