When I first watched highlights of Nick Bawden, the first thing I noticed was, "Why is he rolling out to his left?!"
After about six solid throws from the left, I understood why. Bawden can do that; he knows he has to set his feet and get in position to make a good throw from an awkward spot.
Granted, this is college football and that highlight tape is meant to impress. If it's any consolation, Bawden looks solid.
But now he'll have 240-pound defensive ends and linebackers breathing down his neck on Friday in Fresno as the Aztecs take on Fresno State for the Oil Can Trophy.
Bawden's taking over for injured quarterback Quinn Kaehler, who sprained his right shoulder against UNLV on Saturday.
This will be Bawden's first start, and he hasn't even attempted a pass yet. I'm willing to bet he'll have to on Friday night.
Bawden is mobile, which adds an extra dimension to the Aztecs' playbook, something they'll need if they want to beat the Bulldogs.
Another benefit of Bawden is that he's got smarts in addition to good legs. On his highlights, the throws he made were smart, going through his progressions, not throwing the ball into double coverage, throwing the ball into a place only his receiver could get it, etc. (of course, this is still a highlight tape that obviously won't include him throwing into double coverage).
He also has good pocket presence, and part of the pocket presence is knowing when the pocket is collapsing. That's where Bawden's mobility will help him, the Aztecs and offensive coordinator Bob Toledo.
Toledo can call a couple of option reads if he wants to, or call a couple of play action bootlegs where Bawden takes off on the other side, like Peyton Manning did here against the Raiders.
One thing that could hurt Bawden is his release angle, which isn't a full vertical release. He throws it sort of at a 45 degree angle, which could be a problem throwing over Fresno State's defensive line, whose average height is almost 6'4".
And maybe that's why Toldeo could also call a few rollouts for Bawden, get the young quarterback out in space where he can make some plays with his legs or with receivers.
Of course the last benefit for Bawden is he's an experienced freshman quarterback. How so? He joined the team in the spring semester and worked out then, so he has a whole semester of practice reps under his belt along with summer and fall training.
Check Mountain West Connection tomorrow and game day for game previews and broadcast schedules.