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The Curious Case of Paxton Lynch

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Can looking at the evaluation of Paxton Lynch inform us at all about what to expect from the quarterbacks at Virginia Tech to come? Well, the answer is murky- It could mean a lot, or nothing. Only time will tell.

Coach Fuente with Paxton Lynch
Coach Fuente with Paxton Lynch
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Alright, everyone knows the story, so I'll keep it short- our current coach, Justin Fuente, was formerly the coach of the University of Memphis. Huge improvement in the record of the team, great offensive numbers, etc., etc. The quarterback of the Memphis Tigers was Paxton Lynch, an unrated to two-star quarterback recruit from Florida that had spent half the year on the bench in high school. This let him slip right under the radar. After a redshirt year? Everything since has been upward.  Better stats, better TD/INT ratio, so forth and so on.

But the talk around Lynch has been...well, interesting to say the least. Here's the quote from Lynch's NFL.com Draft Profile:

"Needs to improve ball placement for catch­-and­-run throws. Inability to throw with desired accuracy on the move forced him to leave yards and plays on the field. Must learn to better anticipate routes and stay ahead in the rep. Doesn't quite have the quickness through progressions that he will need in the pros. Has to learn to move defenders around with his eyes to open throwing lanes."

Isn't that all stuff that needs to be worked on by the coach? What about the profile from CBSsports.com?

"Inconsistent base, doesn't always throw with a balanced foundation, which affects his downfield accuracy. Must sharpen footwork. Relies on arm talent over fundamentals. Requires maintenance with his throwing technique, which was not emphasized by his coaches."

What about from this particular article from Eric Adelson at Yahoo Sports:

'There is a downside, though, and it's especially so in Lynch's case: inexperience. He had almost no passing game in high school, and the system he ran at Memphis is not all that similar to what he'll be using in Cleveland or Dallas or Houston or wherever he lands.
"[There are] things Paxton didn't do a lot of in college that he's going to be required to do in the NFL," Taaffe says. "Which is playing under center, both in the run game and the pass game. He didn't do much of those things at all at Memphis and that will be a transition for him. He very rarely was in the huddle. Everything was up-tempo, look over to the sidelines to get the play. They don't do that on Sundays."'

Now, interesting notes from the same. From the NFL:

"Lynch shows the ability to read defenses and make smart decisions, but not yet at an NFL starting level."

And from CBS:

"A former running back, he ran a Wing-T offense in high school and is largely self-taught at the position and still very young in football years, showing vast improvement each of the last three seasons. From a scouting perspective, Lynch needs mechanical work and on-field reps, but he checks boxes for his size, athleticism, arm talent, field vision and appetite for football."

That's informative about Lynch, alright. But it also tells us a lot about what Fuente gets and expects out of his quarterbacks.

The line on Lynch has been the same, obviously. Inexperienced in offensive concepts. Poor footwork. Poor mechanics. Everything was done for him on the sidelines. Can read defenses but it wasn't overly asked of him. Auburn shut him down when it took away the screen passes. 'Self-taught'. I was listening to an NFL draft podcast today where Merrill Hoge and Ron Jaworski were talking about Lynch, and the opinions were...divided. Both praised his physical skills, but questioned how he was taught and what he learned versus what he was executing. It's a fair, valid criticism, and why Jaworski said that projecting transitions from college to the pros is so difficult. They can't, and we can't know, what exactly was Lynch versus the offense and what Lynch learned. Lynch is still in evolution, as he's really only been a throwing quarterback for four years, one of them a redshirt year.

Fuente and his offense have a reputation for best using the talent that they have at hand. He has two (well, presumably two) NFL quarterbacks under his belt. A second and a first-or-second round pick. Andy Dalton is still growing, yes, but he's been mostly successful in the pros. Paxton Lynch has a lot of promise, and with the proper organization and time, he also could be successful. What has me interested is how predictive this might be.

Justin Fuente's offense is what got him hired at Virginia Tech. After years of quarterback inconsistency and offensive inefficiency, the administration was of course going to look for someone that could resolve that issue. And the results come out in the wash- Memphis was one of the most productive offenses over the past two years (19th rated the past year, and 45th the year before). Scoring wise? 11th and tied 20th. So the offense produces plenty, actually, despite all the negative buzz around Paxton Lynch.

This comes down to a fundamental question: Does it matter if your offense produces exactly what the pros want or not? A college coach's job is to coach college talent and win at the college level. If you want to take it that literally, then who cares exactly where Paxton Lynch goes? It might or might not affect us. Already, he's recruited two quarterbacks- Hendon Hooker and Jerod Evans (and a half, considering he kept Joshua Jackson's commitment)- that joined due to the proficiency of his offense. Whatever he's done is working at the moment. If there's a disconnect between the pros and the college level, it hasn't showed enough that it's discouraging anyone from jumping onboard. We'll see where Lynch is drafted- my money is on mid to late first round depending on when and where Jared Goff and Carson Wentz come off the board- and we'll see how he develops, but we won't see real results on his career until likely 2 years down the road- and by then, hopefully with success either Evans or Lawson will be getting ready for or have serious interest from the pros. Time will tell, but seeing the criticism of Lynch can tell us some of what to expect- but for a man with an offense with a history of using what he could of what he had, Fuente's future at Tech might have nothing to do with this evaluation at all, as the offense obviously produced regardless. Different quarterbacks, different evaluations, different talent.

(Statistics from ESPN.com)