David Igono’s Look at Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel

Gunner Kiel at The Elite 11at Pepperdine University in Malibu,CA. Photo by Tom Hauck.
Gunner Kiel at The Elite 11at Pepperdine University in Malibu,CA. Photo by Tom Hauck.

New contributor David Igono–a former ACC DB with a passion for studying QB play–makes his RSP debut with analysis of Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel.

When quarterbacks are evaluated for the NFL Draft, they are often over-analyzed for their lack of technique.The game tape of Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel reveals a crafty competitor, who despite some technical flaws, has the tools to play in the NFL. The redshirt junior can make all the throws and demonstrates a firm understanding of exploiting a defense.

He does display a proclivity to not follow through on throws which can affect his accuracy significantly. His on the field performance has shown that he can learn when to execute certain throws with better technical efficiency. He most likely will struggle with the speed of the NFL game and passing lanes opening and closing.

The tape on Gunner Kiel displays a savvy competitor who can grow and develop at the next level. He can make all the throws with adequate touch, velocity and anticipation. What really excites me about Kiel’s execution of Cincinnati’s offense is his ability to give his receivers a chance to win against coverage. Cincinnati is not historically known as hotbed for athletic talent on the offensive side of the ball. Their offense isn’t exactly high power but Kiel gives them the opportunity to put plenty of points on the board.

The clip above tells an intriguing story about the player and his future development. Before we break down the play let’s take note of the context of which the play was made. Cincinnati is down by twelve in the third quarter to perennial powerhouse Ohio State.

This is an in state game for bragging rights.

Second down and three normally calls for a running play, in this case a quick bubble screen to the slot receiver in the boundary is the call. Kiel’s eyes and body language sells the defense on the screen. His true target, the boundary receiver, creates separation up the seam as the entire left side of the coverage bites on a deft shoulder fake. Kiel knows he will most likely be hit as he releases the ball but shows the poise to let play develop.

In this next play Kiel displays the arm strength and ball placement that points to an understanding of passing windows that bodes well for his grasp of the intermediate passing game:

The pump fake doesn’t look like much – but it’s enough to pull the cornerback and the safety to the underneath route. Kiel knew pre-snap that if he could execute the pump fake he would have a shot at hitting his uncovered receiver down the sideline.

Savvy QBs are able to manipulate defenses with their eyes and a variety of fakes. This skill opens up windows in the coverage for the quarterback to complete passes down the field. It’s not a common occurrence at the college level.

Kiel also displays footwork in the pocket that speaks to a clear, analytical thought process while keeping his eyes downfield. He doesn’t needlessly wander to either side of the pocket and he knows when to step up decisively to make a throw or leave the pocket altogether:

Kiel has a strong array of fundamentals that project favorably to his development going forward.

The major aspect of Kiel’s profile that needs to be shored up is his follow through on his throws. He exhibits adequate arm talent across the spectrum of throws he needs to make in a given situation. Where he gets into trouble and can turn the ball is when he doesn’t transfer his weight at the ‘bottom’ of his follow through to his (left) plant foot.

In the clip above, Kiel needs to drive the football to his intended target. The coverage was tight but the placement of the pass gave receiver a chance to make the play, if the ball was thrown with more velocity.

By not transferring his weight to his plant leg as he’s releasing the ball, he gives the defense an extra step to disrupt the pass. This is not a fatal flaw. I do believe cleaning up this part of his game will raise his baseline skill set and give him a higher floor.

Kiel’s development as a QB at the next level hinges on having a supportive team dynamic to facilitate growth. Matt’s post on this topic illustrates what that looks like and sadly what most young QBs experience

The tape on Gunner Kiel shows that he can manage the game utilizing the offense’s weapons and punish defenses repeatedly. I think he will learn how to fit his throws into tighter windows to protect the ball and his receivers better.

In this next clip Kiel fits in a pass in the red zone that backs up this point. The ball is thrown in the only window it can be placed without it being deflected or intercepted:

It’s throws like this that have me confident that his flaw in his follow through can be fixed and his intermediate passing game can blossom. The nuances of the quarterback position uncover a lot of intangibles about the man under center. Kiel’s grasp of the mental seems pretty firm in my estimation.

Transitioning from the college game to the pro game is a process. I believe that the speed of the game and the speed of defenses won’t be too overwhelming for Kiel.

I think there may be difficulty learning how to play under center regularly. The majority of his snaps at Cincinnati were from the shotgun and there are very few instances of him throwing the ball on the run.

That being said, his footwork under pressure leads me to believe that he can learn to make plays outside of the initial structure of the play.

I am fairly optimistic on Kiel as a prospect. He has all the tools and even a few tricks to boot. He can make an array of throws depending on what the situation calls for. Some may doubt his projection to the game citing accuracy issues that originate from his inconsistent ability to drive the ball to his targets.

Quarterbacks are often subjected to exhaustive analysis of their technique. In Gunner Kiel’s case, don’t sweat the technique

David Igono is a former defensive back who played at West Virginia University and a couple of seasons of arena football. A longtime draft anorak, he considers the 2014 RSP the inspiration for taking the process more intentionally. Follow him at @d1gono.

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