Friedlander: Reunion with former OC Anae the prefect fit for both Brennan Armstrong and NC State
It’s a scarlet letter no college passer wants stitched on his jersey.
The label is used as a means of downplaying a passer’s success by implying the impressive statistics he puts up are more the product of the Air Raid-style offense he’s running than his physical ability.
And it’s a tag that often is handed out inaccurately.
Remember what was being said about Patrick Mahomes when he was at Texas Tech?
While no one ever wants to be pigeonholed in such a derogatory manner, there’s actually nothing wrong with a player being placed into a system that best fits his skill set and gives him the best opportunity to succeed.
That’s why it’s a good bet that current college free agent Brennan Armstrong will commit to NC State sometime within the next few days.
The graduate transfer was 1 of 2 former Virginia players reported to have taken official visits in Raleigh on Wednesday. Offensive tackle Logan Taylor is the other.
Armstrong also is being courted by Auburn and Oklahoma State, both of which have programs with higher national profiles. But there’s something coach Dave Doeren and the Wolfpack have that those others don’t.
Robert Anae as the offensive coordinator.
Under Anae’s guidance, Armstrong became the most prolific left-handed passer in ACC history. He led the conference with 4,449 yards for the Cavaliers during 2021, throwing for 31 touchdowns while compiling a completion percentage of .652 and an efficiency rating of 156.4.
And then everything changed when coach Bronco Mendenhall abruptly retired and Anae left for Syracuse.
Armstrong became a vocal early supporter of new coach Tony Elliott, a former offensive coordinator at Clemson, and Anae’s replacement, Des Kitchings. But it didn’t take long to realize the chemistry just wasn’t there.
It has been described that the veteran quarterback was a square peg trying to fit into the round hole of his new coach’s offense.
“They had a different approach,” Elliott told JerryRatcliffe.com prior to the Cavaliers’ meeting with Syracuse during September, a game the Orange won 22-20. “I don’t know this for certain, but it was more kind of ‘just go make plays and focus more on the play aspect,’ where my approach is more off of the timing, the design of the play, the progression of the reads, the balance of the offense.
Still examining how #UVA QB Brennan Armstrong and his skillset will translate to the next level, because he layers passes all over the field, but his determination to make/extend plays is accentuated all over his tape.
Dude is tough as hell.pic.twitter.com/a7VNgI4qmm
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) August 21, 2022
“So they did a great job with what they did, they found a way. I think it helped Brennan because he was able to get in a rhythm where he threw the ball a lot. It’s a little bit different here. In the pros, you don’t throw the ball every single play. You have to be balanced. There’s going to be times you’ve got to hand it off. You’ve got to manage the game.”
The problem is that UVA didn’t have much of a running game to speak of. Armstrong was the team’s leading rusher with 371 yards and 6 touchdowns.
As a result, his passing numbers – along with his NFL prospects – cratered. He completed only 54.7% of his passes for 2,210 yards this season with 7 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His efficiency rating dropped nearly 50 points to 109.4 while UVA finished last in the ACC in scoring at 17 points per game.
Meanwhile at Syracuse, Anae’s new quarterback Garrett Shrader put together a career year while leading his team to its 1st winning season and bowl bid since 2018.
So instead of entering the draft as originally planned, Armstrong decided to use his bonus COVID-19 year of eligibility to play a 6th college season.
What better place for him to resurrect his career than a program that has had 5 quarterbacks drafted since 2000? In an offense designed by the coordinator who helped him achieve his best results.
Anae was hired by NC State last month after its former offensive coordinator, Tim Beck, left to become the head coach at Coastal Carolina.
Bringing in Armstrong for a UVA reunion simply makes sense. And not just for the individuals involved.
My favorite QB to watch is…Brennan Armstrong. This guy has an extremely high football IQ, processes information very well, and has great accuracy. With new more balanced offense, we can still expect him to put up huge numbers@UVAFootball@thesabre@Wahoos247@JerryRatcliffe pic.twitter.com/VX9FbUjjQn
— Mike Glennon (@Mike_Glennon) August 16, 2022
The Wolfpack is in need of a new starting quarterback after 2022 preseason ACC Player of the Year Devin Leary’s departure to Kentucky.
Heir apparent MJ Morris currently is 1st in line for the job after stepping in following Leary’s season-ending injury. He threw for 3 touchdowns each in wins against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest before going down with an injury himself during a loss to Boston College.
With such a small sample size, there’s no guarantee the freshman will be ready for full-time duty during 2023.
What better way to prepare him than to bring in a hungry veteran to bridge the gap and serve as a mentor while Morris – and 3rd-year freshman Ben Finley, for that matter – learns and becomes comfortable with Anae’s offense?
Especially a quarterback who already has proven himself to be a perfect fit for the new coordinator’s system.
However you choose to label him.