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January 4, 2014

AY takes a look at Allen, Iheanacho

We'll start off by talking about quarterback Kyle Allen who showed today why he was rated as a five star recruit and the best dropback quarterback in the country by Rivals.com.

For of our discussions about a quarterback's mechanics and footwork, we hadn't seen enough film to watch how Allen operated under duress and whether he moved around well enough to avoid pressure and deliver the ball. Allen answered both of those questions in the affirmative today. When the West's offensive line didn't always hold up very well, Allen maneuvered to buy time and then throw the ball away to avoid sacks. He didn't try to force any passes into coverage and delivered the ball to open receivers.

He had two really nice throws to start and end the game. On the early one, he rolled to his left to avoid pressure and threw across his body to a receiver along the sideline. Despite the fact that his feet weren't set and that he's a right handed quarterback, the release was quick and the pass was accurate enough to beat a defender's dive for it some 20 yards down the field. On the later one, he wasn't under pressure, dropped back into the pocket, and saw receiver K.D. Cannon along the right sideline some 40 plus yards down the field. With a safety behind Cannon and a corner in front of him, he cranked it up and dropped the ball in down a barrel for a big gain that helped set up te West's last touchdown. Allen also displayed a lot of toughness by taking a knee in the back chasing down an errant snap in the third quarter and returning for his team's last drive in the fourth quarter when many people would have just walked away.

Today you could see why A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital wants Allen for the Aggies' version of the Air Raid. Allen has great footwork in the pocket, some of the best I've ever seen at the high school level. You compare him to the other quarterbacks in the game today and it's not even close. In addition, he holds the ball high and he has a compact release. The ball comes out quickly. Between the release and the footwork that provides him with a firm base, he's extremely accurate at short to medium range throws which is the basis of A&M's offense.

Overall, there's going to be a heckuva battle for the starting quarterback spot at A&M in the spring between Hill and Allen and we're going to look forward to covering it.

- On the other hand, we didn't get much of a look at Houston Westside receiver Frank Iheanacho who committed to A&M during the third quarter of the game. Iheanacho caught a couple of hitch routes near the sidelines when the defensive backs were playing off of him. However, we have plenty of Hudl highlights to look at when evaluating Iheanacho who is the latest in a long line of accomplished basketball players who have used those skills to make a transition to the football field.

There's a tendency among Texas A&M fans to compare any such prospect to Mike Evans, the All American who's headed to the NFL as an almost certain first round NFL draft pick (and ironically enough Evans helped recruit him to A&M). Iheanacho gave up basketball to focus on football this season but he hasn't played a lot until 2013. As a result, he isn't as polished as many receivers that have played in passing offenses for several years. Nonetheless, physically he is a beast due to his height and leaping ability and he has great hand/eye coordination as he is used to adjusting to the ball in the air.

Right now, Iheanacho is more effective on the deeper routes right now because he's so much taller than the corners having to cover him. In addition, he can outleap them and use his long arms to catch the ball at the top of his jump. This was an important attribute for him this past season because his quarterback had a tendency to throw the ball high. In fact, on many plays, the passes that Iheanacho caught would have sailed over the head of anyone else. Also, he gets taken down hard on those catches and he still manages to hold on to the ball.

His biggest attribute right now is his ability to adjust to the ball in the air. As we said before, he played with a quarterback this past season who wasn't that accurate and in most of his highlights he's having to go down to the ground, up in the air, or extend his arms in order to get the ball. His hand/eye coordination is excellent as he always looks the ball into his hands and never takes his eyes off of it.

He is a long strider like most taller players (Iheanacho is 6 foot 6) which means that he can cover ground more quickly than defenders give him credit for although he doesn't necessarily have a great burst off of the line of scrimmage and isn't particularly elusive versus jams. In fact, he doesn't get jammed a lot because of his size…defenders back off of him and try to stay with him down the field because they're afraid of his ability to play bigger than them. In some instances, he's not necessarily an elusive guy after the catch nor a physical one which is something that Evans brings to the table and sets him apart from most of the big X receivers at the college level. However, it looks like it's because Iheanacho's quarterback rarely puts the ball in a place where he can do so as he has to extend himself as much as possible for the catch. He rarely uses his hands to get separation (although he is good at using his body to get between the defender and the ball) and he needs work in terms of running his routes. This is typical of younger players, especially ones who don't have a lot of experience but can physically dominate.

It's interesting that he's not very physical with the ball in his hands and you have to think that it's due to his lack of experience. The clips of him blocking show a guy that really gets his hands up and not just getting them on people but pushing them around and punishing them when he gets the chance. He's basically a tight end playing outside who should be top notch at blocking on bubble screens for slots due to his size. He's got good enough feet to stalk block defenders down the field in the running game.

In summary, Iheanacho is the prototype receiver that has a skill set honed on the hardwood that's taking over college football. Eventually, he should develop into someone who can stick his routes and use technique to get open rather than just his size. Like Evans, he's capable of acting as a security blanket for a quarterback because he's a big target who can also go up and get the ball in jump ball situations or shield a defender off on shorter routes. He can help with blocking either in the run game or on bubble screens. Most importantly, he's another big guy that the Aggies can throw at programs like LSU and Alabama who recruit corners that like to leave their corners on an island down the field and make it difficult for those schools to stay with those philosophies when facing A&M.


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