There are plenty of differences between college football and the NFL for a quarterback. Obviously, the biggest difference is the level of talent the quarterback has to go against day in and day out. But there are a number of other things as well, including having smaller windows to throw the ball, needing to remember a much different playback, and needing to play under center, among others.
In the first few days of rookie minicamp this past weekend, it seems as though offensive coordinator Todd Haley wanted to get No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield familiar with one thing: receiving snaps under center. According to ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi, the rookie “took an inordinate number of snaps in 11-on-11 drills from under center, which is out of his comfort zone.”
He’s been under center more in two days of rookie camp practice than in his entire three years at Oklahoma and one year at Texas Tech. It’s also more, by percentage, than coordinator Todd Haley will likely utilize in the offense during the season.
Might as well get him as much practice as possible, right? Much like many college football programs, Mayfield was in shotgun the majority of the time at both Texas Tech (one year) and Oklahoma (three years) due to them running a spread offense. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know how to receive a snap, read an offense, or do other things under center, but it’s much different as well. It seems as though the plan is to start practicing from the moment he stepped foot in Berea.
Haley is a good offensive coordinator. He knows what’s best for who Browns fans hope is their future franchise quarterback. Haley would rather Mayfield make a bunch of mistakes early on in practice and learn from them than when it really matters during the season. Due to that, the Browns coaching staff is making sure that their rookie gunslinger practices it so much that it just becomes natural, where Mayfield won’t even think about what he’s doing, it will just be muscle memory at that point.
“We are going to hammer that until I am good and it feels natural,” Mayfield said. “That is the way it should be because I can play out of the ‘gun. Everybody here knows that. We are going to hammer that and we are going to work on what I need to work on so that we can go from there.”
Not only is receiving the snap different under center than in shotgun, but feet movement, creating space, and timing is also off between the two as well. Whether it’s a quick slant, three-step drop, or anything else, the timing and finding the correct way to receive the ball when under center compared to four or five yards behind the center are some of the biggest differences.
Along with making sure snaps under center becomes natural for the rookie, Mayfield and the Browns are also making sure that when under center, he gets back in the pocket fast enough to create space for himself, whether it be to see an open receiver or scramble the pocket if there’s an opposing defender close.
The extra practice seems to be paying off. As the weekend progressed, Mayfield was making fewer and fewer mistakes. Now, let’s just hope he perfects it by the time he is named the starting quarterback of the Browns.