DeShone Kizer has been a bit of an enigma this year. At times, he has looked like a sure fire first round NFL draft pick, big, strong, athletic, confident, decisive, accurate. Other times he has been inconsistent, indecisive and struggled with accuracy. The ups and downs in his play are due to a variety of factors, including being the quarterback of a team that frankly isn’t that good. However, some of the problems Kizer has experienced this year are due to inconsistencies in his throwing mechanics. Let’s take a look at the film and I’ll show you what I mean.
Late in the first half against Army. DeShone Kizer will try to hit CJ Sanders (blue circle) for a big gain. The pattern Sanders is running (blue arrow) will take him right into the middle of the field which is wide open (red rectangle). Kizer will benefit from outstanding pass protection (orange lines). The offensive line has opened up a huge throwing lane and is absolutely mauling the Army defenders. Oh and the game is being played in a dome, so weather won’t be a factor (I’m looking at you North Carolina). It really doesn’t get any easier than this for a quarterback.
At this point, Kizer has the ball in good position (yellow arrow). Pay special attention to how high he is holding the ball (yellow line); this will be important when we look at the next screen shot. Kizer’s footwork appears to be pretty good as well. He has planted his back foot and should now be shifting his weight forward (in the direction of the purple arrow) to start the throw. The only concern is that Kizer’s stance is pretty wide (purple line). If his stance stays this wide, it will make it difficult to effectively shift his weight.
First of all, check out the offensive line (orange lines). It looks like they are working on a blocking sled, not going against actual defenders. That’s pretty impressive.
Unfortunately, this is where the problems begin for Kizer. His weight is still on his back hip and foot (purple arrows). CJ Sanders is wide open (blue circle), so Kizer should be moving his weight forward and initiating the throwing motion. For some reason he hesitates and lowers the ball slightly (yellow line and arrow), instead of moving it up and into throwing positon. While this isn’t the end of the world, the extra motion wastes time and makes a late throw even later.
Kizer has now started the throwing motion; his lead arm has moved away from the ball and is rotating out of the way (yellow arrow). This is the correct motion; however, the lead elbow appears to be too far ahead of the ball (yellow line). If the lead elbow is too far ahead, the quarterback will be pulled off balance in the direction of the yellow arrow, instead of in the direction of the throw (red line). The likely reason that the lead arm is so far out in front is that Kizer knows he is late on the throw so he is rushing to catch up.
Kizer also continues to have problems with his weight distribution. His back hip and foot are still heavily weighted. By this time in the throwing motion, he should be moving his weight forward, toward the target (red arrow, blue circle). To make matters worse, Kizer stance is still pretty wide (red line), as previously mentioned this will impair his ability to shift his weight forward.
Kizer is about to release the football (blue arrow). His front foot is in good position, pointed to the target (purple circle). As well, his back hip has started to move towards the target (purple arrow) and his weight is finally moving forward. The only thing to be worried about at this point is how his body is tilted at an angle (yellow line), this isn’t exactly a solid, balanced throwing position and could cause problems.
The ball is in the air (blue circle). The way the quarterback follows through after the ball is thrown can provide clues as to how the pass will end up. In this case, the follow through suggests there might be some problems with the throw.
The first thing that jumps out is that Kizer still appears to be tilting to the side (yellow line). At this point he should be more upright and his body should be moving more towards the target (red line). The primary reason for this unbalanced follow through is his shoulders are out of sync with his hips. While the shoulders should be ahead of the hips in the throwing motion, you can see that Kizer’s back shoulder (yellow arrow) is too far ahead of his back hip (purple arrow). This is pulling him into an unbalanced position which makes it more difficult to throw accurately.
A fraction of a second later and you can see that Kizer is even more out of sync. His back shoulder (yellow arrow) is way ahead of his back hip (purple arrow). To compensate, he has to kick his back leg out to the side (purple circle). At this point his back leg should still be moving towards the target (red arrow) instead of out to the side.
The ball (yellow circle) is in the process of sailing over the receiver’s outstretched arms (blue circle). What should have been an easy completion nearly became an ugly interception.
The first problem was that Kizer hesitated. He had a wide open receiver, no pressure, and a perfect throwing lane; there was no reason to hesitate. But he didn’t throw with anticipation, he waited. When he realized he was late he tried to rush the throw and this caused problems.
How did this lead specifically to an overthrow? Any change to normal throwing mechanics has the potential to impact when the quarterback releases the ball. When the ball is released impacts the way the it travels through the air. Generally speaking if the ball is released too early it tends to result in an overthrow, if the ball is released too late, it tends to result in an underthrow. In this example, Kizer lowered the ball before he started the throwing motion, his shoulders rotated too quickly and he was late shifting his weight forward. By themselves, any one of these changes to normal throwing motion has the potential to impact the release point and cause the quarterback to overthrow the receiver. With three problems present, the chances of an inaccurate throw greatly increase.
Inconsistent accuracy will be an on-going problem for Kizer. At times he hesitates and then tries to rush the throw, which creates issues. Even when he doesn’t hesitate he tends to put too much weight on his back foot. His wide throwing stance exacerbates this problem by making it more difficult to get his weight forward. As well, he has a long throwing motion. The longer the throwing motion is, the more opportunities there are to make little mistakes, which can lead to inaccurate throws.
Developing rock solid throwing mechanics takes a really long time. Although he has been inconsistent at times, DeShone Kizer is still a very good quarterback. Hopefully he stays at Notre Dame for another year so he can continue to improve his consistency.