We’re a little over a week away from the long anticipated kick-off to the strangest season in modern college football history. The scheduling gods threw Wildcat fans a bone because there is an honest to goodness football game of interest to watch this weekend.
Arkansas State vs Memphis
When: Saturday, September 5th - 7 PM CST
Where: Memphis, Tennessee
How To Watch: ESPN
You’re going to hear a good bit about Layne Hatcher over the next few days and for good reason. The kid can play.
First off, yes, in case you haven’t heard, he’s a transfer from Alabama. Don’t get too excited though, he was a late add to the Crimson Tide’s 2018 recruiting class. When you have young quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa on your roster, it’s hard to land a top tier quarterback.
Hatcher was a low 3* prospect out of Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. He holds the Arkansas High School record for career passing yards (15,483) and passing touchdowns (185). In three years as a high school starting quarterback he led Pulaski Academy to a 41-1 record and 3 5A State Championships. In addition to his gridiron success, he also starred on the wrestling team, winning 3 State Championships. You don’t see many quarterback/wrestlers.
Despite his stellar high school career he wasn’t nationally ranked at the quarterback position and was the 24th overall ranked player in Arkansas. I’m not bagging on the kid because he’s got obvious talent, but he’s not a 5* that transferred to Arkansas State. In fact, he was originally committed to Arkansas State before flipping late after a preferred walk-on offer from Alabama turned into a full scholarship. He enrolled at Alabama on June 1st, 2018 and transferred to Arkansas on April 15th, 2019. Basically he hit campus, got a close up view of the Hurts vs Tua quarterback derby and hit the portal less than a year after enrolling.
Now that we’ve made it past the “he’s a former Alabama player” narrative, let’s take a look at what he did on the field as a freshman for the Red Wolves last season.
Games Started: 9
Record as a Starter: 6-3
Completion Percentage: 65.8% (204/310)
Yards Per Attempt: 9.5
Sunbelt Freshman of the Year
Hatcher hit the ground running as a freshman. After former Arkansas State starter Logan Bonner went down to a season ending injury against Southern Illinois, he stepped into the full time starting role promptly went crazy on Troy, putting up 440 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs in his first career start, and followed that up with 4 touchdown performance in a loss to Georgia State the next week. He put up two more 4 touchdown performances on the season, throwing for 354 yards, 4 TDS, 0 INTS against Georgia Southern, and lit up F.I.U. in the Camellia Bowl throwing for 393 yards, 4 TDS and 1 INT.
Needless to say, Hatcher can light up a scoreboard.
Hatcher reminds me a little of Drew Brees.
He’s not a big guy (6’0, 205) and doesn’t have a huge arm (if you’re wondering why a QB with his high school accomplishments was somewhat overlooked in recruiting), but is deadly accurate. He’s mobile in the pocket, and can run a solid quarterback draw but mostly scrambles to throw. He can put heat on short/intermediate routes, but tends to lob in his deep balls. His elite skill is running through his progressions, finding the correct receiver, and delivering a catchable ball. If you give him time to sit in the pocket he will find an open receiver.
Beyond his physical ability, Hatcher’s demeanor impresses me. You can tell he’s a winner. He carries himself with an air of confidence that belies his experience. The more film I watch, the more impressed I am. He’s cool and calm in the pocket and doesn’t get flustered in the face of the rush.
In terms of flaws, it comes back to arm strength. Against F.I.U. he attempted to make a downfield throw from the far hash down the opposite sideline, and it’s obvious that he doesn’t have enough gas on the ball to get it anywhere close, and the F.I.U. player pulls down and easy INT. If I’m a defensive coordinator, I’m flooding the front side of the play and begging him to try and beat me with long throw outside opposite hash.
I’m holding off on a full film breakdown today because I want to break down what he does against Memphis on Saturday, but I will provide y’all with his highlights from the Camellia Bowl.
Hatcher is a solid quarterback prospect looking to build on an excellent freshman season. If you give him time, he is more than capable of putting up huge numbers. Ignore the “former Bama QB” hype because while technically true, it comes with a huge asterisks. In reality, he’s more suited to play at Arkansas State than he ever was at Bama, and looking at his short lived Bama career, it appears he reached that conclusion as well.
He’s undoubtedly dangerous and will provide a stern test for new defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman.
Don’t get frustrated of Arkansas State puts some points on the board.