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What Can Auburn Fans Expect from Joey Gatewood: A Scouting Report

By on January 4th, 2018 in Football, News 16 Comments »
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For months, those who follow recruiting have undoubtedly read the same few lines regarding Joey Gatewood. The 6 foot, five inch, 230 pound consensus four-star athlete is viewed as the crown jewel in Auburn’s early signing period. However, despite being compared to Cam Newton he wasn’t even the starting quarterback on his high school team. Rivals ranks him as the seventh best dual-threat quarterback in this class and the 28th best football player in Florida, the second deepest state in the country in terms of producing D1 athletes. The Jacksonville native held offers from virtually every major program in the country but never wavered in his commitment to Auburn.

It is strange to reconcile how a player can be so highly regarded but not be the starting quarterback on his own team. What should Auburn fans expect from Gatewood?

Let’s address the most common question surrounding Gatewood: why wasn’t he the starter on his own team?

Fellow senior Riley Smith made 17 more pass attempts than Gatewood over the course of the season, completing three more than Gatewood while tossing 18 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Smith finished his senior year with a quarterback rating of 104, just shy of Gatewood’s 114. While Gatewood added 16 touchdowns on the ground, Smith added eight of his own. The two were deadlocked in most rushing categories except  Gatewood had almost 500 more yards on 67 more attempts. Along the way, Smith was regarded as 118th best high school quarterback in the nation and the 14th best in the state of Florida. Suffice to say it was less about Gatewood not being a starter and more about Bartram Trail having two legitimate D1 senior quarterbacks trying to play at the next level. Translation: they both had to “get theirs” on a weekly basis. 

Looking at Gatewood’s game, specifically, it would be easiest to start with the comparisons to Cam Newton. Since his initial comments on the comparison, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has amended his comments to say that he meant Gatewood’s appearance closely favored Newton’s hulking physique, not his play on the field.

Those comments stirred the internet into a frenzy because it wouldn’t be the first  time that a player has been compared to college football’s most dominating player. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson was perhaps the first and most notable player to garner that comparison. And of course there was Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson, who was often compared to Newton and was considered a preseason Heisman candidate before sinking into obscurity after a miserable career.

Some point out that Gus Malzahn has not been able to bring a high school quarterback into the college game and develop a winner. They are correct. The list of quarterbacks that have failed the eye test under Malzahn is lengthy. Where will Gatewood sit on that list? Will he be the first success?

After breaking down film, it can be seen that Gatewood has a striking resemblance to Newton when he runs with the herky-jerky jukes that give defenders fits. Gatewood can stop his massive frame and change direction in a way that doesn’t look very pretty but leaves defenders with broken ankles. Like Newton, when he gets in stride in the open field, there is almost no chance that the defense can bring him down.

Gatewood’s highlights on Hudl.com show what he can do. His long runs are gorgeous and, while not every run goes for big yardage, he averaged 6.6 yards per attempt. That number would be fantastic for a college quarterback, but his are against high school players where he was a man among boys. Routine plays don’t make highlight reels, and for every ankle-breaking move up the middle or every long-striding perimeter run, there were a lot of plays for no gain.

It is easy to compare his running to Cam Newton, but he is more like former Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd with his upright running style, exploring the edge of the defense before planting a foot upfield. He looks more like a running back playing quarterback than a quarterback running the ball. 

Of course, a quarterback has to throw the ball. In reality that’s a much more important aspect than running ability. Can he make pre-snap calls? Can he read defenses and run progressions? Can he throw the ball?

In watching film, it is apparent that Gatewood is a pre-snap, read quarterback. That is, he counts the defenders in the box, and that dictates run or pass. For a pass, he knows pre-snap to whom he is throwing and locks in to that player. This results in a lot of quick two-step dropback tosses, usually on quick hitch routes or slants. Occasionally, he sees a matchup he likes and will take a chance throwing the deep ball. Gatewood has the arm to make these throws, even without taking a single-step drop, and he can do it on the run as well. (A lot of credit for his success should go to his main target, Xavier Hutchinson, who made a lot of grabs on balls that wouldn’t have been caught by a lesser player and likely wouldn’t be caught at the next level due to elite defense.) Regardless, Gatewood delivers a good ball when he makes the right read. He can also scramble and make throws, but they typically aren’t in stride and are typically to wide-open receivers. 

He is as calm as any high school quarterback I have watched and has a lot of confidence. He has good footwork, doesn’t have heavy feet and doesn’t shuffle or pat the ball. He simply takes the snap and delivers the rock. The ball typically comes out really fast and there is no hesitation when Gatewood has the matchup he wants. This is probably the main reason he had only one interception as a senior.

Every recruiting cycle, there are a lot of “can’t miss quarterbacks” as well as many “wait and see” players. Auburn seems to get the latter, and its fans are still waiting for the first type. Only time will tell if Gatewood will become more than a one-read quarterback like Jeremy Johnson, although much of the onus for Johnson’s performance is on Gus Malzahn.

16 Comments

  1. AtkinsonTiger AtkinsonTiger says:

    Thanks for the scouting report Zach. He really looks like a good prospect. But it was surprising to read he wasn’t the starting quarterback in high school which makes it even more surprising that he had offers from “virtually every major program in the country.”

  2. dyingculture dyingculture says:

    He’s just a terrific athlete who definitely passes the “eye test”. Moves incredibly well for a guy his size. When watching tape of this guy, he’s that rare athlete who the moment he steps on the field makes you sit up and say “who’s THAT?!?”

    Whether he is a bonafide QB remains to be seen, but having an elite athlete like this can’t ever be a bad thing. Some scouts say, if being a QB doesn’t work out, he would definitely make a good TE. He’s got TE size and he moves better than just about any TE I have seen.

  3. dyingculture dyingculture says:

    Your writeups on prospects are always spot on, Zach. If I remember right, you were the first one to say that Cowart would struggle, before he even took a snap at Auburn.

  4. audude audude says:

    Thanks Zach. I always enjoy your take. Agree or disagree they are well thought out and presented. Joey Gatewood’s development should be less about Gus and more about the QB coach, CCL. If we, and others, have this opinion of Gatewood then it is up to our coaches and ultimately him to progress (he can get outside help as well).

    What do you know about the coaching situation? Seems like coach Hand is coming back for the O-Line but what about Travis Williams for the linebackers?

    WDE

  5. AUglenn says:

    Love these scout reports. I know they don’t usually get a lot of comments but I sure would like to see more of these at TET.

  6. Randyc37 Randyc37 says:

    A great read Zach. I am affiliated with the Bartram Trail HS Football team. My great nephew is a freshman QB. Bartram Trail HS typically runs a two QB system. As you mentioned, the QB duties were shared equally between Joey Gatewood and Riley Smith.

    War Eagle!

  7. dyingculture dyingculture says:

    Well…. Gatewood was just named Under Armor MVP, so that might be significant. Half of the scouts in America think that he’s not a real QB, but this:

    https://www.seccountry.com/auburn/joey-gatewood-auburn-recruiting-under-the-radar-star

    • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

      I don’t know about the rules for the UA game, but typically blitzing isn’t allowed. That gives a massive advantage to a dual threat guy.

      Consider that the author of that article said “who shared reps at quarterback on his own team, for some reason.”

      Obviously he didn’t do a little digging.

      To me, the ability to run is important but unless you play at Georgia tech or a military academy, it still runs a distance second go making calls and being able to pass.

  8. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    I lived through the JJ era. That said, I’m not one to get excited about any QB under Gus until they prove themselves well into the season. If Gatewood is so special it’ll be VERY INTERESTING to watch Gus handle it. Name one QB, out of high school, who Gus has developed into a success at Auburn… anyone? For an offensive guru isn’t this a major piece for success?

  9. Tiger Tiger says:

    Zach, if I read correctly, it sounds like you think Gatewood is a calm guy whose tremendous size and athleticism let him dominate high school football. I’m a little concerned about your third-from-last paragraph (“In watching film…”) as it sounds like Gatewood doesn’t really make adjustments that well, and when he does, he’s bailed out by his “wide-open” receiving corps. We can’t count on that happening in the SEC. Is it right to say that you’re optimistic about Gatewood, but have your doubts? On top of this, we know how well Malzahn develops high-school QB’s….not well at all. Just want to make sure I understand your points, as QB isn’t a position I understand very well at all.

    • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

      That’s the thing with highlights. We don’t see the lowlights. Now, he only threw one pick, so that isn’t the issue.
      What I see is a QB that does the following:
      Comes to line:
      seven or more in the box=>pass
      => is it cover one/two?
      if one=>man on tight/cushion of big receiver
      =>if cushion=>choice, if tight=>go
      Cover two=>Slant/post based on safety

      Less than seven in box=>run play

  10. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    The issue will be the defenses ability to disguise and confuse, as they did with Jeremy Johnson.
    I just really, really, don’t like betting on running ability as the foremost strength of a QB.

  11. […] on the look out for Zach Taylor’s scouting reports here at Track’em Tigers, once the guys sign their letter of intent. Zach has one coming out […]

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