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September 17, 2012

Under center and undersized



Aaron Murray chuckled this summer at the Elite 11 when asked whether shorter quarterbacks could cut it in elite college football.

The Georgia signal-caller laughed because even though he's just 6-foot-1, Murray has proven time and again it can be done.

He's not the only one.

It's not necessarily a new or wide-spreading trend but diminutive quarterbacks have proven -- in the right system -- that they can be just as successful as the prototypical 6-foot-5 giant who seemingly stands on a tower behind the offensive line, picking apart defenses with a rifle arm.

Not every quarterback is Frank "Cush" Cushman from the movie "Jerry Maguire". Not every quarterback looks like an oak tree.

Sometimes, there are guys such as Murray, questioned about his size coming out of Tampa (Fla.) Plant, even though he threw for 4,013 yards and 51 touchdowns in his junior season.

Last season at Georgia, Murray threw for 3,149 yards and 35 touchdowns.

"You basically have to work on your footwork more as a shorter quarterback," Murray said at the Elite 11. "All the quarterbacks work on their footwork, but I feel shorter ones have to work on it even more to find those windows and find that spot to make the throw."

An even better example of a short quarterback proving his worth might be Notre Dame's Everett Golson, listed at 6-foot and 185 pounds and both might be a tad generous.

He looked like a junior high school player this past weekend against Michigan State's monster defensive line -- and that's not a knock on Golson, since he threw for 178 yards and a touchdown and deftly led the Irish to a 20-3 victory over the Spartans.

Small but in charge and capable of everything.

Or how about Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton, listed at 6-foot and 200 pounds, who has led the Bobcats to three straight wins to start the season, including a 24-14 win at Penn State in the opener and a 27-24 come-from-behind victory last weekend against Marshall?

Tettleton's stature has not stopped him from throwing for 781 yards and seven touchdowns, rushing for 100 yards and two scores and possibly leading Ohio to an outstanding season. Its schedule sets up nicely moving forward.

Shorter quarterbacks have disadvantages, to be sure, including difficulty seeing over the line of scrimmage and needing to move around more to find the open receiver.

But in the right system, where they're allowed to move out of the pocket and find windows --those are most important, using their speed away from the line of scrimmage to locate open pockets to throw to their receivers --smaller quarterbacks have some unique advantages.

"In college football with the diverse offenses, you can certainly have shorter quarterbacks, especially with spread offenses and the ability to get outside and throw in lanes," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said.

"At the NFL level, despite the success of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, size is still extremely important when it comes to quarterback evaluation."

That might very well be the case, but the NFL has a list of outstanding short quarterbacks, some that are dated but still worthy of conversation.

Brees, Fran Tarkenton, Joe Theismann were all listed at 6-feet. Doug Flute is 5-foot-10. Michael Vick, arguably the best running quarterback ever, is only 6-foot.

The list of shorter quarterbacks in the 2013 recruiting class is an impressive one. Notre Dame commit Malik Zaire, Oklahoma State pledge Luke Del Rio and Ole Miss commit Devante Kincade all attended the Elite 11.

Their college futures are at least settled.

There are others, though, such as Los Angeles Salesian quarterback Jihad Vercher, who has done all the right things, put up the big numbers, impressed on the 7-on-7 circuit and still cannot seem to get a bite.

Northern Arizona has offered and Oregon State is sniffing around, but one wonders whether his size -- he's about 6-foot and 202 pounds -- is scaring away some college coaches.

Numerous 6-foot quarterbacks are committed to high-profile programs in this class. Vercher is not yet one of them, and he uses it as motivation every time he takes the field.

The concern over height is something he's cognizant of and something he tries to disprove every time he drops back to make a play.

"It's motivating," Vercher said. "It kind of puts you on the edge. I go out with a chip on my shoulder every game. I have something to prove every game no matter what."

Despite the success of small quarterbacks dating way back, Vercher and others have to prove that size doesn't always matter.



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