Connor Cook is one of the more interesting quarterback prospects of this cycle. He went into the year as many analyst’s No.1 passer, and would now be lucky to find himself in their top 3. He did not get any worse as a player, but the community grew tired of him and his narrative, ultimately sweeping him under the rug to block him out. No matter the general perception, Cook had a handful of stunning throws throughout 2015, commonly on critical 3rd and 4th downs.
*Throws are in no particular order*
Cook has a real knack for turning pressure downs, like this third down, into explosive plays. He does so more often than anyone else in the class, save Cardale Jones and Vernon Adams. This particular throw is longer than it may first appear, too. The ball only travels 23 yards from the line of scrimmage to the catch point, but when taking into account that he is throwing from the left hash and completing the pass on the right numbers, the ball actually has to stay in flight much longer to reach the target.
He’s making this throw in the face of pressure, too. Two defenders coming off the front side edge compromise his pocket, but he sees the pressure and makes a comfortable adjustment into clean space. Once he’s away from the pressure, he completes the cross-field throw. All things considering, it was a special throw from Cook to galvanize the offense early on.
The situation here is much like the last one. Though, on this play, Cook has a few more yards to go for the first down. Once again, he is not phased by the situation. Despite it being third-and-long from the left hash, Cook sees a matchup on the right boundary that he feels he can expose. Cook needs to do two things in order for this play to work: keep the ball over the cornerback and do so without leading the ball too far inside for the cornerback or safety. The throw ends up being placed perfectly on the receiver’s outside shoulder, allowing him to safely reel in the pass for a huge first down on Michigan State’s opening drive. Cook makes this 25 yard dime look more routine than it is.
The down-and-distance on this play is much less daunting than in the two plays before. Cook gets a 1st-and-10 situation here, but his team is down 10 points in the middle of the third quarter. He needs to make a play. He needs to come through for his team and push them toward victory. On this rollout, he does just that.
Cook sees that he has room and time to climb back up to the line of scrimmage after having rolled out, so he works his way closer to the line to shorten the throw distance. Just as he gets near the line of scrimmage again, Cook squares his shoulders and places a 27-yard dime on the right sideline. He puts the ball on a line and gives absolutely zero room for a defender to have made a play.
Full disclosure, this throw is more about how he handles the situation than the throw itself. That said, the throw is a good one that both exposes a matchup and creates an explosive play for a team vying for the lead in the game. Cook catches the Oregon secondary biting on the underneath hitch route, so he takes his shot over the top and nailed it. But the most telling aspect of this play is that Cook goes about this 4th-and-6– in scoring range no less– with full confidence that he would convert. He knows where his receiver is going to be and that he can make the throw. He does not falter one bit. Cook is a man with ice in his veins.
3rd-and-18, down by two scores and the end of the half is nearing. This situation desperately needs a big play, and Cook delivers. He stands confidently in the pocket and throws the corner route, one of the most difficult throws to complete, as well as he could have. Cook once again makes this throw from the opposite hash. The difficulty of the throw and the pressure of the situation don’t phase him one bit. He drops back and delivers the strike with ease.