The buzz around Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage continues to grow, with one scout telling NFL.com that he might have the strongest arm in the draft.
Savage is not a first-round pick -- not close, in fact -- but he is seen as an intriguing developmental candidate. "He's got a really strong arm, but erratic," a scout told NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport. "Maybe late-round type. But interesting."
Savage measured 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds at last month's NFL Scouting Combine, and the buzz has continued to grow since that event and since Pitt's March 3 pro day. NFL Media senior draft analyst Gil Brandt had a feeling in October that Savage could become a hot commodity.
While he was a fifth-year senior in 2013, Savage remains relatively inexperienced. He was a consensus national top-15 quarterback prospect in the 2009 recruiting class out of Springfield (Pa.) Cardinal O'Hara High, behind players such as Matt Barkley, Tajh Boyd, AJ McCarron, Zach Mettenberger and Garrett Gilbert. Savage signed with Rutgers and was seen as a recruiting coup for then-Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano.
Savage started 10 games in 2009 as a true freshman; he threw for 2,211 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions but completed only 52.3 percent of his passes that fall. Savage began the 2010 season as the starter but was hurt and eventually lost his starting job to lightly regarded true freshman Chas Dodd. Savage finished with 521 passing yards and transferred to Arizona after the season.
Savage sat out the 2011 season under NCAA rules, then hit the road again after Rich Rodriguez took over as Arizona's coach following that fall because he was ill-suited for Rodriguez's spread offense. Savage transferred to Pitt and again sat out as a transfer in 2012.
Savage threw for 2,958 yards, 21 TDs and nine interceptions, completing 61.9 percent of his passes, in 2013. Six of his TD passes came in one game, a wild 59-56 victory over Duke, and six of his picks came in the first four games of the season. Savage played well in an upset of Notre Dame, throwing for 243 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.
A bruised kidney caused Savage to miss the second half of his final college game and to turn down an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game.
Savage's lack of experience before the 2013 season led to him having no draft grade, according to BLESTO and other national scouting services, which is extremely rare for a senior who is a projected starter at a major college.
While Savage has a strong arm, decision-making and accuracy have been issues. He also lacks mobility and that issue was exacerbated in 2013 because Pitt had a young offensive live. He was sacked eight times in a loss to Virginia Tech and seven times in a win over Virginia. When he faces pressure and is forced to move around in the pocket, his mechanics frequently go awry and he makes bad decisions.
In February, Savage said he had learned that a quarterback needs much more than a strong arm.
"A lot of guys in the NFL can throw the ball 70 yards," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "The tough thing is doing it with people in your face."
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.